The joy of digital "lomography" (featuring the Panasonic GX8 review)
I know most "serious" photographers secretly love, at least, experimenting with lomography styles, although they might not admit it in public. And, since the term "lomography" has been practically decoupled from its film-only orientation, doing a digital version is a quite valid option for many.
The GX8 I used for this is a camera capable of high levels of image quality, you can get an idea in the previous installment. But I chose to shoot in this style, using only in-camera filters, because I wanted to emphasize the fun factor of the camera too. Either way, even with the applied filters, the image quality remains excellent.
As I argued in a previous article about RAW and JPEG shooting, using in camera JPEGs allows for a different level in freedom of expression for the photographer; in either enthusiast or pro levels of engagement. Many creative photographers use in-camera filters and film simulations (Fuji shooters for instance), at least as a base for their final images.
The GX8 in particular is a camera targeted at enthusiasts interested in a wide variety of shooting styles. It's absolutely marvelous as a travel photography camera, due to size and usability characteristics. Of course is ideal for everyday use, in fact it's more than any amateur to enthusiast photographer would ask for such use. For documentary and street photography, it's about as good a choice as one can make.
A few of the design elements that make it great:
- The EVF/swiveling rear screen. The former is bright, clear and large; in my opinion at the same levels as the E-M1 and X-T1 viewfinders, but with probably better refresh rate and very good eye relief. The EVF tilting option is there for a reason; when you have the camera on a tripod, in bright sunshine, below waist level, it's the best way to frame and check pictures. In tandem, the EVF+LCD are the most practical I have seen in any mirrorless camera.
- Overall shape, size and weight. The GX8 is as close to the ideal as it can get. The only thing I'd wish would be for Panasonic to give users a small grip option. This would double battery life and make it better in use with the largest m43 lenses; they could also add a couple of extra inputs/connections.
- The 20mp sensor. At this point the best overall image quality of all m43 cameras (haven't tested the Pen-F which features the same sensor, though)
- Panasonic's comfortable and clear menus and customization options. In my mind, the most well organized in the mirrorless world.
- In camera stabilization. Panasonic worked hard to close the gap with Olympus' IBIS-5. It works flawlessly and allows for very low speed handheld shots.
- AF speed and accuracy. In good to moderate lighting conditions, the GX8 is a speed demon. In dim light, it depends on the lens used (naturally) but, overall, I didn't find any situation where it gave me trouble focusing.
Ideally, this camera would be mated with small and fast lenses, such as the Panasonic 15mm f/1.7, 25mm f/1.7 or 42.5mm f/1.7. Even the lowly 14-42mm kit lens is a great little creature, as seen also in the G7 test: small (does not extend much), very fast, with good contrast.
There was some talk in online communities about the shutter shock issue with the GX8; in fact Panasonic issued a firmware update to alleviate it. I noticed nothing in my own tests, and all shots were with the mechanical shutter. My camera had the latest firmware update installed, but I didn't use it with "suspect" lenses such as the 14-140mm.
In closing, the GX8 is a more than capable 4K video camera. In capabilities it's second only to the flagship GH4 (with the latest firmware). I did a little video and a number of timelapses and hope to present more of that sort in the near future. The camera operated effortlessly and problem-free, without hiccups, overheating, etc, of any kind.
I found the GX8 a very fun camera which manages to shield its complexity from the casual user but also gives the discerning photographer a wide variety of tools. In the m43 ecosystem, I think the GX8 have found its place as one of the top choices. Now that the more consumer-oriented GX85 is released, I hope Panasonic gives us a fully professional level GX9 in the future, doing in the rangefinder-style what they managed with the GH line.
All photos are JPEGs with the GX8, internal filters and the Panasonic25mm f/1.4 and 14-42mm kit zoom.
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