Truth to be told I had major reservations about mirrorless and micro 4/3 cameras as the earlier iterations didn’t produce that much of good image quality, whether in RAW or JPEG format. Most of the time this was because high ISO settings would degrade the usefulness of the photos unless it’s meant for sharing on social media or to be printed out small on a magazine page.
The Sony a5100 that I had is good enough as a small travel camera but I haven’t really used it much beyond taking selfies and simple photos of events. This year I had the opportunity to test out some cameras from Panasonic, namely the GX8, FZ2500 and GX85. I was mighty impressed with what the GX8 offered, but during the time that I played with the camera I used it mostly for video purposes and didn’t focus too much on shooting photos with it.
As with the GX8, I used the FZ2500 mainly to shoot videos. The built-in lens provided a very good zoom range and I had some fun with it shooting some slow-mo stuff, but the video quality wasn’t that good. It’s most likely that I had the settings wrong, or set the ISO incorrectly. And now I have my hands on the GX85 and I think this camera is a very good in-between of my Sony a5100 and the Sony a6300/6500 which costs much higher.
I went to a couple of events with the Panasonic Lumix GX85 and the Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 lens. I can say that the built-in 5-axis stabilization worked quite well in low-light situations and the image quality at ISO 1600, when zoomed at 100%, is very useable. This is unlike the JPEG quality from cameras made 3-4 years ago. Much has progressed in terms of sensor quality and camera software. The JPEG from this camera has very good noise reduction while retaining details, something that was missing in the cameras I tested before. The image above is a straight out of camera JPEG with slight adjustments done in Lightroom. Sharpness settings was left at the Lightroom default and no further processing was done in Photoshop. As you can see in the 100% crop the details are still there and does not have the “watercolor” effect that non-DSLR JPEGs used to have.
I’m not a camera tester and I’ll be foolish to spend money buying every new camera to test. And since I do not work in a photographic or tech magazine, review units don’t fall into my hands on regular basis. So I hope that clarifies my amazement at the quality of JPEGs these days. I hope that I will have some shoot in the next few days before returning the camera as I just found out that the Yongnuo YN-560 IV flash works with the GX85. Time for some flash photography!
The Panasonic Lumix GX85 camera would be a good replacement for my Sony a5100 if I were to sell it – only drawbacks so far are the limited tilt-screen (should be a vari-angle screen!) and missing Cine-D profile. It’s quite possible that by putting those 2 features into GX85 Panasonic will kill their GX8, but having a good featured camera that’s cheaper than the Sony a6300 or 6500 will definitely make the GX85 a very good buy. Well, those 2 features and maybe at least 90 fps full HD video feature!