Review: Panasonic GF7

Review: Panasonic GF7

Introduction

Panasonic’s GF series compact system cameras are aimed at novice photographers, but since the introduction of the super-small Panasonic GM series, the GF range has taken a bit of a back seat.

But now Panasonic has refreshed the GF series with the GF7, which the company says is replacing the GF6 (although the older model will continue to be on sale for a short while).

Sensor specs

The GF7 uses the same Micro Four Thirds format sensor format as all of Panasonic’s compact system cameras (and Olympus’s). The pixel count of the GF7 remains the same as the GF6 at 16 million pixels, but the sensor itself is upgraded to the model used in a camera much further up the Panasonic range, the GX7.

The processing engine is the same as the GX7’s, too. This allows a data readout of 240fps (frames per second), which should be good news for the autofocus speed. The AF point can be set to any point across the imaging frame and there’s both Face and Eye detection AF mode.

Panasonic claims that the AF system can operate in very low light, down to -4EV, but Focus Peaking is on hand for those occasions when you need to focus manually. It’s also possible to shoot at up to 5fps in continuous autofocus mode, or 5.8fps in single AF mode when the focus is set at the start of the sequence.

Selfie screen

Like the GF6, the GF7 has a screen which can be flipped upwards through 180 degrees, and when you do this the camera automatically switches to Selfie mode. In Face Shutter mode, the wave of a hand in front of a face will trigger the shutter, while Buddy Shutter mode is designed to help when taking selfies with friends.

Panasonic GF7

Panasonic GF7

There’s also a Jump Snap mode which uses the GF7’s built in wi-fi – you put the camera on a tripod, connect the camera to a smartphone and put the phone in your pocket. The phone detects when you’re in mid-jump and trips the camera’s shutter release.

Panasonic says that it is easier to make a Wi-Fi connection with the GF7, as after the first connection has been made, pressing the Wi-Fi button makes a reconnection. There’s also a direct picture upload option for easier image sharing.

Other camera features include a sensitivity range of ISO 200 – 25600, a maximum shutter speed of 1/16000 of a second and a more compact and lightweight body than its predecessor. As well as shooting full HD movies, the GF7 can create time lapses and stop motion animations, and has a Snap Movie mode which creates 2, 4, 6 or 8 seconds of video.

Kit lens

Whereas the GF6 came supplied with a fairly large 14-42mm kit lens, compared to the size of the body, the GF7 will ship with the smaller, collapsible 12-32mm kit lens. This is the lens that Panasonic has previously packaged with its super-compact GM range.

Panasonic GF7

Although this does mean you lose some focal range, it makes the overall size of the camera much more pocket friendly. There are a huge range of compatible lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system, and the GF7’s lens mount is compatible not only with Panasonic optics, but also those produced by Olympus and Micro Four Thirds lenses from third party manufacturers such as Sigma.

There’s a fair amount of competition in this sector of the market, but perhaps the closest rivals are Panasonic’s own GM5 and the Sony A5100 and the Olympus PEN Mini E-PL7.

Build Quality and Handling

Panasonic has given the GF7 a more classic, retro look when compared with the GF6. The rounded corners have been straightened out a bit and certainly when paired with the 12-32mm lens it’s much neater overall package. Despite the fact that it’s smaller, the camera feels a little more solid, and there’s a more substantial thumb pad on the back of the camera.

Panasonic GF7

The mode dial covers semi-automatic modes (such as aperture priority and shutter priority), panoramic mode, scene modes, digital filters mode and a couple of other scene modes. In order to activate the fully automatic mode, you’ll need to push a button just next to the on/off switch. You’ll see a small blue light just in front of this button which indicates that automatic mode is on.

Viewing options

There’s viewfinder on the GF7, so if you prefer to compose your images with a viewfinder in a traditional way, this may not be the camera for you. On the other hand, the flippable screen makes it more useful for selfies, waist-level shots and other awkward angles.

Panasonic GF7

Moving to the back of the camera, you operate the flash pop-up control with your right thumb, but it’s quite small and awkward. There are three buttons surrounding the GF7’s navigational control (the GF6 had four) – a playback button, a display button and a button which you use to access the quick menu or delete pictures when in playback mode.

Buttons and functions

Each of the directional keys on the navigational control has a dedicated function. Up accesses exposure compensation (or allows you to switch between altering aperture and shutter speed), left gives you access to AF point, right accesses white balance, while down brings up drive mode and self-timer modes.

Panasonic GF7

There is a button on the top of the camera which by default accesses the Wi-Fi settings, but this can be customised with other functions. There are are further six "virtual" spaces on the touchscreen, which can also be customised and are useful if you find yourself wanting quick access to a particular function. There are 35 different options for these buttons, including Photo Style, Picture Size, Metering Mode and more.

Panasonic GF7

The Quick Menu button offers another quick way to access common settings, such as the image aspect ratio, Photo Style, and more. Different settings will be displayed depending on the shooting mode you’re in. You can use the navigational buttons to move between the settings you want to change, or you can tap directly on the screen.

Focus pointers

To set the AF point, you have two options. You can tap the point on screen you wish to focus on, or you can press the left directional key and then use the physical keys to move to the point you need. The screen is very responsive, and you can change the size of the AF point using a pinch gesture – or scroll the dial on the back of the camera.

Pressing the Display button activates a digital level guide on the screen, which is very useful for helping to make sure horizons are level and is something which was missing from the GF6.

Panasonic GF7

There are two ways to apply digital filters. You can turn the mode dial to the digital filter mode, or if you’re shooting in semi-automatic or manual modes the screen displays a palette icon – if you tap this you can scroll through the different filter options available.

As the lens is collapsible, you’ll need to extend it before you can shoot. This makes the process a little slower for the first picture you take, but you can then leave the lens extended if plan on taking more shots.

I find the camera very easy to hold and use, but some may find that the position of the mode dial puts it in the way of the shutter button.

Image quality and resolution

We used our resolution test chart as part of our image quality testing for the Panasonic GF7. Click here to see a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

Full ISO 100 image, see 100% crops below.

JPEG images

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 100: 26. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 200: 24. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 400: 24. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 800: 24. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 1600: 24. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 3200: 22. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 6400: 22. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 12800: 16. Click here for a full resolution version.

Raw files (converted to TIFFs)

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 100: 28. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 200: 24. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 400: 24. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 800: 24. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 1600: 22. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 3200: 22. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 6400: 18. Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 resolution test

ISO 12800: 14. Click here for a full resolution version.

Performance

We didn’t have much doubt that the GF7 would be an excellent performer, given that it uses the same sensor and processor as the already proven GX7.

It produces bright and punchy colours but without so much vibrance that pictures look unnatural. Skin tones, in particular, are rendered beautifully, while landscapes have a lovely bright tone.

Panasonic GF7 sample image

Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 sample image

Click here for a full resolution version.

You can change the colour reproduction with different Photo Styles. Here you can choose from Vivid, which is useful for boosting the hues in landscape shots, Natural, which is good for portraits, and other options such as Monochrome. The good thing about using these Styles is that they can be shot in the raw format, so you have a clean version of the image to work with later down the line if you need it.

Finer details

The camera’s sensor reproduces detail really well, and examining an image at 100% shows how much fine detail has been captured. At lower sensitivities, such as ISO 200, detail is particularly well defined. As you move up the sensitivity scale, towards the higher values, such as ISO 3200, you can see some smoothing and loss of detail if you examine pictures at 100% magnification. The overall impression of detail at normal web and print sizes such as A4 is very good, though.

Panasonic GF7 sample image

Click here for a full resolution version.

Generally, the camera’s multi-pattern metering system does a good job of helping to produce accurate exposures. In trickier lighting conditions, or where the scene is a little dark, there is a tendency to slightly underexpose so you might find you need to dial in some positive exposure compensation to correct this.

Similarly, the automatic white balance setting works well to produce accurate colours most of the time. It errs very slightly towards yellow tones under artificial light, so you might find using the Incandescent white balance preset will give better results in these circumstances.

The quality of shots taken at high sensitivities in low light varies depending on the shot itself. Generally, the pictures are very good, with low noise levels even at sensitivities as high as ISO 3200 – this usually comes at the expense of a little loss of detail, but it’s acceptable. You might find, however, that images with large expanses of sunset or night sky have more obvious noise – shots with lots of detail help to disguise it.

Panasonic GF7 sample image

Click here for a full resolution version.

At the time of writing, it’s not possible to convert the GF7’s raw files with Adobe Camera Raw, but you can use the bundled Silkypix software. This shows that the default noise reduction is quite extreme in some areas of the scene in high ISO shots, so if you want to you can control the noise reduction settings yourself if you want to make sure more detail is retained.

Creative control

If you want to be a bit more experimental than the Photo Styles allow, there is a good range of digital filters to try. Unlike previous generations of G series cameras, you can apply these filters when working in semi-automatic or manual modes, which is useful if you want to keep control over other settings, such as the lens aperture.

Panasonic GF7 sample image

Click here for a full resolution version.

It’s worth giving all of the filters a go to see which particularly appeal to your own tastes, but my favourites include Old Days, Dynamic Monochrome, Toy Pop and Bleach Bypass. Again, the good thing here is that they can be shot in raw format so you can revert back to the original if you don’t like the effect.

The 12-32mm kit lens is a decent performer, and certainly good enough to get you started. Although you lose some zoom length in a bid to make the overall package smaller, you’ll probably find you don’t miss it too much for most day to day scenarios.

Panasonic GF7 sample image

Click here for a full resolution version.

Panasonic GF7 sample image

Click here for a full resolution version.

If you can stretch to additional lenses, it’s worth thinking about something with a longer reach for travelling and holidays. There’s a huge range of different optics available for Micro Four Thirds cameras now, and a particular favourite of mine is the Leica branded 25mm f/1.4, which gives an equivalent of 50mm – a classic ‘standard’ focal length. You can also use Olympus lenses with the GF7 because they use the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount.

Panasonic GF7 sample image

Click here for a full resolution version.

The need for speed

The GF7’s operational speeds are great – moving through the menu system is a breeze, while shot to shot times are also excellent. For single shots, the buffer clears almost instantly, but if you’re taking a burst of several shots, you’ll need to wait a couple of seconds for it to clear before you can take another burst.

The GF7’s autofocus system is fast, locking on to targets in bright light almost instantly. The speed drops slightly in darker conditions, but it’s only when you reach almost pitch black conditions that the camera starts to struggle to lock on at all. It’s also extremely rare to get a false focus confirmation.

I was unable to assess the Wi-Fi performance at the time of writing, since the smart device app hadn’t yet been updated for the GF7. I have used the Wi-Fi with other Panasonic G series cameras before, though, and usually it’s very reliable and easy to use. We can update this review when the appropriate update becomes available.

Verdict

Panasonic cameras continue to impress me with their excellent performance and because they’re easy and fun to use.

And although the GF range may have appeared to fall by the wayside since the introduction of the ultra-small GM range, it’s nice to see that the company has kept this line going, meaning that, along with the G, GX, and GH ranges, there are cameras to suit a wide variety of needs.

The GF7 is marginally larger than the GM5, and you’ll have to decide whether you prefer a small viewfinder, and therefore opt for the GM5, or a tilting screen with no viewfinder, and therefore opt for the GF7. The GM5 is around 50% more expensive, too.

Pocket power

It’s a sensible decision to include the collapsible 12-32mm kit lens with the GF7 because it makes it possible to fit it inside a jacket pocket. It’s too much bigger than some of the current compact cameras on the market, but it has the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and a much larger sensor.

Panasonic GF7

For the creatively minded, there’s a host of great options available, and I continue to believe that Panasonic offers the best, and most interesting, range of digital filters – and the fact that you can shoot them in raw format is a very welcome bonus.

Using the GF7 is easy, and with its super responsive touchscreen, setting the autofocus points, and other settings, is a doddle. There’s no viewfinder but, luckily, the screen doesn’t suffer too badly from glare even in bright sunlight.

The autofocusing is super quick, in a range of lighting conditions, the GF7 is fast and responsive to use, and the automatic white balance and exposure modes generally result in very pleasing images, too.

It would have been nice to be able to test the Wi-Fi, especially as Panasonic claims it’s better than than previous versions, but I’m confident it will live up to expectations once the app update becomes available.

We liked

There are lots of things to like about the GF7. The touch sensitive, high resolution display is perhaps one of the best things though, helping you to compose your images easily and quickly, and letting you make key changes to settings with a simple tap of the screen.

We disliked

Although the screen is great, and I can understand why there’s no in-built viewfinder, it would be nice if Panasonic could include a hotshoe on the GF range so that you could add an external viewfinder or indeed other accessories, such as a flash.

Final Verdict

Some may question the point of the GF range now that the GM is available in a smaller package, but the GF continues to offer a lot of great features for a lot less money.

Panasonic GF7

A great travel camera, the GF7’s flipping screen is ideal for selfies and will perhaps appeal more to those who like to document their holiday visits.

Panasonic isn’t the only company to make small compact system cameras. The Nikon 1 range is also very compact but it’s based around a much smaller 1-inch sensor. For something as small as the GF7 to have such a large sensor is a great feat of camera engineering.

I would recommend this camera to many different types of people, and if you already have another Micro Four Thirds camera, this would make a fantastic second body.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *