Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85 review
Written by Gordon Laing
Panasonic’s Lumix G80 / G85 is a highly compelling entry into the competitive mid-range market. Like most rivals at this price point, the G80 / G85 offers a viewfinder, articulated touch screen, loads of manual control and Wifi, but goes beyond the pack by additionally packing great quality 4k video, built-in stabilisation that rivals industry leader Olympus, and a weather-sealed body and kit zoom; the icing on the cake is Panasonic’s innovative 4k Photo which exploit 4k video to shoot 8 Megapixel ‘stills’ at 30fps, or adjust the focus or effective depth-of-field after the event. It all adds up to a camera that’s hard to beat for the money.
In the video below, Doug Kaye and I discuss everything you need to know about the Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85! I also have an audio podcast of this discussion at Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85 podcast, or you can subscribe to the Cameralabs Podcast at iTunes.
When comparing the G80 / G85 against the competition, the first most obvious difference is the sensor: a 16 Megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor that’s both smaller and lower resolution than the 24 Megapixel APSC sensors used by Sony, Fujifilm, Canon and Nikon. But it’s important to note Panasonic has eeked everything it can out of this sensor and in my tests there wasn’t a great deal of discernable difference in real-life detail between them. Even in low light they performed similarly up to 1600 ISO. At higher sensitivities, the APSC sensors suffered from lower noise, but you need to ask yourself how often you’ll need to shoot above 1600 ISO, especially when you take the G80 / G85’s superb image stabilisation into account. If you need to freeze action in low light, such as indoor sports or street photography in the evening, and you demand the cleanest results, you may be better-served by a bigger sensor, but for most situations the G80 / G85 will be more than good enough. Please check out my quality pages to see for yourself how it compares to 20 Megapixel Micro Four Thirds and 24 Megapixel APSC models.
It’s also important to remember that a slightly smaller sensor has benefits too. For starters it allows the G80 / G85 to access the largest catalogue of native mirrorless lenses, many of which are small, light and deliver great quality across the frame. It also allows the body to deploy effective built-in stabilisation and the G80 / G85 features Panasonic’s best effort to date, matching even the flagship Olympus OMD EM1 Mark II in some of my tests. As you’ll see in my main review, it works a treat for both stills and movies.
Movies are another highlight of the G80 / G85, with the body capturing great quality 4k with a minor 1.1x field-reduction. In my tests it happily recorded three consecutive half-hour 4k clips on a single charge while barely getting warm. And like other Lumix bodies, the G80 / G85 cleverly exploits the fact 4k is effectively capturing 8 Megapixel stills at 30fps to deliver 4k Photo options which let you find and extract the perfect moment as well as refocusing or even adjusting the effective depth-of-field after the event. These 4k Photo modes continue to set the Lumix cameras apart from the competition.
The body may look like the earlier Lumix G7, but Panasonic’s beefed it up with a magnesium alloy front plate, and weather-sealing that applies to both the body and the kit lens – something that’s not taken for granted at this price. The viewfinder magnification has also increased to deliver a more immersive compositional experience, and as before I love having a touch-screen that can flip and twist to any angle.
In terms of autofocus, Panasonic has unsurprisingly stuck with its contrast-based DFD system, revealingly making it the only one in its peer group not to offer some kind of embedded phase-detect autofocus technology; note Olympus currently only offers phase-detect AF on its higher-end EM1 Mark I and II bodies though.
In practice the G80 / G85’s autofocus is supremely quick in Single AF mode, and works in lower light levels than most rivals too. Set to Continuous AF, it can’t help but lack the confidence of phase-detect systems, but when set to its Medium burst rate (3-4fps in my tests), it’ll still manage to successfully track and refocus on moving subjects like cyclists or birds in flight while providing some feedback – even when using long telephotos like the Leica 100-400mm. If you’re happy with that speed, or have a predictable subject that doesn’t demand live feedback (thereby allowing you to shoot in ‘High’ speed at 6fps), then the G80 / G85 should suffice. But if you need effective continuous AF at faster burst speeds or focus-pulling in video that stops dead on the subject, then models like Sony’s A6300 will serve you better. That said, the Sony lacks some of the G80 / G85’s features, so you have to think about what your priorities are.
Apart from this, I have few complaints with the G80 / G85. I personally feel the buttons on the rear are too small and flush to the surface, I’d have preferred the chance to charge the battery over USB, the addition of Bluetooth for easier connectivity would have been nice, while the option of a headphone jack, perhaps on the optional battery grip, would have made it even more attractive for movie shooters. But these are all minor – and sometimes personal – gripes. The fact remains the Lumix G80 / G85 is arguably one of the best all-rounders for the money.
Before my final verdict, here’s how it compares to the competition.
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II vs Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85
Arguably the closest rival to the Lumix G80 / G85 is the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II. This older camera shares the same size and resolution sensor, the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount, and in my tests their built-in stabilisation also performed similarly. In its favour, the EM5 Mark II boasts a faster 1/8000 mechanical shutter, a PC Sync port for external lighting, a headphone jack on the optional grip, a 40 Megapixel composite mode and in my personal view, nicer controls. In its favour, the Lumix G80 / G85 fights back with 4k video that’s much better quality, Panasonic’s 4k Photo modes, a built-in flash and, while both employ contrast-based AF, superior continuous autofocusing.
Check out my Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II review for more details.
Sony A6300 vs Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85
Sony’s A6300 is slightly more expensive than the Lumix G80 / G85, but features a larger and higher resolution 24 Megapixel APSC sensor, a confident embedded phase-detect AF system which covers most of the frame and works at up to 11fps or 8fps with live feedback, the option to film 1080 video at 120p for slow motion and USB charging. The Lumix G80 / G85 counters this with built-in image stabilisation, a screen that’s fully-articulated (vs tilting only), the 4k photo modes, a kit zoom that’s also weather-proof (the Sony kit zoom isn’t), and a touch-sensitive screen. Note the A6500 offers built-in IS and a touch-screen (and Bluetooth) but comes in at an even higher price.
See my Sony A6300 review and Sony A6500 review for more details.
Canon EOS M5 vs Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85
The EOS M5 is Canon’s best mirrorless to date and like the Sony A6300, features a 24 Megapixel APSC sensor that’s larger and higher resolution than the Lumix G80 / G85. The EOS M5’s Dual-Pixel CMOS AF system is also more confident at refocusing, especially for movies, the screen is larger at 3.2in and there’s Bluetooth too for more responsive remote shutter release. In its favour, the Lumix G80 / G85 features built-in stabilisation, a weather-proof body, 4k video, 4k photo and a fully-articulated screen (vs Canon’s which only tilts vertically and oddly below the body when facing forward).
See my Canon EOS M5 review for more details.
Fujifilm XT20 vs Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85
Fujifilm’s XT20 is a new rival for the Lumix G80 / G85 and like the Sony and Canon models above, scores first with a larger and higher resolution 24 Megapixel APSC sensor. It also features a good embedded phase-detect system (albeit not as broad as the Sony), USB charging and, in my opinion, some of the best-looking JPEGs out-of-camera. The Lumix G80 / G85 counters with built-in image stabilisation, weather-sealing, longer 4k clips (30 mins vs 10 on the XT20), the 4k Photo modes, a screen that can flip and twist (vs vertical tilt only on the Fuji), and a larger EVF image.
See my Fujifilm XT20 review for more details.
Also consider the Canon EOS 760D / T6s or Nikon D5600 if you prefer the option of a DSLR optical viewfinder. Both these bodies also feature fully-articulated touch-screens and long kit zooms, although lack 4k video and weatherproof bodies.
Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85 final verdict
Panasonic’s Lumix G80 / G85 is a feature-packed camera that stacks-up very well against its rivals. As a mid-range mirrorless camera, you’ll enjoy the usual features including a decent viewfinder, articulated touch-screen, loads of manual control and built-in Wifi, but the G80 / G85 goes the extra mile with great quality 4k video, built-in stabilisation that rivals industry leader Olympus, and a weather-sealed body and kit zoom. Panasonic’s unique 4k Photo modes let you extract stills from video, refocus and even adjust the depth-of-field after the event, and while continuous autofocus during fast bursts is bettered by some rivals, it’ll still track action at 3-6fps with big zooms, and the single autofocus remains one of the best around. Overall I find it hard to think of a better general-purpose all-rounder at this price point – highly recommended!
Good quality images out-of-camera, close to 20MP models.
Weather-sealed body with big EVF, articulated touch-screen, UHS II slot.
Very impressive built-in stabilisation for stills and videos.
Great quality 4k video with mic input.
Very fast single autofocus speed that also keeps working in very low light.
No movie frame rates above 60p, so limited slow motion possibilities.
Rear buttons are too small and flush to the surface.
No USB charging in-camera.
Needs to slow to 3-4fps for continuous AF and live feedback.
Refocusing during movies not as confident as rivals with PDAF.
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