Summary

Highly Recommended awardI said it before and I'll say it again: the Panasonic Lumix GX7 is a very satisfying and capable system camera that will delight most enthusiasts. It's responsive and packed with features that allow it to perform confidently in a variety of situations, and there's little in terms of specifications that are missing. Wifi, focus peaking, manual movie exposures, tilting screen and viewfinder, adjustable tone curves, built-in IS, 1/8000 shutter, the GX7 has it all. In these respects it's easily one of the best system cameras to date and one I very much enjoyed shooting with.

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Panasonic Lumix GX7 review

Quality

Panasonic Lumix GX7 vs Olympus OMD EM5 Quality

 
To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Olympus OMD EM5, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings; my RAW quality comparison is on the next page.

I fitted each camera in turn with the same Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 lens to eliminate the optics from the comparison, and set the aperture to f4 as pre-determined to deliver the sharpest results. Both cameras were set to their base sensitivities of 200 ISO and shared the same exposure.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

  Panasonic Lumix GX7 results
1 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Quality JPEG
2 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Quality RAW
3 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Noise JPEG
4 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Noise RAW
5 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix GX7 fitted with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8; I selected this lens as it delivers excellent results, allowing us to look beyond kit lens issues and instead concentrate on the actual sensor and processing quality. The lens aperture was set to f4 in Aperture Priority mode and the sensitivity to the base of 200 ISO. The Olympus OMD EM5 was fitted with the same lens moments later, where it metered exactly the same exposure. Both cameras were using their default settings for picture styles, contrast enhancements and lens corrections; you’re basically looking at out-of-camera JPEGs below, although I have a second comparison using RAW files on the next page.

A quick glance at the crops below reveals what we’ve seen many times before: punchy images from Olympus and slightly subdued ones from Panasonic. Indeed without looking too closely, many would assume the OMD EM5 was delivering a superior result, but most of what you’re looking at below is simply down to a different approach to image processing using the default settings. Olympus is applying greater contrast and sharpening than Panasonic by default on in-camera JPEGs.

The extra sharpening is at first seductive, undoubtedly bringing out the finest details and making its rival look soft in comparison, but with this bite comes some inevitable haloing, and in the case of the greater contrast, slightly less subtle highlight tones. Take a look at the final row of crops and you may notice more tonal detail in the bright highlights on the Panasonic GX7 sample, especially on the wall of the boat in the lower right corner and the mooring post. Which you prefer is entirely personal and both cameras provide plenty of opportunity to tweak the settings if desired – allowing less cooked output from the Olympus and crisper results from the Panasonic. But in terms of actual detail recorded, the crops from both cameras are very similar.

Interestingly this crop also reveals some chromatic aberration on the Olympus OMD EM5 which isn’t present on the Panasonic GX7; clearly the latter is performing some digital correction on Olympus lenses as well as Panasonic ones, which is a nice surprise.

But once again this is all about in-camera JPEG processing. If you shoot RAW, it’s possible to not only adjust the contrast, sharpness and saturation as desired, but also apply lens corrections. And that’s what I’ll do on the next page, applying the same settings to both cameras to compare how much detail is present in the files. See my Panasonic Lumix GX7 RAW quality results.

 

Panasonic Lumix GX7 JPEG
with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8

 
Olympus OMD EM5 JPEG
with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8
f4, 200 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
     
f4, 200 ISO
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f4, 200 ISO
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Panasonic Lumix GX7 results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Panasonic Lumix GX7 vs Olympus OMD EM5 RAW Quality

 
To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Olympus OMD EM5, within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes.

I fitted each camera in turn with the same Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 lens to eliminate the optics from the comparison, and set the aperture to f4 as pre-determined to deliver the sharpest results. Both cameras were set to their base sensitivities of 200 ISO and shared the same exposure.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.

  Panasonic Lumix GX7 results
1 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Quality JPEG
2 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Quality RAW
3 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Noise JPEG
4 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Noise RAW
5 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix GX7 fitted with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8; I selected this lens as it delivers excellent results, allowing us to look beyond kit lens issues and instead concentrate on comparing the actual sensor and processing quality. The lens aperture was set to f4 in Aperture Priority mode and the sensitivity to the base of 200 ISO. The Olympus OMD EM5 was fitted with the same lens moments later, where it metered exactly the same exposure.

I shot the scene in RAW mode and processed the files from both cameras in Adobe Camera RAW 8.2 using identical settings: Sharpening at 50 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, the White Balance set to 5000K and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile; I also enabled CA lens correction. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes.

When comparing JPEGs on the previous page you could really see the different approaches employed by Panasonic and Olympus, the former going for a more subdued style while the latter opts for a punchier appearance with higher contrast and sharpening by default. Take their respective RAW files and process them using the same settings though and both become much more similar – almost identical in fact.

The slightly over-cooked Olympus JPEG has been calmed down, while the slightly under-cooked Panasonic JPEG has been boosted, and I’d say both benefit as a result. They’ve also met roughly in the middle with essentially the same degree of real-life detail.

Pixel peepers will notice some very minor variations: the colour of the sky despite both sharing the same white balance, and arguably fractionally higher contrast from the Olympus, but most of this can be adjusted, matched or altered during the RAW processing stage.

It was interesting on the previous page to see the Lumix GX7 correct the Chromatic Aberration from the Olympus lens, while the EM5 did not, but once you’re working with a RAW file it’s easy to tick CA correction and remove most unwanted fringing – so here there’s no evidence of any CA.

There may be some who’ll find a preference between one camera or the other based on the results below, but for me it’s a draw – and once again I’d say both models benefit from shooting in RAW and in the case of the GX7, giving it a boost and in the case of the EM5, calming it down.

So at their base sensitivities I’d say both models are evenly matched, but what about at higher sensitivities? Find out in my Panasonic Lumix GX7 noise results page.

 

Panasonic Lumix GX7 RAW
with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8

 
Olympus OMD EM5 RAW
with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8
f4, 200 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
     
f4, 200 ISO
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Panasonic Lumix GX7 results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Panasonic Lumix GX7 vs Olympus OMD EM5 vs OMD EM1 Noise RAW

 
  Panasonic Lumix GX7 results
1 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Quality JPEG
2 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Quality RAW
3 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Noise JPEG
4 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Noise RAW
5 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix GX7, Olympus OMD EM5 and OMD EM1 within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes and at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

I fitted each camera in turn with the same Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 lens to eliminate the optics from the comparison, and set the aperture to f4 as pre-determined to deliver the sharpest results.

In my comparison below you can see how the Lumix GX7, OMD EM5 and OMD EM1 compare when their RAW files are processed using exactly the same settings. I processed all files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 50 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, the White Balance set to 3800K and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. I also enabled Chromatic Aberration reduction.

These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes – as such the visible noise levels at higher ISOs will be much greater than you’re used to seeing in many comparisons, but again it’s an approach that’s designed to show the actual detail that’s being recorded before you start work on processing and cleaning it up if desired.

Once again the Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Olympus OMD EM1 kick-off the comparison at their Low sensitivities of 125 and 100 ISO respectively, and the most striking thing here is how similar they both look. They may have different sensors and different low pass filter strategies, but from the results below they look almost identical.

At 200 ISO the Olympus OMD EM5 joins-in, and guess what? Yep, it looks almost identical too. With the same processing settings, all three share similar levels of sharpness, contrast and ultimately detail. I’d like you to really pixel-peep these three crops for me. Look at the subtle veins in the petals, the fine lines in the leafs, the tiny stalks on the buds. Can you see any difference between the three cameras? There’s a tiny difference in colour balance and maybe a faint sprinkling of noise to separate them, but in all honesty I’d say they’re essentially delivering the same result here.

This is slightly disappointing as both the GX7 and EM1 are a year newer than the OMD EM5, and the EM1 of course also dispenses with its optical low pass filter. Like many I hoped to see crisper results from the EM1 compared to rivals and predecessors because of this, but I just can’t see it here. Don’t get me wrong, the quality isn’t bad. On the contrary the quality is great, but it’s just not really any different from what we’ve seen before, at least from these tests.

Moving on through the ISO range you’ll see steadily increasing noise levels from all three models, but again the amount of noise remains pretty consistent across all three.

Maybe a different RAW processor would reveal greater differences. Maybe a different subject would too. But from this test I’d say under the hood, the Panasonic Lumix GX7, Olympus OMD EM5 and EM1 all share pretty much the same degree of real-life detail and noise levels. The only visible difference in my tests concerns their out-of-camera JPEGs using the default settings.

Once again I’m really hoping the lack of optical low pass filter on the OMD EM1 will deliver crisper results in some circumstances, so I’ll be performing more tests and comparisons and will report back if or when I find any. But at this point I’m happy to say that based on the results below, all three cameras share essentially the same potential image quality.

For more examples in a variety of situations and with different lenses, check out my Panasonic Lumix GX7 sample images page.

Olympus OMD EM1 RAW
using Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens at f4
 
Olympus OMD EM5 RAW
using Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens at f4
 
Panasonic Lumix GX7 RAW
using Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens at f4

100 ISO

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Panasonic Lumix GX7 results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

Panasonic Lumix GX7 vs Olympus OMD EM5 vs OMD EM1 Noise JPEG

 
  Panasonic Lumix GX7 results
1 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Quality JPEG
2 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Quality RAW
3 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Noise JPEG
4 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Noise RAW
5 Panasonic Lumix GX7 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix GX7, Olympus OMD EM5 and OMD EM1 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings; RAW noise results are on the next page.

I fitted each camera in turn with the same Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 lens to eliminate the optics from the comparison, and set the aperture to f4 as pre-determined to deliver the sharpest results.

All three cameras were set to the same custom white balance of 3800K and the ISO set manually.

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix GX7 fitted with the M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 lens. The GX7 was mounted on a tripod and Image Stabilisation disabled. Aperture priority mode was selected with the aperture set to f4, which produces the best result from this lens. With the sensitivity set to 200 ISO the camera metered an exposure of 1/10. The same lens was used on the EM5 and EM1, and both cameras were adjusted to deliver the same exposure. All three cameras had their white balance set manually to 3800K and any dynamic range enhancers were disabled as they can introduce noise. As always, the area marked by the red rectangle is reproduced below at 100% for comparison.

As a reminder, all three cameras share the same 16 Megapixel resolution, although all use different sensors and different image processors too; in addition, the sensor on the EM1 does not have an optical low pass filter. Since the same lens was used for all three cameras, not to mention the same exposure, we’re able to directly compare the sensor and image processing.

The Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Olympus OMD EM1 kick-off this sequence with their low settings of 125 and 100 ISO respectively. Both cameras set the scene for crisp details in the buds and subtle veining in the petals of the flower – these are two of the main details I’ll concentrate on throughout the comparison.

The first difference that’s apparent between the Lumix GX7 and OMD EM1 here is the latter’s punchier processing. As we’ve seen before, Olympus prefers to apply greater sharpening and higher contrast by default to its JPEGs out-of-camera compared to Panasonic, which makes it rival look a little subdued in comparison. But as you’ll also have seen in my RAW comparisons, this is purely down to image processing. It’s perfectly possible to boost the Lumix images or tone down the Olympus ones – it’s all a matter of personal preference.

But applying higher contrast then compressing into a JPEG can lose some subtle tonal details and I’d say the OMD EM1 has lost a little vein and shading detail in the petals compared to the Lumix GX7. It’s very subtle, but I can definitely see more veins in the Lumix sample.

At 200 ISO the Olympus OMD EM5 joins the party and once again it’s clear how both OMDs are applying greater contrast than the Lumix GX7 using their default JPEG settings. At first glance this punchier appearance may be preferred, but take time for a closer look at the detail in the petals – there’s simply more of it in the Lumix GX7 crop, and while this is purely down to image processing, it’s a great result for the Panasonic as Olympus traditionally enjoys more natural out-of-camera JPEGs.

One of the other interesting things is comparing the 100 and 200 ISO crops of the OMD EM1. I’d say the 100 ISO crop contains more subtle tonal detail than the 200 ISO crop, which contradicts much of what we’ve learnt from sub-base sensitivities. Normally the base sensitivity delivers the best result and any ‘Low’ settings should only be used as a kind of digital ND filter when the conditions are too bright for a desired exposure. The reason being is the tonal dynamic range is often reduced at sub-base sensitivities, but my result here would imply the 100 ISO version is actually superior in this regard.

The small crop is however only telling part of the story. In the upper right of the complete image a bright strip light is completely saturated on the 100 ISO sample, but contains more tonal detail in the 200 ISO version. So I’m convinced the 100 ISO version is delivering a smaller tonal range, but in the case of my cropped area, it’s actually preferable to the 200 ISO version. This could be important for anyone capturing subtle tones in, say, white wedding dresses where the composition may not necessarily contain saturated highlights. It’s certainly worth making further comparisons if you’re an EM1 owner to find which sensitivity best suits your subject, but if in doubt, 200 ISO remains the best overall choice.

At 400 ISO, all three cameras remain clean, but an increase in noise and subsequent processing has reduced some of the subtlest details. The GX7 has lost some of the finest veins, although remains ahead of the two OMDs in this respect.

At 800 ISO the same story continues with higher noise resulting in greater processing and further smearing of fine details. Of the three, the Lumix GX7 is exhibiting fractionally more visible noise textures, but conversely the OMDs are exhibiting more smearing. Interestingly I’m not yet seeing any visible difference between the OMD EM1 and EM5 despite the former lacking an optical low pass filter, OLPF.

At 1600 ISO the noise again increases and becomes more visible on the GX7 crop and results in more smearing on the OMDs, although I’d say the noise reduction on the EM1 is slightly preferable to the EM5 at this point. But all three have lost most of their subtle veining detail.

At 3200 ISO, large areas are becoming almost solid blocks of colour with little detail within. The GX7 has become quite noisy viewed at 100%, although in contrast the OMDs are still processing it out for a smooth, but smeared result. Once again I’d say the noise reduction on the EM1 looks a tad better than the EM5, but it’s by a very small degree.

6400 ISO is the highest sensitivity where the OMDs attempt to smear out most of the noise, and to my personal taste I’d say they look superior to the GX7 – certainly more natural, but the bottom line is they’re all full of noise and lacking detail at this point.

At 12800 ISO the OMD let some of the noise through, especially the EM5, and while all three models look poor at this point, the OMDs are certainly showing a little more detail in the buds. At their maximum 25600 ISO all three are looking pretty horrible, although again at a push the OMDs look more natural than the GX7.

So at the lowest sensitivities between 100 and 400 ISO, I’d say the less aggressive approach to noise reduction of the Lumix GX7 allows it to deliver more detailed results in this test. At 800 ISO, all three are roughly similar, and beyond 1600 ISO all are noisy but I personally prefer the more natural-looking noise reduction of the OMDs. As for the EM1 versus the EM5, I can barely see any difference between them in this test, beyond a tiny variation in noise reduction at the highest sensitivities.

Ultimately on this page we’re comparing the image processing strategies of each camera when delivering JPEGs using the default settings. But what happens when you remove this from the equation and process images from all three using identical settings? Find out in my Panasonic Lumix GX7 RAW noise page!

Panasonic Lumix GX7
using Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens at f4
 
Olympus OMD EM5
using Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens at f4
 
Olympus OMD EM1
using Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens at f4
125 ISO
100 ISO not available

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Panasonic Lumix GX7
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise

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