Previsualization, a term conceived in the era of film photography, described a talent that could take a lifetime of experience to hone. Considered as the ability to employ analogue techniques to manipulate an image for creative effect, previsualization as a practice allowed a photographer to anticipate in advance how a scene, captured in lens, would render in print. Key to previsualization was predictability and control — in part, to avoid incurring the costs of actual production through the wastage of materials.
The notion of the film photographer with only a few exposures remaining, carefully considering his subject and weighing up his next adjustment, couldn’t seem further from photography as we know it. With in-camera technology offering automatic precision, playback modes allowing for comparisons on the go, and data storage extending to seemingly endless takes, the current epoch of photography focuses less on predicting the interplay between light, the lens, and the sensor. Rather, we’re focused on utilizing our understanding of these to capture moments in distinctly new and compelling ways. Recent developments in photography mean that we are able to shoot faster, quicker, sharper, and smarter. And that’s what the Lumix DMC-GX8 is all about.
A host of features have been updated and upgraded from its predecessor, the GX7, including the highest-ever image quality in the history of Lumix G digital cameras — 20.3 megapixels hosted via a digital live MOS sensor. Panasonic have finally moved past their 16-megapixel sensor — an old favourite since 2013 — and as a result we’ve been handed the highest pixel count yet in this format. Akin to its little brother, the Lumix DMC-GX8 offers a 1/8000th of a second mechanical shutter, with the option reach one stop further via an electronic shutter — to 1/6000th of a second. And, with new autofocus-tracking algorithms that work by combining colour, size, and motion vector information, the Lumix DMC-GX8 offers what is tagged to be 200-per-cent faster autofocus tracking, as compared to the GX7. No photographer ever wants to miss a shot, and it seems Panasonic is giving us no excuse.
One of the most significant additions to the GX8 is Dual IS — it builds upon the long-offered lens-based optical image stabilization (OIS) technology, with the addition of sensor-shift stabilization within the camera body. Theoretically, these work in conjunction to increase the amount of displacement that the system can account for, by collating both the two-axis rotational correction from the lens and camera’s four-axis stabilisation. Panasonic is pushing Dual IS for the improvement it offers in shooting longer focal lengths, where minor displacements by way of camera shake can result in major shifts within an image. Admittedly, with or without IS in use, the DMC-GX8 performs extremely well in the telephoto range.
It’s still important to note that, despite the flexibility offered in the use of image stabilization or vibration-reduction technology, it simply doesn’t compare to the sharpness that can be achieved with image stabilization being switched off, the camera securely mounted upon a stable tripod, and paired with the use of a cable release and the mirror locked in the ‘up’ position. This is because image stabilization works by using motion along one axis to counter that of the opposing axis, resulting in varying amounts of image improvement or, in some cases, degradation. Still, it’s clear that the Lumix DMC-GX8 wasn’t designed for a photographer to lug a tripod around. It’s intended to capture moments as they come — wherever and whenever, without compromising on sharpness or clarity.
There is — regrettably — one simple setback to Panasonic's Dual IS system. As would be expected, the technology relies on the use of Panasonic’s own compatible lenses to take full advantage of the results. Not all Panasonic models are compatible, with three older zoom lenses, the 14–44mm f/3.5–5.6, the 45–200mm f/4–5.6, and the 100–300mm f/4–5.6 left on the sidelines. But our main gripe is that the exclusive nature of Dual IS doesn’t seem in keeping with the nature of the Four Thirds System — greater consumer choice is its main appeal, by way of the ability to fit other third-party lenses, including Olympus and Leica. But, it’s still early days, and if firmware updates become available across the board as other brands catch on, Panasonic could be on to a good thing. And, in the meantime, the DMC-GX8 still offers body-based image stabilization for lenses without OIS.
Another much-hyped aspect of the Lumix DMC-GX8 is its electronic-viewfinder (EVF) system . The EVF is comprised of a 2.36 million–dot OLED panel, with Panasonic describing its increased sharpness as a noteworthy improvement from the field-sequential LCD used in the GX7. With this move, it's also said to remove entirely the ambiguous ‘rainbow tearing effect’ — an often-described but little-documented optical side effect of the GX7’s colour technology. It offers 0.77 times magnification as opposed to the 0.7 offered previously, as well as an increased eyepoint distance of 21mm to aid in visibility for those that wear glasses. Despite the refinement, it still feels unnatural — because, well, it is. Sensitive eyes, like my own, are likely to experience fatigue following prolonged use.
Many of us appreciate the reassurance of grasping hold of a substantial piece of equipment, over tinkering with the smallest model — and Panasonic have certainly caught on. Though the mirrorless systems have long been promoted for their compact size, the trend seems to be moving back towards weightier designs, with the Lumix DMC-GX8 as no exception. It’s constructed by way of a durable and lightweight magnesium-alloy body, with a deeply indented handgrip. Despite the increase in body size, the Lumix DMC-GX8 doesn’t offer a pop-up flash, opting instead to make way for dual-mode and exposure-compensation dials instead. If anything, it may be a mark of our gradual transition away from built-in flashes — and the light flooding and graceless shadowing commonly associated — in favour of the many external flash options available on the market.
The larger model houses a few more direct controls, with the addition of a dedicated exposure-compensation dial and a dual-operation switch that is customizable to perform an array of secondary mode adjustments. By default, the rear control dial has a dedicated set of functions depending on the shooting mode, but by engaging the dual-operation switch, ISO and white balance can be quickly and temporarily adjusted. And, with a half press of the shutter, these controls return to their default functions. Finally, the rear screen is now a fully articulated, multi-angled design as opposed to the vertical-tilt display of the GX7 — with great touch sensitivity too. And of course, beyond functionality and ergonomics, the effortlessly cool retro design doesn’t go amiss.
As we all know, even with the most advanced photographic equipment, a great photograph doesn’t just happen. It requires careful consideration of the subject, an understanding of the plays of light, and creative impetus. Admittedly, though — the Lumix DMC-GX8 does make it easier.
- Body type: DSLM (digital single-lens mirrorless)
- Dimensions (wxhxd): 133.2mmx77.9mmx63.1mm
- Image sensor size: 17.3x13.0mm (in 4:3 aspect ratio)
- Effective pixels: 20.3 megapixels
- Focus: Contrast AF system
- Sensor photo detectors: 17 megapixels
- Sensor size: Four thirds (17.3mmx13mm)
- Sensor type: Live MOS sensor
- ISO range: 100–25600
- Minimum shutter speed: 60s (bulb: 30 min)
- Maximum shutter speed: 1/8000 — 60s (electronic shutter 1/6000 — 1s)
- Viewfinder: OLED live view finder (2360k dots)
- Lens mount: Micro four-thirds mount
- Battery: Li-ion battery pack (7.2V, 1200mAh, 8.7Wh)