Over the past decade, digital video and still cameras have undergone an interesting convergence; video has begun to offer the capture of still shots, while digital cameras have steadily increased their live-action capture capabilities. I’ve often wondered where this convergence would end up — doubting that our strong brand allegiances could ever fail, nor that a range of highly specialized equipment could ever be rendered obsolete.
And, as most of us tend to be about these sorts of things, I was wrong. Along came a pivotal moment in art school, where I was advised to put down my film gear in favour of the DSLR’s moving-image capabilities. Begrudgingly, I did. And, charmed by the quality and control afforded by the DSLR, I never looked back. Several years later, there’s now very little left in terms of purpose-built videography equipment for everyday consumers. DSLRs have continued to flood this market segment, eating up the competition and leaving very few survivors.
Most recently, however, there has been a new selection of cameras that have begun to truly stake their hold in the market. They are the DSLM — digital single-lens mirrorless cameras — and they’ve got me wondering all over again. The Lumix DMC G7K is one of these — Panasonic’s newest release in fact — and it packs a punch, with razor-sharp image quality and cutting-edge features housed within a humble package.
The Lumix DMC G7K offers equivalent image quality and handling, without the bulk and weight of traditional DSLRs. This is because, as the name implies, the DSLM works without a mirror. Simply put, the difference between mirrorless cameras and DSLR models is the camera’s viewfinder system. Mirrorless lenses don’t utilize a reflex-finder system, and, instead, light passes through the lens and right onto the image sensor, which captures a preview on the rear screen or via an electronic viewfinder. As a result, lenses are able to sit closer to the camera, meaning that both the cameras themselves and their lenses are generally far lighter and more compact.
But, it’s not only size that affords the Lumix DMC G7K as a strong competitor against the notoriety of the DSLR — its quality is impressive too. With 16 megapixels of clear image capture by way of still-image shooting, the Lumix DMC G7K offers the ability to capture bundles of visual information with the press of each shutter. However, the notable feature of the Lumix DMC G7K is its 4K photo and video technology. Offering the ability to record video in better-than-HD quality (the equivalent of QFHD: 3840x2160 pixels), and to extract the perfect frame out of this video, this feature allows for a sequence to be captured at 30 frames per second, with single shots saved as eight-megapixel images. The Lumix mantra is that special moments can occur at any time and should be captured in the best resolution possible — and the 4K technology does just that. It’s a handy feature too, particularly for capturing a moving subject in all of its fast-paced, whirlwind, mid-air glory.
However, while this 4K photo and video technology offers the ability to capture moments in- motion that would be otherwise impossible, it simply doesn’t match up to the finesse of a carefully constructed and well-considered photograph, nor should it replace traditional shooting. While an output of eight megapixels is impressive for a still shot from video, it still falls far short of what can be achieved by way of traditional shooting. A still shot produced via 4K can only be blown up to approximately 11x14 inches while maintaining its quality, while its 16-megapixel equivalent can reach up to 16x24 inches conservatively.
Designed for fast-paced and action photography, the Lumix DMC G7K has incorporated further features that aid in sharp shooting. With depth from defocus (DFD) autofocus technology, which interprets spatial distances within the frame and converts this into useable data, the Lumix DMC G7K is able to instantly measure the amount of movement needed to achieve focus, with precise results even in low-contrast areas. In addition, the Lumix DMC G7K’s autofocus has turned up the torque to drive the focus finder in one fast, continuous movement. It’s surprisingly quick in fact — as fast as 0.07 seconds — leaving me bewildered as to whether the camera itself is quicker than the eye. Finally, unlike many other DSLMs on the market that are limited by slower focus speeds, the Lumix DMC G7K offers a fast maximum shutter speed of 1/16000s — ideal for capturing subjects in motion, where a millisecond can make a substantial difference in an image. If you’re involved in event photography, interested in birds or wildlife, or if you’re looking to capture the chaotic-yet-precious moments shared with family and friends, these features fit the bill.
Though, if it all sounds too good to be true, it generally is — and there’s one area where the Lumix DMC G7K falls short. While the Lumix claims to maintain high image quality even in low-light conditions, the results simply aren’t convincing. When shooting at dusk, the image output was fuzzy at best, even with the use of a tripod. Panasonic’s Venus engine, employed within the Lumix DMC G7K to the promise of reduced noise, has been surrounded by much complaint since its inception. Users have claimed that any noise reduction is only achieved by smudging, resulting in any significant reduction of noise being accompanied by the loss of fine detail. Though the Lumix DMC G7K is able to reach an ISO of up to 25,600 — a luxury that offers the ability to shoot crisp images when handheld and to freeze fast motion within low-light conditions — the grain produced didn’t tend to produce a pleasing ‘film-noir’ aesthetic, instead muddied or veiled in a strangely softened haze.
Like with any camera, it’s about what you shoot, with the Lumix DMC G7K geared toward candid and fast-paced shooting, rather than fine-art photography. Not everybody needs a full DSLR system, and if your photography falls within the limits of what mirrorless cameras do well, then the Lumix DMC G7K may be the right choice for you. Either way, the Lumix DMC G7K is at the forefront of the tech game, and wants to change our attitudes towards the way we capture images. We can’t stay placid in the comfort of the DSLR forever; in this ever-changing industry, it’s only a matter of time until we find that they, like all other things, are superseded.
- Body type: DSLM (digital single-lens mirrorless)
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 124.9mmx86.2mmx77.4mm
- Image sensor size: 17.3x13.0mm (in 4:3 aspect ratio)
- Max resolution: 4592x3448
- Effective pixels: 16 megapixels
- Focus: Contrast AF system
- Sensor photo detectors: 17 megapixels
- Sensor size: Four thirds (17.3mmx13mm)
- Sensor type: CMOS
- ISO range: 160–25600
- Minimum shutter speed: 60s
- Maximum shutter speed: 1/16000–1
- Lens mount: Micro four-thirds mount
- Battery: Li-ion battery pack (7.2V, 1200mAh, 8.7Wh)