Panasonic LUMIX G85 User’s Experience

Review Date: September 24, 2016

Category: Advanced

Panasonic G85 with optional Battery Grip DMW-BGG1

Panasonic G85 with optional Battery Grip DMW-BGG1

Photoxels Gold Award - Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
Photoxels Gold Award – Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera

5 User's Experience


Thursday, August 25, 2016 – Here’s what I receive in the box:

  • No memory card (I used a 16GB SDHC I U3 for the review)
  • Li-ion Battery DMW-BLC12PP (7.2V 1200mAh 8.7Wh)
  • DE-A79 Battery Charger (plugs directly into the wall outlet)
  • Shoulder Strap
  • USB Cable
  • Body Cap
  • Hot Shoe Cover
  • Cover for the Battery Grip Connector
  • Documentation: Basic Owner’s Manual, Quick Guide for 4K Photo
  • LUMIX G Vario 12-60mm (24-120mm equiv.)/F3.5-5.6 ASPH./POWER O.I.S. Ø58mm
  • Lens Hood, Lens Cap, Lens Rear Cap

There is no CD and so no software is provided. You should, however, be able to download (when it’s available) a more detailed version of the “Owner’s Manual for advanced features” from their support site.

The LUMIX G Vario 12-60mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH./POWER O.I.S. lens is optically image stabilized, controlled directly by the Dual IS 2 of the G85. It has 11 elements in 9 groups with 3 aspherical lenses and 1 ED lens, 7 blades for a circular diaphragm, and minimum aperture of F22.

Note that both the LUMIX G85 and the 12-60mm kit lens are dust-proof and splash-proof. They are not freeze-proof.

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G85 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (“mirrorless”) that Panasonic is marketing as an all-rounder camera. It is full featured and, with an optional vertical grip, seems to be targeting the demanding enthusiast. On the other hand, it is also easy enough to just pick up and start using, and so can also function as an entry-level camera. I think, if you are getting serious about photography, the LUMIX G85 may just be what you need because, as your skillset grows, you will be able to make the most of all of its features.

In Panasonic’s parlance, the LUMIX G85 is a Digital Single Lens Mirrorless (DSLM) camera. Also, the Canadian website lists it under Compact System Cameras (CSC). We all just call it a “mirrorless” camera. And, if we are correctly deciphering Panasonic’s newest naming conventions, just like the GX85 (16MP) is positioned between the GX7 (16MP) and GX8 (20MP), similarly, the G85 (16MP) is probably (we’re just guessing here) positioned between the G7 (16MP) and a yet-to-be-announced G8 (20MP?–it’s not even a rumor yet, so don’t quote us). We could be wrong about that but, since the G85 is not being openly marketed as a G7 replacement (the G85 could have been marketed as the G8 except that it retains the 16-MP sensor instead of Panasonic’s newer 20-MP sensor), we can only surmise that a G8 (“true” successor of the G7 and that will no doubt include some of the newer GH5 features) is in the works.

But, confusing naming conventions (and rumors) aside, the LUMIX G85 is clearly an impressively full featured mirrorless camera, its specs at first glance very closely matching those of the G7. In fact, except for a few subtle physical size and design differences, you would be forgiven for thinking it is the G7 in look, size and specs. It also does not help that Panasonic does not visibly display the model name on the front of its cameras, choosing to discreetly print them on the bottom plate.

In fact, the G85 improves quite a bit on the G7:

  1. No AA (Anti-Aliasing / Low Pass) filter and built-in moire suppression in the firmware means sharper images.
  2. Second-generation 5-axis Dual IS (Dual IS features both in-body and lens IS) with 5-stop gain (we saw the 1st-generation Dual IS with 4-stop gain in the GX8 and GX85). Remember, the G7 does not have in-body IS.
  3. Magnesium front plate for a stronger build.
  4. A new electronic first curtain shutter option for quieter operation and reduced vibration.
  5. New shutter unit and magnesium front panel together reduces shutter shock by approximately 90 per cent.
  6. Slightly larger magnification (0.74x vs. 0.7x, equiv.) EVF with increased eye-relief means I can now see all the screen while wearing my glasses.
  7. L.Monochrome mode in Photo Style for a more contrasty, nuanced monochrome with a lot of tonality.
  8. Focus Stacking mode for a 8MP still photo should be great for capturing macro shots with greater depth-of-field.
  9. Moving the SD memory card slot from the bottom to the side of the camera means you don’t need to remove it from the tripod anymore to change card. Also, you can attach the optional battery grip and still access the memory card.
  10. Availability of optional Battery Grip DMW-BGG1 (also weather sealed) for portrait shooting and more comfortable shooting with long tele lenses. The extra battery also effectively doubles the number of images that can be shot.
  11. Of course, one of the biggest improvement is that dust-proof and splash-proof construction means you can now shoot in more places and weather conditions without worrying about damaging your camera.
  12. As well, the G85 is being offered with a better specified 12-60mm kit lens (also dust-proof and splash-proof) for a mere $100 more.

I believe that should be enough for anyone currently using the G7 to want to upgrade.

In case you’re wondering why Panasonic is referring to the Dual IS in the G85 as 2nd-generation (Dual IS 2), it’s because, as it was briefly explained to us, Dual IS now works a little bit differently than how it did when it was first introduced in the GX8. It’s a subtle technological shift in implementation. In the GX8, the body IS works “in tandem” (no technical explanation given how that works) with the LUMIX lens IS for maximum stabilization. In the G85, both the body IS and the lens IS are apparently now directly controlled by a new IS module (with a gyro sensor) in the body of the G85. This slight implementation change is apparently enough for the second-generation Dual IS to gain an extra 1-stop over the 1st-generation Dual IS. Again, until we get technical explanations from Panasonic on just how Dual IS 2 actually works, we are left to guessing that it probably favors body IS until it’s not possible for the image sensor to move any further (real estate limitations) and then switches to lens IS — or immediately switches to lens IS when a long lens is attached. But the end result is the same: if you attach a non-IS lens, you benefit from body IS; attach an optically image stabilized LUMIX lens (especially telephoto lens) and you might gain an extra stop of stabilization. Panasonic claims an overall impressive 5-stop gain.

Peer into the 2.36M-dot high resolution electronic viewfinder, and you are greeted with a beautifully large and bright image (at a 35mm equivalent of 0.74x magnification). With glasses on, I can just about see all four corners. There is no more satisfying joy than a large and bright viewfinder and the one on the G85 is just superb. There is a small rotary diopter adjustment dial that works just fine and lets you adjust -4 to +4 diopter. I am also so glad that both the EVF and display screen gain up very well in low light, allowing me to see enough to compose even in dim situations.

The display screen is a touch panel and can function as a Touch Pad. Touch Pad AF functionality is a feature that was first introduced by Panasonic waaaaay back and conveniently allows you to view through the EVF and slide your thumb or touch anywhere on the display screen to set AF without having to remove your eye from the viewfinder. In the menu [MENU – Custom – Touch Settings – Touch Pad AF – EXACT, OFFSET, OFF], you can specify that where you touch on the screen is EXACTly where you want focus to lock; for the AF area to move from where it is currently by an OFFSET as you slide your thumb on the screen (irrespective of where you first touched the display screen); or you can turn it OFF completely if your nose is too long, touches the screen and inadvertently moves the AF or triggers other unwanted actions (ha, ha).

The Q.MENU helps you avoid digging into the MENU and it conveniently gives you plenty of options to change settings. It’s interface does look a bit crowded for my taste, and I found myself often wondering whether to rotate the Front dial, Rear dial or use the cursor keys.

The LUMIX G85 hums. It’s imperceptible, you probably won’t hear it in the ambient noise of a crowded room, and you do have to pay very close attention to notice it. I’m not sure what it is: a small cooling fan, the hum of a small motor, most probably the IS,…

The deep handgrip favors an outward bulge, giving it an angular edge. I don’t have large hands and I found that, when holding the camera tightly for very long periods, that bulge tends to press into my fingers and it would get uncomfortable. Shaving a few mm out of that bulge or giving it a less angular arc may be all that’s needed to cater to photographers with smaller hands.

None of these cut into my enjoyment of the G85. In fact, it is an impressive camera and I can heartily recommend it.

What I like about the G85:

  • A full-featured mirrorless camera.
  • Very good to excellent image quality with low noise up to ISO 1600.
  • Good handling and feel.
  • That large and bright viewfinder display.
  • Very well implemented Touchscreen interface.
  • Fast and precise AF, even in low light.
  • Dual IS 2.
  • Dust-proof and splash-proof.

No review is complete without a couple of improvement suggestions:

  • Redesign the Q.MENU for a more intuitive (simpler) interface.
  • A rounder, less angular, and softer front part to the handgrip.

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G85 should appeal to those desiring a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that does not compromise with image quality, performance and handling. It looks professional and accepts a large number of quality lenses, both from Panasonic, Olympus and third-party manufacturers. If you are looking to move to an interchangeable lens camera for both still and video shooting, the Panasonic LUMIX G85 might just be your perfect choice.

I like the video below from Panasonic. I think it encapsulates well (better than I can in product shots) the excitement in and main features of the LUMIX G85:

5 User's Experience

Next: Panasonic LUMIX G85 QuickFact Sheet / Buy

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Panasonic DMW-BGG1 Battery Grip for Lumix DMC-G85