When it comes to photography equipment, it is rather easy to get overwhelmed with the bewildering selection of different cameras and lenses on offer these days – not to mention the different makes and models that further add to the complexity. Whilst I am personally a faithful user of the bulky SLR camera system, technology is advancing and leading to amazing image quality in far smaller and less traditionally ‘professional’ cameras.
When I received an email from Lumix UK inviting me to test out Lumix’s new G80 mirrorless camera system at a photography masterclass, I was therefore very keen to experiment with this camera and it’s new integrated settings which open the horizons for capturing some fantastic shots. I have previously been very impressed with the results from mirrorless cameras, but have never had the chance to fully experiment with them myself.
Having had the new Panasonic G80 for just under two months now, I have been able to play around with its capabilities and explore the various features that Lumix incorporated into it’s dearth of functions. To include an in-depth review outlining all the different settings one can use would result in a bit of an essay, and so in my review I will focus on the features which I have found most useful to me as a wildlife photographer.
Here is my review from the masterclass I attended and my endeavours elsewhere.
The camera itself
The Lumix G80 is a somewhat more petit predecessor to its close cousins in the GH series, weighing 90g, but is marginally larger than G7 (which it replaces). The camera feels very lightweight and is a perfect over-the-shoulder choice for any aspiring photographer heading to the outdoors. Its lighter build by no means compromises on quality though: its magnesium body feels extremely solid and can be exposed to the elements thanks to splash-proof seals around buttons and dials. I have certainly enjoyed taking the camera into the field without the burden endowed by the bulkier digital SLR.
Ease of use
Dials and Knobs
Being used to using digital SLRs, I find using bridge and point-and-shoot cameras a little flustering sometimes: trying to change settings often requires a good deal of exploration through options hidden away in menus on screen. Not so with the G80: several knobs and dials on the camera body make it so much easier to quickly switch through a range of settings. There are two main dials on the top of the camera: one allow you to change through the shooting mode, such as Shutter priority (S) and Aperture priority (A), and the other for switching from burst shooting through to self timer and 4K photo. In addition, two dials can be assigned to change any setting that so suits you: I have the dials set to change exposure compensation and white balance – again, brilliant options when you’re often forced to make quick changes to settings out in the field
Swivel-screen and viewfinder
The flip-out and fully responsive LCD touchscreen is a brilliant feature on the G80. Being able to rotate the screen allows you to retain full control of focus and exposure when shooting in tricky situations, such as low down on the ground. The screen is also fantastic when filming: the high quality display makes it much easier to manual focus lenses to make sure your subject is perfectly sharp. As a touchscreen, it has never been easier to navigate through menus and change settings internally too – not to mention focussing by touch!
The large viewfinder is another great feature which is invaluable for photography: trying to take pictures using only a screen to look at can be really tricky in bright sunlight with glare, and so being able to use the viewfinder makes it much easier. A sensor just below the viewfinder allows the camera to automatically shut off the screen nor viewfinder depending on which you are using.
Panasonic have lavished the camera with no fewer than five external function buttons – what exactly do these do? Well, the beauty is that with some of them, you can decide! You can assign some of the function buttons to change settings that you use most often. The other function buttons allow a range of changes to settings, and on even more function buttons can be called upon on the touchscreen. It really couldn’t be much easier to customize you’re shooting style when you’re an avid fan of manually controlling your settings.
If you prefer to leave the camera on the good old ‘Auto’ setting, then that’s no worry either: the G80 has some pretty cool features that make capturing brilliant images easy for even beginners
4K photo and post-focussing
Yep, you read that right: post focussing! Panasonic have taken some leaps forward with the G80…
4K photo is designed for capturing action shots. When shooting in this mode, the camera fires a burst of images in a similar way to a short video. The individual frames from the burst are each 8MB files shot in 4k, which can then be expanded to A3 size. Once you have taken a 4k photo burst, you can select which frames you would like to keep and save. This can either be done in camera, or later in programs such as Lightroom (see below).
The 4k photo feature is certainly going to be a game changer for capturing action, although is still in its infancy. I’d recommend a couple of tips for those using this mode…
- chose your moment carefully; you can only record for a few seconds in 4k photo owing to its 30 frames per second and recording limitations. This means you need to use your time wisely!
- anticipate the action; there is a slight delay between pressing the shutter and starting 4k recording, and so it’s best to try and be prepared for the moment. As a wildlife photographer, predicting an animal’s every move is part of the challenge anyway, and so in the end it makes you a much better photographer to get to know your subject
I used 4k photo to capture a falling water droplet and its impact on a basin below – experimenting with situations like this is good fun, although the function would also be perfect for getting the perfect shot of an animal running past or a bird taking flight, for example
The post-focussing mode
Similarly to 4k-photo, this option is another big help for someone trying to capture the perfect shot without having to manipulate complicated shooting settings like aperture and shutter speed.
The function works essentially the same as 4k photo: it takes a burst of frames when you press the shutter, which are stored in the format of a short video. The difference is that when you review the burst you can simply tap on the area of the image you’d like to have in focus – and you can scroll through to pick the perfect shot that has the point you’d like to be pin sharp. Essentially it means you can leave focussing to later!
In more practical terms, it is really useful for close-up photography and macro: you can get really close to a subject and take a burst, then later decide which frame is sharpest, or even combine several frames in a focus stack to produce the ultimate shot.
4k video ~ filming with the G80
One of the aspects of Lumix’s new G80 that I was most excited to try out was its video capabilities. The GH series cameras are superb for their video production, and are used by professionals to produce films and promo videos to a very high standard. I was therefore keen to experiment with the G80 and see if it retained the same quality as its cousins. I wasn’t disappointed!
A host of features make filming with the G80 a great experience, and can allow you to produce brilliant footage. Now obviously being able to shoot in 4K is a huge advantage: not even the best SLR cameras are able to film to this standard yet, and so the resulting quality of video in many instances certainly rivals that of digital SLRs
Filming on the G80 is pretty straight forward: you simply press the red recording button beside the shutter release, and it will start recording in whatever shooting mode you are in. However, there is also a dedicated shooting mode for Video, which allows you to adjust a number of settings to control shutter speed, aperture, sound levels, and not to mention recording quality.
Although the auto focus system is very good and reactive, manual focus is always the best way to go for wildlife filming. On the G80, it is very simple to switch to manual focus, using the know below the shooting mode dial. A really handy feature of the G80’s manual focus setting is it’s peak H system: basically when focussing using the LCD screen, anything that is in focus shows up in blue. This makes accurate and sharp manual focussing so much easier to get spot on – a challenge that can ruin many a video using digital SLRs.
The quality of film using the 4K setting is so noticeable: crisp and clear videos with brilliant definition. I have to say that I am really impressed with the filming capabilities of the G80, and I am really looking forward to utilising this aspect much more in the future. Here is a short video I made about the Starling roost in Somerset:
So how does the actual quality of the G80’s images bear through? I have to say I was a little dubious that these mirrorless cameras could challenge the photos produced by digitial SLRs – but the G80 has totally changed my opinion!
During the photography masterclass at the British Wildlife institute in Surrey, I was able to try out a number of different telephoto lenses (the standard kit lens is a 12-60mm), and using a 300mm lens allowed some close up wildlife images that really showed off the capabilities of the G80 as a wildlife photographer camera. Below is an image of one of the Scottish Wildcats at the centre, taken with the G80 and a 300mm. I have cropped the original in to 50% and 100%, and you can see how sharp the image is – the quality really is superb…
To further help secure sharp images and shooting in low light conditions, the G80 boasts a 5-axis dual image stabilisation system to reduce image blurr from handheld photography. In addition, you have the option of dialling up the camera’s ISO to as much as 25, 600. Realistically, the images are amazingly free of noise up to about ISO 1600, with some grain appearing at 3200. Take a look at this image comparison between my traditional wide-angle setup (a Canon 7Dmkii and Canon 16-35mm f4) and the G80 with its 12-60mm lens:
As you can see, there is barely any difference in the quality between the two images, which were taken under low light conditions that necessitated increasing the ISO to 1600.
A host of options are available to get creative with taking pictures on the G80. I haven’t experimented with them all yet, but here are just a few that add to this camera’s brilliant array of features…
- Filters: by simply dialling the shooting mode over to the creative option, you are provided with 22 different filter options. I particularly enjoy using options like dynamic monochrome and expressive, which can produce fantastic images in situations where the lighting and high dynamic range make it tricky to get good photos in traditional modes
- Panoramic setting: selecting panoramic enables you ‘sweep’ acoross a scene and capture a panorama with ease, being stitched in-camera to produce an instant result
- HDR and multiple exposure: in situations with high dynamic ranges, sometimes the best course of action is to use the HDR setting, which combines two or three different pictures taken at different exposures to create one composite image with the best exposure.
- Explore! There are many more functions that I haven’t yet utilised, so experiment and play around with the camera to take some brilliant and creative shots
The wifi function on the G80 is a great way of sending images quickly to your smartphone, and it also allows you to control the camera remotely too – which can sometime be fun to play around with with wildlife photography!
The wifi is very easy to use: first you need to install the Panasonic image app onto your phone, and then on the G80 you click on the wifi function on the LCD touchscreen. You can then set up the connection by scanning the QR code on the image app, and hey presto! It allows you to access images on the camera, alter setting and take pictures remotely. A very handy tool when you are out and about and want to share those #UnmissableMoments instantly
Panasonic Lumix G80 – my overall opinion
I am very impressed with the quality of images produced by the G80, and will certainly be investing in interchangeable lenses in the future to expand my imaging opportunities with this camera. I will primarily be using the G80 for filming and video production, as the 4K quality far exceeds that produced by my digital SLR. The smaller size and lighter build means it is the perfect camera to take out and about when I don’t want to be burdened with a heavy bag full of equipment, yet still want to take images of excellent quality.
I will certainly be experimenting more with the 4K photo and post-focussing settings, as I think these allow the capturing of action with ease and with the added flexibility of choosing the perfect shot afterwards. The handy wifi function allows you to send images straight to a smartphone – a feature I will certainly be utilising when sharing images to platforms like Instagram and Twitter.
I cannot fully comment on the camera’s applicability to wildlife photography, as I have only had in-depth experience with using the camera alongside a 12-60mm lens. From reading reviews and searching around, though, the images produced from telephoto lenses are of a very high standard and are likely to challenge digital SLRs in the coming years.
Find out more
You can find out more about the Panasonic G80 on the Panasonic website, and you can buy one on Amazon here. The Lumix G Experience website is a brilliant online forum to help you develop your skills with your Lumix camera and share your #UnmissableMoments, so check it out. You can find plenty of inspirational images and a range of video tutorials to help you get the most out of your camera.
The Panasonic Lumix G80’s top specs…
- Battery Grip – DMW-BGG1
- 4K Live Cropping
- Real-time HDMI image output while simultaneously recording video
- The 3.5mm microphone jack
- New Focus Bracket and Aperture Bracket
- Gamma pre-sets for video recording via Creative Video mode
- Easy Wireless Connectivity via Wi-Fi with Smartphones
- Power Save LVF Shooting
- Creative Control in P/A/S/M Mode
- RAW data development in Camera
- Silent Mode
- Multiple Exposure
- Time Lapse Shot / Stop Motion Animation
Thanks for reading, and to Lumix UK for inviting me on the masterclass and giving me the opportunity to test out this superb camera