It’s odd how life comes back around in circles. Just over two years ago I started my journey with Panasonic and the Lumix GX7 in Romania. It was a journey of firsts for many reasons. My first time in the country, first time shooting M43 and first trip with my fixer and now good friend Paul. Now two years later, I’m finding myself again writing about another trip to Romania with a Panasonic camera. My third trip there in just 2 years. I’ve already reviewed the GX7 in Romania, and the GX8 too. Earlier this year, Panasonic approach myself and fellow travel photographer Mitchell Kanashkevich. They pitched us the idea of shooting a campaign video for their latest Lumix G camera, the G80. “It’s got all the features you love…and more”.
Well, I was in. After some back and forth, we convinced them that Romania would be an awesome location to shoot. It has amazing hospitality, great locations and a unique culture. We even have good relationships with fixers like Paul that have been developed over the years before.
The brief was that Mitchell would be the ‘star’ photographer and the focus of the video. I’d be shooting the footage of him working. We also pitched the idea of using only Panasonic Lumix cameras to shoot the whole campaign on. GH4s for the bulk of the shooting and bringing in the new G80 for some b-roll and other shots.
I don’t want to delve too deep into the details of the BTS for the campaign. That’s for another time. What I do want to discuss is my thoughts on the camera. As well as shooting some video in Romania on the G80, I’ve also shot some travel images and even a wedding. I’d like to think after a few thousand images and a couple of hours of video, I’m pretty familiar with the camera.
As a review, this isn’t going to be a technical review. If you want test charts and crops then there are website which will be doing just that in the coming weeks. Instead, this is going to be my honest impressions of using two pre-production samples.
I’ve made no attempt to hide the fact that I think the GX series of cameras are really great cameras. There’s something about the flat, rangefinder-esque body that I love using. So, in the beginning, the more traditional DSLR style body of the G80 didn’t quite interest me as much. For video, I’d take the GH4 body style any day but for stills, I always found myself falling back on the GX8.
But yet, I was interested in the fact that this camera was smaller than the GH4, weather sealed and had a big EVF. Maybe I could get over my camera body prejudice?
Romania – Video Shooting + Dual IS
My first experience shooting with the G80 was as a B-roll camera for the GH4 on the shoot in Romania. As Mitchell was using the main sample camera most of the time, we kept the use of the G80 for video to a minimum. Only using it where its features were an advantage.
In my opinion, as a B-roll or hybrid camera is where this model really shines. 4:2:2 8-bit recording on to SD cards, Dual-IS II in 4K video, Cine-D and Cine-V profiles and a mic input. It’s taking the best features of the GX80 and GH4 whilst slimming down on the niche, high end features. For me, the Dual-IS is the biggest revelation. I had the
benefit pain of using a DJI Ronin M with the GH4 for the shoot. Whilst it worked 75% of the time flawlessly, its annoyances were enough for me to hate it by the end of the shoot. There were also times where it was just impractical.
For example, we shot a scene where Mitchell was photographing a family on the back of their hay cart. The hay cart had very limited room, was extremely bumpy and the Ronin was just too heavy and large to manoeuvre. In the end, I swapped to the G80. Using the in-body Dual-IS stabilisation, I was able to get some shots at arm’s length off of the back of the cart. Shots that would have been impossible otherwise.
The quality of the shots in Cinelike D, if exposed well, were also not too far off the GH4 with V-Log on an Atomos. For high end work, the small difference would make rigging up the GH4 worth it. For run and gun documentary work or travel videos, I’d save the weight. Instead, I’d shoot internal onto SDs and go handheld or with a monopod. If you’re familiar with shooting on the GH4, you’ll feel right at home with the G80. As with all Lumix cameras, the menus are almost identical. With most of the features inherited by the smaller camera, it’s only the variable frame rate feature that I was missing.
If you’re interested in seeing the project video the video is below:
Brittany – Wedding Shooting
Next up for my G80 tests was wedding shooting. I’m going to preface this section with the fact that I’m not a wedding photographer. Some close friends of mine were getting married in a beautiful part of France. I’m always up for a challenge, and it’s one of the only genres of photography I haven’t shot. The lure of great food, wine and a short break after the wedding was all I needed to convince me.
I’ve always had huge respect for wedding photographers. To be able to shoot high quality and original imagery under the pressure of a wedding is a tough skill. Despite knowing how tough a challenge it would be, especially with the service spoken in a foreign language, I jumped right in.
I was hesitant about using the G80 for the wedding. I was quite unfamiliar with the camera. It was a pre-production sample and in weddings you can’t really afford to miss anything. For this reason, I had both the GX8 and GH4 as back up cameras just in case.
Fortunately, the camera performed excellently. I used the camera for most of the day with the battery grip. This allowed me to shoot in portrait mode quickly and also to run two batteries at the same time. The one feature that stood out for me was the new dampened shutter mechanism. I’ve been a big proponent of the silent shutter mode of Lumix cameras for a long time. The only downside is that in artificial light you can often get banding. In the older Lumix cameras, the mechanical shutter was reasonably loud. Your options were then limited to loud or silent, no in-between. With the new shutter mechanism, the shutter is extremely quiet in normal use. So, much so that I could use it in the church without being a distraction.
In lowlight, the G80 performance is pretty much in line with the other Lumix cameras, it’s decent. It’s not full frame. The benefits of weight saving and usability of these cameras mean that it doesn’t bother me. I can still shoot in 99% of scenarios I’ll find myself in and I’m not a pixel peeping obsessive anyway.
Paris Street Shooting
It has been a long while since I had a non-work travel holiday. For the last 3-4 years, all my travel has revolved around photography. So, to spend a few days in Paris just to wander around and grab the occasional shot here and there was nice.
The beauty of the G80 is its adaptability. You can add the battery grip to make it look ‘serious’, or go without and it becomes much more unassuming. It’s also lightweight. So, I had no problem carrying it over my shoulder whilst we walked over 30miles+ over the 3.5 days of exploring.
Much like other Lumix cameras, it’s fast and responsive and very quiet. The swivel screen means low angle shots are a breeze and Touch AF is an intuitive way to shoot. Silent shutter a + the new quieter mechanical shutter makes street shooting much less daunting. I’m not sure I would ever want to go back to moving focus points with buttons ever again…or a camera with a loud mirror assembly either.
Is the G80 the Perfect Hybrid?
I’m a convert. I think the G80 is the best all round camera Panasonic have made to date. It’s responsive, fast and versatile when shooting stills. It’s equally as good for video. Unless you need 10bit external recording, 96fps or timecode, then I think the G80 makes a lot of sense. It’s cheaper, lighter and internal recording quality with the Dual IS stabilisation is an improvement over the GH4.
Out of the Panasonic cameras I have, the GX7, GX8 and GH4, the G80 is the one I’d pick if I had to have just one camera for a trip shooting both stills and video. It’s a real performer, and it’s the definition of a ‘Hybrid’ camera. I’d be happy to shoot an entire film/documentary on it whilst being equally as happy to shoot a photo story on it too. Now there’re few cameras I could say that about. Especially not at this price point.
Do you want to know more about the camera? Feel free to ask away in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.
Alternatively if you’re at Photokina please stop by and introduce yourself. I’ll be on the Panasonic booth all show.