The Panasonic G80 (AKA Panasonic G85) is a weather-proof DSLR-style mirrorless or compact system camera (CSC) with a 16 million pixel Four Thirds type sensor and the Micro Four Thirds lens mount. It’s aimed at enthusiast photographers and it has a fast contrast detection autofocus system. The OLED electronic viewfinder provides a good view of the scene and the vari-angle touch-sensitive screen responds quickly to a touch. The most important settings including exposure mode, shutter speed and aperture are set via dials to make operation quick.
Noise is controlled well and there’s a very good level of detail and micro contrast in its images. The clever 4K Photo modes are very useful for capturing fleeting moments and the Focusing Stacking feature is useful for creating images that have wider depth of field than normal, but both require the image size to drop to 8Mp. That’s still enough to make an A3 print, but it can seem like a sacrifice.
- Camera type: CSC/Mirrorless
- Date Announced: 19th Sept 2016
- Price at launch: £699 body only, £799 with 12-60mm lens
- Sensor size Four Thirds type (17.3 x 13mm)
- Effective pixel count: 16.0 million
- Processor: Venus Engine
- Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds
- Viewfinder: Electronic with 2,360,000 dots OLED
- Sensitivity range: ISO 100-25,600
- AF system: Contrast detection
- Monitor: Touch-sensitive tilting 3-inch LCD with 1,040,000 dots
- Max shooting rate: 9fps with AF locked on first frame
- Max video resolution: 4K UHD (3840 x 2160)
- Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II)
- Dimensions: 128.4 x 89 x 74.3mm
- Weight: 453g body only, 505g with SD card and battery
The Panasonic Lumix G80 is what Panasonic refers to as a classic style camera and it sits above the Panasonic G7, but below the GH5 in the company’s line-up of mini-DSLR-style cameras.
Apart from the shape, the Panasonic G80 has quite a bit in common with the Panasonic GX80. They have the same 16Mp sensor with no optical low-pass filter (OLPF), for example, and their shutter units use magnetic control to make them quiet and less prone to creating vibration. They also have the same maximum sensitivity setting (ISO 25,600) and 5-axis Dual Image Stabilisation system. According to Panasonic, the stabilisation system, which has sensor- and lens-based movement correction, has been improved a little for the G80. It’s claimed to extend the safe hand-holding shutter speed by up to 5 stops – that’s the difference between 1/125 sec and 1/4sec.
Notably, the G80 also has an electronic first curtain shutter, which the GX80 does not.
Screen and Viewfinder
On the back of the Panasonic G80 is a 3-inch 1,040,000-dot screen on a vari-angle hinge for easy upright and horizontal format shooting above and below head-height.
There’s also a 2,360,000-dot OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) viewfinder with a magnification ratio of approximately 1.48x / 0.74x (in 35mm terms) and 100% field of view. This will be the natural choice for most enthusiast photographers when it comes to composing images.
While the G80 relies on contrast detection for autofocusing, Panasonic’s Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology and sensor readout speed of 240 fps mean it’s designed to be fast. The Low Light AF technology is also claimed to make the system sensitive down to -4EV, which would put it on a par with the Nikon D500, though I’m a little sceptical.
Panasonic is a driving force in the move towards 4K video and the G80 can shoot 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) at 24 and 25p. Lower resolutions are also available, including Full-HD (1920 x 1080). The 4K Photo modes (4K Burst Shooting, 4K Burst (Start/Stop) and 4K Pre-burst) are also present to make it easier to capture fleeting moments as 8Mp stills. A new 4K Photo Bulk Saving option allows you to save all the images in a sequence of footage rather than having to scroll through and pick the ones you want. That could fill up memory cards quickly, but there will be times when people are glad of it.
While 4K Photo mode is a useful option, but it’s worth noting that the (considerably more expensive) Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II has Pro Capture mode that enables 20Mp images (raw and jpeg) to be recorded at 60fps.
When Panasonic introduced its Post Focus feature it seemed that focus stacking might not be too far away. Post Focus allows you to select a still from a 4K sequence of differently focused frames to find the one that works best. The G80 takes things a step further and in-camera Focus Stacking is possible. It could make the camera a hit with macro enthusiasts.
Another feature that Panasonic is keen to talk about is the G80’s 800-900 shot battery life, which is pretty good going. This is achieved because the camera can be set to go into the economy mode that puts it to sleep as soon as you take it away from your eye – a half-press of the shutter release awakens it again.
Build and handling
Looks-wise the G80 is a blend of angular lines and curves that could divide opinion – beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that. It’s growing on me, I like it a little more each time I look at it.
More significantly, it has a solid construction with magnesium alloy front/bottom plate, the grip is comfortable to hold, the viewfinder is nice and clear and the touch-screen is responsive.
I had the opportunity to test the weatherproofing of the G80 and 12-60mm kit lens on more than one occasion and they were not found lacking in a heavy downpour.
Although it has a touch-screen, the G80 has a fairly liberal covering of buttons and dials to give direct control and speed-up settings adjustments. A mode dial and twin control dials on the top-plate make exposure adjustments quick. By default, the Fn1 button on the top-plate is used to access exposure compensation, with the setting being adjusted using the rear control dial on the top plate. By default, using the front dial adjusts flash exposure. Either of the control dials can be set to adjust exposure compensation directly – I prefer this approach as it’s quicker.
Holding down any of the five Function (Fn) buttons for more than a second gives access to the a list of 14 features that can be assigned to it. It’s a really quick and intuitive way of customising the camera – much easier than going through the menu.
Drive Mode Dial
I was especially pleased to see that the 4K photo modes are accessed via the drive mode dial. You still have to select the specific mode you want via the menu, but it makes them quicker to select when action is developing. Plus if you leave it set the one you find most useful you can access it just by turning the dial to 4K Photo Mode. However, you can customise one of the Fn buttons to toggle quickly through the 4K Photo mode options by repeatedly pressing the button.
I’m a fan of vari-angle screens because they make it easier to compose upright and landscape format images when you’re shooting at high or low angles. The 3-inch 1,040,000-dot device on the back of the G80 provides and nice clear view and is very responsive.
I like Panasonic’s Touch Pad AF mode which allows you to set AF point with your finger on the screen while you look through the viewfinder, but as a left eye-user I sometimes find my nose makes the selection for me. This is easily resolved by swinging the screen out to the side, but I also found that after a while I developed the knack of avoiding the screen with my nose.
The viewfinder is very good and with a claimed minimum lag time of less than 0.01 sec, I had no trouble following subjects in the frame.
I’ve shot with the Panasonic G80 in a wide range of conditions and it’s coped with all of them well, producing images with good exposure and pleasant colours.
Although it uses a contrast detection focusing system rather than a hybrid system that adds phase detection to the party, the G80 gets subjects sharp quickly. However, the constantly adjusting subject distance of a boy on a swing proved a challenge. If I caught him during the momentary pause at the top of the swing, just before the descent, it could get him sharp and keep him so, but it struggled to latch on to him as he moved.
The new Focus Stacking feature is very easy to use. Once it’s selected via the mode dial, you take a sequence of shots in one blast and the camera varies the focus point for you. You can use the mode hand-held as the camera automatically aligns the images, but it’s good practice to keep the camera as still as possible. The final composite image is created in review mode. When you’re reviewing the image you can either let the camera merge the images automatically or you select the area(s) that you want sharp with your finger on the screen and the camera creates the stacked result.
Read how to use the Panasonic Focus Stacking mode
I found Focus Stacking mode works well, but it’s not without limitations. With a close-up shot of a flower that has trees in the background, for instance, it’s possible to see a version in which the trees are sharp and another in which the flower is sharp, but it proved impossible to create a composite image that had both sharp – presumably the camera recognises the merging would produce an unnatural looking results with artefacts and therefore rejects the attempt.
Nevertheless, it can extend the sharp zone within a scene, including macro scenes, but it also changes the framing slightly and reduces the size of the image from 16Mp to 8Mp. It’s also worth pointing out that the stacked composite is a jpeg, there no raw files produced in Focus Stacking mode.
Noise is controlled well, even images captured at the top sensitivity setting of ISO 25,600 have a good level of detail – especially the raw files. The jpegs have just a hint of luminance noise at 100%, but there’s also slight softening in comparison with the raw files that have a more granular structure. Zoom out so that the image occupies a space roughly equal to A4 size on the screen and the texture is still there, but not objectionable. You wouldn’t want to use ISO 25,600 routinely for ‘important’ photography, but the results a fine for occasional shots or when you don’t mind a little atmospheric texture.
The multi-zone metering system also coped well with most of the situations I threw at it. In fact, there were only a few occasions when I needed to use the exposure compensation control, with no major surprises.
The camera also generally delivers good results in the default settings. As usual with Panasonic cameras, I found that switching to the Daylight white balance setting produces warmer results in natural lighting conditions. In many instances this is preferable, but there were a few occasions when I shot under an overcast sky and the images look a bit too warm.
With the Panasonic’s Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 Asph lens mounted and used at the 400mm end, I was able to hand-hold the G80 at a shutter speed of 1/30sec and produce consistently sharp images that pass muster at 100%. I had a hit rate of around 80% with a compensation factor of about 5EV.
Panasonic recently issued a firmware update for the G80/G85 to improve the performance of the Image Stabiliser in video mode. This seems to have largely worked with the 12-60mm kit lens, but there’s still an issue with the 100-400mm lens – which to be fair is not going to be a regular choice for hand-held videography. This lens has Panasonic’s Power OIS (Optical Images Stabiliser), built-in with a switch on the barrel to turn it on and off. When it is set to ‘on’ in video mode there is sometimes a recoil movement visible in the footage when you stop panning, the video movement bounces back in the opposite direction to the pan. I’ve raised the matter with Panasonic, but have yet to hear back about any further firmware upgrades.
In other respects, the G80 produces high quality video, but the stabilisation system isn’t a match for that of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. With the Olympus camera I was able to walk carefully and get usable footage, but with the G80 and 12-60mm lens there is still too much wobble.
The autofocus adjusts smoothly in most situations, even in low light, but even when the AF point is at it’s smallest, can be hard to get it to latch onto small subjects in front of high-contrast backgrounds.
Panasonic G80 Verdict
Panasonic’s recent cameras have slipped under the radar a little for some people. It’s odd because they deliver most of the key features that photographers look for – a good viewfinder, lots of direct control, excellent touch-screen implementation and good results. I put it down to the lack of retro control and their often lighter-weight build in comparison with cameras like the Fuji X-T10, Fuji X-T2 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.
The G80 feels a bit more solid and tougher, and it’s weather-sealed so you can use it in the rain – as I did. The dual-dial controls are also responsive and allow you to change settings quickly with the camera held to your eye. It may not have quite the same charm as some of Olympus and Fuji’s cameras, but it has a good collection of features and generally performs well.
The Focus Stacking feature is clever and effective within reasonable limits, but I think few macro or landscape enthusiasts will be happy to half the size of their images and produce only jpegs. The shine has also been taken off 4K Photo mode by the emergence of Pro Capture mode in the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II as it enables 20Mp images to be captured at 60fps in raw and jpeg. However, the Olympus camera is more than two and half times the price of the G80.
Panasonic G80 Sample Photos