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Panasonic Lumix G80 (G85): Review

9/19/2016, Milan Šurkala
Panasonic has just released the new mirrorless camera Lumix DMC-G80 (DMC-G85, DMC-G81). It has 4K video mode, second generation of Dual IS system, 3.5mm jack for stereo microphone and it is also dust and water resistant. How did it perform in our test?

Autofocus system

Lumix G80/G81/G85 is equipped with the DFD autofocus system. Using two differently focused images (using a contrast AF) the phase difference is computed and the final photograph is taken using this phase information. The 12-60mm lens has very fast focusing motor and with the G80/G81/G85 AF system, it is able to focus in 0.1-0.15 seconds in AFS mode. That is really very quick. The AF system is very sensitive in a low light conditions, it is better than AF systems of many DSLRs. On the other hand, previous models like GX80 or GX7 were slightly better. I assume that it is because of the preproduction sample (Panasonic still states the sensitivity from -4 EV).
The continuous autofocus AFC is also very good for a mirrorless camera. It is reasonably quick and provides excellent object tracking. The only issue is to lock an object. Sometimes it is not easy to convince the camera to lock an object, especially when it has a complex texture. Problems can also emerge in macro shots with a heavily blurred background. Lumix G80/G85 offers AFF mode too. It is a combination of single shot AFS and continuous mode AFC. Whereas AFC continuously adjusts focus (and the preview image sometimes very slightly wobbles), AFF refocuses only when the change in a scene is detected or the camera is moved.
Of course, manual focus mode is not missing. It can be activated by a lever on the rear side of the camera. When you turn the focus ring on the lens, the camera can automatically enlarge a preview, turn on the focus peaking function and all these functions are making focusing much easier. Even in a low light, manual focusing is surprisingly easy. On the other hand, it has to be said that some CSC cameras are better in extremely low light conditions and their preview image in EVF or LCD is brighter in shadows (for example, Samsung NX1 which is no longer produced).
Now, back to autofocus. It is not only very fast, but is also provides above average automatic system for AF point selection. It can be chosen by a user using the touch screen too. That is very comfortable way how to adjust AF point, you can also choose which area you want to enlarge in MF mode. Touch AF is especially useful in the video mode. Panasonic usually provides almost endless possibilities to adjust focus modes and G80/G81/G85 is not an exception. Therefore, you can change AF lock, pre-focus, focusing when your eye gets closer to EVF, priority of focus/shutter, AF+MF, and many, many others.
Panasonic Lumix G80 G85 focus stacking
one of 150 images from a 4K video, click to enlarge
Panasonic Lumix G80 G85 focus stacking result
 the image created by the Focus Stacking function

The camera has the new Focus Stacking function. It takes 150 shots (5 seconds of 4K video actually) that are differently focused and stacks them together. This one was taken handheld with high ISO 1600.


Movie mode

Lumix G80 (G81, G85) is an excellent camera for video shooting and its capabilities are very close to GH line. It is able to shoot 4K video (3840×2160 pixels) and Panasonic made a huge miracle here. Even the European version offers 30p/60p modes and in PAL region, NTSC modes can be used. In the past, European models were usually limited to frame rates that were multiples of 25. Now, you can use not only 24p and 25p/50i/50p, but also 60i/60p.
4K video is limited up to 30 fps, Full HD (1920×1080 pixels) is supported also with 60p. Lumix G80/G81/G85 saves AVCHD or MP4 files (4K is supported only with MP4 files). The camera aims much higher than GX80/GX85. You can use the 3.5mm jack to attach an external stereo microphone and improve sound a lot. Of course, the exposure can be controlled by a user. Exposure times are supported in the range from 1/25 to 1/16000 seconds; in M mode with manual focus even 1/2 seconds is supported in order to create a motion blur video.
In P, A, and S modes, Auto ISO can be used but it is not an option for M mode in video. On the other hand, Auto ISO can be used in manual mode when shooting stills. That is perfect. The maximal supported bitrate is 100 Mbps in 4K mode! Moreover, you can use a HDMI recorder.
Stabilization system is very good if you are not moving a lot. It is not able to stabilize a walk as good as some compact cameras but it is still quite powerful system. On the other hand, the stabilization performance is above average when you are standing still and you are trying to obtain almost tripod-level performance. Autofocus is fine in Full HD movies but is relatively slow when 4K video is shot.