The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX850 is the most compact camera from this company if you want to have interchangeable lenses and you may find it as GX800 or GF9 as the name can vary in some of the areas where it is marketed. The sensor is a 16MP Four Thirds and you get features such as an LCD touchscreen or 4K video capture.
The GX850 has been designed with the idea of having a simple camera that is entry-level for photography enthusiasts and the 16MP sensor comes without an optical low-pass filter for increased detail resolution. The three inch LCD screen can be flipped 180 degrees and it has a resolution of 1.04M dots with touchscreen capabilities.
The video capture can be 4K/30/24p and 4K photo mode can create 8MP stills at a rate of 30fps. The continuous autofocus bursts can be of up to 5 fps and you get Wi-Fi connectivity but the thing that really stands out about this camera is the lack of a viewfinder.
As the camera was designed to be really portable it is here that it stands out with a weight of only 269g and fimensions of 106.5 x 64.6 x 33.3 mm. This means that you won’t get any image stabilization aside from the one that might be in the lens and the battery also has a life of only 210 shots.
Behind the battery door you also have a slot for a microSD card and this is the only kind the GX850 accepts, so no regular SD for this model.
Design and Handling
There are four color options for the camera and with the lens fully retracted the camera is small enough to fit in a pocket but that doesn’t mean that handling it will be ideal. There aren’t too many controls, most of the buttons are grouped on the right-hand side of the camera so you can access everything while shooting even with one hand.
The top part of the GX850 has a mode dial that can change the exposure modes and you have a range of automatic options, semi-automatic ones and manual so it is great to begin the basics of photography and start experimenting.
The two special buttons on the top give you access to the 4K Photo modes and to the Post Focus. You can get stills from 4K videos recording at 30fps and that is a very good way to catch the exact moments you need with fast-moving subjects. The Post Focus allows you to take a photo and change the focus point in playback which is useful for macros and other similar things.
The back part has several different buttons: a scrolling dial around the four-way navigational pad that you can use to adjust several settings. Many of the buttons can be customized and the quick menu can also be customized to suit your needs.
The touch-sensitive screen helps a lot and the fact that you can tilt it will also give you many more angles to shoot or film from with ease. The autofocus point can be set through the screen, you can go over the images in playback and you can navigate the menu. All of these function well and the screen is very responsive so it will feel right at home for someone who is used to a smartphone.
Autofocus and Performance
The startup time is very fast for the GX850 and the autofocus is also precise and quick in most of the situations. The 12-32mm lens (which has to be manually extended) can have some problems locking on if the light is very dim but the focus assist lamp can help with this. You can turn this on or off from the main menu as it does cause problems when it isn’t needed.
The continuous focus isn’t optimal and thus it will pose some problems if you are trying to shoot fast moving subjects as the GX850 doesn’t always choose a fast enough move to freeze the action. You get a Sport/Action mode but even with this you won’t always have a sufficiently fast shutter speed.
Face Detection is turned on by default and it works quite well but if the area is to obscure then you get the default 49-point area mode that tends to focus on the nearest or most central object.
The JPEG mode offers seven Picture Profiles to choose from and 22 Creative Filter effects. The best results will come if you shoot Raw though as the JPEGs can get a bit washed up if the light isn’t perfect.
Image Quality and Video
The image quality of the GX850 is very good as was the case with the previous models of the GX and GF series. You get vibrant colors and a lot of details due to the filterless sensor. At an ISO 3200 there is still an amazing amount of details but if you go to higher sensitivities such as ISO 12,800 you will have to be content to use only very small sizes as you do get a lot of noise if you look closer.
The exposures are balanced well when you select the all-purpose metering and the white balance for the automatic setting is also generally accurate, even if sometimes it goes a bit warmer if you have artificial light sources.
With the GX850 you get one of the cheapest 4K compact cameras on the market and the footage it provides is very smooth and easy to capture. The 1080 Full HD mode also provides really good results and you can save the videos on the memory card. You get 4K at 24 and 30p in the MP4 format and the AVCHD gives you the option of selecting 1080/60/30/24p.
You cannot control the exposure settings while recording so the camera will make those decisions for you and you get some tools that help in the capturing such as the focus peaking, MF assist, microphone levels, a wind noise cancelling and zebra patterns. There isn’t a jack for microphone or for headphones and you also get no image stabilization in the body of the camera so the kit lens will have to do that work but for the casual video shooter it is quite appealing as the GX850 is so flexible.