(news & commentary)
In most ways, the "rangefinder-type" enthusiast camera that Panasonic has been making (GF1, GF2, GX1) has been preferential for me in body integrity and photographer-friendly controls to the Olympus PEN models (E-P1, E-P2, E-P3, E-P5). The problem was that Panasonic was underachieving at the sensor and then seemed to move away from the concept (e.g. GF3, GF5, though we did get the GX1). Today, Panasonic is back with a vengeance with the replacement for the GX1, and the resulting GX7 looks really good, at least on paper.
The big news is the tiltable 2.764m dot high-speed refresh EVF at the far back left of the camera. While keeping the low profile we associate with the rangefinder-type style, Panasonic has squeezed in a state-of-the-art EVF that tilts up to 90°. Big-nosed, right-eyed shooters will be very happy. Panasonic has included a lot of other refinements that take the new camera well beyond the GF1, too. A new 16mp sensor that includes Mega OIS stabilization, 1080P/60 video (1080P/50 in PAL countries), a 1/8000 top shutter speed (with a silent mode, as well), a stop bump in top supported ISO (25600), a panorama mode, plus WiFi with NFC-negotiated connection. The rear LCD also bumps up to a 3" 1.04m dot tiltable display. There's a small built-in flash plus a hot shoe, and everything's wrapped in a magnesium alloy body. Pretty darned good technical specs all around.
The GX7 is a little bigger (slightly wider, taller, and deep) than a GX1, but realistically, it's mainly the added width that changes things in any substantial way. That, and the fact that the EVF eyepiece cup sticks out the back significantly. Some people may object to the slight growth in size, but I suspect that the added grip bulk on the right side coupled with the shift of the lens mount slightly more towards the opposite side will simply make people think this is a good handling camera.
Frankly, the thing that I like the most in looking over the new camera is the photographer-friendly aspects of the controls. Yes, a real front grip (though not exceedingly deep). A mode dial recessed from the top plate of the camera (which makes it less prone to accidental changing. A real on/off switch in a convenient place. A thumb-controlled Command dial coupled with AE/AF controls that are nearby, plus a second dial around the shutter release. Dedicated WB and ISO buttons, but three additional configurable function buttons. These controls aren't exactly "retro," ala the Fujifilm bodies, but they're decidedly straightforward, accessible, and functional.
On paper the GX7 looks like a very solid m4/3 offering. If the new sensor and imaging pipeline delivers state-of-the-art m4/3 quality, I'm pretty sure the GX7 will become very popular. Which brings us back to the usual issue here in the US: availability. The camera should be available in September, for a price of US$999 for the body, an extra US$100 to get the 14-42mm kit lens with the body.
Along with the GX7, Panasonic pre-announced a Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 lens (already leaked via other sources). The Panasonic lens roadmap says "Scheduled for Release in 2013 or Later."
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