Well, my friends, I have been enjoying the comparison between these two great cameras, and in this article I would like to present my opinions and findings regarding how they directly compare to each other in regards to performance and file output, once and for all (for my purposes, anyway). Here’s my disclaimer… I don’t work for Panasonic. I’ve always researched and purchased my own gear, and do these tests in an attempt to help others like myself see what I wish that I could have seen in cases before buying stuff. Enjoy and I hope this shows you something you’ve not yet seen.
I’ve been looking at the comparison from the angle of one who is curious about replacing my historically favorite micro 4/3 camera in the GX7, with it’s intended upgrade in the GX8. I’ve now had the GX8 for a couple months and have shot a few thousand images with it, so I have been able to get a good feel for how it handles, performs and how the files look when digging into them. With the GX8, Panasonic has given us an increase in size, resolution and features, which have all looked good on paper, and I’m now wanting to really see that come through in practice, which in most cases, it has.
Here is what I’ve seen, and what I’ve found…
I’ll be breaking this down into 3 parts as follows; 1. Resolution, 2. High ISO/Noise Performance, and finally 3. IBIS. There are more differences that I touched on in the first ‘on paper’ comparison HERE, but I’ll give a few thoughts in conclusion where I feel these cameras better the other as well as to round everything out with a few final thoughts from my perspective.
Grab a cup of coffee, or a beer, enjoy, and let me know your thoughts or findings in the comments below.
All comparison shots here are captured as RAW files, and converted in Aperture (which still works wonderfully, at least for these two cameras). The only modification for the example images, are converting to a resized JPEG for space and speed’s sake. In cases, I’ve resized to match pixel measurements as will be seen in the resolution comparison below to see apples to apples, but otherwise any other settings are listed, where applicable, and if you have any other questions, please feel free to fire them off.
Part 1 – Resolution
As we know, the bump in resolution to 20mp from 16mp is going to provide better, overall numbers as has been reported on. But, what does that really mean? Rarely will most any of us notice the benefits of a higher megapixel count for day to day use with two major exceptions. First, printing and secondly cropping while maintaining a higher resolution which also goes when compositing images. More pixels can enable more latitude in cases. 16mp is going to be enough for most applications, and one could even argue that most of us will rarely ever need more than 10 or 12, but with higher resolution comes the ability to more finely resolve detail when shooting the same subject, from the same distance, using the same lens as we otherwise would with a camera touting a lower total resolution. With the inherent crop from the 4/3 format, this in theory can certainly benefit those who tend to shoot distant subjects, like wildlife, sport, etc by providing a higher native resolution compared to shooting on a larger format and cropping to achieve the same relative image.
That said, there is certainly a sense that every system needs to keep step with what Canon and Sony seem to be doing to reinvigorate the mega pixel battle. Do any of us need 50+ megapixels? Probably not, but it won’t stop many out there from buying a camera with that kind of resolution. I’d be lying if I weren’t somewhat interested in seeing a few more pixels to push around on my screen, and with this new sensor, it has given the micro 4/3 system its first resolution bump in about 4 years. That, and it more closely resembles the files that I shoot with my other 21 and 24mp, full frame sensors when looking to composite, or shoot multiple bodies in conjunction.
For the first test, I want to see the same image taken by both cameras resized, both up to 20.2mp for the GX7 file, and down to 15.8mp for the GX8 to see what kind of difference we may or may not be able to tell when resizing the image, merely by splitting/adding, or removing pixels. The resizing technique I’ve used is a simple resizing in Photoshop from a 16bit TIFF file, created from the original RAW image files.
These two images were taken with the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens from about 25 feet away, manually focused on the text, on the box, self timer used.
click to see larger
Certainly not a huge difference when looking at resizing images. If looking at the detail in the original 100% crops (diagonally situated above) the resolution in the native 20.2mp GX8 image shows us more detail, and that holds true to an extent even when looking at the resized GX7 file crop. For many real world subjects, the resolution differences will be largely unnoticeable, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t actually a difference.
Check this out…
To see the pixels up close and personal, how about resolving something closer to the camera on a congruous, yet textured background to make it a little easier to see. Here is an amazingly exciting shot of a dime which for those who don’t have a dime on hand, measures roughly 5/8″ in diameter (~16mm) and lifts off the surface of the sheet a whopping ~1/32″ (0.8mm). First the whole frame to give you reference, then a 200% crop with the AF Point overlay to give you an idea on how it was shot, and how the extra resolution makes a difference. Before you blame the focusing technique or difference of where that AF point fell, note that the shots were taken at identical settings using the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens (ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/2.5 sec from a tripod and self timer to avoid any vibration). If we’re seeing a razor thin difference in the depth of field at f/5.6 shot a couple feet away, we may actually be able to shut the FF fanatics up here. The sheet that the dime was placed on is a tight knit woven cotton/elastic blend that I use for all the camera type shots you see around this site. It doesn’t wrinkle which is why I use it, and to the naked eye, it looks very smooth, which is another reason I like to use it. It collects dust and sticks to specks like nobodies business, but normally I’m not shooting a dime on it for resolution purposes. Have at it:
click to see larger
The AF hit. The dime is plenty sharp in both shots, but how about the detail in the sheet? Sure this is a 200% crop, but what is a comparison if we’re not to pixel peep a little bit? These were both shot RAW with default conversion settings in Aperture without any sharpening, contrast or saturation adjustments, whatsoever. While this will largely go unnoticed, and has for me in day to day shooting, we can’t continue to say that there is little to no difference in “real” resolution between the older 16mp Panasonic sensors, and this new 20mp sensor, in my opinion. Call it micro contrast, call it pure resolution. We wanted improvement, well, we got it here too.
Part 2 – High ISO/Noise Performance and shadow recovery/dynamic range
Below are sets of identical exposures, showing 100% crops from ISO 200-25,600 with the GX8 on the left and the GX7 on the right. For this I’m not going to resize, so that we can see these files as they come out of the camera. Single light source to camera left, with an EV 3 measurement at the point of focus which is image center, ISO as listed, and both cameras set with a manual incandescent white balance setting. The lens used was the Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2, set to f/5.6 for all shots, and identical 1 stop shutter speed adjustments for both cameras with each ISO stop, were made.
Click to see this in all its full sized glory.
Let me know what you see, but to my eye, up through ISO 3200, both look comparable, and actually very usable. At 6400, the GX7 starts to look a little less noisy, but softer, and both sets of files start to color shift with the GX8 shifting cyan and the GX7 shifting magenta in color cast.
Now, here is the same set of shots, looking at the right side of the image (in the Shadows, yes the Voigt Nokton was hiding back there!) with the exposure pushed two full stops to see what kind of shadow noise and info recovery we’re getting, as I find that often I need to bring up the exposure when shooting in low light, even when properly exposing for midtones or highlights, although rarely two full stops worth.
When starting to push a file’s captured, dynamic range, I think we start to really see where improvements have, or have not been made. Resolution is one thing, but a file’s depth, and in turn its exposure latitude, to me, is more important.
Again, click to see full sized.
Looking at these crops, the one thing I see that is impressive on the part of the GX8 is how much sharper details are when pulling info out of the shadows up through ISO 6400. Out of sheer amazement, I posted my findings on a singular, very underexposed file recently shot with the GX8 which backs this up for me. I didn’t have the GX7 at that time so I couldn’t compare in the wild, but you can see that article HERE (don’t worry, it will open a new page so as not to lose your spot here).
The GX7 holds its own, certainly, but not to the level that the GX8 does when looking at recovering and resolving detail in the shadows. While the GX8 gets really messy beyond 6400, the GX7 isn’t hugely better, but to be fair, does a better job at retaining what resolution it can in recovered shadow areas where the GX8 falls apart. I would say, for my use, either camera is going to be great through ISO 1600, at ISO 3200 and even at ISO 6400, the files are very usable. Don’t believe me? Check out the ISO 6400 files after I run them through Topaz DeNoise:
click to see larger
Not perfect, but for an ISO 6400 file, that is not too shabby. It’s rare that I ever shoot any of my cameras, micro 4/3 or full frame above ISO 3200, but knowing that I comfortably can in a pinch is great.
The higher resolution sensor in the GX8 gets a little noisier at and above ISO 6400, but does a better job to my eye at retaining resolution up to that point. Above 6400, the GX8 starts to get messy, and while I’d not consider the GX7 files usable, they maybe look a little better, but a little bit softer too. So, a 25% increase in pixel count without much of a step backward in high ISO/Noise performance… Sweet.
Part 3 – IBIS Comparison
Here is where things start to get a little strange. In the first article, I did a quick comparison between the GX8’s Dual IS feature and the OIS on the only Dual IS compatible lens I own, in the Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2, from which I saw better performance on the pure Optical IS side. I’d excused it as an anomaly, and perhaps it is because Dual IS should out perform simple OIS, right?
Immediately below is the original test I posted, followed by another test using the Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 lens, where on the GX7, it disables the IBIS, and defaults to pure OIS (optical, in lens) and on the GX8, it couples the Optical IS with the IBIS to create what Panasonic calls Dual IS. Click any of the following to see larger, and I do apologize that on this original test, I placed the GX8 on the left, where with all other tests below, I placed the GX7 on the left (sorry), but as long as you read the header, it should be obvious.
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And, here is the more recent test where I took three shots at each setting, and chose the best of the three from each camera, at each setting. For this one, I cropped into the original image as framed on the top, first image, and that is why you’ll notice different sizes of that 100% crop with the GX7 on the left this time, and the GX8 on the right.
click to see larger
What is interesting is that this can be looked at one of two ways. First, the Dual IS when using the Nocticron does really well up to about 4 stops, which is great. Secondly, and more impressively, the OIS on the PL 42.5/1.2 kicks the Dual IS’s ass at just about every increment. Again, I’m not sure if this is congruous with all other Dual IS compatible lenses as the Nocti is the only Dual IS compatible lens I own, so take that to heart here. I hope that we’ll see an improvement and better marriage between the IBIS and OIS blended Dual IS via a future firmware update if it is in fact similar across other Dual IS compatible lenses, but through the tests I’ve done, I’ve found that the OIS for this lens at least, bests the Dual IS in the GX8 handily.
Now, not to be outdone, the GX8 picks up ground when relying entirely on the IBIS when compared to the GX7. Below, I used the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens which would engage the IBIS in both cameras, solely. No OIS, no Dual IS, just purely sensor based stabilization here. Just the 100% crops on this one. Have a look:
click to see larger
Okay, this is what I was hoping to see. You may remember my views on the measly 2 axis IBIS in the GX7. I thought it was grossly underrated, and still feel it does better than it gets credit for, but how about this? When relying purely on the IBIS on sensor stabilization, the GX8 goes frigging nuts. I ran out of exposure room on this test as I never figured I’d be comparing results beyond 6 stops, hand held at 1 second. No, you did not misread that 1 SECOND HAND HELD. I know, I’m questioning myself here too. Surely this will be challenged, and perhaps my hand held technique just really jives with the Panasonic IBIS systems as I seem to have been able to squeeze more out with the original 2 axis, but I don’t really care if it is challenged. I like this. I like this a lot.
How about that? Sure, that 1 second exposure isn’t tack sharp for the GX8, but its close, and I’ll take that any day of the week. I took an extra few shots with the GX7 in an attempt to try and get a better result (6 shots at 1 second in total) but that was the best I could muster. With the GX8, I took three shots at 1 second, and two of them looked just like that. One was more blurred, but still wasn’t as bad as the best the GX7 could pull off.
Here is another IBIS test as asked for in the comments when looking at super telephoto focal lengths. Here are shots taken with the GX8 and an adapted 400mm Canon FD 400mm f/4.5 SSC lens, shot from about 20 feet away, with the focal length manually set in camera to 400mm in the Stabilizer menu. Have a look:
For this type of focal length, I’m impressed by the three solid stops of handholdability. The fourth stop could still be useful, but isn’t tack sharp, and then beyond that I wasn’t able to get usable results. Where I feel the 5 axis or Optical IS systems are beneficial here, is in stabilizing the live view which at an 800mm field of view, things bounce around even when on a tripod, so hand holding can be a bit of a challenge. That said, by bracing myself, I was able to keep the shot more or less framed as I’d wanted it, and was able to manually focus the lens to my liking, but it sure would be useful to have full time stabilization of the live view feed, and a place where I feel Panasonic can continue to improve this otherwise killer IBIS setup.
Again, I’m sure that the Sony or Olympus 5 axis IBIS will naturally get credited as better because 5 is better than less than 5, right? Well, I’m not buying it on the marketing alone, as I can’t remember getting a solid 1 second exposure with the Oly cams when using a 90mm (equivalent in the m4/3 case) lens, nor the Sony for that matter, and I will do a more comprehensive side by side between the GX8 and Sony a7II at some point down the road to see. If someone near me has one of the newer OMDs to test this against, let’s get together and see what we each come up with comparatively too! Regardless, good job Panasonic, and most importantly, another good solid bump in performance compared to the previous IBIS offering. Just do us a solid and figure out what the hell is going on with the Dual IS though, okay?
Alright, here’s the rehash, and my thoughts moving forward.
While it will go unnoticed in many cases, there’s no denying that the new sensor in the GX8 is the best sensor I’ve seen for the system, hands down. To really see the difference, one must do a little pixel peeping, but really to see any real resolution difference between sensors, one needs to do that.
Solid Advantage GX8
2-High ISO/Noise and Dynamic Range
This is a little closer, but considering the 25% resolution bump, and no negative difference below ISO 6400 to my eye, I see this as another win for the GX8. The shadow recovery and resulting dynamic range that is able to be pulled out of a file in detail and overall resolution on the part of the GX8, while not hugely different, is still another progression.
Advantage GX8, with the caveat that at ISO 12,800 and 25,600 the GX7 handles the noise better.
3-IBIS and Dual IS
This is somewhat split. On one hand, I’ve seen a substantial performance bump in the IBIS inside the GX8. That is a big win in my mind for the newer camera. Where I’m a little confused is in the Dual IS compared to the pure lens OIS where I see the Dual IS suffer comparatively. Again, it may be lens specific as I’m only currently able to test the Dual IS with one lens, but with that one lens, it is eclipsed by that lens’ included OIS on its own. Still, Dual IS aside, the GX8 has improved upon Panasonic’s first foray into the IBIS world from the GX7.
In conclusion, I wanted to see if the GX8 was a good upgrade from the GX7 for me. I love the GX7, and have been a supporter of it over the last couple years. I still feel it is a wonderful camera, but I need to give the GX8 credit. If you can accept the slight increase in body size, and (in my opinion) step backward in ergonomics, it is in most every other way a better machine. It provides better environmental weather resistance, it feels more solidly built, and aside from losing the pop-up flash, it hasn’t really overlooked anything that the GX7 had brought to the table.
While it has been a wonderful couple of years with my GX7, I feel that the torch has successfully been passed. For me, the combo of the GX8 and the GM1 (which will stick around for a while longer as my compact, 2nd body) will provide me with the best 1, 2 punch for the system as I need it to function. The new 20.2mp sensor is a solid upgrade in most every way and while it hasn’t necessarily been seen as such by many reviews I’ve read, I feel that I didn’t really start to see the advantages until I really dug in and explored the files in varying situations.
Panasonic, I tip my cap. Aside from the weird custom function button on the front of the camera and old style grip, I think you’ve really improved an already wonderful camera.
Thank you for making it all the way through. If there are any specific questions you have, please feel free to fire them off the the comments. If you’d like to support the blog here (and my ability to spend more money on camera gear), you can do so by using my affiliate links if you choose to purchase this camera. If you don’t use my links, please find some other independent blogger/photographer’s affiliate links to do so. We get small kickbacks when people choose to buy through these links, and it costs nothing extra. A great way to support the little guy, like myself. Plus it gives me a little extra sway when asking for review units 🙂
Find the GX8 (black body) at Adorama HERE and B&H HERE
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Thanks for the read, and happy shooting!
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Awesome stuff as ever, Tyson. Your integrity continues to shine through (alas, unlike some other well-known bloggers who’ve recently succumbed to being “leaned-on”). Thanks muchly. Improved as the 8 is over the 7, though, I’ll be awaiting a BSI and possibly stacked sensor (a la A7Rii / RX100iiii) before upgrading. Meanwhile, it’s a pity Panasonic don’t enable full selection options for image stabilization.
Thanks Parablade 🙂 While I wouldn’t argue if someone wanted to pay me bunches of money to take and talk about pictures, I will say that one thing I am to be is genuine. While we’re all biased in some way or another, I do my best to give both credit and criticism when and where it’s due.
My upgrade didn’t come lightly as I really, really like the GX7. So much so that I think I even referred to it in one of these articles as my favorite camera to use, ever. I still stand by that. It is a joy to shoot, and really handled everything I threw at it. Having really looked at these two though, over the last couple months, while there are things I prefer in the 7, I have to say that I’m excited to move on to the 8, and to get more comfortable shooting with it (which was never a problem with the 7, truth be told).
I agree on the IS sitch. In the case of the Nocti, if only they’d enable to ability to turn off the in body (Dual part) of the IS, and rely solely on the OIS, that would totally remedy the problem, although I’m still seeing 3-4 stops advantage with the Dual, so really these are totally first world problems and quibbles. Still, best to let users decide and control these tools I feel.
Thanks for the comment and read. I’ll let you know if ever I get bought out (you’ll be able to tell when I have a fancy car in the driveway that I do a bunch of test shots on 😉 )
Cheers and happy Friday,
Thanks for this great review, Tyson. Like parablade, I greatly appreciate your hype-free, objective “let the images speak for themselves” opinion. Now that I’ve seen the slight-but-impressive bump in resolution, I’m sorely tempted! I promise you I’ll buy through your site if I do decide to bite the bullet and give the GX8 a spin. Thank you again!
Thank you, Heather. I do aim to please 😉 The nice words and consideration are very kind, thank you.
So much fun in one article. 🙂
I’m still only happy with the shots using ISO 3200 and lower, just like with the GH4 and E-M1. That said, I’m happier with the GX8 than with the Nikon D7200.
The GX8 works reasonably well with the Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 and pretty much any other Panasonic or Olympus lens I mount on it. Face detection seems to be slightly faster than on the GH4 but way slower than the E-M1. Auto focus doesn’t work any better than on the GH4, unfortunately. 😦 It is much better for video than for stills.
Sad to see extra color thrown into the mix at higher ISO sensitivities. Panasonic continues to improve their processors but not quite enough.
The GX8 seems a great new model, even if a lot of people are complaining that it is too big. I like my equipment weather-sealed.
I have felt that the m4/3 sensors have compared well to the APS-C lot since the Panasonic, and then Sony 16mp variants, personally. I also think this to be one of the major reasons I see APS-C as either a jack of all trades, or master of none type format. Lenses are still pretty large, and IQ sits between (but is close enough to either) m4/3 or FF. I think m4/3 and FF setups are really complimentary as they both have substantial upsides over the other where APS-C doesn’t really tick either set of boxes, for me anyway.
I, like you, enjoy having the weather sealing anywhere I can get it 🙂
You’re right. I suspected that the D7200 would fill a gap and it would have been great in 2011 to save my buying the Olympus E-5 and SHG lenses. The Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 is good, but right now, the pair sit a lot.
On the Dual I.S., I’ve tried it with the 12-35mm f/2.8 and the 35-100mm f/2.8 and I’m not convinced it is helping.
After looking at the photos from tonight at a skate park with lights, I’m not sure that the IBIS worked at all. I should have also brought out the E-M1. They’ll probably have some tweaks as they add more lenses to the Dual I.S. functionality.
Thanks for this. Like others I appreciate your honesty. I’m gonna wait until next year if the rumours of Oly possibly incorporatig a BSI sensor for low light performance come true. Maybe thats the way I’ll roll. 2016 looks like a good year for camera releases. Looking at the images, some would say you have a drink problem. 🙂 As well as an enviable lens collection. Your Topaz Denoise ISO 6400 images are most impressive. Respect.
I’m nothing if not honest, and hey, I drink hard for those works…. 🙂 Actually on our way to a whisky party, so how’s that for my reputation.
Topaz denoise is pretty bonkers.
Thanks BB 😉
Ha funny, also went to a whisky party last Friday 🙂
Any thoughts on ergonomics?
Ergos, as far as the GX8? I’m not over the moon personally, but after shooting it for a couple months, I’m very used to it, and in ways it is definitely better for me (like when handling larger lenses for instance). I went into more detail on the differences, and my opinions on them in the first comparison article here:
Whisky is good. Real good.
Gotta ask: firmware updated for dual IS support on the Nocticron?
Updated the day it came out, yes. I was watching it, waiting because it was the only lens I had that was a candidate, but not immediately available for the dual IS feature.
Thanks Tyson for a superb unbiased comparison.
I clung to my GF1 waiting for the right upgrade that dealt with it’s niggles; the GX7. I’m loving the way the GX8 handles underexposed detail retention, the extra resolution and the solo IBIS but I’ll be sticking with the GX7 for now as the GX8 feels more like half way mark. The GX8 seems like the difference between the GF1 and GX1; not enough to upgrade but big enough to grab the newer one if you’re buying into m4F for the first time.
Keep up the great work and happy shooting!
Thank you, Abigail. I certainly do not think it is a necessary upgrade, but a justifiable one in a couple key areas. I think the next big step will be either the organic sensor tech from Panasonic, or the BSI tech from Oly. Whomever gets that out first will probably be king of the hill for a little while in m4/3 land.
While I’ve passed along my GX7, I do still have my GF1, which is kind of my spirit camera :). That camera changed a lot of things for me.
Thank you for the read, the kind words and taking the time to comment.
All the best,
I too have been playing with both GX7 and GX8 as still cameras. I really like the GX7. Good image quality, good handling/ergonomics, just the right size in my hand. I like that it is smaller and lighter than its sibling. On the GX8, I prefer the proper handle, bigger brighter EVF, swivel screen, zebras and weather sealing. I also noticed the GX8 shows a small amount of extra noise when pushing shadows. For me the difference was observable but not important for the final image. However at the other end of the histogram, when pulling detail back from highlights, the GX8 file was much more flexible than GX7 and enough to make a pile of difference after processing some contrasty scenes. Did you look at this aspect?
I’ve not done a side by side regarding pure DR, and can’t anymore as I nolonger have the GX7, but I’m finding the GX8 files do hold up well in regards to pulling highlights and pushing shadows. Nothing scientific to state, but to my eyeball test, I’m finding the GX8 RAW files to provide the best dynamic range and processing latitude that I’ve seen for the system so far.
I currently use a D7200 for wildlife work (don’t know what the guy above is doing with his but it’s easily a stop ahead of the GX7 on noise and has better high ISO DR. In fact it’s a great “enthusiast level” wildlife camera, period). I’ve had good – noise affected of course but still presentable – results at ISO12800 from it. However I greatly prefer the GX7 as a landscape camera. The DR at ISO200 is lovely and it retains so much highlight detail. It’s also much more versatile on framing (ie choosing the format at the point of shooting the scene) compared to my DSLR, has the tilt screen, is more portable etc etc. I like what I’m seeing with the GX8 though and your review (so great to see unbiased and objective assessment such as this) has definitely made it a, hopefully, planned future purchase. A “Flickr Friend” of mine is already producing some stunning looking work with his. Maybe not next year though as I’ve a Sigma 150-600 Sport to pay for first! 🙂 btw my other cam is an Oly E-PL7 and the 3 axis IBIS in that is very impressive indeed, even with long (used a Tokky 300 2.8 and 1.4x with it for a while) glass!
I got into FourThirds because the Nikon D5100 and E-M5 cameras had essentially identical sensor capabilities at ISO 3200, same 16 megapixel count. The old 12 megapixel sensors were a sorry excuse for noise at 1600 and 3200 ISO. It is a bit of a surprise that the colors shift badly at very high ISO values on the GX8. So far I am not impressed with dual IS. It will be interesting to see if the mZuiko 300mm gets it sorted out. My main question regards what some would call the “sanctity” of the rectangular camera, IE, no viewfinder hump. Once you get a “pancake” lens on, you gotta use a strap or a bag, because pockets don’t accommodate. I think it is kind of weird, one way or the other, to stress about style, instead solely upon the usefulness of a tool. Form follows function vs. cramming function into form. Any thoughts? It is okay to like, but I have a hard time with “better” arguments.
“Better” will most always be subjective, especially when talking about design, ergonomics, et al.
I think that there are also variables that play into “better” in terms of performance, as I find the color shift on the GX8 to be no worse than what I saw on the EM5, although the sony sensors seemed to shift, similar to the GX7 toward the magenta side, and pretty badly, compared to the GX7. This was my finding when running all RAW files through silkypix and Aperture. Not sure if Lightroom or C1 (or whichever other RAW conversion software) was better able to correct, but it in and of itself is subjective if not at the very least a variable.
As for size, I can fit my Canon 5DII and Voigt 40mm f/2 Ultron in my coat pocket, so even that is relative. The GX8, while bigger, can still easily fit in the same coat pockets I would carry around the other cameras, and I’ve even been able to attach the PL 42.5mm f/1.2 on the GX8, getting it into and out of my coat pocket. It’s bulky and not at all discreet, but I can do it 🙂
I’ve never seen history of design as a primary factor in me buying a camera. Personally, I saw the retro design on the OMD EM5 as ugly as sin, but I bought one because it was a badass camera on paper. I think the GX8 is too large, and the grip is poorly designed, or to be more specific, could be so much better with just a little adjustment to the design by adding some topographical indentation for a middle finger to secure the grip in hand while the index finger can freely, and confidently roam to operate the shutter. This is my personal feeling, and I’ve already seen many that really, really like the grip and design in general, so I concede that my feelings are far from universal (as were my feelings on the OMD lineup). For me, I care far less what a camera looks like, and far more about what a camera is able to provide me. Herein lies the beauty of the format and system overall. We are lucky enough to have two primary companies building cameras (more if we include black magic, cine mount stuff, etc) and a grip of third party manufacturers bringing optics in as well. So many options, and great ones at that. There will always be tradeoffs, no matter what system, or camera, or lens we choose to shoot with, and I like finding balance of my needs which I have for so many things with the micro 4/3 system.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, man. I hope all is well.
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Thank you Tyson – very informative as ever and very grateful for your thoughts.
Just one thing: auto focus. In particular, any progress with tracking and with EVF blackout? Or do you reckon they will wait till the GH5 for this sort of leap?
There are millions of birders and wild-life photographers just itching to ditch the DSLR/lenses weight.
Thanks Anton. The DFD, with the compatible (Panasonic) lenses, does really well to track, compared to my experience with all my other Lumix bodies, that I can remember. I don’t bird, or sport shoot much with these cameras, so I’m probably not the one to ask. That said, I had good luck shooting a high wind sailing regatta recently with the GX7 from a chase boat. Even it did okay, and nailed with decent accuracy (I’d say 70-80%) with the tracking, but it was far from motor sports or BIF. The blackout is nearly non-existent with the GX8. In fact, in the high burst (w/out live view) mode, there is literally no blackout but rather a very quick flash between frames, although you’ll need to track your subject’s movement (which you’ll see as the frames are immediately viewable in the burst). The medium burst (w/live view) has a very short blackout between frames and is very, very workable for moving subjects. I didn’t do a ton of action burst shooting with the GX7, but I do remember having a bear of a time with the EM5. The GX8 is lightyears ahead of my experience with that cam in this particular regard.
As for the birding deal, I think that it would be best to find a birder who actually uses the system to get their thoughts. I’d say I personally would feel comfortable using the GX8 and its AF, but I’d be doing it purely for fun as I don’t take birding shots, myself. If you’re question is if the current CDAF is yet up to par with pro level cameras PDAF, no, it’s not. But I’d also say that the GX8’s DFD is as good or better than the mid level DSLR’s PDAF in good to decent light from my experience.
Hope that helps a little.
All the best,
Thanks Tyson, for a very readable and honest review – which incidentally I’ve enjoyed while sipping some nice Bulleit “95” rye.
My question is whether you’ve put the GX8’s IBIS to a more extreme test, such as with your Kipon adapted and OIS-less Canon 400/5.6. I’ve got the GH4 w/ Metabones T Smart adapter and simply can’t handhold the 400 anymore, as I did 10 years ago with a 6MP Rebel at the tender age of 65 – even with the 1.4X TC. Off to India the 14th for a month, with a week of birding.
Shaky Ol’ Pete
I will try to get a test put together with the 400mm lens.
I’ll try to post soon.
Alrighty, Pete! I just ran through a series of shots at 400mm (800mm equiv) and posted them in the IBIS section. I’m seeing a very solid 3 stop advantage, and without really trying as I might “in the field” to better stabilize myself (I was standing upright) I feel I could squeek out another stop if needed. Honestly, beyond a stop or two at these focal lengths, subject movement will start to really affect sharpness I’d guess, but more importantly I think is the fact that adapted lenses won’t enable any live view stabilization (like OIS would) which makes for a little jumpier view through the finder, unfortunately.
Anyhoo, I hope this helps a little bit and have a great time in India!
Thank you Tyson!
Very helpful thoughts. I’m glad Panasonic are sorting out the EVF black out issue or at least getting near to it : I had bought a GH2 back in the day to see if it could replace my DSLR (a Canon 40D which was getting on a bit). I have to say that once you get used to the different “pace” and the specific limitations of the AF, shooting BIF was not a horrible experience with the GH2!
The only things that I could not live with were the EVF black-out (I would just lose moving objects from frame to frame) and the lack of lenses back then.
I’m ready to jump back in: Panasonic and Olympus are introducing some really nice telephotos and tele-zooms. And if they can address a couple of usability issues on their bodies (including being able to turn off the EVF sensor – oh Panasonic), I’d be happy to live with an AF system that has different compromises to that of a DSLR. At the moment, I’m carrying a 12 lbs camera bag on my shoulders; I’d happily accept getting 4/10 instead of 8/10 shots in focus during a servo burst if I could reduce the load to 5 lbs.
By the way, I think it is amazing that a m43 user can carry a very usable 12-34, a 15mm f1.7, a 20mm f1.7 and a 45 f1.8 or 42.5 f1.7 with -say- a GF camera in their coat pockets or in a compartment of a small bag! The price and weight/image quality ratio is ridiculously good.
The IS comparison of the GX7 vs. GX8 IBIS is very interesting. But now I’m curious about which is better: IBIS alone or OIS alone? Any chance you could do a quick test with the GX8? Many thanks!
BTW, excellent write-up. I just got my GX-8, and am so far very impressed, but haven’t had time to really do much with it.
I just realized there’s no way to turn IBIS off. So I guess the question becomes which is better, IBIS only, or dual IS.
That is a great question. I’ll try to have a look tomorrow.
You know what? Once you disengage the OIS switch on the PL 42.5 Nocti, it disables the IBIS entirely, so it’s Dual IS or bust it seems when using one of the Dual IS capable lenses. Good news is that we can still get a really good amount of compensation (3-5 stops I’d guess depending on the lens?). Bad news, again, it has disabled users ability to control the variables. Hopefully Panasonic will both fix the Dual IS issue (for this lens at least, as I don’t know if it has the same issue with other lenses) and allow the disabling of Dual IS, allowing shooters to still use the IBIS or OIS independently. If we can’t, then I’d say they better make sure that this shiny new Dual IS feature actually works (better than OIS alone, anyway).
Hi Bob and Tyson,
I just started using my GX8 over the last 2 days. You can definitely turn IBIS off. Look in the “Rec” (camera icon) menu number 8/8. You’ll see the “Off” option in that menu item.
Also, be sure to download and install GX8 firmware v2.0 as there is a great, little discussed, but incredibly important upgrade. Panasonic has finally responded to the calls for a stopgap solution for the shutter shock problem (at least until we have global shutters). While the “Electronic Shutter” has been a helpful option to appear in recent models, it’s clunky to have to watch your shutter speed when in mechanical shutter mode so you can switch to E-Shutter when your speeds fall in the shock range of 1/60 to 1/320 or so. With the v2.0 firmware, there is a new setting called “Auto” in the “Electronic Shutter” item of the “Rec” menu number 5/8. This allows you to stay in mechanical shutter mode and the camera will automatically switch to E-Shutter if your shutter speed overlaps with a known shock speed.
I plan to post more commentary here as I get comfortable with the GX8, but thanks to Tyson for posting a really awesome and informative comparative showdown. Like Tyson, I too loved my GX7.
Also, a personal and very huge thanks to Tyson for the offline travel recommendations you provided for my wife’s and my October trip to Oregon and Washington. I’ll share more soon, but we ate at the Little Bird Bistro for an anniversary dinner per your recommendation and it was wonderful!
As always, you’re the man Tyson!
Glad you guys liked Little Bird, we’ve always loved it too.
Unfortunately, as I’m seeing it when coupled with the 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocti lens (again, the only Dual IS compatible lens I own) there is no way to disable just the IBIS in the Stabilization menu with the only options as the 1. shaky hand (standard) and 2. vertical shaky hand (vertical panning I assume), but no “Off” option which could, in theory, allow me to use solely the OIS in the lens. (Body fw ver. 2.0, Lens fw ver. 1.2) Are you seeing differently with this or another Dual IS lens? That would be really good to know as I think this might turn out to be a situation that Pana will have to address down the road and knowing as much as we can about eliminating variables could prove to be helpful.
Thank you for the lead on the “Auto – Electronic Shutter” setting. The GM1 has it, and I’ve got that turned on for that little guy, but hadn’t seen it on the GX8 yet!
I’d always love to hear more about your, and anyone’s experience as we all work our way through this cam. While I have my quibbles, it is a wonderful little machine that I’m enjoying more and more as I climb my way through more shutter actuations.
I hope that the trip out here was a good one. I can’t remember the weather through mid October, but we did have a pretty beautiful early Fall, so hopefully you caught some of that 🙂
All my best and happy holidays to you and yours as well, man.
It sounds to me like your Nocti (lens model H-NS043) is not yet Dual-IS compatible. Per the Panasonic support site, the Nocti reports a most recent firmware date of August 05, 2015.
So the reason I must be seeing the Stabilization “Off” option in my GX8 menu is because I’m using a P42.5 F1.7 which was just firmware updated for Dual-IS on December 08, 2015. So your lens showing the OIS vs. Dual-IS is actually just the Nocti OIS as it overides the basic IBIS in both bodies. But that’s still strange that the Nocti OIS would perform so different on the two bodies. Given your IBIS test, I’d say the GX8 Dual-IS should be sweet if the basic IBIS is trashing the GX7 that much already!
As I own an E-M5 Mark II as well, I’ll try to run some IBIS and Dual-IS tests over the holidays and share with you and your readers. I’ve also currently got copies of the PL25 F1.4 and the new P25 F1.7 which I plan to test to see which one to keep and which one to sell.
No, it’s up to date, and designates “Dual” on screen. I updated immediately as it was released to see and report on the dual IS function. It just does not offer the option to disable the IBIS when using it.
Oh rats, sorry for my dopey comment then. I just assumed that with a lens firmware several months old, that it wouldn’t be Dual-IS compatible. Maybe I’m confusing the “Post Focus” firmware updates with the “Dual-IS?”
My GX8 reports the P42.5 F1.7 as “Dual” on the screen as well. I wonder why you cannot turn the stabilization off in body? Does it possibly have anything to do with the status of the OIS switch on the side of the PL42.5 F1.2? For example, if you turn the OIS off (or on), do the GX8 “Stabilization” menu item options change?
I’ve been too busy, but now that I’ve got the GX8 I guess this weekend I need to update the firmware on all my lenses and see what I see. I’ll post back here with my results.
OK, I updated my body to 2.0 and my wife’s 14-140 to the latest firmware. Here’s what I see in terms of IS. With the lens IS switched on, I get dual IS. No other options With lens IS switched off, all the IS seems to turn off . (I haven’t taken any test shots yet, but I get the IS off indicator in the VF.)
And I see no way to turn IBIS off. The only “Off” item in the stabilization menu is for Video (E-stabilization). Turning OIS on or off makes no difference in the menu options.
I haven’t updated my other Dual IS capable lenses yet. I think I’d rather rely on OIS than Dual, based on Tyson’s test results. I’ll try to do some test shots with the 14-140 this evening to see if the results mirror Tyson’s results with the Nocticron. At this point, I’m afraid to update my 12-35 and 35-100 for fear I’ll make the overall IS performance worse.
I like my Panasonic gear for the most part, but they’ve screwed this up. The user should be able to turn either, or both, IS systems on or off at will. Turning OIS off shouldn’t automatically disable IBIS, and we should be able to choose OIS only if it works better than dual. How do we lobby Panasonic to change this behavior?
Let’s wait for some more results before we light up the torches and break out the pitch forks 🙂
While I’m definitely seeing this issue with my GX8 and Nocti, it could be my gear, or this particular combo that isn’t jiving. Disconcerting, but still a very new tool, and in my testing, my results are coming from a very singular test sample. If it is widespread though, I’d be happy to try and contact the Panasonic folks.
Even if this is “unique” to your setup, the camera should still allow the user to decide what flavor of IS is most useful in a particular situation, and not force an all or nothing choice.
Per Hal’s comment regarding the “off” setting: I experimented with a few other lenses. The only times I see an “off” option for stabilization are when (1) using a lens without OIS. Then I have an option to turn IBIS off, and (2) a lens with IS but no switch, in which case the off option turns the lens IS off. (This lens hasn’t been updated to support dual IS – I assume if it were updated the off option would turn both OIS and IBIS off.) Switching OIS off with the switch on the lens appears to turn both OIS and IBIS off.
I have access to another 14-140 that hasn’t been updated yet, so I’m going to borrow that and do a series of shots with dual IS at various speeds, then reshoot the same series with OIS only, and see how they compare.
I totally agree. That may be an easy enough function to program into a firmware update, and regardless of any issues this Dual IS is producing, I’d like to have the ability to situationally asses uses for OIS vs IBIS or Dual IS on their own.
Thanks, Bob. And, let me know if you see the same issues with the Dual IS using the 14-140, I’d love to see if we can’t start to provide a larger test to present to the powers that be, so to speak.
OK,. I’ve completed some less than exhaustive testing with my two samples of the 14-140, one with the firmware update allowing dual IS, one not. Set both lenses to an indicated 100mm (which turned out to be 102mm in the EXIF on both lenses), and took three shots at each shutter speed from 1/100 down to 1/6th with the dual IS lens, then repeated with the OIS only lens. Subject was a barcode on the back of a bottle (actually 2 bottles – one vertical, one horizontal.) I viewed each set of three images at 100% in Photoshop, selected the sharpest of the three, then compared the Dual vs. OIS at each speed.
Disclaimer: There’s a lot of variation among the three shots at each speed, especially at the slower speeds. In some sets one image was much sharper than the other two, in some sets two were equally sharp, with a third one fuzzier.. So any conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt. If I redid the test, sample to sample variation could produce different results.
Disclaimer 2: I don’t think I’m as steady as I was when I was younger.
At 1/100th (1 stop of IS) down to 1/13th (4 stops), I could see no real difference between the two lenses at 100%. All those shots would be usable at normal magnifications, although some visible blur was creeping in at 100% . At 1/6th second (at a 200mm equivalent!!) the OIS only was noticeably sharper than the dual IS. The OIS shot was probably usable at reasonable magnifications, but certainly not at 100%. BUT see my comment about sample to sample variation, above. If I shot 6 more images, or 20, or 50, the results might be different. In any case, even in my long lost youth, I don’t think I could have hand-held a 1/6th second shot with a 50mm lens on full frame (film), much less with a 200mm lens. The fact that I can get usable results down to 1/13th second is pretty astounding.
So I don’t see any real handicap with dual IS and this lens, but neither do I see any real benefit. Not sure whether I’ll update my f/2.8 zooms or not. I’m pretty happy with 4 stops of benefit from OIS alone. The Oly fans who claim OIS is only good for 2 stops much have palsy. 🙂
As an aside, I also took a few shots with my Olympus 40-150 f/2,8 and IBIS only. They were not impressive at all. But that lens is much heavier, I was getting a little tired, and for some unknown reason I only took one at each speed, instead of three. When I get time, I’ll try another IBIS only test with my 50mm and the 40-150 to see how well IBIS works.
Thank you for this! Panasonic has just released firmware update candidates for a slew more Dual IS capable lenses. I’ll be updating the 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 pancake zoom (which is now going to be a second optical option from which I can test the Dual IS) and will do before and after tests, as you have here. While I think we can certainly take 100 shots at each setting, and list the number of “acceptable” shots, but honestly, I like the 3-5 shots at each setting, and taking the best option, to show what is capable without too much to pull from. I feel it more genuine to limit sample size, as so rarely will we sit there and take a dozen shots of a single subject while out and about in dark or shutter speed restrictive settings, or at least I don’t. I then try to do multiple setups to see if trends repeat, which unfortunately in the case of the Dual IS with the Nocti, it has.
I agree that gaining multiple stops, regardless of the mechanism providing said stops, is pretty cool. The larger question with the Dual IS, if it isn’t able to provide better results than OIS alone, is why? I guess because, marketing. But still, it seems strange.
I’ll post something when I can.
Cheers, and thanks again for (1st) doing this, and then coming back and sharing.
All the best,
One other quick disappointing finding…the shutter shock issues still seem to be around even with the E-Shutter “Auto” feature. At least given some 1/250 shots I took today. 😦
That’s a bummer.
Thanks for the long-lens IS update – that good 3-stop of IBIS would sure come in handy, but too bad it doesn’t stabilize the 400’s VF image to any extent. The Panny 100-300 stabilizes very nicely in the EVF @ 300mm, but seems to me to have 2-stops at most effectiveness.
Absolutely, Pete. Yes, but I think at these focal lengths (200mm +) the more important feature may just be the stabilized live view. Two effective stops at a 600mm equivalent is putting the shutter speed at 1/125 – 1/160 second which is going to be tricky to freeze any subject motion anyway. Ultimately, I’d guess for any action or super tele shooting of living, breathing subjects, 1/500 sec is probably going to be about the minimum, and if you can get lucky and shoot something still, you might creep down a stop or a bit more if lucky, right? This is where the 5 axis systems and OIS systems will come in handy, regardless of handshake, but rather a nicely stabilized live view. Without that, it can certainly be tricky. The soon to be PL 100-400 should be interesting to see, although I fear that the pricing will be too steep for my blood. If I shot sport or wildlife somewhat regularly, then it would be much easier to justify, but I may just settle on renting or trying to talk my way into borrowing a unit from B&H or Adorama for review.
All the best,
I think you nailed it, Tyson, in that when handheld, EVF image stability trumps all. When back from India in Jan.I think I’ll roll up the road to Keeble & Suchat in Palo Alto and give the Canon 400/5.6/Metabones T smart m4/3 adapter a test run on an E-M1 or E5-II to see how handheld works.
Since my brain and the Oly UI inhabit two entirely different universes, I’ll have a hard decision to make if their iron claw mag-lev IBIS works as advertised with the setup. Of course then I’m shorted on the 4K video end, which is a huge enhancement in the field for me, particularly in bird ID, without going “out of body” to the GH4 with it’s simple click or two of the mode dial custom settings to switch…
Tyson – I have read all the comments and your review. I commented on the GX8 on your earlier review. I still haven’t shot with the camera enough to be totally comfortable enough with it. All my firmware is up to date. I really have mixed reviews on the dual IBIS. Shots with the 14-140 really didn’t live up to my expectations. I find the 45-175PZ to be a somewhat better performer on the camera. With the 12-35 F2.8 mixed reviews as well. I was out with the 100-300 last weekend and did end up with some nice shots. I’ll attribute the lesser ones to me and camera shake or missed focus. (Am I the only guy around that would like more AF areas?)
I did note that the silent mode and E-shuttler are neither silent or electronic. There is a noticeable clunk when the E shutter is on and I can feel it in the grip. Either I’m missing something or possibly my camera is defective – although I doubt it. I think I read somewhere that they modified the E-shutter to deal with the rolling shutter issue. One can feel a shock when camera is in the normal shutter mode. If there is a shutter shock it is not surprising. Frankly i’m really surprised that the Panasonic designers can’t damp the shutter better.
Some side notes on the Panasonic lenses. There are two stabilization systems. The Mega IS and the Power IS. According to Mr Mark Toal, One of the Panasonic reps, the Power IS gives you about an additional stop. They still sell the Mega IS in many of their lenses.
The weather up here in very rainy Seattle, the short days and holidays have limited my explorations with the GX8. Perhaps when I get a little more time with the camera I can do some fairly rigorous testing with the camera. As it stands right now I kinda wished I’d saved my money for the GH5 when it comes out.
Thanks Rich and happy holidays! I think that the Dual IS is flawed, and will hopefully see a refresh and update soon. The more I’m shooting with the GX8, the more I’m enjoying and appreciating it. The files are the best I’ve seen from the system, and it will be interesting to see what Sony can pull out of their new (rumored) sensor. I’m sure it will be great. I’d really love to see BSI/organic/global shutter with any new advancement which may be on the Oly/Sony side before we see it on the Pana side, unless of course they design an entirely new sensor for the GH5, which wouldn’t be totally out of the realm of possibility, but I’d guess unlikely.
When shooting in silent (e-shutter) mode, I feel no noticeable vibration whatsoever on the GX8, although I have noticed an audible “fake shutter sound” when jumping into the e-shutter (when not on silent) but still no noticeable vibration to me. The rolling shutter is still an issue, but as a known issue, I can work around it in most all situations. I’m very impressed with the Power OIS, but do hope to see a true remedy to the automatic disabling of any choice or control via the Dual IS. If I’m honest though, it’s a non issue as I still see a solid 3 stops with the Dual, and while I can get better results via the OIS alone, if I’m needing more than 3 stops while handholding, I really should be employing a tripod anyway. That isn’t to say that they shouldn’t remedy the situation, nor should their new, fancy Dual IS underperform comparatively, but it is a situation that I can totally live with in the interim.
I’d say, slap that 12-35 on the GX8 and go get wet! I’ve been using non sealed lenses out and about (rain in Portland and the gorge, and now very wet snow in Spokane currently) and I’m feeling comfortable while being cautious. If I had a properly weather sealed lens, I’d be doing a lot more shooting outside 🙂
I hope all is well, merry Christmas, happy holidays and enjoy the fleeting finality of 2015.
FWIW, I’ve decided I’m not going to do the firmware upgrade to my 12-35 and 35-100. I’m satisfied with the OIS performance on those lenses, and until I see some confirmation that Panasonic has really improved the dual IS system I’ll leave well enough alone.
Other than that I’m very pleased with the GX8. The larger body definitely allows better egonomics compared to the GX7 (which I was also very pleased with). Below a certain level, smaller isn’t always better. In fact, I like the size of my Canon gear. It was just the weight that finally got to me. The Oly 40-150 f/2.8 is such a joy to carry compared to Canon’s 70-200. I just wish it came from Panasonic and had OIS.
Here’s to hoping that Panasonic remedies the Dual IS for stills, soon. The Oly 40-150/2.8 is a great lens, and for anyone with IBIS, I’ve found it to be plenty sufficient as far as helping out with any stabilization needs. I too have an EF 70-200 and I really enjoy the difference in weight that the m4/3 setup provides.
Tyson – Thanks for your thoughts. It is not just the rain that is keeping me inside it is the wind and cold as well.
I will be doing more testing after Christmas with both my GX7 and GX8. I may even throw in the GX1 and GH4. As an engineer by training and profession I’m entirely too capable of going into techno nerd mode.
I’m not sure who made the sensor for the GX8. Reportedly on the rumor sites Olympus will be using a 20mp Sony Sensor on the EM-1 mkii. Sony has turned sensors into very nearly a commodity product.
I have a sense that with the research into layered sensors and the like we may be approaching the end of life of the Bayer pattern sensor. Also if Panasonic can get 20mp on a 1″ sensor in the FZ1000 it seems like there should be room for a a few more Mpixels in micro 4/3. Plus who knows what is going on at Canon. They are very secretive. Just about as tight lipped as Apple.
All the best to you and your family this Holiday season.
I thought that I’d read that Panasonic had developed the new 20mp sensor, but I may have been incorrectly remembering that.
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I found your comparison interesting. I have a GX7, and whilst there’s a lot that I like about it -especially the size and feel of the camera body- I find myself adjusting white balance more than I’m used to (e.g with a Fuji X). When not using the touch screen this is quite a cumbersome process as its only possible to go straight to the adjustment screen via the direction pad. From what I’ve read elsewhere, the GX8 has the same issue.
I wonder whether Panasonic are likely to fix this in firmware? At present I’m trying to convince myself I like using the touchscreen for landscape work, but my internal jury is still out ….
My other main, and related, reservation about the GX7 (and presumably GX8) is the way the camera’s AWB (or cloudy WB) handles warm (spring or early summer) greens under overcast conditions. I’m still getting used to what can be done with WB adjustment, so will not go into detail on this here. One advantage of the rangefinder design is that its easy (for right eyed folk) to open the other eye and compare EVF colour with what you’re seeing in the outisde world.