Panasonic LUMIX DC-GX850
By David Hague
Good things come in small packages could be the best way to describe the new Panasonic LUMIX DC-GX850 Micro Four Thirds (MFT) 4K camera. The size of an everyday compact and weighing a tiny 267g (sans lens), nonetheless this $800 (RRP) little beast is a powerhouse of a camera in both its stills format and as a capable (with ergonomic limitations) video camera.
The engine room is a 16MP LIVE MOS Sensor. The focussing system allows fully auto or manual, plus gives the option of Panasonic's Post Focus and focus stacking technologies. Touch focus on the vertically swivelling LCD is also available (there is no electronic view finder) as well as Face and Eye detection.
Panasonic has also employed an "integrated Beauty" system for the fans of the selfie shot... and no I am not going there.
The lens that came with the DC-GX850 was a 12mm - 32mm zoom. To activate the lens, you need to manually twist the lens ring to "pop" the main lens out. There is a standard on / off switch on the top of the camera along with a standard rotary selection dial, shutter release and 4K photo button. A pop-up flash is activated by a discrete rear mounted slide switch.
The rear of the GX-850 has a dedicated video record button tucked away at top right, play button, delete button, display button and a four-way rotary to select AF mode, exposure compensation, white balance and self-timer.
Wi-fi is built in but there is no Near Field Communication (NFC).
For those that like the camera to take control, there is a swag of both still scene guides video guides including Portrait (mode dial) / Child (mode dial) / Silky Skin / Backlit Softness / Relaxing Tone / Distinct Scenery / Bright Blue Sky / Romantic Sunset Glow / Vivid Sunset Glow / Glistening Water / Clear Nightscape / Cool Night Sky / Warm Glowing Nightscape / Artistic Nightscape / Glittering Illuminations. And more!
A separate Panorama shooting mode is there too. As I said, as a camera alone the DC-G850 is a powerhouse even if you discounted the 4K still shooting mode at 30 frames / second, stop motion animation and time lapse options.
To make sure your shots (or videos) are always level, a live horizon leveller is built in and viewed on the LCD. Additionally, you have access to Real-time Histogram, Guide Lines (3 patterns), Centre Marker, Highlight display (Still image / motion picture) and Zebra Pattern.
Storage is to a Micro SD card as against a standard SD card, but make sure you get a high speed write rated card especially if you intend to make a lot of use of the 4K photo and video modes. The card we were supplied was not quick enough and bombed out after about 10 seconds of video.
And of course, this being ostensibly a video magazine, we spent more time on the video aspect. The initial test day was a dreary, overcast and rainy one. As the DC-GX860 is not waterproof (or even splash proof) or dustproof, we were very careful not to get it wet while still trying to shoot some of the drenching and very heavy rain.
Next day proved a little brighter with occasional showers and better showed off the superb colour capabilities of the camera (and this can also be seen in the still images).
Ergonomically, for video shooting, the DC-GX850 suffers as all this shape of all cameras do. In other words, it is usable in certain circumstances (landscapes, portraits etc) but for high speed action, basically, as always, a dedicated camcorder will run rings around it.
As I said at the start, this is a hell of a camera, especially for the price. But it has its place in the pecking order of cameras in my opinion, and that place is as the (almost) perfect travelling companion. Excellent stills, great colour depth, the advantage of 4K shooting, feature rich, Wi-fi and small enough for a pocket or backpack.
What's not to like for that next overseas trip? Or weekend away.