When it comes to photography, I admit that I’m a bit of a technophobe. I enjoy photographing my travels, but can’t seem to get beyond shooting in auto. All those instructions about F-stops and shutter or aperture priority go in one ear and out the other. When Panasonic UK invited me to a wildlife photography workshop, I was pleased to discover that their Lumix GX80 camera has a few functions that help you take better photographs without having to master all those knobs and settings. You can also read my 6 tips for better wildlife photography here.
After trying the Lumix GX80 out during the workshop and back at home, here’s my review;
Let’s Start with the camera body
As a travel blogger, camera size is a big deal for me. I travel light and don’t want to carry a big camera around, so the micro four-third compact body of the Panasonic Lumix GX80 suits my travel style perfectly. It’s smaller than a normal DSLR – ideal to hold with one hand, tuck into a medium size handbag and be reasonably discreet when you whip it out in a restaurant or marketplace.
I liked the slightly textured and retro look of the body with a wider grip at one end, making it easy to hold one-handed, when juggling a phone and notebook. Most of all I love that the micro four-third size bodies take a range of interchangeable lenses, so you have the flexibility to go wide angle for a hotel interior or zoom for wildlife shots.
Looking at the lens
The Panasonic Lumix GX80 comes with a standard 12-32 lens which is fine for taking landscapes and shots of people and places. The Panasonic lens on this camera is also interchangeable with the Olympus range, which is great as I already have an Olympus wide angle lens, so I can swap them over for my hotel interiors.
When I tried out the Lumix GX80 during the wildlife photography workshop I quickly realised that the standard 12-32mm lens would not cut the mustard for wildlife photography. The clue was how quickly the pro-wildlife photographers changed up to big zoom lenses, so I followed suit and tested out the 45-200 lens which allowed me to get some nice close-ups of animals a few metres away from me. Read my 6 tips for better wildlife photography here.
For those safari shots with animals in the distance I would have needed an even bigger zoom lens. Since my travel photography tends to be a complete mixture of landscapes, portraits, food shots and the occasional wildlife shot I need a lens that will be versatile. I’m always trying to pack in a lot and don’t have time to change lenses. On the advice of top wildlife photographer, Phil Gould, who taught our workshop, I’ll be looking at a 14-140 lens that will take give me all the standard shots with the option to zoom in that little bit closer, all in one lens.
Screen and Viewfinder
Another feature I love about this camera is that it has both a viewfinder and a viewing screen that pulls out from the body and can be tilted at different angles. You flip between them with a press of a button. Using a viewfinder helps you compose a shot more accurately in sunny conditions when there’s too much glare on the screen.
However, the angled screen was very useful when you are taking a shot that’s high or low. For instance you can take a shot of your food from above, while easily composing the shot on the angled screen. I noticed that the pro-wildlife photographers at the workshop were using this feature by setting their camera on the grass to photograph animals from a low angle, while using the screen to monitor the composition. The only downside is that the screen does not swivel round completely, meaning that you can’t use it to position yourself for selfies or vlogging.
Another feature of the Lumix GX80 is the inbuilt stabilisation and fast autofocus which really helps in some travel situations such as busy public places where you are trying to capture the action and atmosphere of the situation.
So far so good, but now to those features of the camera that can help you take better photographs without having to master all the technical settings.
Testing out the 4K feature on the Lumix GX80
I enjoyed trying out the 4K feature of the Panasonic Lumix GX80 which allows you to take better action shots. Essentially the camera takes a burst of images or short video, but unlike most video, each individual frame is high quality, giving you an 8MB file that can be blown up to A3 size. As technology develops it’s likely that even higher quality 6K cameras will be available in the future. This feature is a game changer for action shots, since you can take a burst of photos, then review them on the camera to pick out the best one and save that individual shot, deleting the rest if you wish.
I tested out the 4K feature at our wildlife photography workshop and enjoyed trying to catch the perfect shot of a squirrel running across a branch or a wildcat jumping in the air. I set the 4K to stop/start mode, which meant that like shooting video I pressed the button to start the burst and pressed again to stop. As you can see from the squirrel photos above, a fraction of a second can make all the difference when your subject is moving quickly.
I found that the 4K function is best suited to situations where you can anticipate the action, since with 30 frames per second you don’t want to be taking more than a few seconds of the 4K video. You also need to allow for some delay as each 4K burst takes a few seconds to save before you can take your next photo. I can imagine using this function to capture someone jumping or running, a child on a swing or blowing out their birthday candles, informal portraits in a restaurant, musicians or dancers, or of course wildlife. For family photography it would be ideal if you have young children who can’t sit still, to enable you to capture their expressions or movement. Take a look at my 4K series of photos of the wildcat jumping in the air – which would you choose?
The Post-focus function on the Lumix GX80
The post-focus function is another feature that allows you to increase the range and quality of your photographs without having to master all the technical settings or change lenses. Like the 4K function, the camera is effectively taking a burst of photos that focus on different elements of the composition. Once you have switched on the post-focus function and taken your photos, you then review and tap the screen to choose the focal point that suits you best.
I can imagine using the post-focus function to take shots in a restaurant then decide later which elements on the table you want in focus. Other examples could be a landscape where there is a flower in the foreground and mountains in the background, or a person stretching out their hand where you can’t decide whether to have their face or hand in focus. The post-focus is best for static scenes where you can control the composition, like the flower and orange photos I took below.
Thank goodness there’s wifi!
Since I post a lot of photos to social media I knew that my next camera would need to have wifi function so was thrilled to find this is a feature of the Panasonic Lumix GX80. While I’m happy with the quality of the photos on my iPhone, I’ve heard from serious instagrammers that the higher the quality of the photos they post, the better their engagement. I love that the Panasonic Lumix GX80 allows me to take the highest quality photos and still share them easily and quickly on social media, which is a large part of my work as a travel blogger.
I tried out the wifi by downloading the Panasonic image app onto my iPhone, then putting in the password given when prompted. Once you’ve done this the first time, the camera connects via wifi to the iPhone whenever you press the wifi button and select the correct wifi network on the phone. Via the app I can review all the photos I’ve just taken on the Lumix GX80 on my phone screen. I can check they are sharp, just as if they were on my phone, then select whichever I want and they are immediately transferred to my phone memory. Unfortunately only the still images are transferrable this way and the 4K videos have to be downloaded to your computer via the memory card – which is a shame as some of these short clips would be great to post ‘live’ on social media.
The Panasonic app also means that the phone can become a remote control device for your camera so you could set it up and then take photos from a distance. I can also review the photos in the phone app and delete any duds immediately, freeing up more space on my memory card. There’s also a collage function within the app although you don’t have the same flexibility to reposition photos as I do with an app like Picframe, which I currently use to make collages on my iPhone.
With the wifi function to transfer photos quickly to the iPhone, I will probably take more of my photos in future on the Panasonic Lumix GX80 and hopefully increase the quality of my social media photography in the process.
Battery life and charging on the Lumix GX80
The camera comes with a charger lead that plugs into the side of the camera. The USB fitting at the other end can be plugged into any USB charger such as a portable battery pack or a car USB charger as well as the plug that comes as standard. While I’m sure I could buy a separate battery charger, this approach will probably prove more flexible for keeping my camera charged on the move.
If you’re using a lot of the functions such as 4K, be aware that the battery may not last very long. After a couple of hours constant shooting in our wildlife photography workshop, my battery was dead, so I’ll need to buy some spares. You also need to make sure that after using the wifi function, you disconnect it, as this also drains the battery. I suspect that if you are shooting a lot of 4K images, this will eat also into your memory card space, so you need a memory card with plenty of space for all the high quality photos.
The Panasonic Lumix GX80: my recommendation
I am really pleased with my new Panasonic Lumix GX80 and will be using it in conjunction with my iPhone in the future. I love the smaller body size, coupled with the option for interchangeable lenses, as well as having both viewfinder and tilt screen. The wifi now enables me to transfer high quality images to my phone so I’m expecting to improve the quality of my social media posts, especially for Instagram.
I think the 4K and post-focus are fun features that I’ll be playing with to enable me to take better photos without having to worry about which technical setting or lens I’m using. For travellers I’d recommend the Lumix GX80 as an excellent all-round camera that will help you take better photographs when you need something that’s a step up from your camera phone.
Discovering Lumix Unmissable Moments
If you want more inspiration on how other photographers are using the Panasonic Lumix G range check out the Lumix Experience website where you’ll find galleries and video tutorials to show you how you can get the best from your Lumix camera. You can also follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #UnmissableMoments.
Wildlife photography at the British Wildlife Centre
All the wildlife photographs were taken in a wildlife photography workshop at the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey, where you can see and photograph some of the wild animals that are native to the UK. The centre also runs regular photography workshops where you can improve your wildlife photography, with tips from the experts. The workshop I attended was specially arranged to enable our group to try out the Panasonic Lumix GX80 camera. Read my 6 tips for better wildlife photography here.
British Wildlife Centre, Eastbourne Road, Newchapel, Lingfield, Surrey, RH7 6LF, Tel: 01342 834 658
Key information about the Panasonic Lumix GX80
- 16-million-pixel Four Thirds sensor, no optical low-pass filter
- ISO 200-25,600 (ISO 100-25,600 extended)
- Dual IS: 5-axis in-body stabilisation working with 2-axis in-lens
- 4K video recording and 4K Photo mode
- 76-million-dot equivalent EVF (16:9 aspect ratio)
- 04-million-dot 3-inch tilting touchscreen
- New low-vibration shutter: 60sec – 1/4000sec (1sec – 1/16000 sec electronic)
- £509 body only, £599 with 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens
Thanks to Panasonic UK who invited me to the workshop and gave me a Panasonic Lumix GX80 for the purposes of this review.