Lumix GX85 Review, Part 4: GX85 In the Field

I’ve recently returned from a week-long trip through western Washington with my wife, some much needed vacation during which we saw and did much at a fast clip… In retrospect, we should learn how to relax more on vacation. Nevertheless, I was able to spend some quality time with the GX85 as my sole camera for the duration of the trip. Oh, I took the GM5 as well but it never came out of the suitcase.

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The GX85 is a true crowd pleaser. It handles so many different things well. Most of the time, I left the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 lens on for everything. It handles natural scenic shots with as much ease as it does street shooting, and I appreciated the slightly tight (if you ask some people) field of view in Seattle’s cramped tourist spots like Pike Place Market.

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Generally, the standard JPEG setting does an excellent job, producing rich, saturated colors as I’ve already mentioned. The above photo was taken with the cloudy white balance setting, an accident that I forgot to remedy when we stepped in from the typically overcast Seattle outdoors to the artificially-lit market. But I like the way this one turned out, since the large window in the back reflects an accurate white balance, and the yellower tint to the indoor lighting stands in contrast. As an aside, while auto white balance almost always works, manually picking an appropriate setting for the situation can add authenticity and richness by taking the decision away from the camera’s computer brain.

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The aforementioned richness of the standard colors is especially noticeable in nature, where I feel Panasonic used to lack punch, especially in greens. As the two samples here from the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island demonstrate, there is no problem here with green. Of course, if you typically process RAW files you may not care too much, but it’s refreshing knowing that you don’t need to work on the files to get them to portray what you saw – an extra benefit in a camera with Wi-Fi when you want to quickly share a photo with friends.

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Seattle represented the most opportunity for street photography I have had in a while, since I live in a rural area with less access to metropolitan areas. I took advantage of this and came back with lots of files, even a few keepers. The GX85 performs very well, and my all-black model is quite stealthy. Overall I find Seattlites to be pretty easy with the idea of street photography, and didn’t garner any dirty looks or objections of any kind.

The requirements for a good street camera are all there: fast autofocus, quick access controls and lightning overall performance. Also, I actually found the battery have pretty good stamina over the course of my sessions. I carried a spare GX7 battery but didn’t find a need for it since we tended to take mid-afternoon breaks back at our Air-B&B. Just plug it in and take a rest, and it’s good to go.

Another thing which pleased me was the mobile app, which now supports batch importing of files. You can select from Today, Past Three Days or a couple other settings, and the camera automatically sends over all the files from the specified time period. Perhaps this was enabled through an app update, but I never remember the option with my GM5, and suspect it’s enabled by camera firmware. The only thing lacking from making this feature perfect is the absence of a Yesterday option, meaning if you don’t import your files to your device the same day, you’re stuck importing the past three days.

The only issue I had in the street was when using auto ISO in aperture priority mode. While it allowed me the ability to adjust exposure compensation on the fly to deal with varied lighting, it tended to keep the shutter speed around 1/60th of a second, which resulted in some blurry images due to subject movement. It has since been pointed out to me that there is an ISO mode, “intelligent ISO,” which attempts to bump up shutter speeds when it detects movement, but unfortunately I was not using that when it counted. I will have to experiment with this option in future. I adjusted my technique when realized I was getting blurry images by keeping the ISO set to a higher value, and by switching into manual mode when it made sense. I tend to forget shutter priority mode is there for me as well!

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The Lumix GX85 is continuing to impress me, and was enjoyable to use extensively as demonstrated by the over 1,300 images I returned home with. Next on my agenda is to process RAW files using the available option (SilkyPix) and await Adobe’s Lightroom support!

A Call to Series

As an amateur photographer, there are things about my craft which bother me. One of these is how often I will end a session or come back from a trip with one or two (or three, if I am lucky) good shots that are completely unrelated. Different themes, lighting, processing style, or locale give them a totally different feel from each other, and, for my own part, they cause me to feel like a snapshooter, and my online sharing to look sporadic and uninspired.

On a recent trip to the big city (Portland) I chose to take only my GM5 with Olympus 17mm f/2.8 lens for some street shooting. The 34mm-equivalent lens is good for taking in slightly wider street scenes, where a subject’s immediate surroundings and some background can be part of the picture. Further, I chose the camera’s Dynamic Monochrome art filter, giving me a contrasty black and white image through the viewfinder, though I also shot RAW for more latitude if I needed it in post processing. This gives me a good reference point for my finished monochrome image by saving the JPEG file, but gives me a better RAW file as an editing canvas.

I shot quite a few frames that day, mostly from the hip with the lens pre-focused to a set distance. This can be tricky and I’m by no means a master at it – the proof being in the pudding, as many of my shots were quite badly framed (the fixed LCD of the GM5 is not ideal for this type of shooting… but they managed it in pre-digital times, so I have no excuse!). There were only two that I liked enough to edit and print. But those two made me realize something when I displayed them together.

 

By themselves, neither stands out particularly. But together, both exhibit rather unconventional angles, which I used to try and balance the geometry. In the first image, this was done by leaving the shadowed edge of the building beneath which I stood angling into the top left in the opposite direction than the right-hand building leans in. In the second image, the strong tilt was an unintentional by-product of hip-shooting, but I left it that way rather than trying to straighten it, as the background buildings line up in a zigzag horizon that fascinates me. Both they and the two gentlemen convey a sense of movement left to right. This attempt to harmonize the jumble of architecture, to my eye, unites the two.

So, herein is the opportunity: rather than create one image which you like, work off that image and find something to tie another image together with it. Try not to stop there, but create another. The stronger the tie or ties, the better. But, key to the success of this endeavor, you need to display the connected images together. I really like printing, and places like Ikea have very inexpensive frames. Surveying work you’ve put together, rather than one-offs, is a very rewarding feeling and, I believe, can strengthen your photography.