[B][SIZE=3][COLOR=DimGray]Panasonic's new GX8 is packed with cutting-edge developments for Micro Four Thirds[/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]


Don't just look at the Lumix DMC-GX8 as an update to the [URL="http://fourthirds-user.com/2013/08/panasonic_lumix_dmcgx7_handson_preview.php"]two year old GX7[/URL], or a flat-top version of the [URL="http://fourthirds-user.com/2015/05/panasonic_reveals_4kequipped_dmcg7.php"]recently released G7[/URL]. I had an afternoon to try out the GX8 recently at a rather blustery Brighton and discovered why the GX8 is rather special.
[LIST][*]One-third more pixels - a 20 megapixel first for Micro Four Thirds.
[*]Dual Image Stabilisation - not just a choice of in-body IS or in-lens IS, but a system that can automatically choose which to use automatically.
[*]A large and high-resolution electronic viewfinder.
[*]A 'proper' side-hinged LCD touch screen.
[*]And not forgetting 4K movie and stills capability including the enhanced 4K stills modes introduced with the G7.[/LIST]

The above number the main GX8 highlights for me at least.

For Micro Four Thirds watchers I expect the biggest talking point to be the increase in resolution from 16 to 20 megapixels. It doesn't sound a lot but it's an increase of a third. Pre-announcement speculation about the impact of a more densely-packed sensor revealed concerns about noise and dynamic range. I was able to shoot with the GX8 at its highest ISO settings but a more definitive feel for the camera's performance will have to wait until I get to use a final production sample over a longer period of time. But I an at least report that there were no glaring issues at high ISOs compared to an Olympus OM-D E-M1 I had with me at the same time.

The dual-IS system is very interesting. Until the GX8, its predecessor - the GX7 was the only Panasonic Lumix G-series model to incorporate an in-body IS (IBIS) system. The GX7 employed a moving sensor system that was basic compared to Olympus' much-praised 5-Axis system and the GX8's 4-Axis system (vertical, horizontal, tilt and yaw, but no rotational correction) still can't quite match Olympus but the ability to have both lens IS (OIS) and IBIS switched on at the same time and the camera sensing and choosing which system to use as a priority is entirely logical. It's a 'Program' mode for IS!

Another welcome improvement in the GX8 over the GX7 is the bigger and brighter viewfinder view which is now on a par with the class-leading E-M1 and E-M5 Mark II viewfinders. I did experience some brightness inconsistencies; live view tended to be darker than the pictures turned out when reviewing them, but this may have been a pre-production camera issue.

Having sampled the enhancements made to 4K stills shooting we first saw in the G7 a couple of months ago it was good to see the same options available on the GX8. I personally feel there is quite a lot more to do to make 4K stills shooting work better - particularly in the way AF works while composing your shot - but the G7 and GX8 have moved a long way in the right direction.

A move back to the more popular and versatile side-hinged LCD is bound to be welcomed by most but, and there is always a but - it does seem to make the camera feel bulkier than the GX7 and that extra size doesn't even afford enough space for a built-in flash, which GX7 users do have at their disposal.

Panasonic tell us that the GX7 was a pivotal model for them two years ago and the GX8 has all the ingredients to repeat this feat in 2015. I'm very much looking forward to spending more time with a GX8 soon.