Why I switched from a DSLR to Panasonic’s G85 mirrorless micro four thirds camera

From a young age I’ve always had a keen interest in photography, starting with simple point and shoot cameras as a child, graduating to a 35mm SLR in high-school, and then various Canon Rebel prosumer DSLRs in University and my career as a journalist.

While Canon’s Rebel series has always served my specific use case as a journalist, which typically involves rapidly shooting photos at events and more carefully setup photos of products for reviews, the manufacturer’s cameras have a less than stellar reputation when it comes to video performance. To the criticism of many, Canon doesn’t seem to have any interest in exploring adding 4K video support to its prosumer DSLR lineup.

With video becoming increasingly important to my day-to-day job, especially at MobileSyrup, I now need a camera that is capable of shooting solid images and video, or at the very least, has decent low-light video performance and the capability to autofocus reasonably well when filming video.

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The kind of videos I find myself creating typically need to be shot quickly, on crowded demo show floors and often under very difficult lighting conditions (this is why having a lens with a wide aperture has become very important to me). Why smartphone manufacturers insist on setting up their demo spaces in poor lighting has always been lost on me, but it remains a common practice in the industry.

There’s another reason too; traditional DSLRs are bulky and, in many cases, heavy, making them difficult to lug around while travelling or walking through a crowded hands-on demo show floor at a keynote. I loved my still relevant Canon Rebel T6i, which I only purchased a little over a year ago, but carrying around multiple bulky lenses, additional batteries, and the camera’s large body, has slowly grown into a chore. With the G85, my giant turtle shell of a backpack feels slightly less bulky.

Because of this, size is another factor that attracted me to enter the world of micro four thirds, mirrorless cameras. While not every micro four thirds shooter is lighter than a standard DSLR, especially the G85 I ended up landing on, they’re considerably smaller, allowing me to fit more all-important dongles into my backpack.

Here’s an example of some of the video I’ve shot with the G85.

After weeks of research and frequently bouncing between various Panasonic, Sony and Olympus mirrorless cameras, I finally and firmly landed on the recently released Panasonic Lumix G85, though I did also strongly consider the slightly older G7, most YouTuber’s camera of choice.

One of the other main factors that attracted me to the G85 is the fact that the camera features 5-axis image and video stabilization. Coupled with the G VARIO 12-60mm F/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens included with the G85, which itself costs around $700 CAD and features built-in image stabilization in its body, my videos now look silky smooth, even when I’m not using a tripod. Given that I’m often shooting videos and photographs without a tripod due to the nature of my job, stabilization is very important, especially in terms of video.

The camera also features a 16-megapixel sensor and a quiet shutter. Because micro four thirds cameras typically come equipped with image sensors that are smaller than what I’m used to with DSLRs, they don’t perform as well under low-light conditions, at least when it comes to photography. This is because less light is able to hit the camera’s sensor and is one of the main issues micro four thirds cameras experience.

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This is something I’ve found difficult to grapple with after using Canon’s Rebel line for so long. I’m beginning to get the hang of the camera’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to low-light, however. Because the G85 has such solid image stabilization, I’m able to shoot at a significantly slower shutter speed than I was with my Canon camera. I also quickly learned to set the camera’s ISO max to 1200 since anything above that number results in a very noisy image, at least in my experience, though I’ve read reviews of the G85 that state otherwise.

The camera also features programmable dual thumb dials, which I’ve set to act as my shutter speed and aperture controls, depending on what preset I’m shooting with. I typically opt for aperture priority and allow the camera to set the shutter speed and ISO. The G85 also even features distinct controls for single/continous autofocus and five numbered function (fn) buttons, allowing photographers to set the camera up exactly how they want to (this is something I’ve never experienced before with Canon’s DSLR ecosystem). This gives me quick access to useful features like the G85’s built-in level.

While not exactly important in terms of how I shoot video and photography, the G85 is also splash and dust resistant, which means it can easily survive small amounts of water. If you ever get caught in the rain, this feature is definitely a plus.

The big draw for me of the G85 beyond what I’ve already mentioned is its continuous autofocus system, which can be easily quick-selected via its main rear dial. In my experience, the camera captures sharp video, even under tricky lighting conditions. The camera’s oscillating 2,360 pixel resolution screen is also great for shooting video and photos from odd angles, though my dearly departed Canon Rebel T6i also featured a very adjustable touch screen. At one point I was considering purchasing Panasonic’s smaller GX85, but was deterred by the fact that it doesn’t include a fully articulating screen.

Finally, 4K is a big draw for me with the G85, and not because MobileSyrup is going to switch over to shooting exclusively in 4K anytime soon, but because if I’m going to invest in this jump to micro four thirds, I want the camera to be future proof. Though I don’t have much purpose for 4K photos, experimenting with 4K video has been an interesting test for me.

I was surprised to learn 4K video files end up getting split into multiple files, which makes things a little more difficult when editing video together (apparently you can get around this if you’re using an SDXC memory card larger than 32GB). It’s certainly been an adjustment period for me switching to the G85 and micro four thirds cameras, and I’ll admit that during my first few weeks with Panasonic’s latest shooter, I regretted the switch.

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After allowing myself adequate time to adjust to the intricacies that stem from using a micro four thirds camera, as well as getting used to the G85’s various settings, I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with my decision to enter the smaller, lighter, video focused world of micro four thirds cameras. The G85 would also be great for anyone looking to upgrade from their smartphone’s shooter, but don’t want to carry around a big, bulky camera (even Panasonic’s GX85, which is slightly cheaper than the G85, is a great option).

Panasonics’ G85 is available from most retailers for $1,199 CAD with a G VARIO 12-60mm F/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens and $949 for just the body.

The Panasonic G85 I used for this story was provided to me as a loan by Panasonic (when the camera is sent back to Panasonic, I plan to buy my own). 

Comments

  • ChrisPollard77

    Another advertorial? (advertisement disguised as an editorial, for those who may not have heard the term) So “your choice” of moving the the G85 was really “Panasonic gave me this $1200 camera to try?”

    Why not just open up with the article is a review? This is the kind of stuff that, while becoming very common, is destroying the credibility of tech writers all over the internet.

    • If this was an advertorial it would state that in the headline and at the beginning of the story. “My choice” is the result of extensive research and trying out a variety of other micro four thirds cameras from different manufacturers. Also, as I stated before, receiving free products for editorial and review purposes is the norm across the industry. I don’t open up with the fact that this is a review because, well, it isn’t a review, it’s an editorial.

      Also, this is a loaner product from Panasonic that will eventually need to be sent back to the company (when it goes back, I plan to buy my own).

    • Mo Dabbas

      Just use your iPhone camera. Jerry rigs everything (and I’m pretty sure a lot of YouTubers) uses his S7 to record most sections of his videos and nobody seems to complain about the video quality.

    • It depends on what you’re looking for really. Phone cameras are great, but the level of customization and options available when shooting video with a more advanced setup, can’t be compared.

  • Natalie

    Is this petapixel? *looks up, sees mobilesyrup*
    WTF?

    • This definitely isn’t in the wheelhouse of what we typically cover, but as I’m sure you may have noticed over the last few months, MobileSyrup has been about more than just smartphones and telecom for some time now. Telecom and phones will always be the core of what we cover here, but writing about cameras (which I’ll note are also mobile devices) is part of what MobileSyrup is about now).

  • MrQ

    This is a great camera. Good job Panasonic

  • Good review! I bought a G85 because of the size flexibility, lenses and weatherproof qualities. I had a Sony DSLR which I sold and then bought a Sony RX100mk3 and a Panasonic FZ200 bridge camera. It now seems I may only use the G85.

    • It’s a great little camera! Especially if you’re moving from a larger DSLR or looking to upgrade from a smartphone shooter.

  • ScottB

    “The Panasonic G85 I used for this story was provided to me by Panasonic. ”

    Left until the last line? On an article titled “Why I switched from a DSLR to Panasonic’s G85 mirrorless micro four thirds camera.”

    You switched because they gifted you hardware in return for a glowing review. You have no credibility, nor shame.

    • Most of the products reviewed at all tech websites are provided by the company that manufactures them. It may come as a surprise to you, but this is the norm across the industry.

      In this particular story I felt is necessary to make a note of this fact given the headline I landed on. I’m sorry that this makes you feel the content lacks credibility, however, if I wasn’t able to get a loaner G85 from Panasonic, I would have gladly dropped the money for the camera myself.

      It also doesn’t change the fact that I tried out a number of other micro four thirds cameras from various manufacturers before landing on this one. Take a look around the internet; I’m far from alone in praising the G85.

      This is also a loaner product from Panasonic that will eventually need to be sent back to the company (when it goes back, I plan to buy my own).

    • El Shabazz

      Love lt love the article ,I currently have a Nikon thinking about buying a Pentex any words of wisdom! Thanks in advance.

  • Sam Nasar

    Good article Patrick. I had the GX85 and sold it when the X-T2 came out and while a great camera in its own right, the lack of IBIS and any stabilized primes made it useless for any handheld video work. I just got the a6500 which has IBIS and is an APS-C sensor (like your Canon) and has legendary AF for stills and during videos with much better image quality that micro 4/3. You might want to look into it before you buy the G85 as it does seem to strike the right balance between image quality and size for both stils and videos.

    Also, I really appreciate your restrained response to the rather rude accusations questioning your credibility.

    • Great suggestion! I’ll check it out. MobileSyrup’s Igor Bonifacic actually shoots with Sony’s a6000 and loves it.

    • S_

      The GX85 has IBIS, which I myself use with adapted manual-focus lenses. Panasonic also makes stabilized prime lenses; they work in conjunction with the IBIS as Dual IS. The IBIS and the smooth, practically-vibrationless shutter enable (for me, anyhow) handheld shots down to 1/4 of a second. The G85 has (improved) Dual IS 2, and the same shutter as the GX85.

  • Rimtu Kahn

    Writing a positive review about a camera that you got for free… sorry I’m not sold. Buy it using your $1200+tax then write an honest review.
    DSLR is still the best for those who know photography and how to handle a camera.

    • A DSLR is certainly the best option for photography, but if you value size, weight and the ability to shoot stellar video, then a DSLR is far from the best option, especially not a camera in Canon’s more affordable prosumer lineup.

    • MrQ

      What makes you think a DSLR is the best for photography? You need to have a look at the latest mirrorless offerings from Olympus, Sony, Panasonic or even Canon

  • Mo Dabbas

    1200 for a camera is expensive unless you are a dedicated photographer (which most people aren’t). I had a Nikon D3300 but I was using my Sony camera always instead (one with extended zoom and Carl Zeiss lens, not sure about the model number). For a shoot and go the Sony managed to take better shots, I have no patience to fiddle around with setting and all of that to get a good shot. I ended up selling the Nikon and kept the Sony.

  • Can’t Fix Stupid

    Nice. Interesting review for someone like me with an T1i. I have not upgraded my DSLR since my T1i still does what I need it to. But have been watching the development of 4/3 so this was a good summary.

  • Interesting. That’s actually something I’ve noticed as well!