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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7: Guided Tour

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Mason Resnick is the editor of the Adorama Learning Center and a lifetime photography enthusiast.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7: Guided Tour

An inside look at Panasonic's street-savvy little sports coupe camera

Designed to excell at street and candid photography but fast enough for sports and small enough for travel, the Panasonic GX7 has become a popular interchangeable lens compact model. Join us as we take a deep dive into its features for owners and anyone considering purchasing this camera.


Overview: What's Great about the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7

Designed for street and candid photography as well as travel shooting, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 offers a combination of features that should be appealing to enthusiasts who know their way around a digital cameras and will appreciate extensive control options, a responsive shutter, and a built-in eye-level EVF.

The fact that the GX7’s viewfinder is located in the upper left corner of the camera back will resonate immediately with rangefinder users, especially street photographers, since that’s the classic configuration. The advantage is that you can shoot with both eyes open, with the right eye looking into the EVF and the left eye on the actual scene, watching for peripheral activity that might find its way into the frame.

As a Micro Four Thirds camera, the Panasonic GX7 is one of the top three Panasonic models and the best of its size and form factor in image quality tests conducted by DxOMark. It is capable of extremely low grain at ISO 800, and offers a very respectable 12-stop dynamic range at ISO 100. It offers access to a growing number of lenses, flashes and other accessories made by both Panasonic and Olympus, as well as other manufacturers, that can make it the centerpiece of a deep but compact system. Check out our GX7 buying guide so you can trick out your camera with the right gear for your specific shooting needs!

What’s a Guided Tour?
An Adorama Learning Center Exclusive, a Guided Tour goes beyond reviews and helps new owners and potential purchasers of popular digital become experts in their particular model.


Buying Guide: Accessorize your Panasonic GX7 for street photography, sports, travel and portraits.


 



Around the camera

Control dials: Two of the most important dials on the camera are the one surrounding the shutter release and the one on the back, right below the OFF/ON button. These will control shutter speed, aperture, and many other settings as well as menu navigation, depending on which mode you’re in. The four buttons surrounding the MENU SET button on the camera back are also helpful for navigating, but to avoid confusion I recommend using the two main dials for navigation, and the four buttons for their indicated purposes.

Mode dial: After you’ve inserted the charged battery and SD card and set the date and time, you can immediately start shooting. The camera is already set to P mode. Switch to iA (intelligent auto) mode and the camera will automatically choose one of the 24 scene modes available. Alternatively, you can turn the mode dial to SCN to choose the scene mode yourself.

FN1/Q Menu: This is also a very important control, because it gives you quick access to the camera’s most important functions: Color mode, flash control, video quality, aspect ratio, autofocus mode, focus points, metering mode, aperture and shutter speed, ISO, and White balance.

Touch Screen and EVFs: Both the touch screen and Electroinic Viewfinder rotate. The EVF tilts 90 degrees straight up, so you can shoot looking down into the camera, a great tool for candids and macro photography where you need to shoot below eye level. The touchscreen LCD monitor tilts 90 degrees up and about 45 degrees down, so you can shoot at ground level or over your head and still have compositional control.  Activate the touchscreen by pressing the left-facing arrow near the lower right corner. Press the second icon from the top to activate touch-activated shutter release. Now you can press wherever you want on the monitor and the camera will quickly focus there and shoot.

Note: If  the LCD monitor suddenly goes black, you may be holding the camera too close to you, and the proximity sensor automatically switches from LCD to EVF.



Basics: A Snapshooter’s Guide

With experience, you may eventually want to explore this camera’s many features and capabilities, but if you are intimidated by it, here are three easy steps so you can get started.

1.    Set the mode dial (top plate, all the way to the right) to iA. The camera will choose the best mode and exposure for the scene you’re photographing.
2.    Use the touch scereen to focus. There’s an arrow and tab on the LCD monitor near the lower right hand corner. Touch it to bring up a menu. Then touch the second box from the top and it becomes yellow. Now touch the screen at the part of the photo you want in focus, and the camera will focus on that part and take the picture.
3.    To shoot video, simply press the red button located behind the shutter release to start, and again to stop
4.    To zoom the lens, rotate the lens ring that’s closest to the camera. Unlike some point-and-shoot cameras, the zoom lenses made for this camera are operated manually, which allows for more precise control over focal length.

Operating The Flash

The GX7 has a small built-in flash as well as a hot shoe that can accommodate a larger flash that has a greater range and projects more light. The built-in flash is good for fill-flash in bright, sunny days, and when shooting nearby subjects. Flip it up and on by moving the on-off switch

Access the flash options via the Q Menu and choose  force flash on, on with red-eye reduction, slow-sync flash with or without red-eye. Slow Sync is great when you want a longer exposure to fill in the image with ambient light, creating a more natural look. You can also use this method to capture frozen and  moving subjects, since the long exposure paired with an active subject can convey a strong sense of motion in your photos. This technique takes practice!

Advanced flash settings: Use the Menu Set button to get to the more advanced flash settings, such as manual or TTL, first or second curtain flash (very helpful when shooting slow sync flash; second curtain looks more natural when shooting moving subjects) and Flash Adjust, which controls the brightness of the flash.

Want a more powerful flash? The Panasonic DMW-FL580L is a hot shoe flash  that has a continuous built-in LED light so it could also be used when shooting videos. It has a rotating flash head and a guide number of 58, making it a great option for adding ample light for both stills and video.

Note: Keep in mind on-camera flash tends to be harsh and unflattering, especially when shooting in low light, so use it sparingly.


Shooting Video

The simplest way to capture movies is to press the red dot movie button (top of camera, behind shutter release), but you can control exposure, ISO and sound, and other functions by going to the Manual movie mode (on the control dial) and activating the touch screen, which will then provide you with several options.

The Q Menu quickly navigates you to motion picture settings, including frame rate and resolution modes, a choice between AVCHD (the default) and MP4, metering patterns, exposure and white balance control, and autofocus patterns. Flip the LED down to reveal a hidden finger door hinge on the left side of the camera that lets you access the external mic jack. Use the Set Menu button to navigate all video controls, including mic level display and adjustment.

Note: An external microphone is recommended for the best audio quality. Read this to learn which one might be best for you.

5 Hacks for the Panasonic GX7

1: Faster autofocus: While the GX7 is one of the fastest-focusing cameras we’ve seen, the camera can be set to focus in advance. Open the Custom menu, select Quick AF and choose the On option. The camera will then pre-focus, and when you’re ready to take the picture for real, it will focus again but since the lens won’t have to turn much since it is more or less in focus, focus time is reduced. This is especially useful when shooting sports.  The easy way? Touch the LCD monitor where you want the camera to focus and it will focus and shoot!

2: HDR: Need more than a 12-stop dynamic range? The GX7 will combine 3 pictures—one normal exposure plus under- and overexposed—and combine them into a single shot. You can change the range of the 3 exposures manually, choosing a +/- 1, 2, or 3-EV. The wider the range, the more extreme the HDR effect will look. Tip: Mount your camera on a tripod, and make sure nothing moves as the three exposures are being shot. If you must hand-hold, choose the Auto Align option. Sorry, no HDR while shooting RAW.

3: Instant or Silent Shutter Release: The GX7 has two shutter options: Mechanical or electronic, and each one has its advantages and disadvantages. The mechanical shutter release (which is the camera’s default setting)  is almost instantaneous (actually there is no discernable shutter lag when using mechanical shutter release along with manual focus). However, it is a bit noisy. The electronic shutter release is noticeably quieter and could even be turned off by going into Setup > Beep and changing the E-Shutter volume, so this is a good choice for candids. The tradeoff? There is a greater lag time when using the electronic shutter.

4 Shoot B&W and Color Simultaneously: This takes about 3 seconds to set up on the touch screen. Press the Q menu. Select color mode (top left icon) and choose Monochrome. Now go to Image quality (third icon from the right) and choose RAW + FINE JPEG.  The camera will capture the JPEG file in black-and-white, but the RAW file will retain the color information. You can then save a version in color in post-processing, if you wish, but either way, you have options.

5: Manual Focus Can’t-Miss Trick: While the enlarged center of the image can help you focus, you can easily tell what part is in focus by enabling Focus Peaking. Whatever is in focus will appear on the EVF or LCD with a colored outline along its contrasting edges. Go to Custom > Peaking to turn this feature on, then set the detect level to control the focus sensitivity and what highlight colors you want to display.


Did You Know...

There are 25 Special Effect Filters? Twirl your mode dial to the paint brush and palate icon and you can apply specific effects to your photos, including star filter, a light from above, several black-and-white modes, high dynamic range, toy camera and cross processing effects and more. Go there now and explore!

There are 24 scene modes? These are sets of camera settings that are appropriate for specific shooting conditions, such as photographing food or flowers, night portraits, various ways of photographing skylines at night. Color balance, aperture and shutter speed and other paramaters are automatically chosen so you can concentrate on taking a great photo.

You can create three sets of custom settings with dozens of options? You can assign sets of custom settings to each of the three custom options (C1, C2 and C3) on the Mode dial. Go into the Custom Setup menu and choose your preferences. This lets you quickly access the set of preferences you need without having to change each setting individually while you’re trying to capture a scene. For example, you can have a black-and-white setting with HDR and second curtain flash as one custom setting, and focus peaking, histogram, guide line and full color set to activate in another setting.

You can shoot stop-action animation? Are you a Claymation wannabe? Go to the third menu in the Picture-taking menu and select Stop Motion Animation to set the camera for animation and to control the interval timing.

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