A smooth blend of technology and style makes this one of the best mirrorless cameras I've seen so far. Packing a feature set on par with the bigger Lumix GH3 this modest unit boasts a new sensor that has set a new standard for ISO performance for the Micro Four-Thirds (MFT) format.
Externally the new GX7 is trim and lean, with very little clutter and a generous design nod to the classic rangefinder models of decades past. The viewfinder is electronic but sports a swivel mount for shooting at awkward angles. The rear display is articulated and even more useful, with an excellent touch screen interface that makes snappy shooting a joy.
Because the entire sensor is your autofocus system, the entire screen becomes your array of autofocus points. Simply tap the target you want on screen to trigger the focus lock and commit the shot. Pinch and slide the screen to drive the shoot menu or play with reviews.
The image quality is simply out of scale with the modest exterior, with superb quality 16MP frames and a range of refined lenses to make the most of those pixels. Smartphone connectivity and focus peaking completes the list of party tricks. There's not much you can't do with the Lumix GX7, making it a serious alternative to DSLR photography.
Who will love it
Anyone looking for publication quality images without the cumbersome weight of a DSLR system will appreciate the Lumix GX7. With a 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens on the front, offering the equivalent of 40mm in conventional DSLR language, you have something barely bigger than a compact camera. In this configuration it's the ultimate bling for bloggers, perfect for creative food shots or urban photography.
Swap in a 12-35mm f/2.8 lens and you'll see just how fast the autofocus can perform, grabbing confident focus lock thanks to the 240 samples per second electronics in the lens and the camera. In silent-mode the new model is both stealthy and speedy.
Instant access to video recording unleashes the full range of media savvy features on board. Noting that the MFT lenses incorporate correction data for real-time mitigation of aberrations and distortion, the Lumix GX7 offers a remarkable standard of quality when shooting movie clips. Full HD grabs are recorded at 60fps at the top end of the dial.
Previous incarnations of the MFT sensors have lacked performance as you climb through the ISO range, but that's a thing of the past with the GX7. Our test shots under the stars, by campfire light and tinkering with the afterglow of sunset confirmed the manufacturers claims.
At last I have a use for NFC on my smartphone. Tapping the phone up against the camera's NFC hotspot triggers a sequence of chitty chat between the devices, and within thirty seconds two were permanently friends and the live view from the camera was beamed directly to my smartphone screen.
It worked smoothly in operation and effectively. The full range of shooting functions and review options are fed through to the app. If you want to pole out the camera to peer over the top of a crowd, dangle off the side of a cliff or peer around corners than the smartphone connectivity delivers.
Imagine being able to rummage through your food photos at a cafe and pick out a couple of winners to upload live to your blog. A painless option to get publication quality images fed through to your internet services, almost in real time, brings the Wi-Fi and NFC technology into the realms of practical.
The app itself is solid and well thought out. We've tried many similar apps and been very disappointed, but this one is on the mark.
Until now the two best MFT cameras on the market have been the retro styled Olympus OMD-EM5 and the geek fest Lumix GH3. This new model provides a third option on the top shelf and will make it harder for shoppers to pick their favourite.
Right now the Lumix GX7 is the best sensor up against the other MFT models, and many of the APS-C sized mirrorless formats. This is also the first of the Lumix models to get built-in image stabilisation, making it more appealing for use with legacy lenses or pushing the limits in poor light.
Ken Duncan, one of Australia's iconic landscape photographers, lavished passionate praise on the GX7 this week. At the product launch Ken shared a handful of large scale prints taken with it over the course of a few days, and the proof was hard to ignore. The combination of excellent lenses and the new look sensor delivers rich tones and fine detail.
I'll back Ken's judgement on this one. The Lumix GX7 will be the hot ticket for 2013.