Yes. It's Sunday. And there's a new (used) camera in the house. It's an ancient (but well preserved) Panasonic Lumix GX8.

GX8 camera with Olympus Pen FT 40mm f1.4 lens + metal hood.

The pandemic is making me too cautious. Usually, when I've decided I want to buy a camera I just get in my vehicle and go buy it. But yesterday I found myself trying to explain to my spouse why I was going to go buy this little, used camera. She looked at my in a perplexed, almost bewildered way and said, "You can buy anything you want. You don't have to check with me." It was an odd moment because even in the worst of economic times I've never felt the need to check in. Especially on a purchase that was under $400.

I can give you a dozen reasons why I wanted to buy the camera  but it all boils down to this: I wanted to buy the camera. 

So, why a Lumix GX8 and how do I like it so far?

You'll recall, if you've been a reader of the blog for the past few years, that I've owned a bunch of different Panasonic cameras including these: G3, GH2, GH3, GH4, GH5, G9, FZ1000, FZ2500, G85, GX85, S1 and S1R. Many I owned in duplicate sets. Over time the color from the cameras got better and better and, in the case of the G9 and the S1 series I find that I like the color better than just about any other digital camera I've tried. I got tons of great use out of the GH3 - GH5 cameras and made good money using them for video productions.

The S1 series cameras, especially with the V-Log upgrades, are the best video cameras I've ever shot with and the S1 Pro lenses are superb but they represent a pretty meaty package for those times when I want to walk around in the street and photograph random chaos and beauty. I'd always prefer the images from an S1 or S1R but when I don't have a photographic mission in mind, and where walking is the priority, I find an m4:3 camera much more comfortable. That's why I bought a little GX85 kit before the first of this year.

But much as I like the size and speed of the GX85 I've gotten use to better controls and better feature sets of my other cameras and I was looking for a bit of a step up. Something with a better EVF and a newer sensor. I considered getting another G9 to replace the ones I sold but I don't want to hop back into two systems and the G9 can be powerfully addictive. I noticed that my friend, Frank, has been using a GX8 for the last two years and he seems quite happy with his. He also takes great photos and knows his way around cameras. We talked about it for a while over coffee (B.C. = before COVID) and I logged my new knowledge away for future use. When Precision Camera offered three different GX8s for sale, used, on their website I thought a bit more about getting one.

The GX8 ticks a lot of boxes as a flexible daily user camera. It's got the 20 megapixel sensor, dual I.S.
(sensor and lens), good 4K video, a surprisingly nice and detailed LED EVF and it's splash and dust resistant. I like the way the dials are set up and I'm very used to the Panasonic menus. I can use this camera with older, manual, Olympus Pen FT half frame lenses and, icing on the cake, the batteries are interchangeable with the batteries for the Sigma fp. Pretty cool.

I charged up the battery and stuck a Hoodman Steel 64 GB USH-II SD card in the camera and formatted it, and then added an ancient lens that I haven't used in years to the package. The lens is the 20mm f3.5 for the old half frame Pen film cameras. I'd never been too impressed with it but I thought I'd give it one more chance...and it would present a worst case user scenario to challenge the new camera.

I headed back out to a different part of the trail yesterday which would deliver me to the far side of downtown. I'd walk back from there and do my first documentation of a high tech, busy town now shut almost completely down.

It was raining all day long so I took a plastic bag along with me to cover the camera between shots. The rest of the time I didn't worry about the camera I just tried my best to keep rain drops off the front element of the lens. All the images I shot yesterday (See my April 4th 2020 blog post) were shot with this combo.

The camera was light enough for me to forgo the usual strap and to just carry it around in my right hand for a couple of hours. The punch in for magnified manual focusing was quick and easy to use and I'm happy with the results. I shot at ISOs ranging from 320 to 1250 and found the files to have nice color and to be nearly noise free (I'm relatively insensitive to a bit of noise in files). I was using the electronic shutter with all sounds muted and I can't imagine a more discrete shooting package. It was absolutely lovely.

From an ergonomic point of view much of my initial thoughts about the GX8 handling are influenced by my time with the much bigger and heavier S1. I think the grip on the GX8 could be a bit deeper and I think the four way selector dial on the back is too responsive. I'd like a bit more resistance from it. I love the instant waist level EVF and I like the dial that surrounds the shutter release.

One thing that bothers me on an existential level is that there are 14 different actual and virtual function buttons, most of which can be reprogrammed to do dozens of different things. I can't think that anyone can memorize everything that they've set; especially when shooting quickly, under pressure. If I like the camera enough I guess I'll take a six week course in why and how to reprogram everything and then, once I get all the settings where I like them, I'll have a chart of all the permutations tattoo'd on my calf so I can roll up my pant leg and refresh my memory while out shooting. Thank God it doesn't "feature" GPS.

The camera is well suited for walking around and I might even put that 45-150mm lens on the front and tryout the AF. Maybe it's great.

After running the trail with a Sigma fp and a big, full frame 24-105mm lens under my jacket in a rain storm I think I'll make it a rule of thumb to reach for either the GX85 or the GX8 next time I put on the running shoes and sally forth into the elements. Much less stress on the human system over a certain distance.

Am I crazy for buying a cheap, used camera during such a frightening financial crisis? Naw. Look at it this way, the store is trying to stay afloat in a horrible time for non-essential retailers. Buying another camera or lens now and then disrupts my inclination to focus on disaster too much, gives me a sense of control over....something, and supports the store and the folks who work there. I'd love for them to survive so I can buy cameras at will A.C. (After COVID-19). If we come out of this okay then I'll worry about my future spending because it's going to be outrageous.

Final early thoughts about the GX8. It's a beautiful little camera with lots of potential. I have it set to monochrome today. Let's see if I can unlock some of its potential. Even if it's just around the house.

the 20mm f3.5 Pen lens is not bad for a 50 year old lens. Not back at all.

Just cleaned out our shed so I could move it. The house painters are coming this week to do the exterior and needed access to that wall. Laundering my face covers for the upcoming week as I type this. We walked through the neighborhood today (big, wide streets, every house, person and dog well distanced from each other) but we've been hanging around at home the rest of the day. No big plans other than staying positive and happy. Ours is a big house, bought for a time when it was filled with Ben and his friends. At least Belinda and I aren't crowding each other. We both have separate offices. There's an ample living room and even a separate reading room. If I'm too noisy or antsy Belinda can always send me out here to my studio for a while... is that "adult time out?"

Can't think of a better place to be for the next month. Wish I had a twenty five yard lap pool though...


Bill Pearce said...

Isn't the GX8 the one with the shutter problem?

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

they did a fix. firmware.

dinksdad said...

Congrats on the new camera. I had one and liked it a lot, especially the tilting EVF. Have you seen Linda Crawley's work in India with a Sony RX10 Mark IV? Very impressive. Here's the link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lindacrawley/49180779802

George said...

I'm glad you got your GX8. I switched over to Panasonic after my Pentax gear was stolen.
Right now I've got the GX85, G9, and recently picked up a used GX9 with a nice somewhat beefier hand grip.. They really are outstanding cameras. I'll probably get rid of the GX85, the GX9 is so much nicer.
Just out of curiosity..why didn't you go for the GX9? I think it's a big improvement over the GX85. You should think about getting a wrist strap for it if you want to stay away from neck/shoulder straps.
Anyway, stay healthy...keep using your mask, unlike our "genius fearless leader" who "knows better"

Miguel Tejada-Flores said...

Like you, I have used - and enjoyed - quite a few micro 4/3 bodies, among which are and were both a number of Olympuses (or is it Olympii?) and quite a few Lumixes (as Panasonic likes to call them). One of my favorites was the tiny, jewel-like GM1, the closest I think I've ever come to a digital camera replicating my old tiny Rollei 35 (with its pop-out lens). For awhile, my favorite Lumix was the rangefinder-styled predecessor to the GX8 - the GX7 - which also had that oh-so-cool tilting EVF which allows one to do low-down or waist-level framing. But, that tiny EVF was always a compromise at best. Then, for reasons I can't quite remember, I sold the GX7 and replaced it with a GX8 and---

I haven't looked back since. First because of that eminently usable and beautifully large (I wear glasses) EVF (better than any other I've ever had on any mirrorless camera) - second because of the way it just seemed to fit into my hands in an almost organically intuitive fashion. And though for me it is, was and has been the largest mu43 body I've shot with, it has a surprisingly svelte feel to it.

In the ancient analog days, years and decades, I shot quite a bit with Pentaxes and my favorite lenses tended to be 35mm ones, possibly a result of Monsieur Cartier-Bresson's fondness for them. One of the coolest lenses for the GX8 is the relatively diminutive Pana/Leica 15mm, fast enough at f/1.7 for all kinds of available light ventures - and with an FOV equivalent to 30mm, halfway between HCB's 35mm lenses and Daido Moriyama's 28mm ones. If you get a chance to pick one up, it also seems to have that indefinable quality which some call 3-D pop, and others claim to be the province of either some Carl Zeiss glass or a handful of ancient Pentax limited lenses.

I think the GX8 is an even better camera...if one has used other mu43's....you appreciate it all the more, both for what it does...and for what it doesn't.

Gato said...

Hope you enjoy your GX8 as much as I enjoy mine.

Sid said...

For my photography, my two GX8 cameras are most satisfying to use, particularly because of the brilliant tilting viewfinder. Unless Panasonic brings out a true successor—call it GX10—I'll keep and use the GX8 indefinitely. The tiny 20mm f/1.7 is sharp and pairs nicely with the GX8 camera. The 12-60 f/2.8-4.0 yields fine images.

Mike Marcus said...

I will be watching your assessment of the GX8. I have already told you too many times how much I love mine, especially with the 14-140ii giving dual IS, for air travel (I assume that will happen again someday for me) and for walks around whatever town I happen to be in. Regarding what I did not like about the GX8 is my tendency to punch buttons randomly on the back when I carried it using a wrist strap. That problem was almost completely solved when I replaced the wrist strap with an IMZ Leather Hand Grip bought from Amazon (I suspect most other grip straps would do as well). This also helped to address the grip size issue that you mentioned. Now when carried, the camera just hangs on my hand ready to go. YMMV.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for your website, I appreciate your work, your efforts, your photos and reports very much and have been visiting your blog for some yeras now almost daily. The local dealers here in Graz / Austria offerd a GX85 with a 14-42 / F3.5-5.6 II new for 399,-- Euros in early 2019 ( after the holydays ). I could not resist and use it to my pleasure frequently. There is just one little thing about vintage Film Pen F, I wanted to mention: These cameras used a „sensor“ format of 18 x 24 mm, what is exactly half the area of classic Full Frame, while modern MFT format is defined by half the diagonal of FF ( = 21,63 mm ), resulting in an even smaller sensor of 13 x 17,3 mm. Your Fuji X cameras with APS – C on the other hand have a 15,6 x 23,5 mm sensor size, what is interestingly still a tiny bit smaller ( ! ) than the old Pen F. So we notice another crop factor between vinage Pen F ( diagonal 30mm ) and MFT of 1,4. I was surprised. There is a very competent website regarding classic Pen F: http://cjo.info/classic-cameras/olympus-pen-f-series/. Thus your 50 years old 20 mm f3.5 Pen lens was their widest lens ( 28 mm equiv. ) And if you find some time you could make me happy shooting a few photos with it on one of your Fujis, showing its widest angles. Thanks again, stay healthy, best of luck to you and yours, greetings from constricted Europe, Helmut.

JC said...

I have two GX8s which I've used quite a lot. Then, suffering a spasm of what I believed might be potential photographic improvement, I bought a Nikon Z6 which is an absolutely brilliant camera that I hardly use because I keep picking up the GX8s. I've found over the years that everyone's mileage varies, but for me, the GX8s have been about as perfect a camera as I've ever wanted, in size, weight and performance. (I know there are cameras that certainly test better in performance, it's just that I don't need that much performance.) Paired with the Lumix G 12-35 it is, for me, a terrific walk-around camera. I carry it on a very thin UPstrap, kept short, so when slung over my shoulder, it rides behind me and just a bit above my elbow. I don't even notice it's there until I need it. When traveling, I can get both bodies, four lenses, the charger and four batteries in one of those "packing cubes" which then goes into my carry-on backpack, so I have an entire system in a little padded box, and still have room in the pack for all the other crap I carry around with me. Brilliant.