GX8 Review, Part 1 March 14, 2016
I don’t usually write about gear. I know enough to get through most gear related conversations, but don’t care enough to start one myself. Except for when I have a problem.
I had sold all my Canon gear when the GX7 came out, as the combination of the GX7 and my Leica M9 did almost everything my Canon gear could do, without the bulk, and in my opinion, with a little extra class. I say almost everything, because there was one feature my Canon had that neither my GX7 nor my Leica M9 had, and that was weather sealing.
Enter the GX8, and also the onset of the much feared and discussed sensor corrosion issue in my Leica M9. The GX8 would allow me to shoot in questionable weather, and if it was as pleasurable to use as I hoped it would be, would soften the blow that would be the (likely) many months without my Leica M9 while it was off waiting for a replacement sensor.
Due to a limited budget, and for other complex reasons I won’t go into in this article, I was unable to spend over $1000 on a new camera, despite the fact that I was selling off a few things to cover costs. But I kept my eye out and some months after it was announced I stumbled across the CameraPro web site, and found they had the GX8 on sale for just under my required maximum. After a bit of juggling of finances and selling off a few much loved but inessential accessories I hit the buy button, and within two days was holding the brand new GX8.
My initial impressions were good. It felt solid in my hand, and was well balanced with my my two favourite lenses, the Panasonic 25mm f1.4 and 12-35mm f2.8. It looked great too!
I spent some time setting it up. I shoot in manual mode, use the touch screen to set the focus point, shoot raw at the 3:2 aspect ratio, and have constant preview turned on. I was pleased to notice the constant preview worked above the 1/1000/s limit of the GX7, but was surprised when the resulting images were far brighter than the preview. I took a few more test shots, this time with the electronic shutter, and the images exposed correctly. My heart sank, it seemed my mechanical shutter was faulty.
As I said earlier, I’m not one to spend much time on gear related conversations, and almost never start them, but after a firmware upgrade and several camera resets had failed to solve the issue, and before sending the unit back, I logged onto dpreview for the first time in many years and asked around. Maybe I had some strange setting turned off or on or was otherwise missing something obvious.
After a few false starts, and some clarification on my part, someone responded with a useful reply. It was another GX8 owner who could achieve an identical exposure with both the electronic and mechanical shutters, even at high shutter speeds. This response was followed by others, some who had the same issue I did, and others who were able to expose accurately with both the electronic and mechanical shutters.
Eventually another person who was experiencing the same issue posted the first five characters of their serial number, and they matched mine. Others who were experiencing the same issue responded too, and they too had a serial number that indicated it was produced in the same month. Perhaps it was an entire batch that was faulty?
The next day I was off interstate, and knew I would be in environments that would be potentially dangerous to an unsealed camera. I sent off a support request to Panasonic, but packed my GX8 anyway, to see if I could live with a mechanical shutter that couldn’t make accurate exposures above 1000/s.
Well, it turns out I couldn’t. I have a preference for wide apertures, and old habits die hard. The pictures I wanted to take almost always required a shallow depth of field. Incidentally, this preference is why it took so long for me to notice the sensor corrosion on my Leica M9, but that’s by the by.
While I was still away I got an email back from Panasonic saying that there wasn’t enough detail in my email to assist with my enquiry, but that I should probably send it back to the retailer and get a replacement. Despite believing I had made made the issue obvious, I replied with a step by step guide on how to reproduce the problem, and again asked if I was wrong to assume the GX8 would exposure accurately with both the mechanical and electronic shutters.
After getting back home I sent CameraPro an email about the issue, and they got back to me almost immediately. Within twenty four hours I had received, filled in, and returned their paperwork, packaged the camera, and sent it back to CameraPro for their technicians to inspect.
Not long after returning from the post office I received a phone call from the Panasonic support team. They dismissed the idea of it being a widespread issue, and despite my mentioning the other cases I had heard about online, only just stopped short of calling me stupid for suggesting it might be. They also stated that they hadn’t heard of CameraPro, doubted that my camera had an Australian warranty, and said there was nothing they could do if it didn’t, relinquishing themselves of all responsibility.
This left a really sour taste in my mouth. For starters, CameraPro claims to sell only Australian stock, and based on my experience I have no reason to disbelieve them. They have a very dedicated team, were quick to reply to all my emails, were friendly on the phone, reimbursed my shipping costs, and took full responsibility. I honestly cannot say enough good about them. Secondly, Panasonic, if you are selling faulty cameras, it shouldn’t matter where in the world I purchase them. Take a leaf out of Leica’s book and take some responsibility. I found your response to this issue absolutely unacceptable, and if it wasn’t for CameraPro’s quick response, I would have sold all of my micro four thirds gear and gone to Fuji. The X-Pro2 had just been officially announced, and appeared to be everything the GX8 was and more. Panasonic, you’re lucky to have quality retailers like CameraPro looking after you.
Anyway… Less that 24 hours after receiving my faulty GX8, CameraPro had managed to get a replacement unit back to me. Thank you CameraPro! Its serial number was just a few digits off the faulty unit, but this one worked perfectly. This disproves the theory that it’s an entire batch that went wrong, but suggests a larger issue with Panasonic’s quality control generally, as there’s no denying the reasonably widespread nature of the issue. What it also does is give me faith in CameraPro, and elevates them to preferred supplier status. Their response was nothing less than stellar, and despite being interstate, they will be my first stop for any future camera needs, and if you’re in Australia, I encourage you to consider them too.
So, enough of the introduction, and my gripes with Panasonic, and onto the actual review.