Saturday, November 30, 2013

Is the Panasonic GX-7 the next Digiscoping Camera? - 30 Nov 2013

I've spent the morning putzing on the internet looking at camera reviews and trying to decide if I NEED a new digiscoping camera to replace the already great / completely satisfied with Nikon 1 V1. Recently digiscoping colleague Roy Halpin had purchased a new Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 and has posted several personal reviews praising this new camera for its size / features / image quality.  So, it got me thinking whether the camera was a better option than say, the Panasonic GH3, which digiscoper Tara Tanaka has used to rule the digiscoping world the past two years? I decided to let the internet help me address these questions and perhaps raise a few more... By the time I was done I had looked at a number of potentially great digiscoping cameras, and have decided to post a blog that might help others with their quest for a new digiscoping camera.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 vs. Nikon 1 V1

I started with the comparison tool that uses to compare image quality / noise between competing cameras. I'm currently shooting the Nikon 1 V1 so the immediate question was 'how does image quality between the two cameras compare?'.  DPreview has excellent reviews of both the Nikon 1 V1 and the Panasonic DMC-GX7. While comparing image quality between the two cameras I found immediately that the new GX7 shows less chroma noise at ISO 200 (Raw) and significantly less noise at ISO 800. Note that the Nikon 1 J3 image is showing - there was no V1 image available and I'm assuming that the image quality of the V1~J3, but further investigation revealed little difference between the two cameras in terms of image quality and noise properties.


Since the GX7 produces a 16MP image compared to 10MP for the V1 it makes sense that GX7 images will be less noisy, require less noise reduction, and allow more more post-sharpening for ultimately better image quality.  But, what about other features?

A quick search comparing the two cameras gave me a link to - a camera comparison website. Comparing the two cameras produced a surprising pull for the GX7! Advantages include:
Better image quality, better maximum light sensitivity, lower noise at high ISO, wider dynamic range, higher resolution screen, larger sensor, built-in flash.

The V1 advantages include: faster shooting (60 fps vs. 5fps), ability to shoot high-speed movies, faster autofocus, longer battery life, smaller/thinner/lighter/cheaper. And, it appears to be a preferred camera over its successor, the Nikon 1 V2! But act fast, as these cameras are disappearing from the camera shelves and will soon be unavailable (except maybe eBay).

Conclusion to this point? - The GX7 appears to be a better option than the Nikon 1 V1 as a new digiscoping camera, and a better replacement alternative to the Nikon 1 V2 if I had to replace my current V1.  But how does it compare w/ the Panasonic GH3?

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 vs. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3

DPreview did not allow a direct comparison between the two cameras in terms of image quality. But they did allow a comparison of noise with/without internal noise reduction. In all cases the GX7 and GH3 cameras showed similar noise characteristics with a possible edge given to the GX7. Both Panasonic cameras showed slightly better noise performance than the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Nikon V1.

The Panasonic GX7 and GH3 are both excellent cameras and differences are subtle. Some say that the GX7 provides slightly better still images while the GH3 is still the king for video performance. Check out this You Tube video comparing the two cameras directly. Luminous Landscape has a nice review of the GX7 while SnapSort.Com scores both cameras as winners with the slight edge given to the GX7. GX7 advantages include: higher resolution screen, 1-stop better light sensitivity, smaller / thinner / lighter / cheaper than the GH3, and faster maximum shutter speed.

The GH3 is weather-sealed, has significantly longer battery life, external mic jack, slightly lower noise at high ISO, and shoots 6 fps vs. 5 fps for the GX7. Another nice review of the camera can be found here.

Given that the camera would be used strictly for digiscoping I'd (reluctantly) give the edge to the GX7. If the camera were going to be used for both digiscoping and general use then the GH3 might be my choice.  The choice will come down to personal preference. I'll have to make sure that the Panasonic 20 mm f1.7 II lens will fit the barrel of the Digidapter™digiscoping adapter, as it would be the primary digiscoping lens of either camera. A check of the Digidapter website indicates that a 2.240" diameter lens is the maximum that will fit the barrel of the adapter. Unfortunately the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 II lens has a 2.5" diameter lens, which might be too big depending on how close the lens needs to be to the eyepiece. It will have to be checked...

Other cameras to consider include the Olympus OM-D E-M5, Sony RX100 II, and Canon M.  Some comparisons of the cameras can be found at SnapSort.com You can select any two cameras to compare to see how they fare against each other in terms of performance and specifications.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs. Nikon 1 V1
Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs. Sony RX100 II
Canon EOS M vs. Nikon 1 V1

The Olympus EM5 provides great image quality and good noise characteristics, and mates nicely with the Panasonic 20 mm f1.7 II lens. Peter Tsai and Ed Dombrowski have nice reviews of this combo. The Sony RX100 II appears to be a wonderful camera with top quality image resolution, but lacks a built-in EVF. But this is also a camera that shouldn't be ignored.  And finally, the Canon EOS M should not be discounted as a digiscoping camera as it is small, lightweight and shows very good noise characteristic compared to its Nikon counterpart.

With so many new cameras being introduced there are a number of viable digiscoping options for those of us thinking of (or needing to) replace our Nikon 1 V1 cameras. Its important to make sure that whatever camera you use is compatible w/ your spotting scope eyepiece, and your adapter. That said, I now have to think hard whether I want to continue with my current setup, or look into getting a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 as a new digiscoping camera.  Honey.....!

1 comment:

Victor said...

Jerry, one advantage to the GX-7 is the micro four thirds system. You have a LOT of choice lenses out there from Panasonic, Olympus and others. The GX-7 looks like a winner to me. (It may be time for me to move up from the PEN EP-3)