When I saw this video pop up on my feed, I instantly recognised the camera – despite its logos being covered up. It’s the Panasonic G85. Or the Panasonic G81 in Germany. Or the Panasonic G80 for pretty much everybody else. And when I read the title of the video, I immediately concurred. You see, I bought three of these last year and in my opinion, they’re fantastic little cameras.
The video above comes from Nigel Barros, who’s transitioned through a bunch of different kit and produces some pretty outstanding work with it. The G85 was an attempt for him to bring his camera kit back down to the bare minimum to “do more with less”. Initially, he picked an old GH4 a few months ago, but after his community suggested the G85, he just had to check it out.
The G85 is not perfect, by any means. There are issues that will put some people off. There’s no headphone jack to monitor your audio. When you’re shooting 4K video, there’s a 2.2x crop (you get the complete sensor when shooting 1080p, though). The HDMI socket is also of the “micro” variety – which is really fiddly and annoying. And those are just the ones that spring to mind.
But the IBIS on it is excellent (actual IBIS, keep the EIS disabled), Eye AF (although not as good as Sony/Canon/etc), it has a bunch of different colour profile options including Panasonic’s popular Cinelike D & Cinelike V (as also found on the GH5), a 3.5mm microphone input (the pre-amps aren’t amazing, get a powered on-camera mic like the VideoMic NTG or Sennheiser MKE 400), a flippy out LCD and a small, lightweight form factor. It’s arguably the ideal vlogging camera (which was the original reason I got the first one of these) if you have a wide enough lens.
In the video above, Nigel uses the Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 prime, but the G85 comes with the 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 if you buy it in the kit, which lets you go wide enough with a 2.2x crop to handhold a camera pointing at yourself – it’s about a 27mm field of view equivalent compared to full-frame or the short end of an 18-55mm kit lens (forget what “tutors” say) on a 1.5x crop APS-C body like Nikon or Sony). If you’re feeling extra special, though, you could go for the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8.
I’ve been using three of these cameras for just over a year now, along with a couple of GX80s (which are fundamentally the same camera, but with a smaller form factor, no flippy out LCD and no mic input – great for overhead cameras or shooting b-roll on a lightweight gimbal, though), and the results I’ve had from them are perfect for my needs. I’ve been using them for making videos as well as live streaming. You’ve seen footage from them here on DIYP.
Sure, you don’t get 4K60 (you get 1080p60, though) and the footage is 8-bit (100Mbps), there’s no RAW over HDMI (or internally) or the fancy tools of the bigger cameras. So, depending on your needs, you may run into a few walls. But for many starting out, or for those who know their work falls within its limitations, this camera is regularly on sale and an absolute bargain in the used market. I managed to pick up all three G80s (two of them brand new), two GX80s (one of them brand new) along with a 12-60mm kit lens and a 12-32mm kit lens (both new) last year for about the same cost as buying a single brand new Blackmagic Pocket 4K here in the UK.
For my needs, they do the job just perfectly 99% of the time, and for the other 1%, I have other options. But if you’re just starting out or your needs simply aren’t that high end and you’re trying to spend as little money as possible on something that’s not completely terrible, the Panasonic G85 (or G81 or G80) is a great way to go.
For the prices you can find them for, I’d say it’s probably the best value camera on the market for video right now. It is regularly unavailable on Amazon UK, though, so it sounds like it may be close to being discontinued (which would make sense as we’ve seen the G95 and the G100 announced since then – although the G90 has a tighter 4K crop and the G100 feels like a backwards step without the IBIS.
Have you used the Pansonic G85/G81/G80? Do you agree with Nigel’s (and my) assessment?