Last update on the GX85

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Just before July 4th, I had to send my GX85 in for servicing. For some reason, the shutter blades locked and left the camera in a perpetual loop asking I power down and restart. After some initial problems logging my repair request in, I was able to move forward and even got a response and quote back fairly quickly. Here’s how it all went down.

The Quote Process

After shipping my camera to Panasonic’s repair center in Texas, I awaited to hear something back. Given the fact that it was sent close to a holiday, I didn’t stress when I did not hear back within that first week. I was just happy knowing that the camera was on it’s way and would (hopefully) soon be repaired.

A week after having originally sent the camera, I still had not heard back. I began worrying that I didn’t send it to the correct facility or worse yet, that USPS may have lost it somewhere. After verifying that the package indeed went to the correct location, I checked the Panasonic website – my repair order was marked as canceled. No other information was available. I immediately hit the “Chat Now” button from the Service Request page, as prompted by a pop-up, in hopes that I could get some info on now canceled service order. Various redirecting from the chat representatives and a phone call later, I found out the status of my camera – it was received and sent to the repair facility awaiting a quote number and amount; which is represented in their system as a canceled service order.

Totally not confusing at all. (Yes, that is sarcasm.)

Quoted and Waiting

It’s now mid-July, I’ve finally received the service quote – a reasonable amount just south of $400. So I quickly filled out my credit card info and approved up to the quoted amount. The previous breakdowns in communication prompted me to follow up regularly (one email a week after receiving acknowledgement of signed quote); I was not going to lose track of this new service order. For two weeks the camera sat awaiting a second authorization – the PDF document I had previously emailed was apparently missing information. I will own this one and say that I may not have properly saved the info using Preview (Mac OS’s PDF viewer/editor for you PC people) but having the order hold without contacting the customer falls squarely on Panasonic. It required a third call to Panasonic Customer Care and once squared away I was given some good news, the repair would only cost $225 plus the labor fee ($100). The initial tech’s diagnosis was that the camera only needed a new shutter unit and bracket but the image sensor was undamaged – great news indeed.

The good news would not continue into the following week. The first email I’ve received from Panasonic’s service department was one notifying me that they would need a revised authorization for over $600 in repairs or cancel the order and pay diagnostic and labor fees. A month and a half after having started the process, what I was assured would be a simple and reasonably priced fix became a complicated far more expensive repair that involved replacing the camera’s sensor unit and various other parts.

The End of the Road

At $600 I had to make a decision – sink more money on this camera or cut my loses and try to off-load some of the lenses I’ve picked up for this format. After some deliberation, I had to cut my losses. I asked Panasonic to cancel the order and return the unit. Two bills and some change later, I received my busted camera.

A few things to keep in mind: The GX85 is not a professional body and would not qualify for professional repair service. I was not expecting any kind of white glove service for this repair. I bought this camera at a discount – sales are your friend – but $600+ would’ve been like me buying this unit twice. When the camera was received, the unit powered back on but it still would fail POST about every 3rd or so time it was powered on. After some tinkering and coaching from a fellow DIYer, I managed to have the shutter blades work though there are some focusing issues when shooting video, mostly when using tracking AF.

In the GX85 Panasonic made a very capable entry-level mirrorless camera that can hold its own doing some professional work (and if you go back and read my previous post on the GX85, you’ll know that by no means would I make this my primary camera for commissioned shoots) but the repair service leaves much to be desired. I would strongly recommend that anyone sending their camera in for repair be mindful of the somewhat convoluted ticketing process and the lack of response once the repair process has begun. If this post makes its way in front of the powers that be at Panasonic, I hope you guys can make note of my experience and make some changes that will make this a more seamless process.

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A Quick Update on the Panasonic GX85

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A while back I wrote my thoughts on the GX85. Unfortunately, since the last time I posted something on the GX85 it started having an issue where it’s stuck in some kind of startup loop requiring me to shut it down and then turn it back on (Error code: 1D10T). After some deliberation, I’ve decided to send it in for repair; this post will help chronicle the process. Spoiler alert: It’s annoying to say the least.

I’ve done some research on this issue and though nothing comes up specifically for the GX85, other cameras (mainly Panasonic’s line of superzoom point-and-shoot cameras) have had these issues. From what I’ve been able to dig up there’s a two-button combination that should bring the camera into a kind of maintenance mode but from there it gets murky. Rather than risk bricking my camera, I decided to send back to Panasonic for repair.

First, I strongly recommend that you register all your products (especially the pricier ones) with the manufacturer. Having all your info in before something goes wrong will help. Especially when you get to questions like “date of purchase.” In the event that this information isn’t readily available you can guesstimate when it was purchased but without proof of purchase your warranty may not be honored. This goes for every manufacturere and not exclusive to Panasonic.

I started the repair request process on my iPad fully aware that an iPad is not a full laptop but I had hoped that there would be a way to go back into an existing request after saving or entering the necessary information. I learned the hard way that this was not the case and all the information I had previously entered ended up on Panasonic servers with no way for me to update any of the previously entered data or to reprint a confirmation page (which is required when sending back the product). After getting some direction via their live chat option (two days later mind you), I had to go back and start a second repair request to make sure I print out a copy of the confirmation page.

Panasonic, please accept the following bit of constructive criticism: If a copy of the confirmation page is a requirement for any service order, make it available either by logging into your account or automatically sending it to the email you requested in the service order ticket. This should not be aside that a customer has to figure out or wait for regular working hours to have a rep explain this. Yes, I accept responsibility for not printing my confirmation the first go-round but sending an email should be standard. The package will be on its way to Panasonic tomorrow morning, hopefully this will be the only hiccup in getting my camera working again.

LUMIX Loungin’ – a review of the Panasonic LUMIX GX85

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It’s been a couple of month’s since I’ve picked up the Panasonic LUMIX  GX85 and in that time I’ve put some miles on the camera shooting a couple of church events, my typical street photography, portraits, and tried some product photography to boot. In the GX85, Panasonic has created an ultra-compact, 16-megapixel, micro four-thirds camera that can not only handle 4K video but also has a no-compromises 5-axis stabilization system – something that puts its spec sheet in the class of cameras like the slightly larger (definitely more expensive) Panasonic GX8 and Olympus PEN-F. After getting acquainted, here’s what I’ve found.

Ergonomics

The first thing that stands out about using the Panasonic GX85 is just how small it actually is. I don’t have extra large hands but it initially took some time to get readjusted to the smaller camera body (if you’ve been keeping up, I’ve been shooting with the Samsung NX1 and NX500 up to this point) and found myself searching for the rear command dial as my thumb was resting too far to the left. After a few shots things became a lot more familiar.

I can’t stress enough the compact size of the GX85; its small size definitely may be of concern to people with larger hands as things can get cramped but I’m genuinely impressed the shear number of Function buttons that are available to you. Going back to my days shooting with the NX500, I did miss the availablilty of physical buttons for certain actions over soft buttons (software buttons) found in the camera’s menu system. Best of all each of the 5 physical function buttons on the GX85 are customizable to provide you with shortcuts that better fit your workflow. At the time of this review I had changed the third function button to trigger WiFi sharing instead of the default Trash/Delete function – definitely would’ve preferred that WiFi had its own button by default.

Despite its deminutive size, the GX85 has a very comfortable faux leatherette finish that’s grippy without feeling like cheap plastic. It’s a design cue we’re seeing more and more in mid-range price point as it alludes to better materials and differentiates from more budget options. It’s worth mentioning that the leatherette finish has been a hit-or-miss touch depending on who you ask, personally, I’m a fan of it especially when it’s subtly used and enhances the overall look of the camera.
Portraits

DJ Benhameen; Panasonic LUMIX GX85 with LUMIX G VARIO 12-32. 12mm 1/1000 at f/3.5 ISO1000

One of the most basic, bread-and-butter jobs most photographers find themselves on is a portrait shoot. If you’ve got a willing subject, decent lighting, and a big fancy camera – you’ve got a shoot! Well you can nix that last one, the LUMIX GX85 looks like an advanced compact camera like a Sony RX100 from afar but thanks to it’s larger micro four-thirds sensor and lens availability you have everything you need for a quick portrait session like this recent one with DJ Benhameen from the FanBros Show podcast.

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DJ Benhameen; Panasonic LUMIX GX85 with LUMIX G VARIO 12-32. 12mm 1/1000 at f/3.5 ISO1000

We shot in the Ft. Green section of Brooklyn on a relatively bright and hazy day. Ducking into the shade provided by a tree-lined park, we got to work putting the GX85 through its paces. Even with its kit lens, a LUMIX G VARIO 12-32mm we were getting consistently sharp images across the focal length range with little focus hunting. In other words, although the LUMIX GX85 may not have been intended to be marketed or used as professional kit, thanks to its fast AF responsiveness, ability to produce good dynamic range – especially working with RAW files, and a strong lens selection thanks to its Micro Four-Thirds mount you may just find yourself carrying one around as a B camera.

 

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Taking to the Streets


What I love doing the most is shooting life in New York City; I’m a bit biased but there’s no better place if you’re a street photographer and I love capturing the small moments of a large city. My personal style of shooting leans towards candid shots of daily life so you’ll probably never see me walking around with a Canon 1DX and 85mm lens (though they have their place); I prefer keeping my gear bag light opting for a small body with one lens. The GX85 gives me the chance to keep things light and minimal without having to sacrifice image quality or being constricted to one focal length like with many advanced point-and-shoot cameras.

These days a lot of my street shooting is done with the GX85 and Olympus 25mm f/1.4 giving me a 50mm full-frame equivalent focal length and what many consider the human eye’s natural field of view. There’s a reason this combination is consider an all-around allowing me to get up close or disappear into the scene as needed. Anecdotally, New Yorkers don’t mind seeing photographers all around them but no one likes the barrel of lens in their face; going smaller has allowed me to keep a very chill appearance and in return my subjects have been a little more at ease around me and the camera. Again, for my slice of life style of shooting street images, the GX85 fits neatly into my every day commuter bag, adds no bulk or much additional weight – put simply it’s a pleasure walking around with it.

WiFi Transfer and Remote Control (and other features)

As any modern enthusiast level camera should, the Panasonic LUMIX GX85 has the ability to transfer images (JPEG only) and the ability to be used remotely via an ad-hoc WiFi connection and the Pansonic Image App (iOS and Android). These days I consider this less of a feature and more of a standard item – we’re not printing photos as often these days (we should though) and sharing a whole lot more. The camera allows you either transfer to your phone or if connected to a WiFi hotspot, directly share using Panasonic’s software.

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DJ Benhameen; 8 megapixel still from 4k Video processed in-camera.

On the video side, the GX85 allows you to capture 4K Ultra-HD footage in standard MP4 files. Granted you’ll definitely want to get a large capacity Class 10 SD card and you will be longing for a dedicated 3.5mm mic jack, but for the intended user the GX85 offers the Ultra-HD standard at a camera priced well below $1k USD. Easily one of my favorite features is the ability to shoot 4K photos – a 24 frame-per-second video clip that allows you to select the best image from the 24 frame burst. If you’re looking to capture a candid moment or ensure you nail the focus on some quick action, the 24 8-megapixel JPEGs offer you the ability to ensure you get your once-in-a-lifetime shot.

Conclusions

The Panasonic LUMIX GX85 was my return to the Micro Four-Thirds format system, one who’s primary appeal is the lightweight and small footprint of the cameras and lenses while still being able to deliver great results. In picking the LUMIX GX85 I was mostly looking for a blogging camera that can go to press events and record some high quality video. I mostly got what I was looking for but the truth is if you’re looking for something that can handle video primarily, you’re better off spending a little more cash for the GH4 or similar as they include a dedicated mic jack That said the GX85 performs fantastically as a stills camera and is ready for wherever your travels may take. If travel or personal photography is what you’re into, the GX85 will tick off many of the same boxes that the Olympus PEN-F does without having to spend over $1,000 USD.