Price: Body only (£819) or with new 14-42mm kit lens (£899) or new 20mm at £999 lens

Website: Panasonic

The GX7 is the new king of Panasonic’s compact-sized Micro Four Thirds range and a direct rival to the 18-month old Olympus OM-D E-M5, a camera which has won a place in the hearts – and hands – of many serious photography enthusiasts.

The list of enhancements over its predecessor, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1, is extensive – image stabilisation, tilting back screen and electronic viewfinder (EVF), wi-fi and more – but is it class leader?

Design and build

The GX7 is a solidly built unit with a magnesium alloy body and surprisingly large (but comfortable) handgrip. With a 20mm lens attached, it weighs more than 489g - or just over 1lb in old money.

It’s ‘pocketable’, but only if you’re wearing a big winter jacket. Most of the time, the GX7 will need to be around your neck or tucked away in a bag. Disappointingly, unlike the E-M5, it’s not weather-sealed.

Street photographers, and others requiring manual control and quick changes, are extremely well catered for, with four customisable buttons, a dedicated AE/AF Lock button, two control wheels, a quick manual/autofocus selector and more all competing for space on the body.

An excellent 2.7m-dot EVF is built in to the top-left corner, which is a first for the GF/GX series. Unusually, it tilts upwards (up to 90 degrees). It’s a nice touch, although we don’t like the fact that the non-removable eyepiece protrudes by almost 1cm.

The three-inch LCD screen also tilts (around 45 degrees upwards, and almost 90 degrees upwards), which is extremely useful, especially for ground-level shots.

The clarity of the 1040k-dot screen is great, as is the touch functionality. Once you’ve got used to touching a screen to set a focus point, it’s very hard to go back.

Features and picture quality

New to Panasonic’s G-series range is internal, sensor-based image stabilisation. It’s fairly basic compared with Olympus’s class-leading five-axis system, but welcome all the same, as many of the best Micro Four Thirds lenses (eg Panasonic 20mm f1.7 and Olympus 45mm f1.8) don’t have stabilisation built in.

The sensor itself is 16-megapixels, and Panasonic has wisely been working to improve the quality of the sensor rather than the image size. It’s said to be 10% more sensitive than previous generations.

Panasonic Lumix GX7 skin tone test shot

Straight-from-camera JPGs are noticeably improved, and shots are perfectly usable at ISO 3200 – a far cry from the early G-series models. It’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed by the output – or, indeed, the lightning-fast autofocus.

Serious photographers will also appreciate features such as focus peaking, which highlights an area in focus (a real boon if using older legacy lenses with no auto focus), the ultra-fast maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 sec and the 320/sec flash sync speed. There’s a handy silent mode too.

A set of 22 in-camera filters are provided, including the now-almost-obligatory toy effect, selective colour (as shown here), plus an amusing fake sunshine effect. Rather more useful new options include multiple exposure, time lapse and – at last - a panoramic mode.

Panasonic Lumix GX7 test shot 1

Also new is the wi-fi and near field communication (NFC) connectivity. Used in combination with Panasonic Image App (free for iOS or Android), you can wirelessly trigger the shutter while watching a live view, or transfer images to the phone, and onto Facebook, Twitter, Flikr and the like. It’s pleasingly easy to set up – indeed, we did so without referring to the manual.

The GX7 supports full HD video at 50/60fps with stereo sound, but any budding movie makers should look elsewhere (perhaps at Panasonic’s own GH3), as there are no external mic or headphone sockets here and the aforementioned image stabilisation doesn’t work in video mode.

Panasonic Lumix GX 7: Verdict

Well-built and feature-packed, the GX7 is a formidable beast aimed squarely at serious photography enthusiasts with serious money to spend.

Panasonic has succeeded in delivering a premium camera which many GF/GX users have been demanding for quite some time.

Whether there’s enough here to tempt Olympus owners is another matter, mind… verdict: 5/5