What better time to test out a travel camera than while travelling? I took Panasonic’s tiny mirrorless Lumix DMC-GX850 on a cruise to put it to the test in all the difficult lighting conditions that travelling brings, and it held its own – for the most part. I’ve included several images I took on the holiday here, plus a video shot almost completely on the GX850 (except for the slow motion and party footage). My selfie game is not strong. Apologies in advance.
This camera boasts that it was ‘made for selfies’, and it doesn’t lie – the selfie functions on this camera are well thought-out and more than welcome. As soon as you flip the screen up so you can see it when pointing the camera at yourself, the camera enters its automatic selfie mode with countdown timer and selectable filters to make your Instagram game as strong as possible. It makes vlogging a breeze for those who live for YouTube, and with 4K video the quality will keep you on the top of your game too.
I did notice the image stabilisation for video doesn’t seem especially ‘stable’ – a feature of the Ai shooting modes, it does help a little but you’ll still need to keep your arms and breathing as steady as possible while shooting panning or tracking shots. Not so easy to do on a moving boat! If smooth, cinematic footage is important to you, you’ll need to invest in a portable gimble for extra stability, or step up to the Lumix G series.
Another saviour for parents capturing their kids sports games is the 4K photo burst mode, which captures several images both before and after you press the shutter. For those of us not blessed with Cartier-Bresson’s sense for ‘the decisive moment’, this setting will make sure you don’t miss it. You’ll still need to be relatively on the ball though – while the retractable lens system works great for keeping things compact, it does mean an extra step between turning on the camera and snapping your shot. You also need to extend the lens – during which time you might miss your moment. After a few days I was easily doing everything in one movement – switch on, extend lens, compose shot, shoot – but you’ll definitely want to get some practice in before you take the camera out on your trip, to your kid’s soccer match or to a concert.
I’m slightly embarrassed of myself to admit this, but somehow… no matter what I did, which mode I used or how many menus I searched through, I couldn’t get the popup flash to fire. I worked out how to pop the flash up easily (there’s a button on the back above the screen), and I found the flash setting in the menu, but in every mode it was greyed out, and even consulting the manual didn’t get me anywhere. I would have loved to have captured some long-exposure party shots on my cruise with flash-lit people and the glow of the ambient party lights (maybe even some light trails) but I also didn’t have internet access on the high seas, so I wasn’t able to work it out. Once I got home I was able to google, and I found that the flash isn’t activated when silent mode is on (which is how I prefer to shoot – stealthily) and also when the electronic shutter is used. It’s also not available in 4K or post-focus modes, or when using HDR or filter effects. The more you know.