Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review - The GF6 is the new entry-level model in Panasonic's G-Micro range, with a new 16-megapixel sensor, a tilting monitor, and with Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity.
The CSC market as a whole has been moving toward smaller bodies and more advanced features, and the GF6 is stuffed with clever high-tech goodies intended to put it ahead of the field.
Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review – Features
The Panasonic Lumix GF6, despite being positioned as an entry-level model and costing under £400, certainly doesn’t lack for advanced high-tech features. It also represents a significant improvement over its predecessor the Panasonic Lumix GF5.
On the outside the most obvious upgrade on the Lumix GF6 is the new tiltable touch-screen monitor. With a diagonal size of three inches it’s the same size as the screen on the GF5, but it has a slightly higher resolution (1040k dots compared to 920k) and can tilt 45 degrees downward, or flip up 180 degrees so that it can be viewed from in front of the camera, with the image on the screen automatically inverting as it reaches vertical. Despite this addition the GF6 is less than 2mm thicker than the GF5, although it is about 65g heavier.
The monitor is touch-sensitive, but thankfully the Panasonic Lumix GF6 doesn’t rely on the touch controls exclusively. It has a chunky exposure mode dial on the top panel, something that the GF5 conspicuously lacked, as well as a normal D-pad with a rotary bezel and several multi-function buttons.
The addition of soft function buttons on the touch screen gives quick access to advanced shooting features. This means that you can operate the camera via a normal D-pad and menu interface, or via the touch screen, or by a combination of the two, which adds a great deal of welcome versatility.
For the other new features we need to move inside the camera. At the GF6’s core is a newly-designed 16.0-megapixel Live MOS sensor, combined with an upgraded Venus Engine processor, promising advanced two-stage noise reduction with improved fine detail at higher ISO setting, as well as enhanced dynamic range and colour definition. The GF5 featured only a 12.1MP sensor, and some reviews did criticise its high-ISO noise reduction, so the new sensor and processing package are intended to address these issues.
As noted earlier, the Panasonic GF6 is aimed at users upgrading from a point-and-shoot compact camera, for whom it offers a range of 23 scene mode options and 19 creative filter options, including effects such as cross processing, soft focus, HDR, star filter, one-point colour, retro toning and of course the inevitable “toy camera” and “miniature” options.
The filters are well implemented, with touch-screen controls for tweaking and adjusting the effects, and the results are impressive. Anyone keen to explore artistic photography without having to resort to Photoshop will have a lot of fun with them.
Another Photoshop-like function is the “Clear Retouch” function, found in the playback menu. It’s supposed to allow you to selectively remove unwanted objects from an image, a bit like the “content aware fill” feature of Photoshop, but in practice it’s a bit less effective than one might hope. It only really works it the unwanted object is on a plain background, which of course rarely happens in the real world.
Traditional shooting modes
For more conventionally creative photographers the GF6 features a comprehensive range of photographic controls, including program auto, aperture and shutter priority and full manual exposure control, with shutter speeds from 60 seconds to 1/4000th of a second, and aperture control in 1/3EV increments.
Other exposure modes include a sweep panorama mode and two user-defined setups.
Naturally the GF6 also includes Full HD 1920 x 1080 video recording, with stereo audio and full-time AF. Video output can be recorded in either AVCHD or MP4 formats. As you’d expect from one of the world’s premier camcorder manufacturers the video mode is comfortably above average, with an advanced manual mode that provides full control over exposure, microphone recording level, focus and metering modes and more. With the right lens it would be possible to shoot a pretty good movie on the GF6.
Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review – Design
Small form-factor CSCs have become very popular over the past couple of years, a style that Panasonic pioneered with the original GF1, launched in 2009. The Lumix GF6 continues this trend, with a very compact design that manages to squeeze a lot of camera into a very small space.
It measures 111.2 x 64.8 x 38.4 mm, which compares well with other similar cameras such as the Sony NEX-3 (109.9 x 62 x 34.6mm). It is a fairly heavy little thing though, and at a chunky 291g it’s the heaviest camera in its class. This is due mainly to the metal body, which gives the GF6 a pleasantly solid feel. Oddly however the metallic-coloured top panel is actually made of plastic.
The Panasonic Lumix GF6’s handling is good despite the small size, with a small but comfortable grip on the front and a rubber thumb rest on the back. The controls are sensibly positioned for easy use one-handed and are mostly clearly labelled, although the white-on-silver labels on the D-pad are hard to see.
The buttons and dials feel solidly mounted and operate with a nice positive feel; my only complaint is the “iA” panic button, which is positioned in such a way that it is very easy to press accidentally. It’s not a major problem, since the iA mode usually produces good results anyway, but it is a minor niggle on an otherwise well designed camera.
The rest of the GF6’s design shows Panasonic’s usual attention to detail. The tripod bush is positioned correctly under the centre-line of the lens, unlike some other manufacturers (Samsung, I’m looking at you!), and the hatches over the battery and cable sockets, while plastic, are robust and tight fitting.
The GF6 has a pop-up flash that is manually activated by a small button on the rear of the top panel. It’s mounted on a sprung linkage and does fly out with quite a snap, but it’s solidly mounted and the flexibility of the linkage does mean that it’s possible to manually tilt the flash back and get bounce-flash effects.
One big (or should that be small?) advantage of the Four Thirds sensor format is the smaller lens sizes that it allows compared to APS-C cameras, and the GF6 comes in a kit with a rather lovely little 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 standard zoom lens that is much smaller and lighter than the kit lenses supplied with its Samsung and Sony rivals.
Despite that size difference the lens is of exceptionally high quality, as you’ll see in the image quality section later.
Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review – Performance
The Panasonic Lumix GF6’s overall performance is exemplary, and certainly better than expected from what is after all an entry-level camera. It can start up, focus and take a picture in approximately one second, which is fast by any standard, and in JPEG mode its shot-to-shot time is approximately 0.6 seconds, which it appears to be able to keep up until the memory card is full or the battery runs out.
In Raw + JPEG mode is starts off well, shooting at the same 0.6 second rate, but after five shots the buffer fills up and it slows down to approximately one shot every two seconds. This is by no means slow however; there are many more expensive cameras that can’t match such performance.
The autofocus system is also outstanding, focusing quickly and accurately even in low and variable lighting conditions at a pub gig, a situation that will flummox some other cameras. The only time that it failed to focus perfectly was shooting into a sunset over water from a moving boat, and even then it got it on a second try.
Unfortunately it’s not all plain sailing. The Lumix GF6 is powered by a fairly puny 1025mAh battery, but contains a lot of power-hungry electronics, including the large touch-screen monitor and the Wi-Fi/NFC system.
Panasonic claims 330 shots on a charge, but in testing a freshly charged battery was down to one bar after a single afternoon of shooting, and that was with minimal playback. If you were using the NFC connectivity, shooting video and regularly reviewing the results the battery could be flat in just a couple of hours.
We also had a couple of issues with the GF6’s touch-screen controls. Some of the button areas are very small, so anyone with larger fingers, such as your humble reviewer, may have a problem. This is precisely the reason why touch screen controls on cameras can be seen as not a particularly useful feature.
To be fair this isn’t a problem unique to the GF6, or even to Panasonic, and at least this camera does have conventional controls as an alternative.
Like a lot of recent cameras the GF6 offers Wi-Fi connectivity to both a PC on a home wireless network and to a compatible smartphone, via an app that can be downloaded for either iOS or Android devices. More unusually, the GF6 also offers connection via NFC (Near Field Communication) protocols, a technology available on the latest smartphones.
In theory this allows you to automatically share recorded images with connected devices, print your photos on network printers, and even use a smartphone to remotely control the camera, allowing you see the monitor live view on the phone screen, adjust a range of camera settings, and shoot pictures or video.
In practice however the implementation is immensely complicated and confusing, requiring fairly expert knowledge of wireless network terminology and a lot of patience. Once it was up and running the connection proved to be very shaky even in close proximity to the Wi-Fi router, but when it was working properly it was highly entertaining.
It’s hard to think of any applications for the Wi-Fi remote capture facility that don’t involve clandestine home surveillance, except possibly back-garden wildlife photography, but there’s no denying that it’s very clever.
Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review – Image Quality
So far the Lumix GF6 is shaping up to be a very nice little camera, with excellent features, design and performance, but of course the acid test for any camera is image quality. We’re happy to report that the GF6 acquits itself extremely well in this department as well.
Colour and white balance
The colour rendition in both JPEG modes is outstanding, with rich vibrant tones and smooth colour gradients. Shooting garden flowers in bright sunlight provided some really beautiful results, much better than one would expect from a compact camera.
It’s a testament to the quality of the Panasonic’s image processing that it took a lot of tweaking in Adobe Camera Raw to get the same kind of quality out of the Raw shots, which had a distinct tendency to lose highlight detail in very saturated areas. The automatic white balance was also unfailingly accurate, producing good results shooting into a sunset, or shooting a live band under a varied array of coloured stage lights.
Exposure metering was generally very good in most conditions, but we did notice a slight bias towards over-exposure by about half a stop in very bright conditions. In low light however exposure metering was unfailingly accurate, even under rapidly-changing coloured lighting, a situation that will baffle some cameras.
The detail-resolving power of the sensor is much better than its 16 megapixels would lead one to expect. However we did also notice some slight over-sharpening on the JPEG images that wasn’t present in the Raw files, so if you want the best fine detail it’s best to stick to Raw shooting.
Image noise used to be the Achilles Heel of the Four Thirds sensor format. With only about half the surface area of an APS-C sensor the photocell size for a given resolution must be smaller, usually resulting in poorer dynamic range and more low-light, high-ISO noise.
However recent advances in image processing have levelled the playing field somewhat and the GF6 produces outstanding image quality at high ISO settings. There is virtually no difference between shots taken at 160 ISO and 1600 ISO, and the noise reduction effects that become visible at higher settings are very subtle.
The GF6 produces printable shots with perfect colour balance at 6400 ISO, and even at 12,800 ISO the results are far from disappointing. The extended setting of 25,600 ISO is a bit shaky, but you’d only ever use a setting like that in emergencies.
Kit Lens Performance
A lot of kit lenses, including some older Panasonic lenses, are built down to a price rather than up to a standard, but the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 standard zoom lens supplied with the GF6 bucks that trend.
It’s a lightweight plastic-bodied lens, and is very small, nevertheless it offers exceptionally good image quality. Centre sharpness is as good as anything else in its price bracket, while the corners are entirely free of chromatic aberration, with only a little distortion burring towards the corners at wider apertures.
There’s a definite sweet spot around f/8 to f/11 where the corner blurring vanishes almost completely.
Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review – Verdict
The Panasonic Lumix GF6 is, by any standard, a great little camera. It’s not completely fault-free of course; we weren’t keen on some of the fiddly touch-screen controls, and the JPEG sharpening is a bit too harsh, but we love the versatile and accessible manual controls, the tilt-up monitor screen, the excellent build quality and the nicely understated style of the design, not to mention the excellent value for money.
Above all though it’s just a genuinely nice camera to use; it’s the sort of camera that encourages you to get out and take photographs, rather than just snapshots. It has controls that make it easy to do what you want to do, encouraging experimentation and creative thinking, and the results will seldom be disappointing.
Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review – Sample Image Gallery
Here is a small selection of sample images taken withPanasonic Lumix GF6. For more images, head on over to the Panasonic Lumix GF6 sample image gallery.
LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm f/3.5 – 5.6 II
LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm f/3.5 – 5.6 II
LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm f/3.5 – 5.6 II
LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm f/3.5 – 5.6 II
LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm f/3.5 – 5.6 II
LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm f/3.5 – 5.6 II
Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review – First Look
Panasonic has boosted its Micro Four-Thirds system of interchangeable lens cameras with the release of the Panasonic Lumix GF6, a new entry level model that replaces the popular Panasonic Lumix GF5, but is much more than just a subtle update. The Panasonic Lumix GF6 features a new sensor, processor and screen, along with the latest in wireless connectivity.
After years of 12MP sensors, the Panasonic Lumix GF6 sees the GF series step up to the 16MP resolution of its big brothers – the Panasonic Lumix G5 and Panasonic Lumix GH3 – thanks to a new Live MOS sensor which is partnered by a new Venus Engine processor that together Panasonic claims produces significantly less image noise.
Externally the Panasonic Lumix GF6 is bigger than its predecessor and quite a bit heavier at 323 grams, compared with the GF5’s 267 grams. Part of the reason for the extra size is the inclusion of a vari-angle LCD screen. However, unlike the tilt and swivel screen of the Lumix G5 and Lumix GH3 which pivots from the side, the Panasonic Lumix GF6’s screen employs a horizontal cantilever design that enables the screen to tilt upwards 180 degrees so that it’s forward facing, to enable self portraits. The screen itself remains a touch screen like its predecessors, but with 1040k dots it’s of a higher resolution than before.
Another major change is the inclusion of a mode dial on the top plate, bringing the Panasonic Lumix GF6 into line with the rest of Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds range in allowing modes to be input directly rather than by using the touch screen only. The dial itself is a pleasing metal construction that’s reassuringly stiff enough to avoid being knocked accidentally.
Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity
Also new to the GF series is the addition of the Wi-fi connectivity similar to that found on Panasonic’s top of the range Lumix GH3. This enables not only images to be transferred from the camera to a smart phone or tablet – via the free Lumix Link app (iOS and Android) – but also for the camera to be monitored and fired from a smartphone. In addition to the Wi-fi the Panasonic Lumix GF6 incorporates NFC technology, making it not only the first interchangeable lens Lumix with this feature but the only one in the world apart from the recently launched Samsung NX300.
NFC (or Near Field Communication) enables image transfer by simply touching the Panasonic Lumix GF6 against an NFC enabled smartphone or tablet. NFC is built in to most new Android smartphones, and it is rumoured that Apple will also be incorporate it into the next generation of iPhone.
The Panasonic Lumix GF6 also features an extended selection of 19 Creative Control’ features, up from 14 on the GF5. New modes include Creative Panorama, Stop Motion Animation and a clever Clear Retouch feature which enables the user to remove unwanted obstructions such as people from the background of a picture simply by drawing over them on the LCD monitor using a fingertip. These are in addition to existing favourites from the GF5 including Retro, Cross Process, Miniature Effect, Toy Effect and One Point Colour.
The Panasonic Lumiux GF6 records HD video at 1920×1080, at 50i or 25p or 1280×720 at 50p, in a choice of AVCHD or MP4 formats, with a dedicated video record button. It has a built-in pop up flash, though no option to add an external flash or electronic viewfinder.
Other features retained from the Panasonic GF5 include Full area Touch AF and Touch AE, which enables focusing and exposure on any point on the screen by touching it, as well as the option to simultaneously trigger the shutter using the touch screen, Intelligent Scene Control which now includes a Food Recognition mode, and Intelligent Auto.
The Panasonic Lumix GF6 will be bundled with a new 14-42mm kit zoom which is significantly smaller than the existing version, but the same f/3.5-5.6 maximum aperture. It will be available in the UK from the end of April, at a cost of £499 with the new kit lens, or as a twin lens kit with the addition of the 45-150mm zoom, for £649.
Watch our hands on video preview of the Panasonic Lumix GF6:
Panasonic Lumix GF6 Highlights
– New 16MP Live MOS sensor
– New venus Engine processor
– New high resolution vari-angle touch screen monitor
– New Mode dial for direct input of exposure modes
– New Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity options
– Five new Creative Control filter effects