Panasonic Lumix GF5 review
Review Date : Wed, 30 May 2012
Author : Paul Nuttall
In a competitive field where many manufacturers are focusing the bulk of their research and development budgets, it takes a real gem of a camera to stand out. In scooping our consumer Compact System Camera award last year, the Panasonic GF3 affirmed its status as one such model and indeed one of the most desirable on the market.
The GF5, despite skipping a logical numerical step, is its successor and as such the model that’s tasked with filling its shoes. It arrives with several tweaks, although more fine-tuned than completely overhauled, but the question is – is it a worthy successor to its award-winning predecessor?
|Pros:||Compact size, impressive screen, good touchscreen implementation, general image quality|
|Cons:||Lack of viewfinder or accessory compatibility, incremental advances on its predecessor, a few build quality issues|
Panasonic Lumix GF5 review - Features
A conventional numbering system would dictate that a GF4 should succeed the GF3 in Panasonic's Compact System Camera (CSC) line-up, although no such camera was released. This is due to the number four's status as unlucky in some East Asian countries, and as such Panasonic has chosen to skip said model altogether. As a result, the GF5 is the GF3's successor, and thus holds a lot of features that will no doubt prove familiar to those acquainted with the award-winning predecessor.
Although the megapixel count remains the same as that found on the GF3 - sitting at 12.1 effective megapixels - the Live MOS sensor itself is completely redeveloped. Not only is the sensor redeveloped but Panasonic has also redesigned the Venus Engine, with it now gaining the Venus Engine VII HD2 moniker and promising better results at higher ISO settings.
The new Venus Engine processor facilitates a new maximum ISO setting of 12,800 which, thanks to Panasonic's ‘Multi-process Noise Reduction' technology, should prove eminently usable. This high ISO setting of 12,800 is an improvement on the previous high ISO setting of 6400 found on the GF3.
As is the case with all of Panasonic's CSCs, the GF5 incorporates the Micro Four Thirds lens mount. This lens system was created by Olympus and Panasonic in 2008, and as a result a wide selection of lenses are now available in the mount. The standard lens shipped with the GF5 as a kit is Panasonic's Lumix G X Vario PX Power OIS 14-42mm optic, and for that reason it's the lens utilised during this test.
One omission from the GF5's predecessor, the GF3, is a viewfinder. Other models in Panasonic's G series either feature an electronic viewfinder integrated into the body of the camera in the conventional arrangement or, as an alternative, an accessory port for the attachment of an optional EVF accessory - unfortunately the GF5 has gained neither. While it's understandable for Panasonic to exclude such a fixture in preference of maintaining an extra compact body, there's no doubt that some will miss the option for a viewfinder.
On the rear of the camera sits one of the highlights of the Panasonic GF5 - its impressive LCD screen. At 3in, the screen is the same physical size as that found on the predecessor, but the resolution now sits at 920k dots - double that on the GF3. The screen features a 100% field of view and 3:2 aspect ratio, as well as offering touchscreen control of basic shooting setting and advanced variables, including selection of focus points and touch-shutter functionality.
As well as offering full control over shooting settings through the conventional PASM shooting modes, the GF5 also caters for those wanting the camera to take control of shooting settings. A pair of Intelligent Auto modes feature - Panasonic's standard iA setting is accompanied by an iA+ mode which not only determines the correct camera settings for the scene, but also toggles colour and brightness adjustment of captured images.
A host of Creative Control modes also feature, along with six new filters for those looking for their camera to take control of the post-production of their images. The GF5's 12.1MP sensor not only offers still image capture, but also supports video capture at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and 30 frames per second, or ‘Full HD'. The format in which movies are recorded is user-adjustable between either AVCHD and MP4, with the former being better suited to dedicated AV equipment and the latter to viewing and editing on a computer, thus offering the user versatility in the editing stage.
The GF5 benefits from the inclusion of Panasonic's Light Speed AF technology, and claims minimum focus times of just 0.09 seconds when using the 14-42mm kit lens - a speed which, Panasonic claims, makes it the fastest of its type on the market. Accuracy, as ever, is also of prime importance and thanks to the implementation of a sensor-driven contrast AF system, Panasonic maintains that this is also class-leading in that regard.
Panasonic Lumix GF5 review - Design
Those who are familiar with the design of the GF3 will no doubt find the GF5 instantly recognisable because Panasonic has chosen to alter very little cosmetically between the two. The only real distinguishable change is that the GF5 boasts a slightly deeper handgrip, thus offering a more secure hold over the camera. This deeper handgrip has affected the depth and weight of the camera, although the increase is fractional.
The GF5 is clearly aimed at those wanting to make the step up from a compact camera, but still with an emphasis on the ‘compact' element of a CSC. As a result it boasts truly diminutive dimensions and, when paired with either a pancake lens or the 14-42mm ‘kit' power lens, is readily pocketable.
It's clear to see why Panasonic chose to take the ‘softly softly' approach to any design tweaks, as the GF5 follows on from what was a camera designed very well to purpose. Controls on the body of the camera are kept to a minimum, with the top plate housing a power switch, shutter release and a pair of one-touch access buttons for video capture and Intelligent Auto (iA) modes respectively.
Thanks to the fact that the rear of the camera houses a touch-screen LCD, offering control over a variety of shooting modes, the same lack of clutter is evident - a trio of buttons offer access to image playback, a display toggle and quick menu access respectively, while in the centre of that trio sits a control wheel / d-pad combination for access to further settings.
While the majority of the body boasts a good standard of build quality, unfortunately the control wheel and d-pad combination is made of a poor-quality plastic and is loose enough to be readily knocked while shooting.