Panasonic Lumix G5 review

Panasonic Lumix G5 review

T3 4
  • Fancy the accessibility of a compact with the flexibility of a DSLR? The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 aims to provide the best of both worlds

    Panasonic Lumix G5 review

    Love

    • Swivel and tilt rear LCD
    • High-res EVF
    • Great at video and stills

    Hate

    • Not very compact
    • Cost as much as a DSLR

    Style wise, the brand’s interchangeable lens Lumix G system cameras are divided between those resembling over-sized pocket snappers, like the Panasonic GX1 or GF5, and those appearing as if miniature DSLRs, such as the Panasonic G3, GH3, and this, the Panasonic G5.

    Leaving aside how the two different G series strands feel when held in the palm – which boils down to whether we prefer a large grip and viewfinder (DSLR styled models), or something more portably boxy (compact styled) – many features are shared. End results inevitably are very similar too: it just depends how many bells and whistles you want to achieve them.

    About a third smaller than the Sony SLT-A37, which likewise includes an angle adjustable LCD and electronic viewfinder (EVF) with eye sensor, the 16 megapixel G5 is a semi pro camera for photography enthusiasts. But, as it shares many functions with Panasonic Lumix point and shoots, it won’t bemuse those trading up from a compact either.

    Add a proper handgrip and it’s easy to shoot one-handed with the G5, unlike most DSLRs which are simply too weighty/bulky with lens attached.

    Street pricing for the Lumix G5 is currently around £599.99 for a bundle that includes a 14-42mm X series ‘Power Zoom’ (24-84mm in 35mm terms). This is a lever-operated mechanised lens rather than the type you manually twist in order to extend or retract. The bonus is that, when inactive, this zoom doesn’t sit much wider on the body than a regular fixed focal length pancake lens.

    Panasonic G5: Controls

    The Lumix DMC-G5 isn’t a camera for the pocket however, even with the lens removed. But this has allowed for useful features such as a tilt and swivel touch screen LCD on the backplate, plus plenty of physical buttons and dials alongside.

    As we’ve found with Panasonic Lumix models in the past, this best of both worlds approach makes for a more fluid timesaving operation rather than confusing things – for example we could move a focus point around the screen by simply dragging it with a finger. Alternatively, it’s possible to just use the ‘hard’ controls and avoid the need to tap the screen entirely.

    A shooting mode dial the size of a five pence piece sits atop the camera, offering full manual control and custom options alongside a range of picture-enhancing digital filters. We also get a separate dedicated button for intelligent Auto (iA) mode. Press this and we are able to point and shoot to our heart’s desire, the camera judging the best settings to use for any given subject.

    We also get a function lever, which does the same job as a function button in that various settings can be attributed to it, thus providing a short cut. There’s a dedicated video record button located just behind, while the shutter release button sits in front, angled forward so that the forefinger hovers over it more comfortably. The design of the G5 feels skilfully ergonomic.

    Panasonic G5: Screen

    As we’ve noted, we don’t just get a touch screen LCD here, it’s angle adjustable too. Unlike some models it does more than tilt upwards or downwards as required, but rather flips out through 180°, and can be turned to face the subject, thus allowing for easier self portraits. It can also be turned to face screen-inwards as further protection when transporting the camera.

    Visibility is crystal clear too, thanks to a high 920k-dot resolution, while the 3-inch screen is presented in widescreen aspect ratio. This means that there are narrow black bands left and right of screen when shooting in default 4:3 aspect ratio stills mode.

    As this is a DSLR-styled model, the G5 additionally offers an electronic viewfinder. This has a higher resolution than the LCD, at 1.44 million dots. However, as the larger screen is more flexible in terms of lining up creative shots, we didn’t find ourselves using the smaller EVF that often.

    The fact that it features a sensor so that it switches on as you bring an eye level to it is very neat however. Again it’s all about saving time.

    Panasonic G5: Battery

    The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 is powered by a chunky DMC-BLC12E battery pack that slides into the base of the handgrip, adjacent to slot for all varieties of SD media card. Power duration is 320 shots from a full charge. While that falls short of what we’d expect an actual DSLR at this price point to offer (around 500 shots), it is at least comparable with most compact system cameras.

    Panasonic G5: Image quality

     

    The fact that we were able to shoot one handed with this Panasonic means it proved as adept at spur of the moment snapshot photography as it did more considered composition.

    We also loved deploying the ‘Expressive’ Creative Control mode to give a bit more punch to autumnal colours, and on occasion we found this boosted saturation to a point that was actually truer to the colours in front of our eyes than the camera’s standard mode.

    If we’re being picky we did notice some slight fall off in focus towards the corners of frame when shooting at maximum 24mm equivalent wide angle, and some purple pixel fringing where dark foreground colours meet a bright background – such as tree branches against a featureless sky, when enlarging segments.

    The smoothness of the zoom action really comes into its own when shooting video however, with focus automatically adjusting with it. Add in stereo sound, plus the fact that Creative Control options can be deployed for video as well as stills, and you really can’t go wrong.

    Panasonic G5: Verdict

    With this camera Panasonic upped the resolution offered by its G3 predecessor to 16 megapixels, matching that offered by its flagship G series camera,the GH2, recently replaced by the GH3. And in most respects this remains a more affordable alternative to that range topper.

    It also fulfils the compact system camera (CSC) brief by offering almost DSLR image quality within (slightly) more compact dimensions. For those purists who still don’t consider a compact system camera a ‘real’ camera however, it has the Trojan Horse advantage of resembling a DSLR, and those with larger hands will find appreciate the decent sized handgrip, control dial and chunky shooting mode wheel.

    Perhaps more than most CSC’s then, the G5 really does offer a fair compromise between a point-and-shoot snapper and a DSLR. All you have to decide is whether this means it is worth spending a few hundred pounds more than the former, and as much as the latter.

    Panasonic G5 release date: Available now

    Panasonic G5 price: £599.99 with 14-42mm Power Zoom on test

  • The Panasonic Lumix G5 is the brand's latest compact system camera, joining the current Lumix G3 in the maker's Micro Four Thirds line-up

    Panasonic Lumix G5 review

    Love

    • Swivel and tilt rear LCD
    • High-res EVF
    • Great at video and stills

    Hate

    • Not very compact
    • Cost as much as a DSLR

    Panasonic introduced the first compact system camera - the DMC-G1 - back in 2008 and has followed that with several more Micro Four Thirds models such as the Panasonic Lumix GF5 and the Lumix GF3. The new G5 follows on from the Panasonic Lumix G3, although it's not a straight replacement.

    The Panasonic DMC-G5 sports a newly designed 16 Megapixel Live MOS sensor, which is combined with the powerful Venus Engine VII FHD.

    There's no denying that the G5 is a lot lighter than it looks, but while some compact system cameras are little bigger than compacts (minus the lens, of course), the G5's body has more in common with an entry- level DSLR such as the Nikon D3200, courtesy of its improved SLR-style grip.

    Having said that, we found it comfy to hold for the solid couple of hours that we got to spend with it, and the grippy finish means that it feels secure in the hand.

    Panasonic Lumix G5: Controls

    The familiar click wheel is once again located to the right of the screen with the all the usual controls such as ISO setting. The power switch is nicely located next to the top dial so that you don't need to adjust your 'photographer's grip' to power up the camera.

    There's also a dedicated video button so that you don't have to adjust the dial or search through the menus for video capture. You'll also find a separate Intelligent Auto mode if you want to rely on the camera's auto settings at a moment's notice.

    The new lever close to the shutter button can be used for zooming in and out when teamed with a Power Zoom lens, which is very handy for when you're shooting video.

    The large top-mounted stereo mic is placed in the centre next to the pop-up flash which gives good results when using the video capture model. The G5 also includes a hidden HDMI input for viewing your footage on HD screens.

    Panasonic Lumix G5: Screen

    The 3-inch LCD display is bright and clear and even coped well in the blazing sunshine in which we were testing it. It was only in the brightest of spots that we struggled to see what was on the display. The screen can be folded away flush against the camera body for storage or if you want to stick to the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF).

    The fact that it can be folded outwards and and tilted up and down was also extremely handy for lining up awkward shots.

    The EVF was also good and a proximity sensor automatically switches between viewfinder and screen for you (unlike the G3, where a button press was required). The sensor is fast to respond - our only grumble is that sometimes it was a little too sensitive and somtimes switched to viewfinder when our peepers were nowhere near it.

    Panasonic Lumix G5: Battery

    We'll give the battery a more thorough test as soon as we get a review sample in at T3 Towers, but going on our initial experience, we'd say that the battery seems relatively standard. We had the camera on the go for the best part of an afternoon and took just under 200 photos and there wasn't much battery left after that.

    Panasonic Lumix G5: Picture quality

    There are a few new AF options on board such as the the opportunity to use the LCD screen to select autofocus points when you're using the viewfinder. The Eye Sensor AF is also a nice touch - this means that the G5 will automatically focus as soon as you lift the viewfinder to your eye.

    Other features include Face Detection and AF Tracking where the camera locks onto a subject and keeps it in focus even if it moves.

    We had the opportunity to try out the camera (with its ISO range of 160-12,800) in lots of different lighting scenarios and it coped well in all of them, even dimly interiors and candlelight. We were able to get good results switching between manual and auto modes and we were especially impressed with the sharpness of the low light pictures.

    The burst mode shoots at 6 frames per second (fps) in full resolution or up to 20fps in reduced resolution.

    Panasonic Lumix G5: Video

     

    The G5 also capture video at full 1080p HD (up to 50 fps) in both AVCHD and MP4. We found the results to be excellent - the video was surprisinly smooth especially considering we didn't have a steadying tripod to hand.

    Panasonic Lumix G5: Verdict

    The Panasonic Lumix G5 certainly looks impressive at first glance. It may be a little on the bulky side compared to some other mirrorless snappers, but it's still light and comfortable enough to hold for several hours at a time.

    We were especially impressed with the picture quality, particulalry in low light conditions, as well as the intuitive controls.

    Panasonic Lumix G5 availability: Mid-August 2012

    Panasonic Lumix G5 price: £599 (body only), £699 (with 14-42mm lens)

    Hands-on review by Libby Plummer

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