The Panasonic DMC-G6 Compact System Camera is priced slightly higher than many DSLRs. But is the smaller form factor in this case actually worth the cash?
Priced at a manufacturer's asking price of £629 with standard kit zoom, the spanking new Panasonic Lumix G6 is obviously more of a camera than first impressions of its diminutive DSLR-styled design would suggest.
There are cheaper compact system camera alternatives certainly, such as the brand's own Panasonic GF6, which offers a handling experience closer to that of a compact.
So it feels like we are paying a very slight premium here for a device that looks a bit like a digital SLR, but is actually more expensive than some actual DSLRs.
All this being said, the G6 is still more affordable than the Panasonic GH3 from the same manufacturer (around £1,000), which sits above it as the flagship in its maker's mirror-less system camera range, and has been pitched as more of a semi-professional tool. This new camera currently sits alongside, rather than replaces, the older Panasonic G5; at least for now.
The G6 offers 16.05 effective megapixels from a Micro Four Thirds system CMOS sensor, as it sounds presented in 4:3 aspect ratio. Talking points here include an electronic viewfinder offering a resolution in excess of a million dots, plus angle adjustable rear LCD screen offering touch screen control.
Included on the G6, but not always seen on every compact system camera, is a hotshoe for accessory attachment such as that of an external flashgun, though the pop-up variety is also included here.
This places the Panasonic in competition with the likes of the Sony NEX-6 and Sony NEX-7, along with Nikon V2 models and the pricier Olympus OM-D in terms of CSCs with viewfinders built-in plus a degree of expandability offered.
We weren't that smitten with the V2, though the other models are excellent. So, facing stiff competition, how does the G6 stand up?
Panasonic DMC-G6: Controls
On initial inspection, the G6 shares a lot of design DNA with its G5 predecessor, but in fact Panasonic appears to have streamlined certain features, such as the electronic viewfinder and the flash that surrounds it not sitting quite so high in relation to the top plate.
The 10-option shooting mode wheel has also been pushed further down into the top plate, so only half of it sits proud. There's also more of a slope to the handgrip.
This has the knock-on effect of the thumb of your right hand coming to rest against the back of the shooting mode dial when gripping the G6 in your right hand. While the action of said dial is a little stiff - which will be reassuring to some - it can indeed be thumb operated.
Offered up here is the usual creative quartet of program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual shooting modes, while intelligent auto mode still gets its own top plate button for dedicated access.
Digital filter effects, scene modes and manual tweaking of video shooting options is also governed by the dial, with two further custom settings provided for saving your own preferred operational touches.
Another nice operational feature that feels right is the fact that the electronic viewfinder automatically activates as the user brings their eye level with it, the larger LCD screen below switching off.
Remove your eye from the EVF and the larger screen bursts back into life, just as you'd want.
A dedicated record button for video is also provided, adjacent to the shooting mode wheel and just behind the main shutter release button, as is the usual multi-directional pad for tabbing through menu settings and saved images if you don't want to fully use the touch screen instead.
Panasonic DMC-G6: Screen
Talking of which, the G6's LCD monitor is the regulation three inches, yet presented in 3:2 ratio. This means that the left and right edges of the screen have a black band cropping them when shooting 4:3 aspect ratio stills.
Providing a 100% field of view, so that the resultant image should bear an exact match with what you saw on screen at the time, the real talking point here is a screen resolution of 1,036k dots. This provides a very crisp and clear display, though it doesn't quite beat an OLED display, in terms of deepness of blacks and a nice, clear contrasty image.
However there is the second option of using the smaller EVF just above of course, which is an actual OLED display, this time offering 1,440,000 dots. Just a shame it's not bigger...
Panasonic DMC-G6: Battery
The lithium ion battery pack supplied in the box with the G6 slots into its regular position of the base of the handgrip, behind which and sharing a compartment is a slot for all variety of SD memory cards.
So if you're using the G6 on a tripod, obviously you can't remove the card without unscrewing the camera. More positively, the battery is good for 330 shots from a full charge, which is one of the better performances in its class and puts it up there with the likes of Sony's competing NEX range.
Panasonic DMC-G6: Picture quality
Panasonic is known for its excellence when it comes to image quality and the results from the G6 don't disappoint, being both crisply detailed and colourfully realised, effects filters such as our favourite in 'Expressive' delivering even more saturation and so added visual punch.
If you've ever fancied a DSLR but have been put off by the bulk and the perceived learning curve then the G6 is well worth checking out.
Plus it's a damn sight easier to shoot video with this device; recording simply being a case of hitting the bright red button, as on a camcorder. Another plus is that the built-in digital filter effects can also be utilised for video, so you can achieve some quite professional looking results with minimum effort.
If you don't want to focus manually during video, be prepared for the shot occasionally going soft while the camera re-determines the focus point.
Panasonic DMC-G6: Verdict
It may sound like feint praise but there's not much wrong with Panasonic's mini DSLR-styled G6. If you don't need the EVF supplied on the 16-megapixel compact system camera then save your money and go for cheaper (most CSCs allow the use of an EF as an add-on extra if you do later change your mind).
If you can't live without it, then be prepared to pay the premium. However if you do like the look of this camera but canít justify the high price tag, then grab a deal on the earlier G5 model, also currently the subject of a trade-in scheme.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6 release date: Out now
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6 price: £629 with 14-42mm kit lens as supplied or 936.99 as a kit with 14-140mm superzoom lens