Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5

As an entry point to the world of ILCs, the Lumix GF5 is a nifty little performer. Just don't expect to be able to make the most of its manual controls in a timely fashion.


8.3
CNET Rating

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CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


Designed for those users who are looking for a step-up from their compact camera, the GF5 is a very compact and lightweight entry point into the world of interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs).

Design and features

Stylistically, the overall design hasn't changed much from the previous model, the GF3. With a compact design, it fits comfortably in the palm of your hand, particularly when using the 14-42mm X Vario power zoom lens, which is provided in one of the kit configurations.

Over the top of the lens is a small hump, which hides the pop-up flash. An intelligent automatic button glows blue on the outside when pressed, which automatically overrides any of the manual or scene settings that you might have chosen from within the menus.

There are plenty of photo filters on the GF5 (called creative control). Choose from options such as expressive, retro, high key, low key, sepia, dynamic monochrome, impressive art, high dynamic, cross process, toy effect, miniature effect, soft focus, star filter and one point colour.
(Credit: CBSi)

Speaking of manual modes, the GF5 houses all of the standard PASM controls that you would find on a regular ILC or SLR. There's no mode dial to speak of; instead, thanks to the touchscreen, you can simply touch the top left-hand corner of the screen to find the mode selections. While this is fine for most point-and-shoot users who won't want to fiddle too much with manual settings, anyone looking for a bit more fine-tuned control has to go through a couple of extra steps.

Internally, the GF5 features a 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor and increased ISO sensitivity, which can be pushed to ISO 12,800. It comes with a 3-inch high-resolution touchscreen of 921,000 dots — finally! — as well as responsive autofocus that Panasonic claims can achieve focus in 0.09 seconds.

To make the transition from phone photographer to camera photographer easier, the GF5 comes with in-camera scene guides and filter recommendations. Video recording is available in 1080i in either AVCHD or MP4, with touch AF available during filming.

Compared to

EX2F vs
Sony NEX F3 Panasonic Lumix GF5 Canon EOS M Nikon 1 J2
16.1-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor (APS-C) 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor (Four Thirds) 18-megapixel CMOS sensor (APS-C) 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor (CX type)
3-inch, 921,600-dot flip-up LCD 3-inch, 920,000-dot touchscreen LCD 3-inch, 1.04-million dot touchscreen LCD 3-inch, 921,000-dot LCD
25-area AF 23-area AF 31-area AF 73-area AF
Full HD video (AVCHD/MP4, 1080i) Full HD video (AVCHD/MP4, 1080i) Full HD video (MPEG-4, 1080p) Full HD video (MPEG-4, 1080p)

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 1.20.61.50.08
    Panasonic Lumix GF5

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)

  • 4.8
    Panasonic Lumix GF5

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Panasonic rates the battery at 360 shots. Autofocus is ridiculously quick, with Panasonic coming through on its promise to speed up response times. There's hardly a noticeable delay at all between pressing the shutter button and the camera capturing an image.

There are three continuous shooting/burst modes on the GF5: high speed, with Live View turned off; medium speed, with Live View; and low speed, with Live View. The figure measured above is with the highest possible setting, at full-resolution JPEG. In this mode, the GF5 can snap 10 photos in quick succession before slowing to process them, but still continuing to shoot.

Image quality

Although the sensor has been redesigned from the previous GF3 camera, the GF5 delivers similar results, with slight improvements in low-light and high-ISO performance. Photographers who just want to point and shoot in intelligent automatic mode won't be disappointed. On default settings, JPEG images have good colour rendition and contrast.

Our testing was conducted with the 14-42mm power zoom lens. When coupled with the GF5, it is a compact package that provides a smooth zooming experience, particularly when shooting video. The dedicated focus lever on the lens barrel also helps with manual focusing. Some sample images provided below were taken with the macro lens or 45-150mm.

The GF5 doesn't tend to blow out highlights too much, except in particularly high-contrast situations (you can see an example of this in the image below). The RAW files do provide a bit more latitude for bringing out any detail lost in these highlights, which more serious photographers will use to get the most out of their photos.

A comparison between the RAW and JPEG files delivered by the GF5, with 100 per cent crops inset. As seen in the crop from the RAW file, there's plenty more usable detail in the files straight out of the camera before the JPEG processing comes into play.
(Credit: CBSi)

Noise from the GF5 does not become a prominent issue until you reach the echelons of ISO 1600, and even then it's only noticeable when looking at the 100 per cent crops of images. It's a much cleaner result than that delivered by the previous generation of GF cameras.

Video quality is good, with a relatively sharp image across the frame and decent sound from the built-in stereo microphone. Unfortunately, there's no input to attach an external microphone of any sort, which may factor in to your purchasing decision if high-quality audio is an important feature for you. The GF5 records in either AVCHD or MP4 format.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 160

Exposure: 1/640, f/5.6, ISO 160

Exposure: 1/320, f/9, ISO 160

Exposure: 1/125, f/1.4, ISO 160

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

It's a relatively minor update, but the GF5 from Panasonic will satisfy most photographers who simply want to point and shoot with their new interchangeable lens camera. The improved response times and higher-resolution screen make it a better all-round buy than the older GF3, though anyone looking for a little more control and the option of a viewfinder might want to investigate the Panasonic G5 instead.

The GF5 will be available as a single lens kit with the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens for AU$699 in black, or as a kit with the power zoom version of the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 for AU$899 in black and white.

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