Here is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5, probably the hybrid compact digital camera (intercheable lens compact camera) I would most probably advise my friends to buy (the photography newbies ones) for an improved image quality while not having to dive into a DSLR settings and to take with you everyday. It is very compact and lightweight (225 gr.only like the GF3 its predecessor) and offers Full HD movie recording, a nicer touch-screen, a new GUI, new artistic filters, lightning speed AF….
Panasonic GF5 : improved 4:3 Live MOS sensor
In the hybrid cameras world, Panasonic Lumix G and all Micro 4:3 mount cameras suffer from a pretty small sensor size compared to the APS-C sensor of the Sony NEX cameras and Samsung NX. This usually results in lower low-light ISO performances. Aware of that, Panasonic has worked on its 12-megapixel sensor to improve the photodiodes lenses in order to gather more light and has engineered a new circuit that improves the signal/noise ratio. The new Venus Engine processor in charge of noise reduction will deal with noise on a multiple layer process basis : 3DNR (3D Noise Reduction) and MNR (Multiprocess Noise Reduction). Since the GX1 (read my Panasonic GX1 review), Panasonic has done a lot of efforts on noise cancellation with fine details preservation. Even though we all know they have been using the same old sensor since the G1 back in 2008, they tend to improve both the sensor technology and its processing. I expect a jump in high-ISO image quality over the GF3.
This new sensor gives the GF5 the ability to go from ISO 160 to ISO 6,400 with an extended setting at ISO 12,800. Yes, once again, no ISO 100 minimal ISO setting….
Sonic speed AF : the Lumix GF5 would focus in 0.09s
Talking of the GX1 review… I had been quite surprised by the speed of the autofocus of the GX1. It is hard to measure it : it focuses with no delay, at least, no delay you can really perceive. The GF5 would focus in the same 0.09s as Panasonic said the GX1 does, a high-end camera. The press release states that the GF5 contrast detection AF surpasses, both in speed and accuracy, phase detection AF of high-end DSLRs…. I won’t comment before I have tested it.
The focus of the Panasonic GF5 benefits from the touch-screen AF function : you choose where to focus by touching the screen and here you are. Either you go for the basic 23 areas AF or for the pinpoint AF (a kind of spot AF, very precise). The GF5 lets you focus anywhere you want on the image, even on its edges.
1080p video recording
The Panasonic GF5 offers 1080p video recording. In 1920 x 1080, either you go for 30p (progressive scan) or 60i (NTSC interlace). For a higher frame rate, you can downsize definition to 720p and then reach 60p. That will be usefull to those willing to create slow motion films with softwares like Twixter. The AF remains full-time in video mode and you just have to touch de subject tofocus, an ease of use no HDSLR on the market is anywhere near to bring. Consumer camera… the GF5 does not have any microphone line-in, but the built-in microphone records in stereo, in a high quality Dolby Digital Stereo format and has a wind-cut filter. The GF5 lets you choose between AVCHD encoding or the MP4 format for direct view / share / editing.
Scene mode with pictured menu
The new scene mode of the Panasonic GF5 displays 23 images shot by professional photographers. The user will pick the shot that looks the most approaching to what he wants to shoot or to the conditions and the camera will set its settings accordingly. This graphic scene mode will certainly come handy to absolute beginners. For those willing to learn the basics of photography, the GF5 will display tips and explanations.
New GUI, touch-screen, higher definition, no EVF, built-in flash
Thank God, Panasonic engineers come with a new graphic user interface for the GF5. You can finally kiss the USSR style of previous G cameras menus good bye ! We won’t miss it. The screen evolves with an improved definition : 460,000 dots on the GF3 vs 920,000 dots on the GF5. Better. I had a bit disappointed by the GX1’s screen and hope that this finer screen will also be brighter when used in direct sunlight because the GF5 does not get any EVF. The touch-screen is very handy. It lets you focus on the subject you want, release the shutter, access settings, use virtual Fn buttons and even zoom in and out if you use the GF5 with one of the latest powerzooms : the Lumix G X 14-42mm and G X 45-175mm. You will also find the Q menu with a direct access button, an efficient combo that pops up the most common settings available.
The DMC-GF5 still have intelligent auto modes :
- iA mode with auto scene detection, face recognition, intelligent ISO, dynamic range optimization, and so on.
- iA+ : same as above but with a little more freedom for the photographer who can set an exposure compensation, the white balance or create a bokeh effect.
The GF3 was available in white, black and brown. So will the GF5 but Panasonic added 2 colors : red and gold. The Lumix GF5 is as light as the GF3 : 225 gr. body only and 267 gr. with the battery and the memory card. It looks pretty obvious that Panasonic is using the same camera casing and frame for the GF5 as for the GF3. Used with the miniature powerzoom G X 14-42mm or one of the pancake lenses, it will be a very portable camera. And that is the reason why I will probably advise all my friends to get this one if they are looking for a nice hybrid camera in addition to the fact that it has a 920,000 dots touch-screen and a built-in flash when most hybrid camera manufacturers chose to go for an external flash which is a nonsense for a consumer camera (could never understand why Sony deprived the NEX-5 and NEX-5N of a small pop-up flash…).
New creative filters
You may want to play with your camera, its images just like you do on your iphone with Instagram or Snapspeed. So Panasonic has added 8 creative filters to reach a catalog of 14 effects. I noticed that they added Soft Focus, which is great, I like it on the Olympus Pen, it gives a nice romantic look to portraits and children’s photos. They also added toy camera, low-key, star filter…
Smart : in iA mode, the GF5 detects the scene and will suggest a selection of artistic filters that will suite the photo you are taking.
Live View helps you visualize the effect you want to apply to your image, in real-time.
Price and availability of the Panasonic GF5
Panasonic plans to have the Lumix GF5 available just before the summer holiday shopping rush, in May 2012. It seems it won’t be available body only. It will be sold in 2 kits :
- Panasonic GF5 + 14-42mm : $549
- Panasonic GF5 + G X 14-42mm powerzoom : $699
I would have expected it to be cheaper : with the Lumix G X 14-42mm, the GF5 is more expensive than an advanced DSLR like the Nikon D5100 or Canon Rebelt T3i / EOS 600D.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 main technical specs
- 4:3 (17,3 x 13,0mm) Live MOS sensor
- 12.1-megagapixel (effective)
- Micro 4:3 mount
- ISO 160 to ISO 6,400 ISO (ext. to ISO 12,800)
- Sensor cleaning : Supersonic Wave Filter (SWF)
- Video recording : 1920 x 1080 pixels, 60i / 30p, stereo sound (built-in microphone) and full time AF
- Autofocus : Spot AF, 23 areas, AF-tracking, Face detection and recognition
- Burst rate : 4 fps
- iA and iA+ modes
- 14 digital creative filters
- Built-in flash with 6.3 Guide Number
- SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS-I supported)
- 3″ / 920,000 dots / touch-screen
- Outputs : Mini HDMI (type C), Audio, USB 2.0 High-speed
- Battery : lithium-ion, 940mAh
- BAttery life : 360 images (with Lumix G 14mm pancake lens), 40 images less with Powerzoom lenses
- Weight : 225 grams camera only / 267 gram incl. memory card and battery