Not only do we find LUMIX cameras amazingly simple to get to grips with, they also produce impressively sharp images. Some people may argue that other CSCs are hitting the market with a larger megapixel count, but do you really need any more than the 12.1MP that’s on offer here?
The new sensor is actually designed to produce picture quality to the same level as the G3, which captures excellent 16MP images. This was evident in the images we were getting, and they were more than adequate printed at A4 size. With a bit of tweaking in Photoshop you could never tell these were taken on a camera as tiny as the GF5.
With a bundle of art filters to choose from, this camera allows you to take your creativity even further. Forget hours in front of your computer screen editing your shots – with a simple switch in the Rec Mode you can soon be choosing from a selection of arty filters such as Sepia, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, Cross Process, Toy Effect and Expressive, to name just a few.
Like the GF3, the GF5 has no built-in viewfinder, forcing you to compose and shoot your images by just using the LCD screen that dominates the back of the camera. There is no hotshoe either, so you also don’t have the option of adding an optical viewfinder, although we didn’t find this a huge problem as the compact design and weight of this CSC makes you think that you’re just using a point-and-shoot anyway.
Features & handling
The handy integral flash pops up faster than any other flash we’ve ever seen, and for such a small flash is ridiculously powerful. Whether it’s just a hint of fill-in to bring a portrait to life, or enough to shoot a group of people in a dark room, this tiny flash delivers and really packs a punch.
For us, the best thing about this camera is the manual function. This gives you total creative control and is great for shooting more professional-looking images. You can dial in the aperture and shutter speeds, flicking between the two by simply pressing the top of the dial on the back of the camera, and shoot DSLR-quality images in this very compact package.
Just like the GF3, the touchscreen facility took a bit of getting used to and takes quite a firm hand to make any impression. Whether it was trying to move the focus point around the screen or swipe the pictures from one to another while viewing them, there really is a knack to using it. It does, however, seem to have improved from the GF3 and doesn’t require the solid punch of before!
As for video, the very handy record button next to the shutter button makes the recording mode extremely fast to access, and the quality of the Full HD video is fantastic. Compared to the output from the GF1, it is clear to see that Panasonic has come a long way with improvements in recording quality.
Value for money
At £499 for the body with the rather impressive 14-42mm lens, you do get a good deal for your money. This could be the only lens you’ll ever need, but with the rest of the G series on offer you can always expand your focal length. Some of the larger lenses do look very weird and top-heavy when attached to the GF5’s tiny frame though!
We wouldn’t normally go over ISO 800 when using a CSC, but the GF5 copes well. At the extreme end of the scale ISO 12,800 showed not only very coarse noise, but also an extreme amount of banding (lines across the image). At ISO 160-400, however, it was producing very clear and crisp images.
Creative control modes
We played about a lot with the creative control modes, such as Impressive Art (above) and Miniature Effect (below), giving us the much-loved tilt & shift effect. It’s not just the quick and easy creative modes that make this little package an arty CSC to use, the aperture-priority function also got a lot of use while we were trekking around the Peak District. It feels a bit weird to have so much control over shooting settings with a camera this small, but the GF5 really is like using a DSLR, allowing you to manually set an aperture while the camera chooses the shutter speed, and capturing a quick landscape shot.
When we first held the GF5 we couldn’t really see any difference from the previous GF3. It is slightly larger and a tad heavier, but neither of these factors are really noticeable and it still resembles a compact. But placed next to the GF1 it is much easier to see how far Panasonic has come in just a few years. Still maintaining excellent image performance and a robust build quality, it’s unbelievable when you look at the size of the GF5 that it has the ability to change lenses. And when you do swap lenses over, the lens turns and locks with a very reassuring click! Neat little touches like the bulky rubberised grip help to keep a firm hold on this piece of kit too
Street price: £499 (with 14-42mm lens)
Effective resolution: 12.1MP
Sensor type: Live MOS
ISO range: 160-12,800 (extended)
Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
File format: RAW, JPEG and MPO (when attaching 3D lens in Micro Four Thirds standard)
Card formats: SD, SDHC and SDXC
Video: Full HD (1080p)
LCD size: 3in 920k dots