The Internet has, of late, been abuzz with leaked images of Panasonic’s latest Micro Four Thirds ILCC with point-and-shoot-like functionality.
Finally, the company has broken silence with the launch of the Lumix GF5, successor to the GF3. So what happened to the GF4, you might ask. Well, Japanese consider the number 4 as unlucky, and hence the jump (Canon did the same in 2007 by launching the S5 IS, succeeding the S3 IS). The GF5 is available as two kits in U.S.A.—the GF5X, which includes the newly designed LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH/POWER O.I.S lens, and the GF5K, which includes the standard zoom LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. / MEGA O.I.S lens. Here we received the GF5X with the power zoom lens.
Design and Build Quality
The Micro Four Thirds Standard has been designed with the aim of reducing the overall bulk of the interchangeable camera system, and bringing high-quality imaging within the grasp of point-and-shoot users as well. The GF5X does just that; with its compact size and power zoom function in the lens, it behaves exactly like a point-and-shoot model, with the exception that the lens can be changed to suit your requirements. The camera is very compact, and with the 14-42mm lens (equivalent to 28-84mm in 35mm format), is less bulky than some of the superzoom compact cameras.
The GF5 does not sport an accessory shoe as use of external flash is not always a necessity for a compact model.
The camera has a fixel LCD and a built-in flash mounted high above the camera so that it does not cast a lens shadow. The outer camera body is made of metal while the lens barrel is plastic. The tripod mount and the lens mounts (including the body mount) are made of metal.
The 12.1 megapixel LUMIX GF5 uses a Four Thirds (17.3 x 13.0 mm) Live MOS sensor for imaging. The sensor has a supersonic wave filter to knock off dust from its surface. The camera uses contrast detect AF system, which, claim Panasonic, is faster than the phase detect system. Focus modes available are AFS (Single), AFF (Flexible), AFC (Continuous), and Manual. The AF modes are Face detection, AF Tracking, 23-area focussing, 1-area focussing, and Pinpoint focussing. The camera uses a 144-zone multi-pattern sensing system for exposure metering. Metering modes are Intelligent Multiple, Centre-weighted, and Spot. Exposure can be compensated in 1/3-EV steps up to +/- 3EV. Exposure modes available are Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual. Shutter speeds range from 60 to 1/4000 sec. ISO sensitivity options are Auto, Intelligent ISO, and ISO 160 – 6400 (boosted to 12800). White Balance options are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Flash, White Set 1, 2, and Colour Temperature setting. White Balance can be bracketed for three exposures. Self timer can be set for 10 sec or 2 seconds for up to 3 images. Still images can be recorded at a maximum resolution of 4000 x 3000 pixels in RAW, JPEG or MPO (3D, with special Micro Four Thirds 3D lens) formats. JPEG compression options are Fine and Standard, and the camera provides options of recording RAW, JPEG, RAW + JPEG, or MPO + JPEG (both Fine and Standard compression options exist in each case). Movies are recorded in AVCHD or MP4 format with the best quality of Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels). At the best quality, movies can be recorded continuously for approximately 140 minutes.
Scene modes include Clear Portrait, Silky Skin, Backlit Softness, Clear in Backlight, Relaxing Tone, Sweet Child’s Face, Distinct Scenery, Bright Blue Sky, Romantic Sunset Glow, Vivid Sunset Glow, Glistening Water, Clear Nightscape, Cool Night Sky, Warm Glowing Nightscape, Artistic Nightscape, Glittering Illuminations, Clear Night Portrait, Soft Image of a Flower, Appetising Food, Cute Dessert, Freeze Animal Motion, Clear Sports Shot, and Monochrome. The built-in flash uses TTL metering and has a Guide Number of 6.3m at ISO160. It has a synchronisation speed up to 1/160 sec and flash modes are Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On/Red-eye, Reduction, Slow Sync., Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, and Forced Off. The camera accepts an SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card for external storage, and it is compatible with UHS-1 standard cards.
The GF5X kit comes bundled with the new X-series 14-42mm kit lens that features Power O.I.S., which provides better shake reduction than the earlier Mega O.I.S. Unfortunately Panasonic has decided not to supply the back cap of the lens and the body cap of the camera with this kit. This is quite a disappointing and surprising move since these are essentials for an interchangeable lens camera. These can be purchased as optional accessories from a dealer, which means more money for Panasonic.
The GF5 uses a 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot wide-viewing angle TFT LCD with Touch Panel for display. The camera is powered by a Li-ion battery pack (DMW-BLE9PP, supplied). It weighs approximately 362g with SD card, battery, and the H-PS14042 (power zoom) lens and has dimensions of 107.7 x 66.6 x 36.8mm (W x H x D).
The LUMIX GF5 is very comfortable to carry around, thanks to its compact design. It has a comfortable rubber grip and thumb rest. Images appear crisp on the LCD. The lens protrudes on powering up the camera, and has two levers on the side of the barrel—one for zoom and the other for manual focus. Panasonic has done a great job in designing this new lens. Though the zoom is operated with a zoom lever, it can be stopped precisely where needed. The zoom position is indicated in the viewfinder, which makes it very useful. Normally we don’t suggest touch screen devices, but Panasonic has done a wise thing in incorporating it here as an additional facility. So if you are not comfortable with touch screen, you can use the buttons and dial to set up the camera. We are concerned about the built-in flash, which appeared fragile and slams against the body when popped up. It would have been nice if Panasonic had softened the pop-up action.
The Panasonic GF5X kit performed like a champion in our tests. The lens focussed very fast, validating the claim that it uses a superior AF method. Images appeared sharp edge-to-edge and the kit lens had a sweet spot between f/5.6 and f/8. Slight moustache distortion was observed up to 60mm (equivalent), while slight pincushion distortion was observed from 76mm (equivalent) onwards. Darkening of corners was confined to the extreme corners at the wide-angle end at the widest aperture. Flare was observed along with purple fringing at the wide-angle end and the widest aperture in strong against-the-light scenes, though it was not very prominent. All White Balance modes worked perfectly without producing any disturbing cast.
Native print size was 10 x 13.33 inches at 300 ppi. At 25 percent of the image size, the images were free of noise up to ISO 1600. ISO 3200 produced slight noise, while ISO 6400 was noisy. Enlarged to 50 percent, the images were free of noise up to ISO 800. Viewed at 100 percent, slight noise was seen at ISO 800, but the images were perfectly usable. For best results, stick to ISO 400 or lower.
Video quality of the GF5X was amazing. While recording, you can change the focus point easily from one point to another by just tapping at the desired position on the LCD. The camera proved power-hungry, which, we presume, is due to the power zoom lens.
Value for Money
Panasonic has not yet debuted the GF5 in India, but we were asked to quote a tentative price of Rs.39,990 along with the 14-42mm lens, though the company did not specify whether it is for the power zoom lens or the manual zoom, which is a kit option in the U.S. Unfortunately since Panasonic does not supply a body cap or a lens back cap, be prepared to spend some more for these necessary accessories. This price is higher than some of the basic D-SLR/ILCC models even though the camera does not have an accessory shoe or option to use an external flash.
+ Excellent Performance
+ Power Zoom Lens
+ Fast AF
+ Best-in-class Display
– No Accessory shoe for external flash
– Body cap and lens back cap not supplied
– Power zoom drains battery fast
Design and Build Quality 16/20
Key Features 18/20
Noise control 3/5
Auto White Balance 5/5
Extra Features 4/5
Value for Money 5/10
Grand Total 81/100
The Panasonic GF5 is a Micro Four Thirds System ILCC aimed at prosumer users. The camera-lens combination is a good performer and quite feature packed. But the tentative price seems very steep for this kit. We do not expect the final price to be significantly less than the indicative price.