Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5


    Photo Review 8.5
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    Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5

      In summary

      Buy this camera if:
      - You need a pocketable camera for walk-around, street or candid photography.
      - You require simple controls and logical, easy-to-use menus.
      - You would enjoy operating the camera via a touch screen.
      - You’re interested in shooting raw files. 
      - You want to shoot Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) video with good audio quality.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
      - You require a viewfinder. 
      - You want a flash hot-shoe.
      - You prefer an external mode dial.

      Full review

      The GF5 represents a relatively minor upgrade to the GF3, despite its new 12-megapixel Live MOS sensor and improved image processor. The body design has been refined and is slightly more angular with a larger, rubber-clad grip. More important is the boost in resolution for the LCD touch screen, which now has 920,000 dots to provide a visibly clearer view.
       

      Angled view of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 with the pop-up flash raised. (Source: Panasonic.)

      Like the GF3, the new camera has been designed for digicam upgraders and its user interface is similar enough to a point-and-press digicam (or even a camera-phone) to make transition easy. Some 'goodies' are provided for photo enthusiasts – but you have explore the menu to find them.

      Mode settings are accessed via the camera's menu, where support for raw file capture is also available, along with RAW+JPEG capture at two JPEG compression levels. There are also three Custom memories where users can store frequently-used combinations of settings for easy recall.

      The small size of the camera and its well-integrated touch shutter button make it a great tool for candid and street photography. (If those aren't your passion and you need faster access to advanced camera controls, you should consider the G5 or GX1.)

      The GF5 is offered in black and white, the latter being only available with the H-PS14042E power zoom lens. This lens is a more compact option to the H-FS14042E standard kit lens and also more expensive. It was provided with the camera body for our review.
       

      Front views of the GF5 in black and white. The black camera is fitted with the H-FS14042E standard kit lens, while the white camera has the H-PS14042E power zoom lens. (Source: Panasonic.)

      What's New?
       Aside from the grip and monitor upgrades, nothing much has changed physically since the GF3. This is probably good as the earlier camera met the needs of its target market very well. With its larger bulge in the front and rubber cladding on the front grip and rear thumb pad, the new camera is much more comfortable to hold and you can easily shoot single-handed without worrying about the camera slipping from your fingers.
       

      Front views of the GF5 (left) and GF3 (right). (Source: Panasonic.)

      The monitor is easier to view in bright outdoor lighting, an essential feature in a camera without a viewfinder (and no way of attaching one). The other improvement is the addition of a Display button to the rear panel (which eliminates the need for an on-screen button) and the large metal caps on the three main button controls.
       

      Rear panel views of the GF5 (left) and GF3 (right). (Source: Panasonic.)

      The most obvious change to the top panel is the replacement of the single monaural microphone on the GF3 with dual stereo mics, designated 'L' and 'R'. The strap lugs, which hang off the top panel have been enlarged to allow for a wider neck strap and add a touch of extra solidity to the camera's look and feel.
       

      Top views of the GF5 (left) and GF3 (right). (Source: Panasonic.)

      Under the hood the changes are a little more significant, starting with the new sensor and processor, which will be covered separately below. The on-screen user interface has been spruced up with animation for higher visibility and easier navigation. It also includes the ability to set wallpaper images on the menu screen.

      When you change a camera setting, a scrolling explanation appears at the top of the monitor to provide advice. Backing up the in-camera tips is a very comprehensive user manual that's supplied on the software disk. It's well laid out and easy for beginners to understand.

      The contrast AF system has been tweaked to support 'Light Speed AF' at approximately 0.09 second and the camera provides full-area focusing, while lets users set the focus on any point in the screen. This feature is ideally used with the touch focus and touch shutter functions that carry over from the GF3. AF Tracking, Pinpoint AF and Touch Zoom are also provided.

      While  Pinpoint AF was available on the GF3, you couldn't adjust the length of time the enlarged view was shown. The GF5 lets you specify how long the camera will display a magnified view with Pinpoint AF via a setting in the custom settings menu.
       The Scene menu is generously populated with 23 presets, some of which have wonderfully exotic names. We're not quite sure what to make of presets like Backlit Softness, Relaxing Tone, Glistening Water, Artistic Nightscape, Glittering Illuminations,  Soft Image of a Flower or Cute Dessert. But we suspect some users will have fun trying them out.

      Also on the in-camera effects front, the Creative Control mode has been upgraded and now contains 14 filters (up from six in the GF3). New additions include Soft Focus, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, One Point Colour, Cross Process, Low Key, Toy Effect and Star Filter
       The effect parameters of each mode are also adjustable to some degree and all effects can be previewed on the monitor. In the iA and iA Plus modes, recommended filters are suggested depending on the detected scene.

      The iA and iA Plus modes are designed primarily to help novice users obtain good-looking photos. The former automatically provides shooting-assist functions like  AF Tracking, Intelligent D-range Control, Intelligent Scene Selector, Face Recognition and Intelligent ISO Control. The latter lets users adjust defocusing in the background, exposure compensation and white balance for more flexible control.

      A new ‘Level Gauge’ detects the horizontal/vertical angle of view while shooting and displays indicators on-screen, making it easy to keep horizons level. It can also sense if the camera is tilted forwards or back.

      While the top panel movie button hasn't changed from the GF3, the movie mode in the GF5 has been significantly upgraded with an expansion of recording options and the replacement of the M-JPEG format with the more widely-used and flexible MP4 /H264 format.  They don't quite match the G5 but a big improvement on the GF3. The table below shows the settings available.

      Video format

      Aspect ratio

      Picture Mode

      Picture size
       (pixels)

      Frame Rate

      Bit rate

      Recording capacity/8GB card

      AVCHD

      16:9

      FSH

      1920 x 1080

      50i

      17 Mbps

      1 hour 1 minute

      SH

      1280 x 720

      50p

      1 hour 1 minute

      MP4

      FHD

      1920 x 1080

      25 fps

      20 Mbps

      50 minutes 6 seconds

      HD

      1280 x 720

      10 Mbps

      1 hour 35 min. 39 sec.

      4:3

      VGA

      640 x 480

      4 Mbps

      3 hours 30 min. 32 sec.

      The maximum recording time per clip supported in MP4 mode is 29 minutes and 59 seconds – or up to 4GB. You can capture up to three still images per video clip by simply pressing the shutter button or using the touch shutter function. This function is disabled when the picture mode is set to VGA.

      Touch AF can be used for focusing on specific area in the scene in movie mode in the same way as with stills recording. As in the G5, the Extra Tele Conversion function can be used to apply a 4.2x zoom extension without noticeable deterioration in image quality.

      In addition to the wind cut filter provided on the GF3, the GF5's movie sub-menu includes settings for a microphone level display (on/off), four levels of microphone adjustment and a Flicker Decrease' setting. The latter lets you match shutter speed to frequencies, providing four shutter speed options (1/50, 1/60, 1/100 and 1/120) plus an off position. 

      Sensor and Image Processing
      Although resolution remains at 12 megapixels, the sensor and image processor in the GF5 have both been updated to provide improved image quality and responsiveness. New circuitry in the sensor chip enables more light to reach the photosites, improving low light performance. Accordingly, you can now boost sensitivity from ISO 6400 to ISO 12800 via the Extended ISO setting in the camera's menu.

      The upgraded Venus Engine image processor features a new noise reduction circuit to take advantage of this development. Addressing different noise levels in highlights and shadows, Panasonic's new noise processor treats different areas in images differently, thereby improving performance at high ISO settings.

      Burst capture rates have also been marginally improved, with a lift from 3.8 frames/second to four frames/second. Unfortunately, the buffer memory can only hold five RW2.RAW files, whereas the GF3 accommodated seven.

      The GF5 supports the same still picture options as its predecessor, recording both JPEG and RW2.RAW raw file formats as well as supporting the capture of stereo pairs for 3D viewing using the MPO file format. It also offers the same image size settings and aspect ratios.  Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.

      Aspect ratio

      Image Size

      Resolution

      Fine

      Standard

      4:3

      RAW

      4000 x 3000

      15.5MB

      L

      4000 x 3000

      7.3MB

      3.6MB

      RAW+JPEG

      4000 x 3000

      23.3MB

      19.7MB

      M

      2816 x 2112

      4.0MB

      2.0MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2816 x 2112

      19.7MB

      17.7MB

      S

      2048 x 1536

      1.7MB

      0.87MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2048 x 1536

      17.1MB

      16.5MB

      3:2

      RAW

      4000 x 2672

      14.6MB

      L

      4000 x 2672

      7.0MB

      3.5MB

      RAW+JPEG

      4000 x 2672

      22.3MB

      18.3MB

      M

      2816 x 1880

      4.0MB

      2.0MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2816 x 1880

      19.0MB

      16.5MB

      S

      2048 x 1360

      1.5MB

      0.8MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2048 x 1360

      16.0MB

      15.5MB

      16:9

      RAW

      4000 x 2248

      13.5MB

      L

      4000 x 2248

      6.8MB

      3.4MB

      RAW+JPEG

      4000 x 2248

      20.5MB

      17.1MB

      M

      2816 x 1584

      3.9MB

      2.0MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2816 x 1584

      17.7MB

      15.5MB

      S

      1920 x 1080

      1.1MB

      0.6MB

      RAW+JPEG

      1920 x 1080

      14.6MB

      14.2MB

      1:1

      RAW

      2992 x 2992

      12.2MB

      L

      2992 x 2992

      5.4MB

      2.7MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2992 x 2992

      17.7MB

      15.1MB

      M

      2112 x 2112

      2.4MB

      1.2MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2112 x 2112

      14.6MB

      13.5MB

      S

      1504 x 1504

      1.2MB

      0.6MB

      RAW+JPEG

      1504 x 1504

      13.5MB

      12.8MB

      Playback and Software
      Playback settings for still pictures are essentially the same as in other G-series models that include the same touch-screen capabilities. The software bundle is also the same and contains the latest versions of PhotoFun Studio  and Silkypix Developer Studio plus a 30-day trial version of Super LoiLoScope. Owners of TV sets or Blu-ray disc players with SD Image Viewer slots can playback recorded images and videos by simply inserting the camera’s memory card.

       The Kit Lens
       We've covered the H-PS14042E 14-42mm power zoom kit lens in our review of the DMC-G5 but we felt we should include the results of our Imatest tests to reflect different performances (if any) on the two camera bodies. In fact, our results were quite similar, although the top resolution was lower with the GF5 because its sensor resolution is lower. The graph below plots the Imatest line widths/picture height values across five focal lengths.
       

       Lateral chromatic aberration wasn't quite as thoroughly corrected in-camera as in the G5. However, it remained within the 'negligible' band across the focal length range, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below.

       
       While the H-PS14042E is the most compact kit option, for photographers who mainly shoot stills it doesn't provide a significant performance difference over the standard H-FS14042E kit lens. But if you plan to use the camera mainly for movie recordings, it could be worth paying the $200 premium to obtain smoother focusing and better handling.  
       
      Performance
       Overall performance was as we expected on the basis of previous tests on G-Micro cameras. The GF5 was as easy to use as its predecessor and the touch screen was, if anything, better implemented. Autofocusing and metering were fast and accurate in most shooting situations and focus tracking kept most subjects sharp while the camera was panned.

      Subjective assessment of test shots showed improvements with high ISO settings and the dynamic range recorded in outdoor shots with contrasty lighting, although some blown-out highlights were found in shots of subjects with a very wide brightness range.

      Raw files were converted with the latest release of Adobe Camera Raw (the 'release candidate' 7.2 version), rather than the inferior Silkyix-based bundled software. The resulting 16-bit TIFF files were as good as those from the G5 when differences in sensor resolution are taken into account.

      Imatest showed RW2.RAW files to be up to expectations for a 12-megapixel camera. JPEGs were slightly below expectations but a cut above the GF2. Resolution held up very well with both file types across the camera's sensitivity range, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below.
       
       

       

      Long exposures taken in dim lighting showed little visible noise right up to ISO 1600, even without noise reduction processing. Noise could be seen at ISO 6400 but images remained printable at up to half A4 size. Switching on Long Shutter NR processing slightly reduced image sharpness at high ISO settings. Colour saturation was closer to natural than we found with the G3.

      Flash exposures were evenly balanced throughout the camera's ISO range and colour reproduction was reasonably faithful at settings up to ISO 3200. At ISO 6400 the influence of ambient lighting could be seen and images were a little soft.

      Auto white balance performance was similar to the G5's. The warm cast produced by incandescent lighting was suppressed but not eliminated but shots taken under fluorescent lights had close to natural colours. Both pre-sets introduced a slight purple cast but manual measurement produced neutral colours and there's plenty of scope for fine-tuning colour rendition via the touch screen.

      Video quality was similar to the G5 at equivalent settings. Clips appeared equally sharp and clear in both movie formats when played back on a TV or monitor screen. Soundtracks showed good clarity and some stereo presence. Operating noises from the zoom lens were only audible in very quiet patches. The wind cut filter was effective, except in very windy environments.

      Our timing tests were carried out with the 16GB Panasonic SDHC I UI card, which has a Class 10 speed rating and is the fastest memory card we own. Like its predecessor, the review camera powered up roughly a second.

      Autofocusing showed some improvement with an average capture lag of 0.12 seconds when the shutter button was used and 0.2 seconds with the touch shutter. Pre-focusing eliminated the lag with the shutter button.

      Shot-to-shot times averaged 0. 5 seconds without flash and 1.5 seconds with. Image processing times averaged 1.5 seconds for JPEGs,  2.4 seconds for RW2.RAW and 3.2 seconds for RAW+JPEG shots.

      The review camera recorded a burst of 10 large/fine  JPEG frames in 2.5 seconds in the high speed burst mode. It took 4.4 seconds to process this burst. We were able to record five RW2.RAW frames in 1.2 seconds.  It took 11.4 seconds to process this burst. Only four RAW+JPEG pairs could be captured in 0.9 seconds before the frame rate slowed. It took 12.4 seconds to process this burst.

      Buy this camera if:
      - You need a pocketable camera for walk-around, street or candid photography.
      - You require simple controls and logical, easy-to-use menus.
      - You would enjoy operating the camera via a touch screen.
      - You’re interested in shooting raw files. 
      - You want to shoot Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) video with good audio quality.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
      - You require a viewfinder. 
      - You want a flash hot-shoe.
      - You prefer an external mode dial.

      SPECS

       Image sensor: 17.3 x 13.0 mm Live MOS sensor with 13.06 million photosites (12.1 megapixels effective)
       Image processor: Venus Engine FHD
       A/D processing: 12-bit
       Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
       Focal length crop factor: 2x
       Digital zoom: up to 4x
       Image formats: Stills – RW2.RAW, JPEG (Exif 2.3), RAW+JPEG; Movies – AVCHD / MP4; 3D – MPO (with 3D lens)
       Image Sizes: Stills – 4:3 aspect: 4000 x 3000, 2816 x 2112, 2048 x 1536; 3:2 aspect: 4000 x 2672, 2816 x 1880, 2048 x 1360; 16:9 aspect: 4000 x 2248,  2816 x 1584, 1920 x 1080; 1:1 aspect: 2992 x 2992, 2112 x 2112, 1504 x 1504; Movies – [AVCHD]  1920 x 1080 at 50i or 1280 x 720 at 50p (sensor output is 25p), [MP4] 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720, 640 x 480 (all at 30 fps)
       Image Stabilisation: Lens based
       Dust removal: Supersonic wave filter
       Shutter speed range: 60 to 1/4000 second; For movies: 1/16000 ~ 1/30 sec.
       Exposure Compensation: +/- 3 EV in 1/3 EV steps
       Exposure bracketing: 3 or 5 frames in 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV Step, +/-1/3 EV
       Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay plus 10 sec, 3 images
       Focus system: 23-area Contrast AF with Face Detection (AF/AE) and AF tracking; AF-assist lamp provided
       Focus modes: Single-shot AF, Continuous AF, Flexible AF, Manual Focus, multi-sensor and single sensor AF; face detection, AF tracking; Quick AF/continuous AF; Touch-screen AF (1-area-focusing in Face detection, AF Tracking, Multi-area-focusing, 1-area-focusing), Pinpoint focusing
       Exposure metering: 144-zone multi-pattern sensing system with Intelligent Multiple, Centre Weighted, Spot modes
       Shooting modes: Intelligent Auto, Intelligent Auto Plus, Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual, Custom, Scene Guide, Creative Control
       Scene modes: 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, Monochrome
       Picture Style/Control settings: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait, Custom
       Special effects: Expressive, Retro, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Star Filter, One Point Colour
       Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
       ISO range: Auto, Intelligent , ISO 160, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400 (extendable to ISO 12800)
       White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Flash, White Set 1, 2, Colour temperature setting; Blue/amber and magenta/green adjustments
       Flash: TTL Built-in pop-up flash, GN 6.3 equivalent (ISO 160/m); Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync., Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off modes; max. synch speed 1/160 second
       Flash exposure adjustment: +/- 2EV in 1/3 EV steps
       Sequence shooting: H: 4.0 frames/sec, M: 3.0 frames/sec (with Live View),
       L: 2 frames/sec (with Live View); Max. 5 images for RAW files; 'unlimited' JPEGs
       Storage Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards; UHS-1 compatible
       Viewfinder:  no
       LCD monitor: 3-inch, 3:2 aspect  TFT LCD with Touch panel and 920,000 dots
       Live View modes: 2x, 4x digital zoom, Extra Tele Conversion of 2x for stills, 3.1x for movies; Guide Lines (3 patterns), Real-time Histogram
       Playback functions: Normal playback, 30-thumbnail display, 12-thumbnail display, Calendar display, Zoomed playback (16x Max.), Slideshow (duration & effect is selectable), Playback Mode (Normal/Picture/Video/3D Play/Category/Favourite), Title Edit, Text Stamp, Video Divide, Resize, Cropping, Rotate, Favourite, Print set, Protect, Face Recognition Edit
       Interface terminals: USO 2.0, HDMI (Type C Mini)
       Power supply: DMW-BLE9E 7.2V, 940mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 360 shots with H-H014 lens
       Dimensions (wxhxd): 107.7 x 66.6 x 36.8 mm
      Weight: Approx. 225 grams (body only)

      RRP: AU$699; US$600 (with standard 14-42mm kit lens); AU$899 with  H-PS14042E power zoom lens (as reviewed)
       Distributor: Panasonic Australia, Ph. 132 600; www.panasonic.com.au

      TESTS

      JPEG image files

       

       

       

      Raw image files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw ('release candidate' 7.2).

       

       

       

       

       

      SAMPLES

       
       

      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

       Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

      60 second exposure at ISO 160, 17mm focal length, f/5.6.

       

      15 second exposure at ISO 800, 17mm focal length, f/5.
       
       

      8 second exposure at ISO 3200, 17mm focal length, f/5.6.
       
       

      8 second exposure at ISO 6400, 17mm focal length, f/8.
       
       

      Flash exposure at ISO 160, 42mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      Flash exposure at ISO 800; 42mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      Flash exposure at ISO 3200; 42mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      Flash exposure at ISO 6400; 42mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      36mm focal length, ISO 160, 1/400 second at f/11.
       
       

      14mm focal length, ISO 1250, 1/60 second at f/3.5.
       
       The images below were captured at the official launch of the latest cameras on the Central Coast of NSW. A number of different lenses were used and these are indicated in the shot data.
       
       

       Lumix G VARIO 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 at 42mm focal length, ISO 160, 1/100 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      Lumix G VARIO 100-300mm f/4-5.6 at 120mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/250 second at f/4.2.

      Lumix G VARIO 100-300mm f/4-5.6 at 108mm focal length, ISO 1000, 1/250 second at f/4.1.

      Lumix G VARIO 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 at 14mm focal length, ISO 1600, 1/15 second at f/3.5. The camera was hand-held.
       
       

      Still frame from AVCHD video clip shot in the FSH mode.
       
       

      Still frame from AVCHD video clip shot in the SH mode.
       
       

      Still frame from MP4 video clip shot in the FHD mode.

      Still frame from MP4 video clip shot in the HD mode.

       Still frame from MP4 video clip shot in the VGA mode.

      Rating

      RRP: AU$699; US$600 (with standard 14-42mm kit lens); AU$899 with  H-PS14042E power zoom lens (as reviewed)

      • Build: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 9.0
      • Autofocusing: 8.8
      • Still image quality JPEG: 8.5
      • Still image quality RAW: 8.8
      • Video quality AVCHD: 9.0
      • Video quality Motion JPEG: 8.5

      BUY

        No