Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 review
Impressively small and light, but the slim lens raises the price too much for what is ultimately a point-and-shoot camera
Review Date: 26 Sep 2012
Price when reviewed: £519
Reviewed By: Ben Pitt
Compact system cameras (CSCs) are still toddlers compared to their mature SLR brethren, yet Panasonic's GF range is already starting to feel like a familiar friend. The GF5 is the fourth incarnation, but differences to last year's Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 are relatively minor. The screen resolution is up from 460,000 to 920,000 dots. The handgrip is more substantial and its textured rubber design is easier to hold. The buttons are made of metal rather than plastic and there's an additional one marked Display for toggling onscreen information on and off. Additionally, the maximum ISO speed has doubled to 12,800, but the resolution remains 12 megapixels.
As before, most functions are accessed via the touchscreen. It's one of the better systems we've seen, having a physical Quick Menu button that reveals five commonly used functions across the screen. These can be customised if they're not the ones you want, and a second page of five functions can be added. The touchscreen makes it effortlessly quick to move the autofocus point. We'd have liked a physical mode dial, but we're not sure where it would have fitted. The currently selected mode is shown in the top-left of the screen, and pressing it turns the wheel on the back of the camera into a mode dial.
The microphone is now stereo rather than mono, but its location isn't ideal and we sometimes accidentally covered it with a finger while recording videos. The camera automatically turned the volume up to compensate and the resulting interference that it picked up sounded like the workings of a 1970s supercomputer.
Otherwise, this is a superb point-and-shoot video camera. The 1080p videos are extremely sharp and clean, even in low light, although the 16Mbit/s AVCHD files sometimes displayed compression artefacts in fast-moving clips. The lens's zoom and focus motors are virtually silent, and the motorised zoom function arguably gives smoother results than a mechanical lens ring would.
The biggest change over the GF3 is the availability of a new kit lens that provides a 3x zoom function and collapses down to 31mm when not in use. The GF5 is unusually small and light for a CSC too, and together they'll slip into most pockets. This is in keeping with the spirit of the GF series, providing SLR-like image quality in a small point-and-shoot package. It's not a cheap lens, though. The GF5 is available with the older, bulkier version of the Panasonic 14-42mm lens for around £400, but it's much more expensive with this Power Zoom lens. It's also less satisfying to use than the bulkier lens, having levers rather than rings to control zoom and focus. Sony's similar 16-50mm lens, recently unveiled alongside the Sony NEX-6, includes a single lens ring that timeshares between zoom and focus duties and is much more rewarding to use as a result.
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