Panasonic allowed us to try out its new Lumix GF5.This is
the latest model in its Micro Four Thirds range of compact system cameras
(CSCs).The Lumix DMC-GF5 replaces the outgoing Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 as both
the cheapest and most compact in the range. At first glance it looks almost
identical, but it features a number of significant upgrades.
Its high-resolution screen and new sensor could make the GF5 a brilliant
replacement for the GF3
The first thing we noticed when we turned on the GF5 is that
the 3in display has been updated. The new LCD has twice the detail of the GF3's
screen, with 920,000 dots, and is pin-sharp with punchy colors. That’s twice as many dots as even
the recently released GX1 has, which is bound to make new owners of the
enthusiast model a little jealous. As well as making your photos look great,
and making it easier to determine what's in focus, the increased resolution
makes the user interface really sharp.
The physical controls are largely the same as those of its
predecessor. The main change is the addition of a Display button, which quickly
clears the screen of unwanted clutter. A smaller change is that the plastic
buttons of the previous model have been replaced with metal buttons.
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We appreciated the new handgrip. It's not very large and
doesn't protrude any further than even the smallest lens in the G-series
line-up, but it gives you a firmer grip on what is a fairly dinky camera. It
measures 108x67x37mm, which is 4mm thicker than the old model. It’s still very
compact but a little chunkier than Olympus's PEN E-PM1 or Sony's NEX-C3.
Inside, it has a new 12-megapixel sensor and image
processor, the fancifully named Venus Engine 7HDII. Panasonic said in its
presentation that the combination would enable users to take ISO 12800 shots,
although the pre-release firmware in the camera we tested only went up to ISO
We took the camera with us on a trip to Chessington zoo and
theme park, where we took a lot of test shots. Overcast conditions and rain
didn't exactly help, but looking through the shots we’d be hard pressed to say
that the GF5 is a big step up from the GF3.
Image quality may be hard to gauge definitively, but the
autofocus system isn’t Panasonic claims that the GF5 focuses in 0.09 seconds -
a fraction of a second quicker than the GF3. In practice, it felt almost
instantaneous. We tried the camera extensively outdoors, and the focus was both
quick and sharp. It also impressed in low-light conditions, where it was far
more consistent than the E-PM1 in head-to-head tests. Performance started well,
with the 4fps burst mode living up to its billing. However, the buffer was soon
full, and the GF5 slowed to a crawl after around 10 shots.
The GF5 will go on sale in June with an RRP of $695 for the
GF5X kit, including the 14-42mm retractable power zoom lens, and a competitive $539
for the GF5K kit which has a more conventional 14-42mm manual zoom. It may not
look revolutionary, but even if image quality hasn’t improved much (and it's
too early to say), the new high-detail screen certainly makes it more
attractive than its capable predecessor.