Panasonic Lumix GX-5

8/7/2012 3:10:35 PM

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.

Description: Its high-resolution screen and new sensor could make the GF5 a brilliant replacement for the GF3
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. Thats 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.

Buttoned up

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.

Description: In-car wifi use is set to rise massively in the next few years
In-car wifi use is set to rise massively in the next few years

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 6400.

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.

Value added

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.

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