Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 review

Features

Image: Using the magnified view to manual focus, it is possible to achieve impressive close-up shots. The 14-42mm X-series lens used here produces a nice bokeh effect, too

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 features the same 16.05-million-pixel sensor as the GH2, which is itself an upgrade from the 16-million-pixel unit in the G3. The G5's sensor has an output of 4608x3456 pixels, which will comfortably deliver a high-resolution A3 print (at around 280dpi). Paired with the sensor is the new Venus 7 HD II engine processor as featured in the GF5. This has resulted in faster burst shooting, up from 4fps to 6fps, and a 1EV increase in ISO sensitivity, which now reaches 12,800. The combination also increases the video potential of the G5, which can record in 1080 50p using the AVCHD format or 1080 25p with MP4.

Images are saved in a choice of JPEG or Panasonic's native RW2 raw files, with the option for combined raw and two levels of JPEG compression. There are also options for 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratios to be recorded at 14 and 12-million-pixel resolutions respectively.

Image: In multi-segment metering, highlight detail can be lost when the dynamic range is exceeded, although this if easily rectified with exposure compensation.

As we saw in the G3, the readout from the sensor chips in both the camera and lens doubles from 60fps to 120fps when the shutter is half-pressed. This helps to deliver the autofocus speed, which is claimed to be even faster in this model. The metering uses a familiar 144-zone, multi-pattern system with intelligent multiple, centreweighted and spot options, while exposure compensation is available in ±5EV for a wide degree of adjustment if required.

A full selection of manual and auto shooting modes are available, including an iAuto button on the top-plate. This overrides all manual settings and employs the most relevant scene mode from data gathered by the camera. For burst shooting, the camera will allow nine raw or combined raw + JPEG frames, or 13 fine JPEG files before slowing to around 3fps. Raw files take quite a while to clear from the buffer (around 2secs per file), and while this doesn't lock the camera down, it does mean having to wait to review the images. This can be up to 20secs after a high-speed burst.

Image: The Olympus micro four thirds 45mm f/1.8 lens gives a nice shallow depth of field, making it ideal for indoor portraits

A silent shutter mode is present for more discreet snapping, and both the scene guide and set of 14 filters come directly from the GF5. One new addition, however, is the HDR mode. The G5 is the first G-series model to include an HDR mode and it works in much the same way as other auto HDR functions, capturing a series of images and combining them in-camera to achieve a wider dynamic range. At present, this doesn't seem to have been built into the iA functionality, so must be accessed from the automatic or priority shooting modes via the menu.

Externally, the differences to the G3 are subtle. The most noticeable is the deeper handgrip on the G5, which feels much more substantial in the hand. This change in design has also allowed the use of a larger battery unit, which therefore results in a longer shooting time. With the reliance on the electronic viewfinder or monitor screen, however, this is still estimated at only 320 shots. The electronic viewfinder is the same 1.44-million-dot unit used previously, but the eye sensor - not present in the G3 - returns and also activates the autofocus, so the camera starts to focus as soon as the EVF is brought up to the eye.

The mode dial is larger and the rear buttons are now metal rather than plastic, giving the camera a more refined feel. The shutter button sits further forward at an angle, and behind it sits a function lever - a small rocker for menu and shooting functions, as well as for zooming with the X-series power-zoom lenses attached.

The rear LCD screen jumps from the G3's 460,000 dots up to 920,000 dots on the G5, with a noticeable increase in sharpness and quality. It is also still a touchscreen unit, allowing touch-shutter and touch-focus controls as well as menu access. As before, the screen is mounted on a vari-angle bracket with horizontal and vertical rotation, but one new feature is the ability to use it for focus-point selection when using the EVF. In this set-up, the LCD screen remains black but by moving a finger around the screen the focus point changes in the EVF.