Tim Coleman tests the latest compact system camera in Panasonic's entry-level range, which features a 16-million-pixel sensor, a newly designed tilt screen, built-in Wi-Fi and extra controls on its body. Read the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 review...
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 at a glance:
- 16-million-pixel four thirds CMOS sensor
- ISO 160-25,600 (extended)
- 3in, 1.04-million-dot, touch-sensitive, tilting LCD screen
- 1080i AVCHD video at 50fps
- Street price £499 with 14-42mm kit lens
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 review – Introduction
The Lumix DMC-GF6 is Panasonic’s latest entry-level compact system camera. It’s the smallest and lightest offering from the company, with a simple design that compact camera users are likely to feel at home with.
The Lumix DMC-GF6 is the fifth version of the model, yet it hints at a departure, being bigger than the preceding Lumix DMC-GF5. The GF6 is also the first in the line to have a shooting-mode dial, which is a welcome addition. In fact, although the Lumix DMC-GF6 still looks very similar to its predecessor, it bears a strong resemblance to the more sophisticated metal-bodied Lumix DMC-GX1, although its body is still made from plastic.
It’s not just the body that has been transformed. Until now, a 12-million-pixel sensor (approx) has been used in Panasonic’s entry-level models, but the GF6 features the same 16-million-pixel imaging sensor as used in the GX1. Despite this and some other new features, including built-in Wi-Fi and a tiltable LCD screen, the GF6 still has the lowest RRP in the company’s range, at £499 with the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. That said, the GF5 can now be picked up for around half this price, so the GF6 will have to show its worth as a successor.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 review – Features
To date, 16-million-pixels (approx) is the highest resolution for a micro four thirds sensor, so the entry-level Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 can stand tall among more expensive and sophisticated cameras. It has an ISO range of ISO 160-12,800, which can be expanded to ISO 25,600.
The sensitivity range of the GF series is continually being expanded. Two models ago, the maximum sensitivity setting was ISO 6400. Compared with the GF5, Panasonic claims that the GF6 has better low-light performance with an improved signal-to-noise ratio.
When using the auto ISO setting, the Lumix DMC-GF6 appears to take into consideration the focal length of the lens, adjusting the minimum shutter speed to ensure blur-free results. For instance, when fitted with the 14-42mm (28-84mm effective) kit lens, the camera uses a shutter speed of at least 1/80sec at the wider settings and 1/125sec at the standard focal length.
There is no option to set the minimum shutter speed manually, but auto ISO can generally be relied upon to choose the correct exposure settings – that is, as low an ISO and shutter speed as necessary to obtain the sharpest possible results.
Like Panasonic’s premium compact camera, the Lumix DMC-TZ40, the Lumix DMC-GF6 is Wi-Fi compatible. By default, the menu for Wi-Fi is accessed via the Fn2 button. Here, the user is presented with four options: remote shooting & view; playback on TV; send images while recording; and send images stored in the camera. Generally, Wi-Fi runs smoothly and its benefits are obvious. ‘Send images while recording’ is novel, although it can be a drain on the battery because Wi-Fi is continually activate. For general image sharing, I preferred to use the ‘send images stored in the camera’ option, which allows images to be manually selected for upload.
With such a wide variety of image-editing tools now available on smartphones and tablet devices, quick and rough edits can be done without a computer. During a one-day shoot, I took photographs of a windmill, uploaded my favourite shot to an iPad, used Snapseed to make adjustments to the image with the app’s filters before applying a border. I was then able to share the photo through Instagram – all within ten minutes while still on location. However, image editing in-camera is still fairly limited.
An interesting addition to the playback menu is the clear retouch mode. This enables objects to be removed from a picture by painting over the area (indicated with a red overlay) using the touchscreen. I tried to remove a variety of objects using this mode – litter in a landscape, a traffic cone in an urban scene and a lamp-post in a clear sky – and was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. However, clear retouch is not suitable for removing intricate details.
Like the TZ40, the GF6 also features Near Field Communication (NFC), which sends information over short distances using radio signals. It’s a technology also seen in bank cards to enable wireless payments to be made. Touching an NFC-compatible smartphone or tablet against the camera initiates a connection, skipping the more arduous manual process of standard Wi-Fi connection.
Overall, I had issues connecting to a Motorola smartphone wirelessly, but no such issues when using the standard Wi-Fi connection to connect to an iPhone. If this camera’s Wi-Fi technology is a key part of its appeal, I recommend going to a camera shop to test that it works with your own phone before buying.
There are plenty of shooting effects to be found in-camera, and these can be recorded in both raw and JPEG format. However, there is no bracketing function to record a number of picture effects simultaneously, which I would like to see.
Creative control offers 19 effects, including dynamic monochrome, high key and cross process, along with less conventional ones like sunshine and fantasy. There are even 23 different scene modes, some having cringeworthy names like sweet child’s face and cute dessert, through to more familiar-sounding fare such as clear nightscape and vivid sunset glow.
The shooting-mode dial also offers a panorama mode, which proved to be a bit hit and miss. It worked well at times, but could be fussy with the speed of sweep motion or even stop recording part-way through a pan.
Continuous high-speed shooting is possible at up to 4.2fps for an eight-frame burst in raw or a 30-frame burst (approx) in JPEG. In the medium 3fps burst mode, JPEG capture is possible for an unlimited burst, which is impressive. A 20fps super-high drive mode is available in JPEG only and without control over exposure or focus, for a 39-frame burst.