In this Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6 review, Ian Burley tests the company's fifth-generation mirrorless, 16-million-pixel CSC, which has an articulated capacitive touchscreen, OLED EVF, Wi-Fi and NFC, plus improved low-light autofocus
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6 review: At a glance:
- 16.05-million-pixel Live MOS sensor
- 1.44-million-dot OLED EVF
- 3in free-angle LCD touchscreen
- NFC technology for fast Wi-Fi connectivity
- Full HD video recording
- ISO 160-12,800 (expandable to ISO 25,600)
- Street price around £549 (body only), £629 with 14-42mm lens
- See product shots of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6
Five years ago Panasonic kicked off the compact system camera sector with the micro four thirds Lumix DMC-G1, and each year since the manufacturer has produced an evolutionary successor. Now along comes the Lumix DMC-G6, just eight months after the Lumix DMC-G5, although for the time being it will sit above its predecessor rather than replace it.
Unlike its micro four thirds partner, Olympus – which has only produced one model with an integrated viewfinder – the OMD E-M5, the G6 is Panasonic’s eighth, including the GH1, GH2 and GH3 which are aimed at higher-end users and those who shoot video. So, for the most direct competition you have to look outside the micro four thirds family and at cameras with a similar price to the G6 of around £600 and that come with a 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom lens, which features optical image stabilisation as standard.
Having been launched so soon after the G5, the question has to be: ‘what makes the G6 different?’ One of the most obvious changes to the G6 is that its styling is far less utilitarian, it is marginally bigger while at the same time slightly lighter. However, what really differentiates the camera is what’s new under its skin alongside familiar core features.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6 review: Features
Image: In its standard colour setting, the Lumix DMC0-G6 produces realistic, natural colours
A pioneer in the use of articulating screens and touchscreens, Panasonic has until recently been content with old-style resistive versions that only respond to a single pressure point. However, the G6 has been given a more responsive capacitive screen – the same technology as smartphones – which allows you to use ‘multi-touch’ gestures such as ‘pinch-to zoom’. Panasonic’s 1.44-million-dot LCD-based electronic viewfinder introduced with the G1 in 2008 was a groundbreaker, but it had flaws. With the G6 Panasonic switching to the use of OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology the view is definitely improved, although the resolution is unchanged.
Like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6, the G6 is Wi-Fi-enabled and has NFC (Near field Communication) so you can tap it with an NFC-equipped tablet or smartphone for easy Wi-Fi pairing and connection. Wireless remote shooting is useful for a number of situations – for example, wildlife photography – so it’s no gimmick. Panasonic has duly updated its Image App, which was originally developed for its Wi-Fi-enabled compact cameras and the GH3.
If you are looking for video functionality, the good news is that the G6 has a very rich set of capabilities. A 24p recording mode has been added on top of full-HD 50p recording, although 60Hz modes for countries with 60Hz electricity are not available unless you have a 60Hz version of the camera, when 50Hz options are unavailable.
Panasonic has made great efforts to establish its own sensor technology in recent years and the G6 is fitted with same 16.05-million-pixel Panasonic Live MOS sensor that used to be exclusive to the former DMC-GH2 flagship model. It was designed to be over-size so multiple aspect ratios could be used without cropping the default aspect ratio frame. Unfortunately, Panasonic hasn’t enabled this feature with the G6.
This sensor was first seen almost three years ago and Panasonic has turned to Sony for the sensor in the current GH3 Lumix flagship. While the G6 sensor is also found in its predecessor, the camera benefits from a later iteration of Panasonic’s multi-core Venus Engine image processor developed for the GH3, which should mean slightly better camera JPEG results. The G6 can shoot sequentially at a faster rate of 7 frames per second in full resolution. Even without a mirror the G6’s mechanical shutter can make an unwanted noise at times, so its silent electronic shutter mode could be very handy. The available ISO sensitivity setting range is now extended to 25,600 although the base ISO remains 160.
One area where Panasonic excels is autofocus. Single-action AF for stills and continuous AF for video have worked extremely well on recent Lumix models, so much so that Panasonic claims superiority over most DSLRs’ single-action AF speed. However, weaknesses have been seen in action photography with continuous AF and low-light focusing where DSLRs still outperform micro four thirds models. That said, Panasonic has made strides in low-light AF with the G6.
See sample images taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6