Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GF3 is less than a year old, but has already been replaced by the GF5. How much better is the new 12.1-million-pixel micro four thirds camera? Read the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 review to find out
One area where touchscreens are particularly useful is when focusing. I found that using the screen on the GF5 for autofocusing was especially intuitive. Simply touching it at the point you wish to focus kicks the AF into life. This was very handy with landscapes, as I was able to compose the scene and then touch to focus, rather than having to use the directional controls to change the AF point.
Also impressive is the speed of the contrast AF system. Panasonic claims 0.09sec under certain conditions, which would make it the fastest in the world. Obviously, this is hard to measure, but what I can confirm is that in good light the AF is as fast as any equivalent phase-detection system. It will certainly be fast enough in single-spot AF for the intended user, although with contrast-detection systems continuous AF is not as responsive as a phase-detection system.
For most of the test, I used the new 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 G X Vario PZ Power OIS zoom lens, which has a street price of around £620 when bought with the GX5. This double-barrelled optic collapses to such a small size that it isn’t much larger than a pancake lens.
Instead of a manual control, this zoom is controlled electronically with a toggle switch on the side of the lens. Although slower than manually twisting a lens barrel to zoom the short 14-42mm distance, it is comparable to what those photographers coming from a compact camera will be used to. Another benefit is that it ensures a smooth and less shaky zoom when shooting video footage.
There is a toggle for manual focusing, and while this is slightly slower than manually focusing using a ring, it is fairly precise. However, this feature will not get much use in a camera of this type, except perhaps for macro or still-life images where speed isn’t of the essence.
One problem I had with the handling of the new lens is that while the toggle switches are correctly positioned when shooting in a landscape orientation, switching to portrait format was a little more awkward. I found that when shooting in portrait orientation it is the focus toggle that sits perfectly under the thumb of the left hand, not the zoom control as would be expected. As a result, on a number of occasions I was left wondering why the zoom wasn’t working, before checking and realising that I was using the wrong control. Annoyingly, it is not something you get used to, as it is more of an ergonomic issue than user error.
On the whole, the AF system and the new lens work well together. Although the zoom and focus toggle switches could be better placed, the compact size of the lens, when not in use, makes it an ideal companion for the diminutive GF5.