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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 review

Panasonic Lumix GF5 - Friendly Mirrorless

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Introduction

Introduction

Nope, you didn't miss a number - Panasonic has jumped straight from last year's GF3 to this year's brand new GF5, skipping the number 4 in-between. It's not the first time they've skipped the unlucky number (four sounds like the word for 'death' in Mandarin and Japanese), the popular Lumix LX3's successor was the LX5. Lest you think Panasonic is the only superstitious Asian company around, consider Canon, which skipped naming the new PowerShot G camera the G13 and called it the G1 X instead.

Not that the GF series seems to need much luck. According to BCN, which gathers the daily sales data from retailers all over Japan, the Panasonic GF2 and the GF3 were among the top 20 best-selling interchangeable lens cameras of 2011, of which eight were mirrorless system cameras and 12 were DSLR cameras. The GF2 ranked lucky number four and was the best-selling mirrorless system camera in Japan for 2011, the GF3 ranked 15.

While the Japanese market is not indicative of the international market, it offers some interesting insights. Mirrorless system cameras’ popularity peaked in Japan last year, taking 42 to 50 percent of the overall interchangeable lens camera market. Asia was second, growing from 22 to 30 percent. America grew from only 13 to 22 percent and Europe from 17 to 21 percent. Panasonic indicated that in Singapore, mirrorless system cameras have already taken 30 percent of the total interchangeable lens market. Take into account that mirrorless system cameras have been around for only three and a half years and you get an idea of how fast this segment is growing (and eating into DSLR sales).

What's New with the Panasonic GF5

Enthusiasts all over the world can heave a sigh of relief now that Panasonic has satisfied their desires with the 'spiritual heir' to the GF1 in the GX1, and can continue unabashedly making the GF series more appealing to casual users. By the numbers below, you can see the main differences between the GF2, 3 and 5, with the more significant changes highlighted and pointed out in bullet form.

At the heart of it, the GF5 packs a Micro Four Thirds sensor into an impossibly compact body, focusing on ease of automatic use rather than manual shooting (even though the options for manual are all there, just difficult to access). The GF5 comes with the brand new sensor first seen in the G3, then the GX1, but it's been modified as the resolution has been down-sized from 16MP to 12MP. The GF5 also comes with a brand new version of the Venus Engine image processor, based on the one from the GX1.

What the GF5 promises then, is improved image performance with an expanded ISO range, displayed on a much-improved screen which has twice the pixel density and should look much clearer. Video recording, while staying Full-HD, now records in stereo, and users have the option to record 1080/25p at a higher bit-rate of 20Mbps in MP4 format, which makes video clips much easier to edit and play than the convoluted AVCHD format. Battery life has been lengthened, while the new user interface offers more shooting tips and even recommends different filters for different scenes.

 

Panasonic GF2

Panasonic GF3

Panasonic GF5

Announced November 2010 June 2011 April 2012
Megapixels 12.1MP 12.1MP 12.1MP
Max. Video Resolution 1080/50i (17 Mbps) 1080/50i (17 Mbps) 1080/25p (20 Mbps in MP4)
Microphone Stereo Monaural Stereo
ISO Sensitivity 100-6400 160-6400 160-12800
AF Speed 0.21 second 0.1 second 0.09 second
Max. Burst Speed 3.2 fps (max. 4-7 RAW) 3.8 fps (max. 7 RAW) 4 fps (max. 4 RAW)
Screen 460k touch LCD 460k touch LCD 920k touch LCD
Battery Life (by CIPA) 300 300 360
Size 113 x 68 x 33mm 108 x 67 x 32mm 108 x 67 x 37mm
Weight (body & battery) 310g 264g 267g
Other Significant Differences
  • Touch-screen LCD
  • New Quick Menu
  • Full-HD video recording
  • Removal of exposure dial
  • ISO range increased from 3200 to 6400
  • 2nd curtain sync flash removed
  • Dramatically smaller & lighter body
  • Rear control dial removed
  • Hot shoe & EVF port removed
  • Introduces iA+ to GF series
  • Redesigned GUI
  • Full-area focusing with Touch AF
  • New Scene Guide feature
  • Filters recommendation in iA/iA+ modes
  • Eight new filters
  • More pronounced hand-grip
  • Full-HD video recording in MP4
  • New AF Flexible mode
Price
  • S$1099 (with 14mm lens kit)
  • S$1299 (with 14mm & 14-42mm lens kit)
  • S$899 (with 14mm lens kit)
  • S$1099 (with 14mm & 14-42mm lens kit)
To be announced