Panasonic made quite a splash in the digital camera world when it launched the digital mirrorless camera in 2008. Since the arrival of the DMC-G1 there has been plenty of competition and a lot that impresses.
Not to be outdone, Panasonic launched the G2 and then, in 2011, the G3. Now comes the DMC-G5, the latest and greatest in the mirrorless Lumix lineup. Why no G4? Unlucky number in Japan. We have had a lengthy play with the G5 and are seriously impressed. A flagship camera that packs every piece of tech Panasonic can muster into an aluminium body is definitely an exciting piece of kit.
In terms of build, the G5 is extremely light. It definitely is in keeping with the lightweight mirrorless concept, although we can't help but think that its size is so close to the likes of the 650D that you should just go DSLR. Still though, it feels good in the hand and has a build quality akin to more premium cameras than entry level kit.
The button layout is fairly decent. Given the camera runs in full manual we would have like to have seen a pair of scroll wheels for aperture and shutter speed, but using the powerzoom lever will do. The same click wheel as on other Panasonic G series cameras sits to the right of the fold-out screen. On top you have a quick record button and a key to turn on the intelligent auto instantly. This is particularly useful should you want to forget about settings and just make sure you get a snap.
The mode selection wheel and top-mounted left and right mic both work nicely. The mic rather unusually sits between the pop-up flash. The result of this is a much more accurate recording experience. Three hardware function buttons and two more on the touch screen make for plenty of control customisation. In summary then, a nice camera to play with.
Taking pictures is also great. The 16 megapixel sensor and Venus Engine 7 FHD behind it does a great job of both stills and video. We shot in a variety of conditions and found things were sharp, the camera responsive and low ISO coped well. Auto white balance was particularly impressive and the camera responded just as well in both full auto and full manual modes, plus everything in between.
One problem is that the actual menu system of the G5 is slightly over complex. If you were a novice photographer or someone just taking the step up from a compact, then things like the exposure meter and focus settings could be a lot more straightforward. It's only a minor niggle as most will get to grips with it quickly, but we feel the learning curve, particularly on a camera like this, could be a lot less steep.
Things such as face detection and multi-area auto focus as well as a zero shutter lag do mean you get a fairly DSLR-like experience out of the G5. It locked on to just about anything and, thanks to the fold out screen, also enabled us to do things like stare through the finder while using our finger on the touch screen to track focus on an object. It is a weird technique and not one we have used before, but it definitely works well.
Full HD AVCHD and MP4 video shot at 50p is definitely a nice touch. It is some of the best-looking video we have seen on a mirrorless camera, is incredibly smooth and from what we tested, doesn't suffer from much shutter roll or image wobble.
Both the electronic finder and 3-inch fold out LCD look great. They do however have what we suspect might be quite an impact on the battery. We need to test this more as our time with the camera was limited, but after around four hours of shooting and taking just 200 or so snaps, the battery was near flat.
Exciting stuff for the G5 then. We will have more later when we have put the Panasonic camera through its paces in the full review. The G5 is going to start at £599 for body only, £699 with included 14-42mm, £879 with 45-150mm and £829 with 14-42x. It should be on sale in mid August.
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