Panasonic has redesigned its GF-series compact system camera with the introduction of the GF6 - the camera which adds Wi-Fi and NFC among bags of other features and also calls time on the GF5 which it will replace. Pocket-lint was shown the new, more fully featured - yet chunkier - camera ahead of its launch at an event in Vienna, Austria.
Panasonic's aim with the latest camera is to hone the series' already decent performance, while connecting the camera - and its price point - with the right end-users. There's no pricey power zoom lens to be found in the Lumix GF6's box, for example, as the latest 14-42mm standard lens is both small and affordable - and with an anticipated £499 kit price the GF6 is a full £100 less than the GF5's initial retail.
But the camera hasn't cut back on features. Far from it: the GF6 is as fully featured an entry-level model as we've seen.
The first thing that's apparent about the GF6 is that its new tilt-angle LCD screen makes the camera a little chunkier than the GF5 before it. Not by a staggering amount - but it is noticeable. The screen - which is now a 1,040k-dot resolution and includes an electrostatic touchscreen - can be tilted 180-degrees forward for a self-portrait position, or to approximately 45-degrees downwards for overhead work. The extra size to the body width may not be desirable, but there are extra features gained to balance it out.
The second thing of note is the proper mode dial on top of the camera. It looks as though, despite this being the most entry-level interchangeable lens Lumix, it's targeting a broader base of potential users - from point-and-shooters through to those who want easy-to-access manual controls.
Using the GF6 is a similar experience to that of the Lumix GF5. Everything is fast and responsive, including - at least according to Panasonic - a start-up time of 0.47-seconds and there's improved autofocus that's lightning quick. We were testing indoors in reasonable light so haven't been able to test out the camera's apparent new and improved autofocus where it can now auto-detect low-light conditions and reduce the 120 frames per second sensor readout by an eighth to avoid excessive focus hunting. How well that'll work we're yet to see, but we'll be playing with the camera over the next few days and hope to get into some dark spots to check more thoroughly.
One of the GF6's obvious key features is connectivity: the inclusion of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-powered NFC (near field communication) is something Panasonic has already introduced into the likes of the Lumix TZ40 compact camera.
We're yet to test out the GF6's connectivity in full, but from what we've seen on the back end of the camera suspect that the same password-heavy pairing process will need to take place to get the most out of the Wi-Fi system. It's good to have it there, but we'd rather like it to be just that touch easier, which NFC should take care of, connected with a tap to a compatible device.
Another core change is the inclusion of a 16-megapixel sensor, not the lower-resolution 12-megapixel of the GF6's predecessor. Usually we'd be unsure of such significant resolution increases, but in the case of the GF6 we've already seen some very successful 16-megapixel sensors: think Lumix G5, or even Olympus OM-D and we're fairly confident Panasonic will pull this one out of the bag. Panasonic confirmed to us that the sensor is from the Lumix GX1, and we were suitably impressed with the quality of that model.
The GF6 has Panasonic's latest Venus Engine and includes a new multi-process noise-reduction system and process-based digital reproduction filter to give a theoretical push in sharpness.
All that sounds rather swanky, but it's not something we've been able to take a look at yet. The GF6 we were shown was a pre-production model, but there is the promise of getting more use with this latest model in the coming days where we'll bring you more-detailed coverage.
For now, initial GF6 impressions are that we like the cut back price and inclusion of mode dial, but think that the bulked-out, tilt-angle screen design may put off some who've already laid eyes on the slimmer GF5.