The Panasonic Lumix G5 a great value mirrorless system camera which makes a number of improvements over its predecessor, the G3. The new G5 inherits the mini DSLR styling of the G3 with its fully articulated screen and electronic viewfinder and adds 1080p full HD video recording, 6fps full resolution continuous shooting and a new HDR composite mode. All these improvements are made possible by a new 16 Megapixel sensor and redesigned Venus Engine processor.
On the outside, the G5 body has expanded a litttle with a larger grip and some new physical controls. There’s a new zoom rocker on the top of the grip that can be used for exposure control if you don’t have a power zoom lens fitted and the furniture on the rear panel has been re-arranged to provide no fewer than three programmable function buttons.
The G5 retains the 1.4 million dot EVF, but now it’s automatically activated by a sensor when you put your eye to it. And the side-hinged touch-sensitive LCD panel has been upgraded with to a new 920k pixel LCD – double the resolution of the earlier model. Though it’s not quite as compact as the G3, with the PZ 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 collapsible powered zoom fitted, the G5 can still be slipped into a coat pocket. And even with the powered zoom, it’s reasonably priced, making it a very attractive option for those on a tighter budget seeking a compact interchangeable lens camera with a viewfinder.
Compared to Sony NEX-6
The NEX-6’s ability to download and install apps makes it something of a moving target, but what about its core features? Like the G5 it has a 16 Megapixel sensor, but the NEX-6’s APSC-sized sensor is slightly larger than the G5’s Four Thirds sensor and has 3:2 proportions rather than 4:3. With their powered kit zooms attached, the G5 is bigger and heavier than the NEX-6, but the difference isn’t as big as all that and both can fit in a coat pocket. The G5 has more conventional SLR-like styling, with rounded corners, a ‘prism’ hump, centrally located EVF and a big hand grip, so might prove a better fit for those with bigger hands. As always, it’s a good idea to get your hands on one before making a buying decision.
The NEX-6 has probably the best electronic viewfinder of any compact system camera, but the G5’s EVF is also very good. At 1.4 millions dots it lacks the resolution of the NEX-6’s 2.3 million pixel EVF but it is in fact a little brighter and with its 4:3 proportions also looks to be a little bigger. Both cameras have a sensor that automatically switches from the screen to the viewfinder when you put your eye to it; the G5 also features a button so you can manually switch from one to the other, but the NEX-6 can display camera settings on the screen while you use the viewfinder to compose which is ultimately more useful. Both cameras have 3 inch LCD screens with similar resolutions, but whereas the NEX-6’s 16:9 screen is hinged at the bottom and can only tilt up and down, the G5’s 3:2 proportioned screen is side-hinged which means it can face forward as well as folding inwards for protection. More importantly, the G5’s screen is touch-sensitive, not only can you use it to touch focus when using the LCD to compose for stills and movie shooting, but you can also touch the screen to focus when using the EVF to compose – a new addition over the G3.
The G5’s improved continuous shooting provides a 6fps full resolution top speed but that can’t match the NEX-6 with 10fps. What’s more, the NEX-6 can focus continuously at that rate, the G5 can do continuous AF, but that reduces the speed to a more pedestrian 3-4fps. The G5 does provide a reduced resolution 20fps burst mode using its electronic shutter, though. Both cameras offer a 1080p50/60 best quality HD video mode, but the NEX-6 provides PASM exposure modes and allows exposure adjustment while shooting, with the G5 you’re stuck with Program Auto for movies. As I’ve already mentioned, though, the G5’s ability to touch focus may actually prove more useful in practice.
The NEX-6 powered kit zoom provides a more useful wide angle – 24mm equivalent compared with 28mm on the G5, but other than that there’s little to choose between these two lenses, though some may prefer the switch and ring arrangement on the Sony lens to the twin rocker switches for focus and zoom on the Lumix lens. Sticking on the subject of lenses it’s also important to note the G5 with its Micro Four Thirds mount enjoys a much broader selection of native lenses than the NEX system. Both cameras have a good selection of standard zooms, but if you’re looking for something more specialist, or a choice at popular focal lengths, a Micro Four Thirds model like the G5 will give you more options.
But of all the factors to weigh-up, the NEX-6’s ability to connect via Wi-Fi makes it a very different proposition from the G5. To be able to control it remotely using a smartphone or tablet, and to connect to the Internet and share photos is an enticing prospect. But more than anything, the ability to extend it by downloading low cost apps gives it a major advantage over non-connected cameras like the G5. But these capabilities make the NEX 6 a more expensive camera than the G5 and for all its bells and whistles it still lacks the broader selection of lenses in the Micro Four Thirds catalogue.
See my Sony NEX 6 review for more details.
Panasonic Lumix G5 final verdict
The Panasonic Lumix G5 is a solid upgrade to the earlier Lumix G3 and maintains its position as one of the best value Micro Four Thirds models in the Panasonic line up as well as more generally. The combination of a new 16 Megapixel sensor and updated Venus Engine processor improves on the low noise characteristics and excellent image quality established with the G3 and adds 1080p50/60 HD video and 6fps continuous shooting. And as my quality and noise results prove, the G5 can keep up with the larger APS-C sensors of rival models in most situations.
The G5 demonstrates that a well designed touch-screen interface can happily co-exist on a body designed primarily for physical control and with features like Touch Pad AF Panasonic continues to expore new ways of integrating the two to improve handling.
A higher resolution EVF would have been nice, but by sticking with the existing big, bright 1.4 million dot viewfinder Panasonic has maintained the G5’s position as a highly capable, yet affordable enthusiasts’ compact system camera. Like the G3 before it, it offers much of the Flagship GH3’s capabilities in a smaller, lighter, cheaper and simplified package.
It’s not just potential GH3 owners who’ll be casting an eye in the G5’s direction. Alongside any current compact system camera equipped with a viewfinder (or, for that matter fitted with one as an optional extra) the Lumix G5 provides a compelling and cost-effective alternative. I should also add the older G3 remains in the Panasonic line-up for now and is even better value for money if you can do without the G5’s refinements.
If you’re looking for a camera that pushes boundaries and redefines how we take pictures, the Lumix G5 isn’t it. But for a rock solid implementation of core features combined with excellent handling at a great price it’s hard to fault and more than worthy of Cameralabs’ Highly recommended award. And lest we forget, as a Micro Four Thirds camera, the G5 enjoys access to by far the broadest selection of native lenses of any mirrorless format, which makes it even more tempting to enthusiasts and specialists.
(relative to 2013 system cameras)
16 / 20
17 / 20
18 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20