Panasonic G5 £650

18th Jul 2012 | 05:00

Panasonic G5

With an exciting number of new technologies, is this the ultimate CSC?

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Touchscreen; Creative control (digital filters); EVF; New grip

Dislike:

Auto white balance sometimes inaccurate; Using touchpad AF in portrait mode is tricky;

Introduction

As the first company to introduce a compact system camera, Panasonic has led the way in terms of innovation in this sector of the market.

The latest Micro Four Thirds camera introduced into the fold is the Panasonic G5, which it believes to be one of its best cameras to date.

Of course, a lot has changed since 2008, and now only Canon has so far declined to join the market. Panasonic shares the Micro Four Thirds format with Olympus, and, as it has been established the longest, it currently has the largest lens range (if you exclude the Nikon J1/V1 which can be used with F-mount lenses via an adapter).

Panasonic G5 review

The Panasonic G5 is an addition to its G line-up of compact system cameras (CSCs), rather than a straight replacement for the G3 (read our Panasonic G3 review). The company says it has identified a gap in the market for the G5, which includes a number of improvements over the one-year old G3.

Featuring a newly designed 16 million pixel digital sensor and the latest Venus Engine VII processor, Panasonic promises that this combination in the G5 delivers images which are cleaner and freer of noise than seen before on a G series camera.

As the G5 is considered a 'step-up' camera, it features a number of new and exciting extras in the package. This includes Eye Sensor AF which can automatically detect when the camera is lifted to the eye to begin autofocusing.

Panasonic G5 review

Also new for the G5 is the option to use the LCD screen as a TouchPad to control autofocus points when using the EVF.

Some ergonomic changes have also been made, with a new larger grip and the introduction of a Function Lever on top of the camera. A silent shutter mode has also been included, to help with discreet shooting.

Other features include full HD video recording, six fps shooting at full resolution, sensitivity reaching ISO 12,800 and Intelligent Auto mode.

Build quality and handling

The overall shape and size of the G5 is very similar to the G3, but Panasonic has made a particularly noticeable change to the size of the grip. It is now deeper and easier to hold, being more akin to a DSLR-style grip.

Like the G3, the G5 features an articulating rear LCD screen. It feels reasonably sturdy, and of course it's extremely useful for shooting in odd positions, such as from above (for concerts and so on) or from the ground - for macros etc.

Panasonic G5

It's also a touchscreen, and for the first time, Panasonic has incorporated what it calls a "touchpad" option, which allows the screen to be used to set the autofocus point even when using the electronic viewfinder (and the screen is off).

Although there will be some concerns about your nose touching the screen and altering the autofocus point, in reality the feature is extremely handy and you soon come to rely on it - and even wonder why it hasn't been done before. Using it in portrait orientation is a little more tricky, as your nose does indeed press the screen, but you can always flip the screen out of the way if it's causing too much of a problem.

Another new feature on the camera is the Function Lever on top of the camera. When pairing the camera with a Power Zoom lens, this can be used to zoom in and out, which should be particularly useful when shooting video. When another type of lens is attached, this can be used to set exposure compensation - which is handy for quick access.

Panasonic G5

On the back of the camera is a dial, which can either be used for altering the shutter speed or aperture (depending on the mode being used), or when pushed in can also be used for exposure compensation.

Making a return to the G5 is an eye sensor which can detect when the camera is lifted up to the eye and switches between the EVF and rear LCD screen. On the G3 you need to press a button to switch between the two, which can be a little frustrating.

One criticism of the eye sensor though, is that it is a little too sensitive, activating even when relatively far away from it.

Panasonic G5 review

Anyone familiar with any of Panasonic's other cameras will be familiar with the menu system, which on the whole has been well organised.

The Quick Menu is available via a button on the back of the screen which can then be operated either via the touchscreen or using the directional arrow keys. However you choose to use it, having these options quickly available is very handy.

Panasonic G5 review

Performance

Images from the G5 are very good straight from the camera with lots of detail and bright, clear colours.

In low light conditions, images taken at high sensitivity display good control over noise, although not quite on a par with those from cameras with larger sensors.

Panasonic G5

On occasion, in mixed or artificial lighting, the auto white balance tends to produce warmer colours, but changing the white balance setting is easy from the quick menu.

Panasonic G5 review

Panasonic is very proud of the autofocus mechanism on its cameras, claiming it to be the fastest, and most accurate, in the world. For the G5, the company has introduced Eye Sensor AF, which means the camera will automatically focus as soon as the camera is lifted to the eye.

Panasonic G5 review

This is very handy for grabbing quick shots, and means you're ready to grab the action as it happens. It works very well, but it's perhaps most useful when using multi-point AF, rather than a singular point which may not be in the location you need.

Panasonic G5 review

Panasonic has introduced extra filters to the G5, bringing it in line with the recently announced GF5. These include Cross Process, Toy Camera and Dramatic Monotone.

Panasonic G5 review

As you might expect, some work better than others, with a lot of it of course being down to personal preference. Images can be shot in both raw format and JPEG, and you can remove the filter in post-production from the raw files should you choose.

Panasonic G5 review

It's a shame, however, that control over aperture and/or shutter speed can't be retained when shooting in Creative mode.

Panasonic G5 review

The screen works well in all but perhaps the brightest of sunlight. The same can be said about the EVF, which provides a clear and bright view, and only occasionally needs to be shielded from direct light.

Panasonic G5 review

One of the most useful advantages of EVFs over traditional optical devices is that a captured image pops up in the viewfinder. This helps to quickly determine whether the shot has been successful.

Panasonic G5 review

However, if you're shooting something which requires precise focusing, you may find you need to double check on the rear LCD screen as occasionally images can appear sharper in the EVF than they actually are.

Panasonic G5 review

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Panasonic G5 we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Panasonic G5 is capable of resolving up to around 24 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

Panasonic G5 review resolution

JPEGs

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 160, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 200, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 400, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 800, score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 1600, score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 3200, score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 6400, score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 12,800, score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Raw files

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 160, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 200, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 400, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 800, score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 1600, score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 3200, score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 6400, score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Panasonic G5 review resolution

ISO 12,800, score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

JPEG Signal to noise ratio

Panasonic G5 review

The JPEG files from the G5 have a fairly similar, but slightly lower signal to noise ratio to those from the Panasonic G3, Sony NEX-5N and Olympus E-P3. This indicates that the images are very similar, but maybe slightly noisier.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Panasonic G5 review

After conversion to TIFF the G5's raw files have a good signal to noise ratio at the lowest sensitivity settings. However, the figure falls quite steeply from around ISO 400 and by ISO 800 the raw files from both the Sony NEX-5N and Olympus E-P3 have a better signal to noise ratio, indicating that the images from these two cameras are cleaner.

JPEG Dynamic range

Panasonic G5 review

While the JPEGs from the G5 have a greater dynamic range than the Panasonic G3 at ISO 160-400, above this the older camera performs better. Both the Sony NEX-5N and Olympus E-P3 have a better dynamic range score from ISO 100-1600, but above this value the E-P3 is a very close match for the G5.

Raw dynamic range

Panasonic G5 review

Although the raw files (after conversion to TIFF) from the G5 can't match those of the Sony NEX-5N, they have a very respectable dynamic range – especially at the lower sensitivity settings. From around ISO 800 upwards they are a close match for the Panasonic G3's raw files and have about 0.5Ev more dynamic range than the Olympus E-P3's files.

Sample images

Panasonic G5 sample image

Click here to see the full resolution image

Lots of detail can be captured by the G5's 16 million pixel Four Thirds sensor. This image has been shot with a Panasonic 45mm macro lens, with the camera in "Expressive" mode to boost the colours.

Panasonic G5 sample image

Click here to see the full resolution image.

In standard colour mode, the G5 produces images which are bright and punchy, without being overly vibrant.

Panasonic G5 sample image

Click here to see the full resolution image

In artificial lighting conditions the G5 has a tendency to err on the side of warm when using the Auto White Balance function.

Panasonic G5 sample image

Click here to see the full resolution image

This image was shot with a 25mm Panasonic lens, and shows the kinds of creative effects that can be had with a wide aperture. It has also been shot with a Cross Process effect.

Panasonic G5 sample image

Click here to see the full resolution image

Panasonic G5 sample image

Click here to see the full resolution image

These two images show the difference between the camera in "normal" mode and when using the "Impressive Art" Creative Effect.

Panasonic G5 sample image

Click here to see the full resolution image

A large number of lenses are available for Micro Four Thirds cameras. This was shot on a 7-14mm ultra wide angle lens.

Panasonic G5 sample image

Click here to see the full resolution image

The Toy Camera effect (also used in the previous picture) creates a vignette around the edge of the image to replicate a pinhole type effect.

Panasonic G5 sample image

Click here to see the full resolution image

Panasonic shares the Micro Four Thirds format with Olympus, meaning that lenses can be swapped between the two. This image was taken with an Olympus 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens.

Verdict

Panasonic is keen to push the G5 under a new category name, DSLM, or Digital Single Lens Mirrorless.

It has a slightly larger size (when compared with something like the GF5 for instance), so this would seem to fit a move away from "compact" system cameras, whether it will catch on as a name is another question though.

Overall we have been extremely impressed with the output from the G5 and we can see it being very appealing to lots of people, especially with innovative new features such as the TouchPad AF operation.

It also has a good number of automatic controls, digital filters and scene guides to appeal to novices or those looking simply to point and shoot.

We liked

The newly designed grip makes holding and using the G5 a more pleasant experience than its predecessor, while also giving it a feeling of improved build quality.

We disliked

It's a shame that art filters can't be deployed in manual/semi-automatic modes, as you can on Olympus cameras, as this would be really beneficial to those wanting to be extra creative.

Final verdict

Panasonic has once again delivered a very interesting proposition in the shape of the G5. Purchasing the camera as a twin lens kit, with the new ultra-portable 45-150mm lens would arguably make this the ultimate holiday combination.

Panasonic G5 compact system cameras mirrorless camerascarousel-en-gb awardrecommended
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