Panasonic G6 £629

17th Jun 2013 | 16:30

Panasonic G6

Same sensor as the G5, but more responsive

TechRadar rating:

5 stars

Like:

Viewfinder; Fully articulating screen; Extensive touchscreen controls; Can shoot raw files with filters;

Dislike:

Old 16MP sensor; Can't use Creative Control options in advanced exposure modes;

Introduction

Like Panasonic's other compact system cameras (CSCs), the Panasonic G6 is built following the Micro Four Thirds standard.

This means that it has a 17.3 x 13mm (0.68 x 0.51-inch) sensor, which is smaller than the APS-C format sensors in cameras such as the Canon EOS 700D (22.3 x 14.9mm) and Nikon D5200 (23.5 x 15.6mm), which are both DSLRs, and the Sony NEX-5R (23.5 x 15.6mm) and Samsung NX300 (23.5 x 15.7mm), which are CSCs.

However, using the Micro Fours Thirds (MFT) standard means that the Panasonic G6 is compatible with Olympus MFT lenses as well as a growing collection from third party manufacturers such as Sigma.

Panasonic G6 review

Because Panasonic and Olympus were first and second, respectively, into the CSC market, both companies have had time to develop the system, and there's an extensive array of optics available.

Panasonic has used a mini-DSLR style for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6, and unlike many compact system cameras, it has a viewfinder built in, though the mirrorless design naturally means that this is an electronic device.

Like the Panasonic G5 before it, the Panasonic G6's LCD screen is touch-sensitive and is mounted on an articulating joint, so you can twist it around to get a clear view from a range of angles.

Panasonic G6 review

The Panasonic G6 sits below the Panasonic GH3 in the company's CSC lineup, and it's aimed at enthusiast photographers who want to shoot a range of subjects but want a smaller, lighter camera system than the average DSLR kit.

Features

Although Panasonic has stuck with the same 16.05 million pixel Live MOS sensor in the Lumix G6 that it used in the Panasonic G5 (and Panasonic GH2), it has used a new, more powerful Venus Engine, a better touchscreen and an improved electronic viewfinder (EVF).

According to Panasonic, the compact system camera's new processing engine enables the G6 to produce better quality images, and in turn enables a wider extended sensitivity range of ISO 160-25600.

Panasonic G6 review

In addition, the manufacturer says the new engine enables faster autofocusing, especially in low light. It does this by dropping the readout from the sensor from 120fps to 15fps, making it eight times more sensitive. Panasonic has also worked to improve the G6's ability to track moving subjects, as well as boosting the maximum continuous shooting speed to 7fps.

While the Panasonic G5 has a 1,440,00- dot LCD in its electronic viewfinder, the Panasonic G6 has a 1,440,000-dot OLED finder, which is brighter and should provide a clearer view.

Meanwhile, the touchscreen is a capacitive device rather than resistive, so it responds to a touch of a finger rather than requiring a press.

Panasonic G6 review

As on the Panasonic G5, there's a collection of Creative Control modes with options such as Toy Camera and Impressive Art that adjust the processing of the images to give them a particular look. These are accessed via the main mode dial and can be used when shooting raw as well as JPEG files, giving you a 'clean' image as well as one with the effect applied.

Having a raw file as well as a more heavily processed JPEG makes the Creative Control options more attractive to enthusiast photographers who want to option of working on their images post-capture.

The downside to using the Creative Control options is that there's no control over key features such as aperture and shutter speed. However, the Photo Style options Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait and Custom can be used in any exposure mode (apart from Creative Control) with full control over the camera settings, and they work with raw and JPEG file recording.

Panasonic G6 review

Panasonic has also given the G6 Wi-Fi connectivity, and an NFC chip means that it is possible to connect quickly and easily to other NFC devices such as an Android smartphone or tablet.

As yet Apple hasn't included an NFC chip in its iPhones, but rumours are rife that one will feature in the iPhone 5S/6.

The Panasonic G6 price is £629/US$749.99 (around AU$989) including a 14-42mm kit lens.

Build and handling

Panasonic has made a few subtle but pleasing changes to the appearance of the G5 for this new G6. For a start the camera looks and feels a little more serious than the Panasonic G5. The viewfinder bump is less pronounced and the texture of the body surface has changed.

The silver controls on the back of the Panasonic G5 are now black on the Panasonic G6, giving it a higher quality appearance.

There are also a couple of additional function buttons, bringing the total number of physical function buttons on the back of the camera to five. These enable greater customisation of the Panasonic G6, making it quicker and easier to use once you've set it to your preferences.

Panasonic G6 review

The physical buttons all have their default settings indicated next to them, and in the most part they work well. However, we found it useful to use Fn3, which is the delete button in review mode, to access the flash exposure compensation control in record mode

It's very easy to change the purpose of the Fn button, because once the option is selected in the Menu the screen displays an image of the camera with the buttons and their function highlighted. Touching any of the icons reveals the customisation options available.

Sticking with the subject of customisation, we were surprised to find that Panasonic hasn't continued with the customisable format of the Quick Menu. This is now fixed, which is a shame because the main menu doesn't have a customisable screen either.

Panasonic G6 review

On the plus side, most of the options that you need to access regularly can be reached via physical buttons or the quick menu, so you don't need to delve into the full menu very often once the camera is set up.

One issue we had with the G6's control arrangement was that we occasionally changed the on-screen display by accidentally pressing the Display button just beneath the thumb-rest.

As on the top of the Panasonic G5, there's a Function Lever on the top-plate of the Panasonic G6, just behind the shutter release button. When one of Panasonic's powerzoom lenses is mounted, this can be used to change focal length. It can also be used to adjust the exposure compensation.

If you regularly switch between powerzoom and non-powerzoom lenses you may find it best to set this lever to adjust the exposure compensation, to avoid its function from changing depending on the lens that's mounted.

Panasonic G6 review

While we found the Function Lever provides a very quick way of adjusting exposure, it seems to confuse inexperienced photographers because it's more prominent than the shutter release button. If you ever hand the camera to a non-photographer to take a shot, the first thing they do is move the lever backwards and forwards, adjusting the exposure as they go.

In addition, the Panasonic G6's electronic viewfinder (EVF) has been changed to an OLED unit that is brighter than an LCD finder. Although the type of device has changed, its resolution is the same (1,440,000 dots) as the Panasonic G5's EVF.

While its faint grid-texture and a contrast shift means you are aware that you are using an electronic viewfinder rather than an optical one, the EVF provides a very clear view, with lots of sharp detail and natural colours. It also has the benefit of showing how the image will appear when it is captured, taking into account any changes in exposure and white balance.

Panasonic G6 review

Another key upgrade made for the Panasonic G6 is the switch to a 3-inch electrostatic touchscreen, which is much more sensitive than the resistive touchscreen on the Panasonic G5. This makes making settings selections and adjustments quicker than before, putting the Panasonic G6's screen's response on a par with that of the Panasonic GH3.

It's especially useful when using Touchpad AF, which enables the AF point to be selected by touching the screen while composing images in the EVF. It's a significant improvement on the Panasonic G5.

We found the main LCD screen also provides a clear view even in quite bright light, and because it is mounted on an articulating hinge it makes shooting from awkward angles much easier than normal. Touch Shutter mode, which triggers the camera to focus on the point selected by a touch on the screen and then fire the shutter, is especially useful when shooting from a very low or high angle.

Panasonic G6 review

At times, however, it would be helpful if the on-screen digital level could be made a bit clearer, because its not always easy to see it change from yellow to green to indicate the camera is level when the screen is being viewed from an angle.

The navigation controls on the back of the Panasonic G6 sit low into the camera body, which initially makes them a little hard to identify with your thumb when holding the camera to your eye. However, after a little experience they become easier to locate.

Panasonic has introduced a new app that enables G6 users to control the camera remotely via your iPhone, iPad or Android device. It enables a similar level of control to the Lumix Link app that works with the Panasonic GH3 with the focus point, exposure and white balance all being remotely controllable.

Panasonic Lumix G6 review

The Panasonic G6 has Wi-Fi connectivity and an NFC chip built-in. The NFC chip enables quick connection with NFC-enabled smartphones and tablets. As yet Apple hasn't included an NFC chip in any of its devices, but you can still connect to the Panasonic G6 wirelessly.

Panasonic's Image App is particularly useful for anyone who wants to be able to shoot while they are away from their camera, with a Live View image being displayed on the phone or tablet screen.

Unlike some other apps, Image App gives the photographer remote control over the exposure, white balance and drive mode settings and the focus point can be set with the touch of a finger on the tablet or phone screen.

Panasonic G6 review

Images can also be transferred wirelessly to the smart device at full or reduced resolution, and from here they can be shared. Once you've set up a Lumix Club account and registered the destination Facebook, Twitter or other social media or image sharing account it's also possible to post images directly to these sites.

While the Wi-Fi connectivity is a bonus, it isn't especially intuitive to set up and use the first time, even when connecting with an NFC device. Panasonic's Lumix Club website also isn't especially inviting or user-friendly.

Performance

Our images from the Panasonic G6 generally look very good, they are well exposed, have good, natural colours and plenty of detail.

After testing the Canon 700D and Canon 100D recently it was nice to use the Panasonic G6's 1728-zone Intelligent Multiple zone metering system, which gives more consistent results in high contrast situations.

In fact during this test we found little reason to use centre weighted or spot-metering, because the general-purpose multiple-zone system does so well. That said, it's not completely foolproof, and we occasionally had to adjust the exposure compensation, but it was usually only by 1/3EV.

Panasonic G6 review

Although the Panasonic G6 lagged some way behind the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 and in some cases the Sony NEX-6 in our dynamic range lab tests, its images look natural, with a wide range of tones and smooth gradations. A dynamic range of around 10EV in JPEGs taken at up to ISO 800 is pretty good, and the end result is images that have a good level of contrast.

Colours straight from the camera are also good, and the automatic white balance system copes very well with a range of lighting conditions, only struggling in low artificial light. While there's a range of preset white balance settings, it's so easy to set a custom white balance value that it makes sense to use this in artificial light.

Panasonic has used the same sensor in the G6 as it has in the G5, and our lab tests show that the raw files (after conversion to TIFF) have almost identical signal to noise ratio and dynamic range. However, it seems Panasonic has been able to eke out a little more detail from the G6's files, and it achieves higher resolution scores from ISO 800 and above.

Panasonic G6 review

Our JPEG images taken at ISO 1600 have lots of detail, with very little sign of noise and just a hint of smoothing visible at 100% on the screen. Pushing up to ISO 6400 increases the amount of smoothing that's visible at 100%, but images still look very good when sized to make A3 (16.5 x 11.7-inch) prints.

Raw files can be processed to reveal more detail than the JPEGs, but this is at the expense of noise, which becomes more visible.

Panasonic supplies Silkypix Developer Studio software for raw file conversion. While this is a comprehensive image editing package, it isn't especially tailored to the camera in the same way that the software that's supplied with Canon and Nikon DSLRs is. Consequently, you can't make in-camera-like changes to raw files.

Panasonic G6 review

However, in reality many Panasonic G6 users are only likely to use the Silkypix software until the raw file conversion component of their preferred image editing software, perhaps Adobe Photoshop Elements or Lightroom has been updated, so it's not a major deal.

Panasonic's claims for the G6's AF system are borne out, as well as being fast and accurate it is better able to focus in low light and follow moving subjects than its predecessor. It only really struggles to find its target in very low lighting situations that would also trouble an entry- or enthusiast-level DSLR's phase detection AF system.

The AF Tracking mode still isn't able to keep up with subjects moving faster than walking pace. But if 1-Area AF and continuous AF mode is selected and you keep the active AF over the subject, the Panasonic G6 can focus the lens very quickly and keep up with fast moving subjects.

Panasonic G6 review

The Panasonic G6 might not be our first choice of camera for shooting sport, but it is certainly capable of doing so, and can produce some great results.

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.

Here we compare the Panasonic G6 with the Sony NEX-6, Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 and Panasonic G5. The Panasonic G6 has the greatest sensitivity range of all the cameras here.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Panasonic G6 review

These results show that the Panasonic G6's JPEG files show a weaker signal to noise ratio than those from the Panasonic G5 at the bottom and top ends of the sensitivity scale, but are stronger at ISO 400 and 800. At ISO 1600 and 3200 their scores are extremely similar. JPEGs from the G6 contain slightly greater signal to noise ratios than those from the Sony NEX-6 at ISO 200, then similar levels at ISO 400 and 800, before falling behind at ISO 1600 and above. Similarly, the G6's JPEGs beat the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5's for signal to noise ratio at ISO 200-800, but fall behind at ISO 1600 and above.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Panasonic G6 review

Scores for signal to noise ratios of the TIFF images (after conversion from raw) are much easier to follow, with TIFFs from the Panasonic G6 showing every so slightly weaker signal to noise ratios than those from the Panasonic G5 at every sensitivity setting, and significantly weaker ratios than those from the Sony NEX-6 and Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 at every sensitivity setting.

JPEG dynamic range

Panasonic G6 review

As we can see from this chart, the Panasonic G6's JPEGs contain more dynamic range than the Panasonic G5's at every sensitivity but ISO 1600 and 3200. The G6's JPEGs also show greater dynamic range than those from the Sony NEX-6 at ISO 200 and 800, but they're weaker at other sensitivities, while JPEGs from the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 outperform the G6's JPEGs at every sensitivity setting.

Raw dynamic range

Panasonic G6 review

Looking similar to the other TIFF results, this chart indicates that the Panasonic G6's TIFF images (after conversion from raw) contain similar levels of dynamic range to those from the Panasonic G5, at every sensitivity setting, and are well and truly beaten by the TIFFs from the Sony NEX-6 and Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 at every sensitivity.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Panasonic G6, 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 160 the Panasonic G6 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:

JPEG

Panasonic G6 review

Full ISO 160 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Panasonic G6 review

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

Panasonic G6 review

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

Panasonic G6 review

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

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 800, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

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

Panasonic G6 review

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

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 6400, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 12800, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 25600, score: 10 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Panasonic G6 review

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

Panasonic G6 review

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

Panasonic G6 review

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

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 800, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

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

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 3200, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 6400, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 12800, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 25600, score: 10 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Sample images

Panasonic G6 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

We shot this image through a light tent to keep reflections under control and it was useful to be able to control the camera via the touchscreen rather than have to find the buttons under the tent. The square crop was set in-camera and proved useful for getting the composition just right.

Panasonic G6 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Exposure here was reduced by 1/3EV to intensify the colours a little and avoid any loss of highlight data. The 16:9 crop was set in-camera, because it suits the scene.

Panasonic G6 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Shooting at f/2.8 when using Panasonic's 45mm macro lens (effective focal length 90mm) has restricted the depth of field nicely here.

Panasonic G6 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Using the Low Key Creative Control Mode has created a moodier shot.

Panasonic G6 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Pushing the contrast setting of the Monochrome Photo Style to its maximum value produced a more graphic shot.

Panasonic G6 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The articulating LCD proves very useful when you want to shoot from very low angles like this. If the camera is on a tripod you can focus very precisely by enlarging the on-screen image and focusing manually. The camera can be set to enlarge the image as soon as the manual focus ring is moved. However, the AF system is also very capable and can pick out very small subjects

Panasonic G6 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

This shot was taken at ISO 6400 and although there's not much coloured speckling visible in the JPEG, there are signs of noise removal. When sized to A3 (16.5 x 11.7 inches) there's some softening and loss of detail in the tiles in the middle distance. A stippled texture becomes visible when the shot is examined at 100%.

Panasonic G6 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The Impressive Art Creative Control produces some fun results, but it's nice that the Panasonic G6 enables you to have a 'clean' raw file as well.

Panasonic G6 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The Panasonic G6's Multi-Metering system has done an excellent job with this scene, and the dynamic range accurately reflects what we saw.

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Panasonic G6 review

Full ISO 160 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 160 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 12800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 25600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 160 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 12800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Panasonic G6 review

ISO 25600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Verdict

We liked the Panasonic G5 because as well as producing high quality images it has all the headline features that we want from a modern compact system camera: a good built-in electronic viewfinder, a vari-angle touchscreen, the ability to shoot raw and JPEG images when using the Creative Controls and a sensible control arrangement with some novel thinking.

While Panasonic hasn't done anything radical such as increasing the pixel count of the sensor, the Panasonic G6 has some good enhancements over the G5. The touchscreen, for example, is much more sensitive, which makes it faster and more inviting to use.

It seems strange that Panasonic has stepped back with the G6's Quick Menu, which unlike the G5's is not customisable.

We liked

Being able to compose images in either the viewfinder or on the LCD screen is something of a luxury with a compact system camera, and one that we really appreciate. The Panasonic G6's screen provides a nice clear view in all but the brightest light, but there are times when it just seems more natural to shoot with the camera held to your eye. It's also a more stable way of holding the camera, so the risk of camera shake is reduced.

Having a fully articulating screen is also a huge bonus, because it encourages you to shoot from more interesting angles. In these situations it's particularly helpful that the camera can be controlled via the touchscreen, even to the extent that the lens can be focused and the shutter fired with a touch of a finger on the screen.

We often complain about cameras only enabling us to shoot JPEG files when we want to use filter effects. Thankfully Panasonic enables raw files to be recorded at the same time when the Creative Control options are used. This means you can have a JPEG image with the effect applied and a clean raw file for normal processing.

We disliked

The 16 million pixel sensor in the Panasonic G6 has been around for a while now, and while we know that Panasonic likes to get value for money from its sensors, it would've been nice to have seen the pixel count rise to challenge the 24.3 million pixel offering of the Sony NEX-7.

It would also be nice if the Creative Control options could be used in the advanced exposure modes (aperture priority, shutter priority and manual) so there is control over the exposure.

Verdict

The Panasonic G6 feels like the most complete and well-rounded enthusiast-level Panasonic compact system camera to date. It may lack a few of the features and the rugged build of the Panasonic GH3, but it's also significantly smaller, making it a more attractive option to carry around with you.

It's also very capable, capturing high-quality images with plenty of sharp detail at the lower sensitivity settings. Image colour and exposure is also generally excellent.

Using the Wi-Fi connectivity isn't quite as slick an experience as we'd like, but the additional functionality is useful - and fun.

It is clear that the compact system camera is now stepping beyond the confines to which it has traditionally been assigned. The Panasonic G6's focusing system is fast and accurate in a range of conditions, and it is possible to shoot sport and action as well as take travel and landscape images.

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