Hands on preview of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5




A more up-market alternative to the Lumix G3 and some new Micro Four Thirds lenses from Panasonic

The new DMC-G5 fits inbetween last year's G3 and the top model GH2, which we expect to be replaced later this year.

A couple of weeks ago we were fortunate enough to attend a new camera product seminal hosted by Panasonic in a very hot and sunny Budapest, Hungary. There the 16 megapixel DMC-G5 was unveiled, along with a new 45-150mm compact telephoto zoom and we were also able to handle and even try out an engineering sample of the new Panasonic G-Vario 35-100mm f/2.8.

With a line up that included a competitively priced G3 model with integrated electronic viewfinder and a more compact but feature-rich GX1 that can be fitted with an optional viewfinder, plus the very new and compact GF5 for a younger audience, plus the top of the range GH2, one might be forgiven for wondering where the new Lumix DMC-G5 fits in. Many, us included, thought that the next Lumix G-Micro system camera would be a replacement for the ageing GH2 flagship. That now looks like it will be finally replaced at Photokina in a couple of months time. While the G3 has been selling very well thanks to competitive pricing, Panasonic clearly feels there is a market for a more capable G-series model with an integrated EVF to complement the GX1. The G5 borrows some of the modernised user interface from the GF5 and GX1 and has a number of tricks up its own sleeves.

Faster shooting and focusing

The G5 can shoot continuously at 6 frames per second in normal shutter mode and 20 frames per second in solid state electronic shutter mode at reduced resolution. There is also an option to shoot silently using the electronic shutter mode. Panasonic showed us some independent test results that suggest that you are less likely to suffer a mis-focused image using a G5 than any rival cameras. Panasonic also says its tracking continuous AF has been further improved, an area that is seen as a weakness of contrast-detect AF cameras. UHS-1 SD cards are now supported and if fast write cards are used the buffer in the camera should clear noticeably faster when shooting at 6fps.

New Venus Engine VII FHD but is the sensor new?

The product information provided outlines a new version of Panasonic's Venus Engine image processing chip and a new 16MP LiveMOS sensor. The Venus Engine VII FHD is the brains behind a number of enhanced features, like 50/60p full 1080HD video in both AVCHD and MP4 modes. But our information is that the G5 sensor is in fact a re-packaged version of the multi-aspect ratio sensor used in the GH2. The pixel dimensions are indeed slightly higher than that of the G3 and the GX1, for example. Unfortunately, the multi-aspect ratio capability of this sensor that makes the best use of the slightly over-sized sensor area is not implemented on the G5, although there is a choice of cropped aspect ratio frame formats. But some good news is that the ISO sensitivity range is 160-12800, so the G5 will shoot in darker conditions than the G3, for example.

Design and controls

Panasonic has come up with a more compact design than the old G2 and the GH2. The short side of the body now has a dropped shoulder although the hand grip is much more substantial than the G3's. If you missed the EVF eye-detector after it was left out of the G3 the good news is that it's back with the G5. There are less mechanical controls on the G5 than the G2, but Panasonic has introduced a lever control at the front of the camera near the shutter release that complements the wheel at the back of the camera. That wheel has been off-set compared to the G2/GH2 and I personally found it less ideally positioned. One nice touch is the ability to be viewing through the EVF and manipulating the focus point using your finger tip on the 3-inch articulating LCD touch screen. The screen continues to be a resistive type rather than the more desirable capacitive type. It has to be said that the G5 body does look and feel obviously plastic in construction, although the plastics used are of a good quality. The body feels quite light.

It's a little early to be judging image quality but I didn't notice anything to get alarmed about. You can check our image sample gallery on the next page of this article. But next on this page is a gallery of photos of the camera and the new lenses previously mentioned.

Lumix DMC-G5 illustrated tour

Below is a gallery of thumbnail views of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 taken at a product seminar in Budapest, Hungary. To see a larger view of the the thumbnail, just click on the thumbnail image you are interested in to open a new page with the full-size view.

To return to the thumbnail gallery, click the home arrow at the bottom of the page, or navigate forwards or backwards through the gallery using the backwards/forwards arrow buttons.

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