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It’s easy to see that mirrorless cameras have swamped the market, with models from Panasonic, Sony, Pentax, Olympus — even Canon! — and others, kicking the heels of the budget DSLRs.
Buyers like the small size, ease of use and access to a range of high quality lenses; in the case of this camera, you can slip on Leica’s well-regarded optics (with an adaptor) as well as those produced by Olympus, Voigtlander (Cosina), Carl Zeiss, Schneider and Sigma.
So it was with barely concealed delight that I took hold of the DMC-G5, successor to the G3 model.
So why is it not labelled G4?
Good question: perhaps the answer lies in the Japanese aversion to the number four, a homonym of the word for death. The Chinese have a similar dislike for this number. For what it’s worth, the Japanese also abhor the number nine.
I have to say the G5 is a mighty appealing piece of kit: it’s small, has few exterior controls and sits particularly well in the hand, thanks to a conspicuous speed grip, complete with a comfy hollow for the middle finger.
The review camera was supplied with the Lumix G Vario f3.5-5.6/14-42mm pancake lens, a useful kit lens that will suit the first time user who is not overly fussed with a (not so) wide end that’s the equivalent of 28mm in DSLR-speak.
The body is polycarbonate with an aluminium front plate. Top deck has a mode dial, power lever, shutter button, movie record button, Intelligent Auto button, zoom lever and, on the left side, the flash button. A zoom lever is sited just ahead of the shutter button; usefully, another zoom control is also built into the lens’s left side.
Rear surface: four way rocker and six buttons for replay, display, trash, viewfinder display, menu, Function etc.
The 7.6cm LCD touch screen finder swings outwards, upwards and downwards, which makes the camera a delight to shove into all sorts of interesting angles as well being a dream to shoot walking video with the finder at waist level pointing upwards.
The finder menu system is extensive, which could annoy some people but, at least, it does give access to a wide range of options. Life is also made easier, thanks to the auto eye sensor which automatically starts focusing when you clap your eye to the turret finder.
The 16.1 megapixel capture figure with the Micro Four Thirds CMOS chip captures a maximum image size of 4608×3456 pixels or 39x29cm as a print.
Movies can be shot in 1920×1080 res either in AVHCD or MPEG4. Touch AF is active in movie recording so you can correct sharpness whilst on the move. You can also shoot stills mid-movie which makes it a complete package video- and stills-wise as far as I could see.
HDR is included, as is RAW capture, but I have to admit to falling afoul of the former (see ISO Tests) which made my early hours with the G5 a bit of a struggle.
It uses Contrast AF which means that focusing is controlled by the image sensor, a more accurate scheme than the Phase difference system AF. Coupled with this is full-area Touch AF, so you can set focus on any point in the framed area.
Thanks to an eye-level gauge you need never shoot off-level pictures. This cleverly shows any tilt in the lateral or fore and aft directions. If you should be holding the camera in a vertical orientation the camera switches to it. Real smart!
Added to this is a range of continuous speeds, running from 2 to 3.7 (with AF-tracking), 6 (full frame) and 20 fps.
Creative Control offers a large number of filter treatments: soft focus, dynamic mono, cross processing, miniature effect.
The Scene Guide feature displays a series of examples, along with technical and useful parameters on how to achieve a similar result.
I made the mistake in shooting the ISO tests by capturing them with little preparation as far as reading the instruction manual. After all, who reads the manual anyway!
Unfortunately for me, the previous reviewer had managed to jumble the camera’s settings to such a degree that the exposure correction was bumped down to minus three stops and HDR was in play.
After an hour or so of mucking around I eventually managed to straighten things out and captured the run of ISO images to my satisfaction. My warning: read the manual before you go out and about.
ISO tests: I would happily shoot with it right up to ISO 6400. By ISO 12800 it falls over!
Quality: excellent in all sorts of conditions. Try it in soft light: you will be impressed as I was with this simple flower picture.
Why buy it: small; good in the hand.
Why not: your ambitions are higher.
The G5 is very appealing and, mostly due to its small size, would appeal to the ambitious and photographically aware traveller. Available in silver and black.
Image Sensor: 16.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multiple, centre-weighted and spot.
Effective Sensor Size: Four thirds 17.3×13.0mm CMOS.
Lens Factor: 2x.
Compatible lenses: Micro Four Thirds.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: Bulb, 60 to 1/4000 second. Flash sync: 1/160 sec.
Burst Speed: 2, 3.7, 6, 20 fps.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4608×3456 to 1712×1712. Movies: 1920×1080, 1280x720p 848×480, 640×480.
Viewfinders: 7.6cm LCD screen (920,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW, AVCHD/MPEG4, MPO (3D).
Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 160 to 12800.
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, HDMI mini, DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC adaptor.
Dimensions: 120x83x71 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 396g (inc body and battery).
Prices: Get a price at Amazon on the Panasonic DMC-G5 Body Only or the Panasonic DMC-G5 with 14-42mm Zoom Lens.
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