Panasonic Lumix G5 Review: Small, Mirrorless, Lots of Control

By Michael Hession on at

With all the retro-styled mirrorless cameras today, the traditional DSLR form factor seems relegated to nothing but, well, DSLRs. The Panasonic G5 is a mirrorless camera clinging hard to the classic DSLR mold. But it's smaller — and much cheaper.

 

What Is It?

A £635 interchangeable-lens camera with an electronic viewfinder and a four-thirds sensor.

 

Who's It For?

Not for enthusiasts or pros — they want better guts. Not for casual point-and-shooters — they don't care about interchangeable lenses. That leaves people who are transitioning from beginner to advanced, and want to learn how to properly control a camera.

 

Design

Like a shrunken DSLR. Light, plastic, but solid all around. A flip-out touch screen, electronic viewfinder, and a bunch of buttons and dials make for a busy but robust set of controls.

Panasonic Lumix G5 Review: Small, Mirrorless, Lots of ControlPanasonic Lumix G5 Review: Small, Mirrorless, Lots of Control

 

Using It

You have a lot of control — a dedicated mode dial, a rocker for aperture adjustment, a wheel for shutter speed, a programmable Q button, an ISO button, and THREE other programmable function buttons. Autofocus is quite speedy. Image quality is solid but not stellar — check out our Flickr gallery.

The 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens is optional, but most people will purchase the camera as a system with this lens. You control its zoom and focus via small electronic rockers on the side of the barrel. This might appeal to shooters more familiar with point-and-shoot cams, but more experienced users will find it slow and frustrating.

 

The Best Part

If you are stepping up from a point-and-shoot, welcome to the wonderful world of micro-four-thirds lenses.

 

Tragic Flaw

The touchscreen is horribly unresponsive compared to a modern smartphone (or the great touchscreen on the Canon 650D).

 

This Is Weird...

It has face recognition. Does anyone ever use face recognition on a camera?

 

Test Notes

 

  • Completely silent shutter option is AWESOME if you are a stealthy street shooter.
  • There is a little "iA" button that will put the G5 in full-auto mode. Great if you get overwhelmed by settings, or if you forget what settings you have dialed in and just need to get the shot.
  • The electronic zoom is annoying for photos, but quite nice for video.
  • Video quality is surprisingly good, producing clean, sharp images, even in low light. It records at 30p, 60i, and even shoots 60p video in full HD — a total bonus — but it doesn't shoot 24p at all.
  • For someone with large hands, the manual control dials are awkward to reach with your fingertips.
  • Battery life is great! Panasonic says 320 shots, but I went for a week of casual shooting without a recharge.
  • The lens looks like a pancake lens, but it extends as soon as you turn the camera on, about another ¾."

Panasonic Lumix G5 Review: Small, Mirrorless, Lots of Control

 

Should You Buy It?

If you're ready for a higher level of photography than a point-and-shoot can offer, at a relatively low cost, the G5 has a lot going for it. Solid image quality, great lens selection, and a whole lot of manual controls make it a good choice — especially if you want to get comfortable with DSLR ergonomics.

 

Panasonic Lumix G5
• Sensor: 18 MP Live MOS 17.3 x 13.0 mm (in 4:3 aspect ratio)
• Lens Mount: Micro 4/3
• ISO Range: 160 - 12,800
• Autofocus System: Contrast Detection
• Weight: Approx. 395g (with card and battery)
• Price: £635 with kit lens on Amazon
• Gizrank: 3.5