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Panasonic G5 Review

by David Schloss, and Zig Weidelich
Overview by Shawn Barnett
Review Posted: 02/01/2013
Added Video page: 02/12/2013

Panasonic G5

Panasonic continues to rethink and retool their camera lineup, revamping controls and cosmetics while maintaining the resolution and capabilities of their mainstream Lumix G-series camera. The Panasonic G5's most noticeable improvement is their switch back to a larger grip, both front and back. Sensor resolution remains essentially the same, at 16.05 megapixels, but Panasonic says both the sensor and Venus Engine are improved for better performance. After using the G5, it's clear the autofocus speed is improved, now actually beating Olympus' extremely fast autofocus. Panasonic calls the new system Lightspeed AF. It alone could be worth an upgrade for Panasonic fans.

Kitted with the standard 14-42mm G Vario lens, the Panasonic G5 weighs 20.3 ounces (1.27 pounds; 575g), including lens, hood, battery, and card. Dimensions are 4.72 x 3.28 x 2.79 inches (119.9 x 83.2 x 70.8mm) for the body alone, just a little wider and deeper than the G3.

Panasonic G5

The change in the grip is probably a good one to help the Panasonic G5 compete with SLRs on the market. It's nice that they added a divot for the middle finger more easily find its position, but the divot should run more front-to-back instead of outward from the center of the camera. This, and the long curve back to flat give my fingers less purchase rather than more. I tend to get used to most grips, though, adjusting my hand to compensate, so it's hard to tell how big an issue this is. I think it looks great, and comfortable in the hand, but my grip on it feels just a little less secure than I like. Other than that, the G5 is pretty similar to the G3. The AF assist/self-timer lamp and G-series logo have swapped positions too.

Panasonic G5

The Panasonic G5's strap lugs jut out a bit more than the G3's did, but thank goodness they're modern cloth-to-metal lugs rather than D-ring based. Stereo microphones top the EVF housing as they did on the G3. The key differences are available because of the larger grip area. The Shutter release button is now out on the grip like most competing designs, and the Movie Record button returns to the top deck, where most Panasonic cameras now feature them. The new shutter button position falls right under your index finger, making for a much more natural, comfortable shooting experience, and the top-mounted Movie Record button is likewise much more convenient to use. A new toggle control appears between the two buttons, serving dual functions. By default, if a Power Zoom lens is attached, it controls the lens zoom setting. Alternatively, if shooting with a manual zoom lens or if you configure it so in the Custom menu, you can use it to set Exposure compensation in Program, Shutter, and Aperture priority modes, and adjust aperture in Manual mode. It's a good, quieter substitute for the second dial on most SLRs, and much more convenient than relying on the lens-barrel zoom toggle on the Power Zoom lenses themselves.

Panasonic G5

Continuing the shift toward a more ergonomic look and feel, the Panasonic G5's thumbgrip is more comfortable than the G3's. The rear dial is now set off further to the right of the thumbgrip and seems a bit larger. I'm not sure if I like it as well, as you have to bend your thumb a little more to reach it, and of course you lose your thumb hold while you're making adjustments. Use two hands when making adjustments when possible.

An AF/AE lock button is well-placed, as is the Q.Menu button, so kudos there. Also note the proximity sensor beneath the electronic viewfinder, which automatically switches to the EVF when you hold the camera to your eye.

The 1,440,000-dot equivalent EVF (which Panasonic calls the LVF for Live View Finder) uses the same time-multiplexed display technology as did the G3, which delivers a smooth image, completely devoid of the grid effect so common with LCDs.

Panasonic G5

The LCD monitor is also 920,000 dots making it impressively sharp. Mounted in an articulated housing, the display can be swung out to serve as a touch focus control while you use the electronic viewfinder to frame your images. It's almost like a mouse for your AF point.

Overall, the Panasonic Lumix G5 looks like a good quality bundle of features we've seen in other Lumix cameras, bringing the main consumer G series up to date with recent advances.

 

Panasonic G5 Shooter's Report

by David Schloss

As one of the pioneering developers behind the Micro Four Thirds standard, it's no surprise that Panasonic has continually released a stream of cameras that take the fullest advantage of the format's size and performance strengths. However, as with many cameras in the new compact interchangeable lens space, compromises are necessary to squeeze a DSLR-worth of features into a body about the size of a paperback novel.

As many customers in this category are likely moving up from compact digital point-and-shoots, the interface of the Panasonic G5 is that of an overgrown compact digital, rather than a scaled-down DSLR.  Its price -- around $800 with kit lens -- puts it above a pure entry-level DSLR, though, so it needs to compete on functionality. As you'll see below, it does this rather handily. By comparison, a camera like the Nikon D5200 is a full-fledged DSLR (albeit with an APS-C based sensor) in a package that sells for about $100 more, but is fully 42% larger.

Much of the usefulness of a compact interchangeable camera comes down to ergonomics, control and performance, all of which are generally excellent in the Lumix G5. However, there are some design choices that won't work well for some photographers.

Legacy. The Panasonic Lumix G5 is an only slightly modified version of the Lumix G3, a camera that earned the Dave's Pick rating on this site, and for good reason. The G3 and the G5 by extension fit comfortably in the hand, provide precise and fast autofocus and render excellent quality images and video.

The main changes to the G5 come in the redesign of the front handgrip, which is now extended forward in a more traditional DSLR style. This provides a much better holding surface than that of the G3, and I found myself using the G5 without a strap for much of the time. (Conversely, the G3, with a more subtle front profile was hard to hold for many photographers.) As I have average sized hands, I found the G5 fit perfectly in my grip, though users I showed the G5 to that have larger paws felt their fingers cramped between the lens and the grip and weren't able to get as much purchase on the grip as I was.

One vexing change was the relocation of the rear control dial (the thumb-actuated dial) outbound of the grip -- it's now almost touching the camera's strap mount. As a result, it's necessary to almost completely release the hand grip in order to turn the dial. That's a big issue as it means destabilizing your grip on the camera to change something like aperture or shutter speed. As a left-eye-dominant shooter I find this particularly annoying as it means that my thumb bangs back against my face every time I release the rear dial and put my hand back to its normal position.

Control deck. As with many compact digital cameras, the rear interface on the G5 is a bit crowded. Often during shooting, I found myself accidentally activating one of the four-way switches and suddenly dialing in a new white balance or ISO instead of capturing a photo. I've personally always wanted a lockout switch for compact digital cameras that would deactivate the rear rocker dial unless the switch was pressed, at which point the rocker dial would become active for a few seconds.

Aside from the close positioning of the buttons (something that's just endemic for all of these diminutive bodies), the ergonomics of the G5 are very good. It doesn't feel so much like an overgrown compact digital but instead a smallish DSLR.

A good view. The Panasonic G5 retains the same high-resolution electronic viewfinder as on the G3. Relatively few compact digitals have provided an EVF of high enough quality to rival an optical viewfinder, but the display inside the G5 is excellent.

With the equivalent of nearly one-and-a-half million dots (800 x 600 pixels), the EVF on the G5 is spectacularly useful. No matter how good the quality of a an optical viewfinder there are things that it cannot do. It can't display the shooting values over the screen, nor can it superimpose a horizontal level, rule of thirds grid or histogram. For video shooters, an EVF is even more helpful as it allows for composition and capture of video while the camera is pressed against the face and in a more stable position.

Take your pick. The G5 allows the user a variety of different ways to select and altering the user settings. Pressing the up arrow shows this display.

The rear LCD screen is equally as stunning (with double the pixels of the earlier G3) and provides a clean, clear image even under bright daylight. The touch-screen capabilities of the G5's LCD screen make it very useful in real world situations. Usually I only make use of an articulated display when shooting macros or overhead shots, but the G5's LCD screen is a great tool for setting selection and composition. Being able to adjust settings, set focal points and capture images all by tapping iPhone-style on the display is great.

In a few cases the user interface doesn't exactly work in harmony with the display, though -- for example, a few of the sliding menus are hidden right at the edge of the screen and you have to tap in a specific place to activate them. The least sensitive spot on the LCD screen happens to be the area where the glass meets up with the frame, yet that's where a lot of the sliding menus can be found.

Still, turning the LCD screen into an interface device is an excellent choice, and even better is the fact that the settings on the LCD screen can all be performed with the physical buttons if preferred. That's good because some cameras with touch-screen interfaces use them instead of buttons, which forces the shooter into a less-than-ideal interface system. With the G5, the shooter can take their pick of control systems.

Autofocus. In all of our tests, the G5 performed flawlessly in autofocusing, even in poor light situations. Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds cameras have always been quite fast at focusing, and the G5 is especially peppy. In testing I was able to quickly face-detect focus on a trio of kids running through a forest. The camera was able to instantly detect the people (as opposed to the foliage) and lock on.

Having the ability to prioritize focus based on facial recognition (as opposed to mere face detection) is excellent as well, though in some cases it can lead to having to fight with the camera. While my son and my wife are registered faces in the camera, they're not always the subject in a shot. Except, when they're in the frame and face recognition is on, they are whether I want them to be or not. As a general rule, I used the G5 without registering faces but leaving face detection on.

The focus tracking modes worked very well for everything from running toddlers to speeding cars and were much faster than most DSLRs in the same price category.

Selecting "face detection" resulted in a properly focused shot.
Focus tracking mode worked better than that on most competing DSLRs.

Image is everything. Image quality on the G5 was generally excellent, though the quality of any camera's images depends of course on several factors, most prominently the sensor and the lens. In my user-testing I only used the G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens that arrived with the G5, which means that I couldn't shoot anything above f/3.5. I'm not particularly fond of zoom lenses with small maximum apertures, especially those not offering a constant aperture while zooming, as I like to shoot wide open to control the depth of field. (Note that images in this review were taken with v0.2 firmware, as Panasonic assured us that image quality was production-quality.)

The kit lens reveals incredible detail on this close-up shot of a spider,
and renders the background nicely out of focus, considering its small aperture.
Color fidelity is good with the G5, and all but the strongest highlights of the chrome don't blow out,
thanks to the camera's metering capabilities. (Apologies for the poor focus...operator error.)

Understandably at this price point the G5 isn't going to ship with an f/2.0 lens, but high end users will have to understand that they might want to immediately invest in a better lens for more professional-looking images. That, of course, is one of the advantages of working with a standard like Micro Four Thirds (MFT), as there are lots of lenses available.

On the flip side, as one of the HD series lenses from Panasonic, the "Power Zoom" kit lens performed well in video, and the silent internal motor reduces noise picked up by the microphone making it an excellent choice for video work. The side-mounted zoom switch is much nicer than a body-only zoom solution or a manual zoom ring as it's able to be racked during video recording without jumping or stuttering.

Image quality with the kit lens is decent, though not as good (obviously) as the high-end MFT lenses. Like with all small sensors the G5 has a good amount of noise in low-light and high ISO shots, but that's unavoidable. (See the crops from our test images below for comparisons of high ISO shots taken with sharp prime lenses.)

While there is some noise here at a higher ISO setting, it is still a good indoor shot.
The Panasonic G5 delivers great-looking color in low ISO shooting conditions.

Speed of shutdown. The G5 boots up instantly, going from sleep to shooting in the blink of an eye. Particularly when shooting with slow SD cards, though, the camera didn't shut-down nearly as quickly. With several (RAW+JPEG) images in the buffer it could take up to thirty seconds for the buffer to clear and the camera to shut down.

The downside to this is that the camera doesn't retract the Power Zoom lens into the barrel until the camera has emptied the buffer. I'm not sure why this is the case -- it seems that the lens could easily retract while the buffer was still being written out to the card -- but it meant that in a few cases I had to wait to put the camera into its case or into my jacket pocket. That shouldn't be an issue with the standard kit lens.

1,920 x 1,080
AVCHD, (PSH) mode, 60p, MTS format
Download Original (45MB)

Movie maker. With Full HD support up to 60p, the Panasonic G5 is a great camera for video capture. It's perhaps one of the most powerful video capture devices you can stick in a pocket. (Well, a coat pocket, at least.)

Strangely the G5 has no audio-in jack, one area where Panasonic didn't improve over the G3. My theory on this is that they didn't want to change the layout of the controller board, but this does reduce the usability of the camera for video capture.

Yes, the G5 has a built-in stereo microphone, but that's not acceptable for high quality video work. It can be argued that no motion picture will be made on a small sensor camera like the G5, and that video editors can easily combine the footage from the G5 and audio from an outboard audio recorder, but it seems that a stereo mic input would have been a great addition to make the G5 more flexible for amateurs who want to experiment with off-camera mics.

Also strange is there's no support for manual or priority exposure modes for video recording, which was true of the G3 as well. You'll want to step-up to a GH-series model for that.

See our G5 Video page for more details and sample videos.

 

Panasonic G5 Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins

At the Panasonic G5's heart is a newly-developed 16.05 megapixel, 4:3 aspect ratio Live MOS image sensor in the standard Four Thirds format. The design includes per-pixel analog to digital conversion, allowing for the fast readout required for 60p video, high speed autofocus, etc.

Output from the G5's sensor is handled by an updated Venus Engine image processor, said to offer more advanced signal processing than its predecessor. A "3D" NR function varies noise reduction levels depending on scene detail, while Multi-process NR determines noise reduction levels based on subject brightness.

ISO sensitivity in the Panasonic G5 varies from 160 to 12,800 equivalents. There's also an Auto ISO mode, and an Intelligent ISO function. The latter detects subject movement, and boosts ISO as needed to freeze the action.

The new Venus Engine processor allows full-res burst shooting at six frames per second, for nine raw or unlimited JPEG frames. If tracking autofocus is enabled after the first frame, this falls to 3.7 frames per second.

Like the majority of mirrorless cameras, the Panasonic G5 relies on contrast detection autofocus. As in other recent G-series models, this is branded "Light Speed AF", and is said to couple high precision with high speed focus lock. (Our tests certainly seemed to bear this out.) The system operates with 23 preset areas or in a single-area mode. It's also possible to touch the camera's LCD to set focus anywhere within the image frame. Face detection and tracking functions are included, and there's an AF assist lamp to help out in low light.

As you'd expect, there's a standard Micro Four Thirds lens mount, compatible with lenses from Panasonic, Olympus, and their Micro Four Thirds partners. Including optics from companies such as Sigma, Kenko Tokina and Cosina Voigtländer, the Micro Four Thirds mount selection is expected to pass 40 lens models this year. These include a generous selection of both primes and zooms, plus Panasonic's unique 3D lens. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5's lens mount ring is crafted from metal.

One of the defining features of the Panasonic G5 is its electronic viewfinder, which is similar in specification to that of the G3. Resolution is unchanged at 800 x 600 pixels, and it's still a time-multiplexed design with high refresh rate to minimize color breakup issues. (Panasonic touts this as 1.44 million "dots equivalent," for more accurate comparison with displays having separate RGB pixels.) Also retained are the 100% coverage, 0.7x magnification, 17.5mm eyepoint, and very generous +/-4.0 diopter correction. So what's new? The eye proximity sensor of the G2 returns, allowing automatic switching of viewfinder and LCD, as well as eye-start autofocus.

The G5's LCD monitor, meanwhile, is a new design since the G3. Resolution increases significantly from 460k to 920k dots, with the same three-inch diagonal. The panel has a 3:2 aspect ratio, approximately 100% coverage, and a wide viewing angle (although Panasonic doesn't specify the actual horizontal / vertical viewing range). Interestingly, the company says display lag has been reduced by 18% since the LUMIX G3, for easier framing of fast-moving subjects. Contrast, saturation, and brightness can all be adjusted.

The LCD panel is still articulated, like that of the Panasonic G3, with a side-mounted tilt / swivel mechanism. It can swivel 180 degrees outwards from the camera's back surface, and rotate 270 degrees for viewing from most angles, including in front of the camera.

The design retains the touch panel overlay of the G3, as well. One important change: the Lumix G5 now allows touch autofocus on the swiveled-out LCD display while framing your subject through the electronic viewfinder. (!) It's more intuitive than it sounds, and works very well.

On the top deck of the G5 is what Panasonic refers to as the Function lever: basically, a rocker-switch that controls the zoom on Power Zoom lenses for single-handed operation. It can also be assigned to Manual-mode aperture, or exposure compensation control in other exposure modes. In playback mode, it controls image zoom, while in menus it's used for page selection.

Also on the top deck are both a built-in popup flash, and a flash hot shoe for external strobes. The built-in flash has a guide number of 10.5 meters at ISO 160 equivalent. Flash x-sync is at 1/160 second or less.

The Lumix G5's exposure modes include Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual, plus two Custom modes. There's also a Scene position, and a Creative Control mode that tweaks the look of images by automatically adjusting variables such as color, saturation, contrast, brightness, and tone curve.

The G5's images are metered using the main image sensor, and the metering system considers the image frame as 144 separate zones. As well as the standard Intelligent Multiple metering, you can also opt for Center-weighted or Spot modes. The metering system has a working range of EV 0 to 18 at ISO 100 with an f/2.0 aperture, and +/-5.0EV of exposure compensation is offered in 1/3 EV steps. There's also a bracketing function, providing for three, five, or seven frames with a step size of 1/3, 2/3, or 1 EV.

In front of the Panasonic G5's image sensor is a focal plane shutter, and the camera also now has an electronic shutter mode for completely silent operation. Shutter speeds range from 1/4,000 to 60 seconds, plus a bulb mode that's limited to a maximum of 120 seconds.

There are nine white balance modes on offer in the Panasonic G5: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Flash, two Manual modes, and a direct color temperature setting (2,500 to 10,000 kelvin in 100K steps). The G5 also offers a three-shot white balance bracketing function on either blue/amber or magenta/green axes.

Compared to its predecessor, the G5 offers expanded creative options. Key among these is a new HDR function that composites several sequential exposures into a single image with increased dynamic range. There are also more than twice as many filter effect functions. New filter effects include Soft Focus, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, One Point Color, Cross Process, Low Key, Toy Effect and Star Filter. Filter effects can be previewed before capture, and in Intelligent Auto modes, the camera can actually recommend filters it feels are appropriate.

Another new user interface option is the Lumix G5's Scene Guide. This provides 23 professional sample photos, and lets the user select the one closest to the photo they'd like to take, then configures the camera appropriately. The camera can also provide shooting advice and suggest suitable lenses for the scene type selected.

Also new is the Panasonic Lumix G5's level gauge, based around input from a three-axis accelerometer sensor. This provides a dual-axis (side-to-side roll and front-to-back pitch) level display, helping you get level horizons and prevent converging verticals.

As you'd expect, the Panasonic G5 retains its predecessors' Supersonic Wave Filter function, which is used to shake free dust from the low-pass filter over the image sensor, reducing the impact of dust that enters the camera body between lens changes.

Although the resolutions and file formats are unchanged, the G5's video capabilities have had a significant refresh since the G3. Most significantly, it's now possible to record at up to 60p / 60i frame rates at Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution, and that's using 60 frames per second sensor data. You can also opt for 60p or 30p at 720p (1,280 x 720) resolution, or 30p at VGA (640 x 480) resolution. (PAL cameras replace 60p/i with 50p/i, and 30p with 25p.)

60i, 60p, 50i, and 50p video are recorded only with AVCHD compression, while MPEG-4 compression only offers 30p or 25p video. Interestingly, the Full HD 60p / 50p mode can be recorded at a bit rate of 28 Mbps, which Panasonic says is the same as offered in the highest-end consumer camcorders.

The G5 has a dedicated video record button, allowing capture of spontaneous clips in the midst of still image shooting. It's also possible to take photos during video capture by pressing the still image shutter button. Movies have shutter speeds from 1/16,000 to the frame rate of the video itself.

Focus tracking is available for video shooting, as is touch autofocus, making it easy to achieve focus effects or switch subjects during capture. There's also a digital crop function that increases effective focal lengths without extra interpolation by simply cropping the sensor data. Magnification ratios available are 2.4x for Full HD, 3.6x for HD, and 4.8x for VGA resolution.

You can also use Creative Control effects for movies, but note that the Miniature Effect filter causes movies to be recorded without sound, and to play back at 10x real time speed.

For movies other than with the Miniature Effect, audio is recorded with a stereo microphone located in front of the hot shoe. AVCHD movies have Dolby Digital audio, and MPEG-4 movies have AAC audio. The microphone level is adjustable in four steps, and there's a wind cut function. As mentioned, there is no external microphone jack, though.

Connectivity options include USB 2.0 High Speed for data, and both standard / high definition video outputs. The composite standard-def output is NTSC-only for the North American market, and includes monaural audio. The Type-C Mini HDMI output includes stereo audio.  There's also a wired remote jack, for use with the optional DMW-RSL1 remote shutter release.

Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including both the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types, and the higher-speed UHS-I types. Images are stored in JPEG or 12-bit raw file formats, or Multi Picture Object files when shooting with the unusual 3D lens.

Power comes from a 7.2 volt, 1,200 mAh DMW-BLC12 lithium ion battery pack, the same as used previously in the Lumix GH2. With the H-FS014042 lens, battery life is rated as 310 shots to CIPA standards, about 20 frames less than the GH2 managed with the same battery and lens. While there's no DC input jack, there is a cable channel to the battery compartment that allows the use of an optional DC coupler (DMW-DCC8) connected to an AC adapter (DMW-AC8).

 

Panasonic G5 Image Quality Comparisons

Most CSCs and SLRs will produce very good base ISO shots, so we like to push them and see what they can do at ISO 1,600. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1,600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1,600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses.

Panasonic G5 versus Panasonic G3 at ISO 1,600

Panasonic G5 at ISO 1,600
Panasonic G3 at ISO 1,600
Color comes out looking a little better on the Panasonic G5, which is a good move in the right direction. Detail looks a little softer, though, with less detail in the mosaic image and no hint of threads in the pink swatch, something the G3 does at least hint at. Both cameras show some blotchiness in the shadows, rather than a smooth gradient.

Panasonic G5 versus Canon T3i at ISO 1,600

Panasonic G5 at ISO 1,600
Canon T3i at ISO 1,600
The Canon T3i manages a bit more sharpness and detail from the mosaic image, although some of that may be down to its heavier-handed sharpening. The T3i's shadow behind the bottle is smoother, but its treatment of the red leaf swatch is up for debate, looking quite artificial.

Panasonic G5 versus Olympus E-M5 at ISO 1,600

Panasonic G5 at ISO 1,600
Olympus E-M5 at ISO 1,600
Though it leaves more stippled chroma noise in the shadows and around the bottle, overall we like the Olympus E-M5's treatment of fine detail a bit better, although again, a lot of the look could simply be the heavier sharpening it applies. The two cameras are very close, though, and only the Olympus' crisper rendering of the mosaic bottle label pushes it over the top.

Panasonic G5 versus Pentax K-01 at ISO 1,600

Panasonic G5 at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-01 at ISO 1,600
The Pentax K-01 adds an artificial pointillist interpretation to the background shadow, producing a smooth gradient, but a rather strange appearance. Its rendering of the mosaic bottle has the appearance of more detail, but the G5's approach may be the better one. Notice how the K-01's sharpening artificially brightens the intersections of the grout lines in the mosaic. In real life, the grout color is quite uniform, as shown in the G5's image. The G5 certainly handles the red leaf swatch better than the K-01.

Panasonic G5 versus Sony NEX-5N at ISO 1,600

Panasonic G5 at ISO 1,600
Sony NEX-5N at ISO 1,600
While some of the difference is again the result of more image sharpening in the competitor's default settings, the Sony NEX-5N's sensor clearly does better with detail overall, finding thread patterns in the pink swatch and really nailing the detail in the mosaic label. The red leaf swatch is soft, but shows much more detail than the G5.

Today's ISO 3,200 is yesterday's ISO 1,600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3,200.

Panasonic G5 versus Panasonic G3 at ISO 3,200

Panasonic G5 at ISO 3,200
Panasonic G3 at ISO 3,200
The G5 does better than the G3, if only just. We prefer the color and detail in the G5.

Panasonic G5 versus Canon T3i at ISO 3,200

Panasonic G5 at ISO 3,200
Canon T3i at ISO 3,200
The Panasonic G5 manages to surpass the Canon T3i at ISO 3,200, with more apparent detail in the mosaic, and a crisper image where the contrast is high. However, the T3i handles the background and bottle edge a little more faithfully (albeit with higher noise levels), rather than blurring them together, whereas the G5's rendering blurs some of the yellow into the background. The same "bleeding" happens in the red swatch, bleeding into the pink (now dark magenta). So a mixed bag here.

Panasonic G5 versus Olympus E-M5 at ISO 3,200

Panasonic G5 at ISO 3,200
Olympus E-M5 at ISO 3,200
The Olympus E-M5 does better overall here, choosing to allow a bit more chroma noise as the cost of a much better rendering of the bottle shoulder, and more detail in the mosaic. As always, such choices are a matter of personal preference, but we'll tolerate the amount of chroma noise the E-M5 leaves in, because the shoulder of the bottle in particular is so much better defined and natural-looking.

Panasonic G5 versus Pentax K-01 at ISO 3,200

Panasonic G5 at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-01 at ISO 3,200
The K-01 image is both softer and has less detail than the Panasonic G5.

Panasonic G5 versus Sony NEX-5N at ISO 3,200

Panasonic G5 at ISO 3,200
Sony NEX-5N at ISO 3,200
The Sony NEX-5N really pulls ahead here, perhaps in part due to its slightly larger APS-C size sensor.


Detail: Panasonic G5 vs. G3, Canon T3i, Olympus E-M5, Pentax K-01, and Sony NEX-5N

Panasonic
G5

ISO 160
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Panasonic
G3

ISO 160
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Canon
T3i

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Olympus
E-M5

ISO 200
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Pentax
K-01

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Sony
NEX-5N

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Detail comparison. High-contrast details often stay sharper as ISO rises, so they're worth a look as well. The Panasonic G5 does surprisingly well maintaining high-contrast detail here; it's almost the same as the G3, handily beating the T3i as ISO rises, and is bested only by the Olympus E-M5. (Although again, the sharpness of the E-M5's images are more perceived than real, the result of much stronger sharpening than seen with the G5. Judicious use of Photoshop's unsharp masking filter could easily achieve the same result or better.) Even the NEX-5N's rendering of the lines in the Pure Brewed letters isn't quite as good as that of the G5.

 

Panasonic G5 Print Quality

Good, sharp 20 x 30 inch prints at ISO 160 and 200; ISO 1,600 shots look better at 8 x 10; ISO 12,800 shots make a decent 4 x 6-inch print.

ISO 160 shots look great at 20 x 30 inches.

ISO 200 shots also look very good at 20 x 30 inches.

ISO 400 shots are softer, but still look good at 20 x 30 inches, and really excellent at 16 x 20.

ISO 800 shots lose more detail in the red leaf swatch and shadows, but fine detail is strong enough for a usable 20 x 30 inch print and a great 16 x 20.

ISO 1,600 shots are usable at 16 x 20, with a bit more detail loss in the red swatch and more noise in the shadows. Prints at 13 x 19 look great.

ISO 3,200 shots show almost no detail in the red swatch and noise in the shadows increases noticably, but they'll look good on a wall at 13 x 19 and fine for close viewing at 11 x 14.

ISO 6,400 images are usable at 8 x 10, and look very good at 5 x 7 inches.

ISO 12,800 images are slightly oversaturated, and make noisy but usable 4 x 6 inch prints.

Overall, the Panasonic G5 does very well, producing good 20 x 30 inch prints from 160 to 400, and even its highest ISO makes a usable 4 x 6-inch print.

 

In the Box

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Panasonic G5 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Improved grip design and control layout makes for much better handling than the previous G3
  • Good build quality, nice feel
  • Excellent AF accuracy, even in dim lighting
  • Fast startup for a CSC
  • Very fast single-shot cycle times
  • Extremely fast autofocus, faster than many consumer SLRs
  • Fast AF tracking
  • Fast 6fps burst mode
  • Optional electronic shutter for totally silent operation
  • Very good image quality at ISO 1,600 and below
  • Good auto white balance indoors
  • Excellent control of white balance, with detailed fine-tuning and WB bracketing available
  • No sign of demosaicing errors we saw in G3
  • Intelligent Dynamic Range option works well, particularly at lower settings
  • Chromatic aberration suppression in JPEGs
  • Optional lens shading correction in JPEGs
  • Low default image sharpening in JPEGs preserves fine detail for sharpening on the computer
  • Rear-panel LCD's resolution doubled, EVF is unusually sharp
  • Full 100% view in both EVF and rear LCD
  • Generous +/- 5 diopter viewfinder adjustment
  • Eye sensor for automatic switching to EVF when you bring camera to your eye
  • Intelligent use of touch screen in user interface
  • Touch-focus is very handy
  • "Touch-pad" focus feature (use touch screen while looking through EVF) is a great idea, works well
  • Customizable quick menu
  • Full 1080/60p/28 Mbps recording, with true 60p data from sensor
  • Excellent video image quality
  • Very smooth video, no motion artifacts, very minimal rolling shutter
  • No moiré or other aliasing artifacts (!)
  • Low video noise in night shots
  • Very good video AF performance, touch-focus is a huge feature
  • Lots of creative control for video recording
  • Adjustable audio level control
  • Optional audio level display during recording
  • Mediocre kit lens performance
  • Somewhat muted colors (lower than average default saturation)
  • Saturation adjustment not very effective
  • Slightly below average color accuracy
  • High ISO performance and dynamic range not as good as most APS-C competitors
  • Less fine detail in JPEGs than RAWs (but that's fairly common, though)
  • JPEG tone curve plugs deep shadows, vs RAWs
  • JPEG noise reduction blurs color boundaries at ISO 3,200 and above
  • Rear control dial located too close to edge of camera body
  • Slow buffer clearing times
  • Can't adjust HDR mode
  • "Hidden tab" touch interface a good idea, but balky to use
  • No manual exposure in movie mode
  • No AE lock in video mode
  • No external audio input
  • Slight delay in EVF/LCD switching
  • Slightly below average battery life

 

The Panasonic Lumix G3 was a very good camera, the updated G5 is a great one. Its excellent image quality and blazing-fast autofocus make it one of the best Micro Four Thirds cameras on the market. By upping HD video support (with a variety of frame rates), the G5 becomes suitable not just for the advanced photographer but also the advanced videographer.

The super EVF and touchscreen LCD make the Panasonic G5 more capable than cameras with only an LCD screen and more comfortable to use for traditional DSLR photographers. Ergonomics are generally much improved over the G3, though a few quirks still get in the way.

The Lumix G5 feels better thought out than many competing DSLRs, with more features and more capabilities at about the same price. Photographers choosing between the G5 and an APS-C sized DSLR camera will have to weigh the advantages of the low weight, fast performance and compact size of the G5 over the slightly better high-ISO image quality from some APS-C sized competitors. Given the Panasonic G5's sterling qualities, we think it's a choice most people will make in its favor.

At the end of the day, Panasonic has taken all the greatest features of the previous G-series Lumix cameras and stepped them up a notch for the G5. It's a great camera, and a clear Dave's Pick.