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Panasonic G6 Preview

by Mike Tomkins
Posted: 04/23/2013

Last fall, Panasonic shipped the Lumix G5, a camera we rather liked thanks to refinements throughout its design. It might seem a little soon for a followup just six months later, but the successor to that Dave's Pick-winning camera is now here, and Panasonic has again been hard at work finding areas in need of a tweak. The Panasonic G6 shares a lot with its predecessor, including its image sensor, but boasts a new body with more external controls and improved ergonomics, plus a new image processor, LCD panel, and viewfinder. There are several changes in the camera's software, too, likely hailing from the new processor.

On the outside, the Panasonic G6's body has been completely restyled, with a more smooth, flowing aesthetic. The new design adds a couple of new buttons -- including a switch from a flash popup lever to a button -- and makes more of them configurable as Function buttons. The Mode dial is now larger to accommodate two extra positions: panorama and movie. Overall camera body size has also increased slightly in all directions, but weight has fallen ever so slightly.

On the inside, the Panasonic G6 pairs the exact same 16 megapixel image sensor used in the G5 with a new generation of Venus Engine image processor. The result is a camera that's slightly faster, easier on its battery, and has a greater available sensitivity range.

The base range of ISO 160 to 12,800 equivalents is unchanged, but there's now a new ISO 25,600 equivalent extended position. Burst shooting at full resolution is now possible at up to seven frames per second using single autofocus, up from 6 fps in the G5, and the Panasonic G6 also bests its predecessor by around a third of a frame per second in live view mode, where the rate is now 4 fps. Startup is now said to be half a second, where the earlier model required a full second. Of course, it's worth noting that all these figures are manufacture ratings, as we've not yet had a chance to put the Panasonic G6 thru our lab.

A couple of other improvements are likely also related to the greater processing power available from the new processor. Although it still uses contrast detection autofocusing, the Panasonic G6 now offers a wider working range of EV -3 to 18 at ISO 100, a significant improvement in low light from the EV 0 limit on the G5. The new model also has a much finer-grained 1,728 zone metering system, versus 144 zone on the earlier camera. Additionally, the Panasonic G6 now offers true 60 frames-per-second movie capture -- as opposed to 60p output from a lower sensor rate -- in MPEG-4 movie mode, although this was already true of its AVCHD mode.

On the rear panel, the Panasonic G6 sports both a new electronic viewfinder and touchscreen LCD panel. The EVF has the same resolution as in the G5, but it's now based around an Organic LED panel said to offer better color and contrast. The display, meanwhile, is still articulated, but now has a higher resolution of 720 x 480 pixels (1,036,800 RGB dots), and uses in-cell touch sensing for a slimmer overall package and reduced glare.

Panasonic has also revisited its connectivity options in the Lumix G6, both wired and wireless. In addition to the existing USB 2.0 High Speed, NTSC / PAL composite (or NTSC only, in North America), and Mini HDMI ports, the Panasonic G6 now sports both wired remote and external microphone connectivity. It also adds both 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Near Field Communications wireless connectivity, making it much easier to get your photos onto a smart device for instant sharing. Although it's tricky to make a direct comparison on an interchangeable-lens camera, battery life looks to have improved by around six or seven percent.

No information on pricing or availability had been disclosed at press time; Panasonic typically doesn't reveal this until around a month before cameras go on sale. You can however pre-order the Panasonic G6 kit with compact 14-42mm lens for US$749.99 with free shipping in the U.S. from Adorama.com.

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