Panasonic GM5 Review
|Full model name:||Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5|
(17.3mm x 13.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||200 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Shutter:||1/16000 - 60 sec|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
3.9 x 2.3 x 1.4 in.
(99 x 60 x 36 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Panasonic GM5 specifications|
The Panasonic GM5 takes what was great about the GM1 and improves upon it immensely. While still keeping a lightweight and compact design -- that's practically pocketable even with the 12-32mm kit lens -- the GM5 manages to includes a fully-functional, albeit small, electronic viewfinder. Creative lighting options are expanded by the addition of a hot-shoe and external flash support, plus, ergonomics and customization are subtly yet noticeably improved. The image quality remains unchanged and impressive, and performance is still excellent with slight improvements in some areas.Pros
Great image quality for a tiny camera; Excellent high ISO for its class; Built-in EVF; Built-in hot-shoe; Improved ergonomics; Improved image quality for long exposures; Improved burst rate with hybrid shutter; 1080/60p video.Cons
Slightly bigger than GM1 (but not by much); No built-in flash; Shallow buffers with RAW files; Dynamic range not quite as good as some competing models; Below average battery life.Price and availability
The Panasonic GM5 originally began shipping in November 2014 for around US$899 with the 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS kit lens, and is offered in an all-black body and lens kit or a two-toned red/black body with black kit lens.Imaging Resource rating
5.0 out of 5.0
Panasonic GM5 Review
Overview by Arthur Etchells
12/05/2014 - Field Test
04/01/2015 - Image Quality Comparison, Print Quality, and Review Conclusion
03/17/2016 - A fantastic portrait pairing with the 85mm eq. f/1.7 G!
We chose the GM5 as a top contender in our best mirrorless camera under $1,000 article. Curious to find out what other mirrorless cameras got top billing? Check out the article here.
Released in 2013, the Panasonic GM1 was the first camera to deliver in a big way on the diminutive size we were always hoping to see from Micro Four Thirds cameras. The camera quickly became a favorite in the Imaging Resource offices and often found its way into many of our camera bags.
Why? Read on to find out...
Love at first sight
Well, the thing really is tiny. It's tough to convey just how small it is, but it really borders on pocketable with the special collapsing lenses Panasonic has released for the camera. And that diminutive kit lens it came bundled with was actually pretty darned impressive. And the GM1 also offered the same great sensor and much of the performance of its big brother, the GX7.
While you might expect such a small camera to be a pain to use, the touchscreen interface was very intuitive and well executed, making the camera a joy to use. As our Editor-in-Chief, Dave Etchells, noted "I've never been a big fan of touch interfaces on cameras, but Panasonic does an unusually good job with them, and I found the one on the GM1 very fast and easy to use." While the GM1's buttons and dials are necessarily constrained, and a separate control dial on the top would've been nice, the GM1 is surprisingly usable.
Sacrifices had to be made
Nevertheless, Panasonic had to leave a lot on the chopping-room floor to deliver such a tiny camera. Features found in the GX7, like 1080/60p video recording, in-camera image stabilization, tiltable LCD, electronic viewfinder, hot shoe and bulb mode, all made the ultimate sacrifice to keep the GM1's size and weight down.
We couldn't really argue with any of these decisions, because the results were so great. The GM1 really is a fantastic camera. That said, some decisions, like the lack of an electronic viewfinder, stand out now as some compact cameras begin to offer the feature. The most notable example would be the similarly-priced RX100 Mark III (RX100 III vs Panasonic GM5). So what has Panasonic been up to in the intervening year?
More features, only a little bit larger
Panasonic has clearly been hard at work, and they appear to be well aware of the sacrifices we noted. Happily, they've successfully addressed a number of issues with the GM1: the headline features missing from the GM1 and added to the GM5 include:
- 1080/60p recording
- Electronic viewfinder
- Hot shoe
Small camera, hot camera
When Panasonic visited IRHQ to introduce the GM1, we were perplexed by the omission of 1080/60p recording. Surely the size of the camera didn't prohibit a simple firmware option, we thought. As it turns out, the size of the camera did have a big downside: small cameras simply can't dissipate heat as well as larger cameras. The diminutive size of the GM1 simply didn't allow for the heat dissipation necessary to deliver higher resolution/framerate pairs. Fortunately, it looks like Panasonic overcame this hurdle, and the new camera provides 60p (NTFC) and 50p (PAL) FHD support. Sadly, bulb mode (another feature sensitive to heat dissipation) still doesn't make an appearance, however there's a new T (Time) mode which is similar to bulb mode except you press and release the shutter button to start an exposure and press it again to stop instead of holding it down, though it's limited to a maximum of around 60s, about the same as the GM1's longest programmed exposure.
The EVF is darned impressive, but also pretty small
We were frankly shocked to see that Panasonic was able to shoehorn an electronic viewfinder into such a small envelope, and we believe the GM5 is the smallest interchangeable lens camera to feature a viewfinder (please correct us in the comments if we're off-base!). For someone who does a lot of shooting in bright light outdoors, this is a welcome addition indeed.
At least in the pre-production unit we sampled, the electronic viewfinder was quite small, but Panasonic hasn't yet published the spec for the electronic viewfinder size so we'll have to wait for confirmation when we get our hands on a production unit. Panasonic has published a specification for the viewfinder's magnification: 0.46x. This compares to its bigger brother, the GX7, which is a much larger 0.7x, while the similarly svelte RX100 III has a viewfinder magnification of 0.59x. (Numbers are 35mm equivalent.) That means you'll see a bigger image in GX7 and RX100 III viewfinders, which can make it easier to frame your subject.
The GM5 trades a hot shoe for the GM1's tiny flash
We were happy to see Panasonic work a hot shoe into the GM5, which is a feature we find quite a bit more useful than the miniscule flashes shoehorned into smaller interchangeable lens cameras (and premium compacts). To be sure, we appreciated the flash in the GM1, but a hot shoe just provides quite a bit more versatility. And lest you lament the requirement to buy an external flash, Panasonic has bundled a small external flash unit with the GM5!
Size increases, but not by much
Given all the additional features, you might expect the GM5 to have grown quite a bit. In fact, the increase in size is very modest, as you can see in the images below.
|GM5 on the left; GM1 on the right.|
|Back view. Again, GM5 on the left; GM1 on the right.|
The official spec for the GM5's size is 98.5 x 59.5 x 36.1mm, up from the GM1's size of 98.5 x 54.9 x 30.4mm. While height and depth have both grown by about 5mm, the weight appears to be unchanged. We measured the GM1 at 279 grams with battery, SD card and 12-32mm kit lens. Panasonic's spec for the GM5 is 281 grams for the identical setup, though by our measurements, the GM5 kit is 294 grams.
Controls on the back were reworked (and for the better)
|Controls on the back are familiar, but improved in a couple ways|
As you can see above, Panasonic had to add some height to the camera in order to fit the EVF above the LCD. Thankfully, they took the opportunity to rearrange the interface a bit, too. The control dial has been promoted from its location surrounding the four-way controller on the GM1 to a separate horizontal dial right next to the thumbgrip. This seems small, but we found it to be a big improvement: the dedicated wheel was simply a lot less finicky than the 4-way control dial + wheel combination. It also makes it trivial to adjust your PASM settings with your thumb.
Panasonic also moved a function button from the center of the focus mode selection dial on the top, to a position in a row of small buttons between the new control dial and EVF. Also present are the play button (moved from just below the record button on the right) and an additional function button not present on the GM1.
We are happy to see Panasonic make these changes: while subtle, they all serve to enhance the usability of the camera and take great advantage of the slight bump in size.
Some other noteworthy features
Fortunately, Panasonic didn't stop at adding a few features missing on the tiny GM1, but shored up some areas they were a little behind the curve and added some interesting new creative features as well. A brief rundown of these:
- Panorama mode
- Manual creative mode (PASM adjustment in creative modes)
- Casual snap movies
- Improved AF and burst performance
No more panorama envy
One GX7 feature that we were perplexed to find missing from the GM1 was a built-in panorama mode. Given the processor in the GM1 is identical to that in the GX7, we found this a bit surprising. Fortunately, you can now get your panorama mode and your tiny camera fix without looking farther afield to the RX100 III or a much larger interchangeable lens camera like the GX7.
Nearly every camera these days has a smattering of creative exposure modes and the GM5 delivers an impressive array. The complete list from Panasonic:
|Clear Portrait / Silky Skin / Backlit Softness / Relaxing Tone / Sweet Child's Face / Distinct Scenery / Bright Blue Sky / Romantic Sunset Glow / Vivid Sunset Glow / Glistening Water / Clear Nightscape / Cool Night Sky / Warm Glowing Nightscape / Artistic Nightscape / Glittering Illuminations / Handheld Night Shot / Clear Night Portrait / Soft Image of a Flower / Appetizing Food / Cute Dessert / Freeze Animal Motion / Clear Sports Shot / Monochrome|
These span the range from the artistic (romantic sunset glow) to genuinely useful (handheld night shot), a feature that composites several exposures to generate a cleaner final image. The big change introduced in the GM5 is to integrate manual control in the creative exposure modes: now you can control the aperture or ISO while using the 'Silky Skin' exposure mode (as one example).
If creative exposure modes speak to the same urge as served by Instagram, the 'casual snap movie' mode speaks to a similar urge as served by vines and quick snapchat videos. The shareable mini-movie is more popular than ever and it looks like Panasonic has gone out of their way to add some compelling features to their Casual Snap Movie mode.
The casual snap mode creates video snapshots of 2, 4, 6 or 8 seconds. Several different effects are included, including several fade in/out: black, white and color fades. We found the most interesting effect mode to be the rack focus feature, which allows you to select two spots using the touchscreen, then rack the focus from one to the other smoothly. The effect was pretty neat.
Last but definitely not least: improved performance
The GM5 still uses Panasonic's "Light Speed AF" contrast-detect autofocus, but performance is said to be improved, allowing the camera to shoot at a manufacturer-rated 5.0 frames-per-second with continuous autofocus (AF-C), versus 4.0 for the GM1. And with AF fixed at the first frame (AF-S), burst speed with the mechanical shutter has also improved from 5.0 to 5.8fps. Performance with the electronic shutter remains the same, at up to 10fps at full resolution and 40fps at 4 megapixels. The buffer capacity spec also remains the same at 7 RAW frames, or unlimited full-res JPEGs with a fast card.
Speaking of autofocus, the GM5 gets a new Face/Eye Detection AF mode, which focuses on the closest eye by default, but also lets you select which eye is in sharpest focus.
|And the bottom is pretty similar to the GM1|
|While it looks like the electronic viewfinder is of a similar pop-up design as that on the RX100 III, in fact it is fixed|
|You can see the slight thumbrest on the right of the camera. This was a welcome addition and improved handling.|
Echoing a recent trend in the industry, Panasonic maintains the GM1 in the lineup at US$799, adding the GM5 kit above it at US$899. Bundled with the kit is a small accessory flash, though Panasonic also offers three additional, larger external flash accessories: the DMW-FL220L, DMW-FL360L and DMW-FL580L (approx. US$120, US$227 and US$508, respectively). The optional hand grip, body case and bag/soft case continue to be available.
There is a lot of competition at $899, to be sure, but precious little as small or full-featured as the GM5. There are no real direct competitors in the mirrorless space: the Sony A5000 (GM5 vs A5000) and Olympus E-M10 (GM5 vs E-M10) are both quite a bit larger, and the Olympus E-PM2 (GM5 vs E-PM2) is about the same size, but now quite old. Perhaps the most direct competition is from the Nikon 1 system, but none of these cameras offer the combination of the GM5's diminutive size and built-in EVF. We suspect, that the RX100 III (GM5 vs RX100 III) will be the Panasonic GM5's stiffest competition: the prices are identical, the sizes are similar and both offer an EVF.
Panasonic GM5 Field Test
Revised & Refined: Minor but important upgrades & features
And yet, nothing's perfect, and there were certainly some issues with the little GM1, namely the lack of a viewfinder of some form and also a hot shoe to add-on an OVF or EVF, or an external flash. Also, the sheer compactness of the camera came with a few downsides as well. For one, using larger lenses could become a bit awkward to hold, and also the small body led to some issues with heat dissipation -- hence the lack of 1080/60p and Bulb mode in the GM1.
With the updated GM5, Panasonic has taken the best of the GM1 and tweaked it to address most of the shortcomings of the original model, including the addition of an EVF, 1080/60p video, and a special T-mode, which is similar to Bulb exposure mode (though it is limited to a maximum of around 60s, about the same as the GM1's longest programmed exposure). Still, the GM5 and GM1 are nearly identical in many areas, including using the same 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor and Venus Engine image processor (though Panasonic claims there are slight performance increases, such as improved AF speed and faster burst performance at 5fps with continuous autofocus with the hybrid shutter; up from 4fps).
Panasonic GM5 Image Quality Comparison
See how the micro MFT camera stacks up to the competition.
These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera.
Panasonic GM5 Print Quality
I looks good on-screen, but what about in the real world?
Print quality and image quality are similar but not identical, because what you see on a print isn't always the same as what you see on the screen. Our print quality analysis answers the important question: "Just how big can I print my photos at higher ISOs?"
Panasonic GM5 Conclusion
The best gets better: excellent GM1 gets well-deserved improvements
The Panasonic GM1 was, and still is, a stunning camera, and the follow-up to it, the Panasonic GM5, takes what was great about the GM1 and adds to it and improves it immensely. While still keeping an extremely slim, lightweight and compact design -- that's practically pocketable even with the 12-32mm kit lens -- the GM5 manages to includes a fully-functional, albeit small, electronic viewfinder. Creative lighting options are expanded by the addition of a hot-shoe and external flash support. And the ergonomics and customization are subtly yet noticeably improved with additional function buttons, a larger and raised thumb rest, and a true rear thumb control dial.
In the Box
The Panasonic GM5 retail kit w/12-32mm lens package (as reviewed) contains the following items:
- Panasonic GM5 camera body
- Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Lens
- External Flash
- Flash Storage Bag
- Hot Shoe Cover
- DMW-BLH7 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack (7.2V, 680mAh)
- Battery Charger
- USB Cable
- Shoulder Strap
- AC Cable
- Software DVD-ROM
- Limited 1-Year Warranty
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. 16GB Class 10 should be a minimum.
- Extra Panasonic DMW-BLH7 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack (7.2V, 680mAh) (~US$40)
- Panasonic DMW-HGR1-S Hand Grip (~US$75)
- Small to medium camera case