MFT Monday: My Panasonic Lumix G5

Lumix G5When I posted “Panasonic Lumix G6: Real Soon Now” I was on a waiting list for purchasing a new Lumix G6 but it turned out that I did not win the Lottery, so when Amazon put the G5 with 14-42mm lens on sale for less than $400, I ordered one. I fell in love with the Lumix G5 when Panasonic showed it to me at a press event in Sonoma, CA last summer and here’s why:

The G5 has the same 16.05-megapixel sensor as the new G6 and lets you shoot in different image formats at resolutions including 4:3 (16MP,) 3:2 (14MP,) 16:9 (12MP) and 1:1 (12MP.) The Lumix G5 is slightly smaller (see comparison) than the G6 and retains the mini-SLR form factor of its predecessors and fits comfortably in my hands. In the mirrorless camera universe, it’s mid-sized and neatly slotted between the small (Nikon 1 series) and the large (Pentax K-01) with the perfect Goldilocks size, feel and ergonomics.

The controls are well placed letting you concentrate on making images instead of wondering where everything’s located. A four-way rocker switch on the camera’s back gives you quick access to ISO, AF mode, white balance, or self-timer/burst modes. The G5 can capture images in RAW, JPEG, or RAW+JPEG format with a choice of different JPEG sizes.

Forney Museum

1/60 sec at f/1.7 and ISO 640

The Electronic Shutter mode offers relatively silent operation that’s useful when shooting in areas where silence is golden. Sensitivity adjustments range from ISO 160 up to 12,800, so noise may be a concern at higher settings. The G5 has an improved Venus processing engine but not as updated as the one inside the G6. Nevertheless, the camera’s 3D noise reduction system detects smooth areas or edges and adjusts NR from strong in smooth areas to mild on edges and a multiprocess noise reduction process detects brightness in each part of a photo to reduce noise in multiple steps. There’s little, if any, noise in the above photograph.

With any mirrorless camera the big question is often LCD or viewfinder viewing and the G5 answers with “both.” A three-inch (3:2 ratio) LCD screen rotates 180 degrees, tilts 270 degrees and offers approximately 100% field of view. An eye sensor automatically switches between the two. I’ve never liked electronic viewfinders  because of their “jiggley” pixels but the G5’s EVF is almost as smooth and bright as an optical finder although slightly more contrasty. That extra contrast bump can be a distraction and keep you from seeing the tonal range ’s being captured but on bright days or when it’s not possible to shoot (keeping the light of the three-inch LCD) in the shade you’ve got no other choice. Using the same heavy-duty Li-Ion battery as the Lumix GH1, the G5’s rated battery life is 320 shots and you should be able to match or exceed that with smart battery management. Chimper be aware: that big screen eats batteries.

Infrared filter

2.5 seconds at f/4.8 and ISO 400 w/IR filer

The Lumix G5 is the most complex camera I’ve tested since Nikon’s D800. Yet it’s also as simple to use as a point-and-shoot; just put it in Program mode and you’ll be able to make great-looking photographs. Using the imaging chip from Panasonic’s upscale GH2 model it has the ability to produce 16×20 prints with image quality that would make digital SLRs of just a few years ago envious. The Lumix DMC-G5 is a well crafted, delightful to use, spunky little camera whose wide-ranging imaging capabilities combine to make it a lot of fun.

PS. What about the Lumix G6? I’m counting on my compadre Mark Toal to come up with one and soon as he has some hands-on experience with a G6, you’ll read about it here.

Author: Joe Farace

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