The G5 is the latest G-series model to benefit from Panasonic’s ongoing efforts to improve the performance of its contrast-detect autofocus modules. As such its Light Speed AF module is able to attain focus at speeds of up to 0.09sec, which is extremely fast. In practice this means focus lock is all but instant in good light, even when subjects are lacking in contrast – something that often flummoxes less advanced contrast-detect AF systems.
Frame coverage is very good too, with the G5 allowing you to position the AF point in any one of 23 areas (using the directional pad) when the camera is being used in Single-point AF. Alternatively you can also take advantage of the touch-screen to position an AF point by touching where on the screen you want to put it. Touch Shutter takes this process one step further by firing off a shot once the camera has locked focus on your chosen spot. The only area where the G5’s AF performance falls a little short is in Continuous AF speed; we found that it struggles to keep up with moving subjects.
The G5’s maximum 6fps burst mode is good for up to 28 consecutive JPEGs before the buffers fills and the camera begins to grind to a halt. Switching over to Raw capture this figure drops to 9 consecutive images. Image processing times are pretty speedy, with the G5 taking less than a second to write images to a Class 10 memory card.
General operation of the G5 is, as with other recent G-series releases, pretty instinctive. While it’s certainly possible to operate the G5 without using the touchscreen at all, it remains a welcome addition that provides an equally intuitive way to maintain control the camera. Screen sensitivity isn’t quite up there with the best touchscreen smartphones, and as yet there’s no pinch to zoom functionality when the camera is being used in Playback mode. Hopefully this is something that Panasonic can add to future models. The bump in screen resolution from 460k-dots to 920k-dots is a welcome addition though, producing greater clarity and sharpness.
Should you prefer to stick with physical buttons then you’ll find them all easily to hand with a good range of shooting controls all directly to hand, meaning you can control the camera without having to open up the main in-camera menu too often. The D-pad offers direct links to AF Mode, ISO, WB and Drive mode and, in addition, there are also five Function (Fn) buttons to assign as you see fit. Last but not least, the Quick Menu remains a convenient way to access all of the camera’s main shooting options too.
Overall image quality impresses. We tested the 144-zone multi-pattern metering module under a range of different lighting conditions and found it to work well with the camera producing consistent results. Helping out further with high-contrast scenes is the G5’s iDynamic mode. This offers three strength levels that progressively retain more shadow and highlight detail, the only downside being that the highest level does produce images that are a little tonally flat. In addition, the camera also offers a HDR mode that takes three consecutive shots in quick succession and then blends them into a single image.
Automatic white balance produces pleasing results in a wide range of light sources, although colour can sometimes come out a little muted. This can be corrected to a certain extent with the Photo Styles processing presets. In addition to the Standard setting, you can also select from Vivid, Natural, Mono, Scenery, Portrait or even your own Custom setting.
We tested the G5 with a range of lenses, including Panasonic’s excellent 7-14mm f/4 zoom and the impressively quick Leica 25mm f/1.4. Paired with one of these gems, the 16.05MP sensor is able to produce impressive sharpness while resolving plenty of fine detail. Used with the standard 14-42mm kit zoom or the 14-42mm power zoom the G5 still performs very well, although results can be improved if these lenses are stopped down a step or two from their maximum aperture.
ISO performance has been a strong point of Lumix CSCs in recent years and the G5 continues this trend. Below ISO 800 and images come out clean with plenty of fine detail and no visible noise. Above ISO 800 and some noise does begin to become apparent although the G5 does do a fairly good job of keeping it under control. Overall, high ISO performance isn’t quite on a par with what might be expected of a DSLR using an APS-C sensor, however it’s still pretty impressive.
The Panasonic Lumix G5 is one of the most complete compact system cameras we’ve yet seen. While its launch price does make it slightly expensive at present (especially if purchased with the 14-42mm power zoom), it’s surely only a matter of time before the street price drops. In all other respects though the G5 is an impressive addition to the G-series range. Build quality is very good, the touch screen functionality makes it a fun and intuitive camera to use and overall image quality also impresses. Add to this the camera’s fast AF performance, flexible vari-angle screen and useful 6fps burst speed and the G5 adds up to a tempting package.