Following the unofficial leaking of product images last month Panasonic has today officially launched the GF5 – the successor to last year’s GF3. Why no GF4 in between, you might ask. Simply because in Japan 4 is considered an unlucky number. So there you go, the GF5 it is then. Available from June the GF5 will come with either the 18-42mm Lumix ‘X’ power zoom (£579) or the regular Lumix 14-42mm kit zoom (£449) bundled in the box. These are estimated street prices and so don’t account for any in-store/online discounting that might take place. There’s no word as yet on body-only prices or availability.
As part of the announcement Panasonic invited a group of technology and specialist camera press representatives – TrustedReviews included – to Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey for an extended hands-on with the new camera. We should point out that the version we got to play with was a pre-production sample with pre-release firmware, however from our limited time with it, it looks like Panasonic could well be on course to deliver another fine Lumix G-series model.
In terms of positioning the GF5 takes over from the (now discontinued) GF3 as the entry-level Lumix G-series model. The GF5’s target audience includes first-time compact system camera (CSC) purchasers and compact owners looking to make the step up from a basic or advanced compact. As such its primary goal is to deliver the same high level of image quality associated with the Lumix G-series range in a small, stylish and easy-to-use package. Does it succeed in achieving this? From what we’ve seen so far, we’d have to say that it does.
Physically the GF5 is almost identical to its predecessor, save for the new finger grip that’s been borrowed from the GX1 and the addition of a metallic lens mount (the GF3’s mount was plastic). Elsewhere the new model retains the same chic curved design and compact dimensions of the GF3. With the Lumix ‘X’ power zoom attached you’re looking at something that’s small enough to slip inside a coat pocket, although with the regular 14-42mm kit zoom you may want to consider investing in a small carry case.
The addition of the finger grip makes the GF5 noticeably more comfortable to hold than the GF3, which had a smooth front fascia. Like the GX1 that was launched earlier in early 2012, the GF5’s finger grip is given a rubberised finish and this, in conjunction with the moulded thumb grip on the back gives makes the GF5 feel pretty secure in the hand. With the ‘X’ power zoom attached there isn’t a great deal of weight to the camera either (362g), so it won’t weigh you down if you plan to carry it around all day.
Internally, the GF5 benefits from the pairing of an all-new LiveMOS sensor and Venus Engine VII HD image processor. While the effective resolution of the new sensor remains pegged at 12MP – the same as the GF3’s – Panasonic claims that it has been completely re-designed to allow for better low-light performance. Meanwhile, the new Venus Engine VII image processer offers what Panasonic describes as “multi-process noise reduction” for cleaner images at higher sensitivities. Consequently, the GF5 comes with a higher maximum sensitivity setting of ISO 12,800 (compared to ISO 6400 on the GF3).
Shooting modes remain as before with iAuto and iAuto providing fuss-free point-and-shoot exposure options, the latter offering some simplified user input via on-screen slider controls. There’s also a good range of Scene modes on offer – each of which now comes with a range of shooting tips and explanations that aim to help new users better understand what the camera is doing and how it helps to get the best out of the subject being photographed. Those looking to take a bit more control can of course choose from the regular DSLR quartet of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual exposure modes.
Those looking to add a bit of in-camera creative fun to their images will doubtless be pleased to learn that Panasonic has expanded the range of digital filters found on the GF5 to 14. Alongside established favourites such as Toy Camera and Miniaturisation, you’ll also now be able to give your images a cross-processed or selective colour look. Better still, each of the effects can be manually fine-tuned to give it your own signature look.
Movie capabilities remain the same as the GF3, with a top recording setting of 1080p Full HD with stereo sound but not external microphone input. High definition movies can be recorded in a range of AVCHD quality formats, with a further option to record standard definition movies in the MP4 format.