With all the retro-styled mirrorless cameras today, the traditional DSLR form factor seems relegated to nothing but, well, DSLRs. The Panasonic G5 is a mirrorless camera clinging hard to the classic DSLR mould. But it's smaller -- and much cheaper.
What Is It?
A Lumix interchangeable-lens camera with an electronic viewfinder and a four-thirds sensor. In Australia, the G5 comes in three kits: a body-only option for $999, a single lens kit which includes the body and the Lumix G Vario 14-42mm lens for $1099 and the twin lens kit, which adds the 45-150mm zoom lens to the package for a grand total of $1299.
Who's It For?
Not for enthusiasts or pros -- they want better guts. Not for casual point-and-shooters -- they don't care about interchangeable lenses. That leaves people who are transitioning from beginner to advanced, and want to learn how to properly control a camera.
Like a shrunken DSLR. Light, plastic, but solid all around. A flip-out touch screen, electronic viewfinder, and a bunch of buttons and dials make for a busy but robust set of controls.
You have a lot of control -- a dedicated mode dial, a rocker for aperture adjustment, a wheel for shutter speed, a programmable Q button, an ISO button, and THREE other programmable function buttons. Autofocus is quite speedy. Image quality is solid but not stellar -- check out our Flickr gallery.
The 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens is optional, but most people will purchase the camera as a system with this lens. You control its zoom and focus via small electronic rockers on the side of the barrel. This might appeal to shooters more familiar with point-and-shoot cams, but more experienced users will find it slow and frustrating.
The Best Part
If you are stepping up from a point-and-shoot, welcome to the wonderful world of micro-four-thirds lenses.
The touchscreen is horribly unresponsive compared to a modern smartphone (or the great touchscreen on the Canon 650D).
This Is Weird...
It has face recognition. Does anyone ever use face recognition on a camera?
- Completely silent shutter option is AWESOME if you are a stealthy street shooter.
- There is a little "iA" button that will put the G5 in full-auto mode. Great if you get overwhelmed by settings, or if you forget what settings you have dialed in and just need to get the shot.
- The electronic zoom is annoying for photos, but quite nice for video.
- Video quality is surprisingly good, producing clean, sharp images, even in low light. It records at 30p, 60i, and even shoots 60p video in full HD -- a total bonus -- but it doesn't shoot 24p at all.
- For someone with large hands, the manual control dials are awkward to reach with your fingertips.
- Battery life is great! Panasonic says 320 shots, but I went for a week of casual shooting without a recharge.
- The lens looks like a pancake lens, but it extends as soon as you turn the camera on, about another ¾."
Should You Buy It?
If you're ready for a higher level of photography than a point-and-shoot can offer, at a relatively low cost, the G5 has a lot going for it. Solid image quality, great lens selection, and a whole lot of manual controls make it a good choice -- especially if you want to get comfortable with DSLR ergonomics.
• Sensor: 18 MP Live MOS 17.3 x 13.0 mm (in 4:3 aspect ratio)
• Lens Mount: Micro 4/3
• ISO Range: 160 - 12,800
• Autofocus System: Contrast Detection
• Weight: Approx. 395 grams (with card and battery)
• Price: $999 body-only
• Gizrank: 3.5