Panasonic Lumix G5 Review: Small, Mirrorless, Lots of Control

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 mold. But it's smaller—and much cheaper.

What Is It?

A $699 interchangeable-lens camera with an electronic viewfinder and a four-thirds sensor.

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.

Design

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.

Panasonic Lumix G5 Review: Small, Mirrorless, Lots of Control

Panasonic Lumix G5 Review: Small, Mirrorless, Lots of Control

Using It

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.

Tragic Flaw

The touchscreen is horribly unresponsive compared to a modern smartphone (or the great touchscreen on the Canon Rebel T4i).

This Is Weird...

It has face recognition. Does anyone ever use face recognition on a camera?

Test Notes

  • 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."

Panasonic Lumix G5 Review: Small, Mirrorless, Lots of Control

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.


Panasonic Lumix G5
• 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. .87 lbs (with card and battery)
• Price: $699 with kit lens on Amazon
Gizrank: 3.5