on August 28, 2012
I gave up my SLR a few years ago and have since been carrying high end compacts - all Canon. This is my first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. I'm so impressed with the quality, creative control and lens selection. And what used to take a backpack, I can now carry in a small bag. In fact, I can just barely stuff the camera with the included 12-42 retractable lens in my pocket. It's bulky, but can be done.
What you don't get is an optical viewfinder, full physical shutter or control dials for recording mode and ISO. But you can still access these controls, and much more, very easily on the beautiful high resolution touch screen. You do get a 4-way controller with outer dial for setting exposure compensation, focus mode, white balance and shooting mode. In most cases the LCD is more convenient than a viewfinder anyway. And I doubt the shutter will matter to most people either. You can customize the touch screen for easy access to your top ten controls with the Quick Menu that you bring up either with a button or on the touch screen. You can also set the Fn1 button for AEL, DOF preview or any of a number of controls. There are also two customizable touch screen buttons as well as touch focusing.
This lens and some others have a power zoom which is great for video. And the autofocus is incredibly fast! I also bought the 45-175 lens with power zoom and that is also very tiny (at least compared to an SLR lens). Can't pocket the camera with that lens, but it is still proportionally compact.
There is no compromise on the creative control with this camera and the touch screen is simple and convenient. With fast autofocus and sharp, high quality images and many great lenses, this is a great camera!
on July 15, 2012
Just received the camera (14-42 power zoom) and took a few pictures. I bought the power zoom lens because of its dimension and it is really compact. Saw the 14-42 standard lens earlier today and actually it was not as big as I envisioned it to be, and given the price difference I might have ordered the standard one instead if I had a chance to physically compare. But no complain so far on performance of the power zoom, pictures came out nice and sharp.
While the size is quite small, but the weight is much more than point & shoot pocket cameras. It could fit into the pocket of a jacket, but due to its weight your jacket will be deformed. So make sure you go get the right case for it. The shoulder strap that came with it is just too narrow (and short) for me thus I am now shopping for a nicely padded one. The camera itself feels solid, touch screen is responsive too.
I also bought the 45-200mm lens, with it mounted and when you place the camera on a flat surface, the lens actually is the part touching the surface since extended a bit beyond where the base is.
*** August 7, 2012 Update ***
Took plenty of great pictures in the last 3 weeks and when I showed people the sharpness even in low-light conditions they are super impressed with the picture quality. Auto-focus is superfast and that helps when I visited a zoo. I can also adjust the blurriness of the background when taking portraits which is a big plus with a camera this size. Miniature mode adds a lot of fun when taking pictures of buildings or landmarks from a distance.
Built-in flash is quite strong and I can also tilt it to face the ceiling. I found myself not using flash at all when indoor since I get good pictures at ISO 1600.
*** Dec 14, 2012 Update ***
I have bought the 20mm pancake lens and have been trying out different features and scenes. First of all let me say that my family and friends all have commented positively the photos that I took in the last few months. I also find myself envisioning the outcome before I press the shutter button. Thus I started to use more advanced settings to get the effect that I want and on this camera it is really very easy to access those settings. Even in iA (intelligent auto) mode some adjustments can be made using the dial.
The 3 lenses that I have and ranked by usage:
1. 20 mm pancake -- beautiful bokeh and great for indoor in natural light
2. 45-200 mm zoom -- I found myself using this lens to take close-up of interesting objects, like plants, flowers, bugs. And it is also very good for people shots because it reduces the sharpness a bit. The key is to have enough distance between you and the object.
3. 14-42 mm power-zoon -- wide-angle shots, all purpose usage. Don't get me wrong, this is a good lens and produces good pictures. Just that I am trying to experiment more on people and objects, the other 2 lenses pretty much cover what I need. I will use this when I want to take pictures of people standing in front of landmarks, and also when using the miniature effect.
(I have uploaded some pictures as well so check them out.)
Many people reading this, I assume, are thinking of getting into a mirrorless camera system as I was before purchasing the GF5. Some being DSLR users looking for a more compact system to carry around that has near DSLR quality images and control. Others being P&S users looking for something that gives better image quality without getting into the more complex and clunky DSLR's. While there are many pros to the GF5. At times a con goes along with the pro. So along each talking point below I will put a "+" and/or "-" as I see fit. The pluses of the GF5 outweigh the minuses and I do think it is a great camera but one that can be improved upon. There are many mirrorless camera systems to consider and to close the review I'll give my 2 cents on why I feel Micro 4/3 (Panasonic & Olympus) is the best choice.
+ Size: I can throw the Panasonic GF5 kit in a bag with a couple of additional lenses and it takes up less space and weighs less than my DSLR with a standard zoom lens. The GF5 with a lens is light enough that my neck never gets sore, even if the camera is around my neck the whole day.
+/- Touch Screen: After having a touch screen on a camera it is hard to go back. While I love having the touch screen I wish it had the same sensitivity as a smart phone touch screen. Sometimes I have no problem going through the menus and other times it takes multiple touches of each icon I'm trying to select. Because Panasonic put a large touch screen on the camera there are a limited number of physical buttons on camera. I don't mind the GF5 having a similar number of buttons as a P&S but for DSLR users who may not like the touch screen on the GF5 the button selection may be limiting.
The GF5 has a high resolution screen and it looks great. One of the big improvements from the GF3 to the GF5 was doubling the resolution of the screen. The screen has to look good though because the GF5 doesn't have a viewfinder. One has to use the screen on the back to take and view pictures and make menu selections. The benefit of no viewfinder is it keeps the body size to a minimum but it is more difficult to view the screen in direct sunlight. I live in a sunny area and have never not been able to see anything on the screen. Sometimes I do have to shield the screen with my hand to better see what I'm doing though.
+/- AF: Oh, the AF! I have a love, hate relationship with the AF...but mainly love. To start with it is SPEEDY! I'd put it up against any prosumer DSLR and some professional DSLR's. Now the bad...in the most general sense the way camera AF systems choose what to focus on is by the AF being center weighted and sensing dominate objects in the foreground and focusing on those. After all most photographers don't put their subject behind dominate objects which are in the foreground. For some reason the GF5 prefers to focus on walls or scenery in the background even when I'm photographing people who take up most of the frame. In all the P&S and SLR's I've owned and used I've never come across a camera that left to its own AF selection continually decides to focus on the background. The easiest fix for this is using spot AF which I normally use with DSLR's anyway. The spot AF with the GF5 is right on the money. The best part of the spot AF and perhaps the GF5 is that it can be paired with the touch screen so I can touch anywhere on the screen I want to focus on and it focuses on the spot quickly. No hitting buttons and pushing pads to scroll to the square I want to select like on DSLR's. Person moves from the right to the left of the frame, I touch their face, and hit the shutter button...that quick and simple.
+ Menu & Customization: Coming from a DSLR I'm used to several tabs with each tab having several screens of options to choose from and scroll through. I can see for P&S users where it may seem cumbersome but the great thing for DSLR users is that the GF5 offers a lot of customization, more than I'll ever use. The one customizable button I love is the quick menu where I can select icons to place in this menu area for fast setting changes when photographing. The quick menu paired with the touch screen make camera adjustments fast and fluid.
+ Raw Images: The exposures of the raw images from the GF5 looks right on and identical to the exposure of jpegs when portrait photo style is selected. It may not sound like a big deal but the exposures of my raw images from my Nikon D200 and D7000 was commonly 2/3 a stop underexposed whereas the jpegs looked fine. The only odd thing I've noticed with the GF5's raw files is that reds have a magenta hue and often look very saturated.
- Pop Up Flash: The non-pancake 14-42mm kit lens blocks the flash when at wide angle focal lengths. At 14mm it is quite bad, casting a shadow from about middle of the frame on down to the lower corners.
- 14-42mm Kit Lens: The outfit I have is with the non-pancake 14-42mm zoom. The kit lens is kind of what it is, an inexpensive lens with a plastic mount, plastic body, and sticky zoom. It takes decent enough pictures but the corners are fairly soft, at times even when stopped down to f/8. I wish the GF5 came with the older kit lens, the 14-45mm, as I've only heard great things about that lens when compared to the 14-42mm.
Why Micro 4/3's?
The size of sensor directly impacts image quality and can affect the size of cameras and lens for the system, smaller sensors can mean smaller bodies and smaller lens. I found Micro 4/3 to be the perfect balance after most people looking at a mirrorless camera are doing so because of compactness. Pentax's mirrorless camera system has the same sensor size as a P&S which means that its image quality, especially when looking at performance in low light, is basically on par with P&S cameras. Nikon's mirrorless camera sensor is in between Pentax's and Panasonic's in size but still suffers in low light capability. Sony's NEX camera's sensor size is the same as consumer DSLR's and gives you the best image quality in low light, but not significantly so compared to Panasonic. The lenses available for NEX cameras tend to be larger than those for Panasonic or Olympus. My feeling is if it isn't going to be compact you might as well just go with a Nikon or Canon DSLR because you get more bang for your buck, as NEX cameras are pricey, and there are a wide variety of lens available for each Nikon and Canon which Sony doesn't have. Furthermore, the standard zoom for Sony NEX cameras and their pancake lens are notoriously soft. I've viewed many pictures from each lens and haven't seen one with satisfactory resolution when zoomed in to 100%. It doesn't matter how good the sensor is, if you put a poor quality lens on the camera you will get poor quality pictures. This gets to the major upside of the Micro 4/3 system and one of the biggest downsides for Pentax, Nikon, and Sony, lens selection. Olympus and Panasonic share the same lens mount so you can use any lens from either manufacturer. Between Panasonic and Olympus there are some fantastic lens available; prime lens on a Micro 4/3 body that will take just as good of images as prime lens on DSLR cameras and better yet they will not break your bank. The Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 are perfect examples. Choosing between Panasonic and Olympus I picked Panasonic because of price and the touch screen. I've been very happy with my selection.
on December 21, 2012
I've been in the market for a mirror-less for about a year and after playing around with a handful of them, this GF5 has the best balance of smart, fully-auto features and manual modes. Most of the interface is intuitive and easy to use. There are a few settings I had to hunt and peck for at first, but now that I know where they are, I don't notice it as a hinderance. Most people with any level of experience with cameras, even those who've only ever had point-and-shoots, won't have any problem finding what they need.
The photo quality is an A, maybe not an A+ if you're used to shooting with a DSLR, or another mirror-less with an excellent lens. The video quality, like most Panasonic's, is phenomenal. This was by far the deal maker for me. The quality, quick focus, and quick zoom of the video is about as good as I've seen in a camera like this.
If there are any cons, they are minor. The power zoom on the small lens is located in a kind of awkward position, and once you get used to holding the camera that way so your thumb is on the zoom button, you are probably blocking the IR light sensor with your hand. The final con is the flash, which is incredibly bright and can be overpowering. One video review showed a awkward "hack" by holding the flash back with your finger, you can diffuse the flash, but that's a pain.
Other than those two minor faults, this is a great camera for the price and a great in-between camera for those who like the quality of a full DSLR and the size and connivence of a smaller body.
on July 19, 2012
Received this camera on 7/17/2012 with the 14-42mm cheaper version of the kit lens.
I have compared it with the Sony Nex 5K, Nikon 5100, 3100 and my friend's 7000. The ISO noise level is not as good as the Nikon or the Sony but the auto focus is silky smooth(better than most camcorders) whereas the Sony, especially the Nikon tends to zoom in and out before they are able to lock focus. Basically the Nikon auto focus system is unusable IMO, Canon made the right decision not to put in the video autofocus simply because it does not work properly yet with DSLR. This is the one of the reasons I am steering away from Nikon and switching to Canon due to its poor feature implementation. However the ISO noise is higher on GF5 than all the other cameras compared and the zoom ring is not that smooth. The Sony Nex 5N has very similar noise level as the Nikon, it is excellent for low light for its size. The Panasonic also has much better control on Moire and IS. The Sony outdoor video is basically unusable due to heavy Moire issue, the Nikon 5100 is better but not as good as the GF5. I did not compare the Moire on the D7000. The GF5 has very low Moire issue and better image stabilization than the Sony 5K and D3100,D5100. Its still photos in low light is not as good as the other cameras compared here but its cinema style auto focus was unbeatable. So for low light still photos, I would choose the Sony or the Nikon cameras, especially the D7000. In conclusion, the GF5 is a all around camera for anyone who is looking for a camera with over all good still photos and video performance. The GF5 is basically a top of the line camcorder, better than any camcorders I owned that are below $1,000 and I have purchased 7 of them over the last 3 years. If you are going to buy a camera with smooth video you really don't have a choice, it is the only camera that I know of with a video focus system that works.
Update, the Canon T4i has been released. I have purchased one and I will write about how well the video auto focus works.
Update, the Canon T4i has better smoother focus than D5100 but not as good as the GF5.
on December 22, 2012
It's only been a couple of months since I purchased this camera and I must say that it's truly a compact beauty almost matching up to DSLR performance in terms of picture quality. It's compact size delivering such good quality makes it a good purchase. The build is also not bad and has nice looks. I have not tried all the options yet and still learning but has done the job for me to my satisfaction. Battery life I must say is average and stiff price certainly is a minus but I am sure it will drop as time goes by. I would still give it 5 starts for awesome picture quality, speed of auto focus and reasonable low light performance.
on January 11, 2013
I wanted this camera for several months and waited for it to go on sale. Got a great Black Friday deal even though I had to wait a little while for it to get in stock - it was worth the wait. The zoom isn't as effective as on my other Panasonic - so I will probably order the zoom lens too.
on September 1, 2013
I only owned a point-n-shoot digital camera, and was looking to get into more serious photographing, so I decided to get a compact system camera, since I wanted DSLR quality but am not serious enough or good enough really to take a giant camera bag around with me everywhere. I researched several types and eventually decided to get the Lumix GF5 because of its size and reviews stating that it was a good camera for amateurs to learn to use. I didn't want to spend a lot of money, so I decided to buy through the Amazon Warehouse Deals and save a little. My camera arrived in a few days and appeared to be in good condition. It definitely wasn't in brand-new packaging (although the warehouse description warned that it wouldn't be, so I wasn't too surprised) and it was missing the USB cable. This wasn't a huge deal as I typically take my SD card out to put pics on my computer anyways, but I was kind of displeased as I assumed ordering from Amazon themselves would get me a more thoroughly inspected "used" package. I started thumbing through the instruction booklet and playing around with the camera, and I was a little overwhelmed....it will definitely take a lot of reading and tinkering with it to figure out how to take advantage of all of its features. I decided to take it outside and take pictures and disappointingly noticed vertical streaks in my photos....I read the manual and checked all of the settings that I could think of to determine the cause. So I finally came to the conclusion that either I wasn't ready to handle this fancy of a camera because I couldn't get rid of those streaks, or either the sensor/lens was messed up, and ended up returning the whole package. I decided to get the Canon Powershot S100 instead and focus more on learning how to adjust the basics (aperture, ISO, etc) to get the results I want before purchasing a more expensive camera. So far I'm pleased with its results, but I do plan to purchase either a CSC or DSLR eventually. The size of the Lumix GF5 was awesome, and I think a new product wouldn't have eliminated the problems I had with it, so I'm still going to consider it in the future. Overall, I'd definitely recommend looking into the GF5, but would caution against ordering it used.
on September 12, 2012
Got mine yesterday, and happy to report that I was not able to replicate the blur problem. Took about 100 test shots at full zoom at speeds from 1/80 to 1/320 with stabilizer on and off (indoor, focusing on lettering, no flash). Only one time I saw a blur at 1/125 ISO, and I wasn't able to replicate it afterwards in many subsequent shots, so I assume it was just my hand. The camera is surprisingly small and light, partially thanks to the more compact power zoom lens. I'll add to this review once I take real-life (as opposed to test) shots. So far I took only a few real-life indoor photos with flash on, at 160 and 200 ISO. They do look excellent, great detail and no noticeable noise at 100% view. Happy so far!
on August 21, 2013
I'm not going to repeat what all the other reviews say: almost DSLR quality but much smaller/lighter/cheaper, great video quality, great for travel, etc, etc... Yes, these things are all true and it's why everyone gets this camera and loves it. I just want to point out a couple of things about the camera that are important to some people and are damn near impossible to find out about without owning the camera.
1. Missing timelapse ability - I don't understand why cameras don't have this built in yet like GoPro does. It would be a simple software feature that wouldn't add to the cost of production or size/weight of the camera. But I won't hold it against this camera since most other cameras don't have it either. However, I am annoyed that the camera doesn't have the required port to connect a remote shutter release to use for timelapse photography. I understand the idea of keeping the cost/size/weight of the camera down, but there are m4/3 cameras that have this port, and it's extremely hard to find any information about this camera that specifies that it does NOT have this port. Note, you can take a video in mini-mode to get a timelapse but this is far too limiting for me.
2. Nightscapes/Landscape Astrophotography/Whatever you want to call it - This camera does a decent job with these kinds of photos, but I think this is one area where a DSLR is far better.
First, it's extremely hard to accurately set the manual focus to infinity if you don't have the moon or another large bright object to use. This is one of those cameras where you can focus "past" infinity, so instead of just spinning the focus ring all the way to one side, you need to get it to a specific point. That specific point is not marked off on the focus ring, because the focus ring spins indefinitely and just tells the camera's computer to focus in or out (like a car stereo volume knob that you can keep turning even though you're already at max volume). You can only see your focus level on the screen, and the infinity point isn't marked on that display either. Without a bright object like the moon to use to set the focus, you're stuck using the brightest star you can find, which is barely even visible on the screen.
Second, there's a difference between a camera's highest ISO setting and how high you can set the ISO and still get usable photos. You can set the ISO to 12800 on this camera but 1600 is the highest I've been able to use before the noise makes the photo unusable. This, combined with the kit lens' widest aperture being f/3.5 and the crop factor of the sensor being 2x, compared to 1.5x on typical (not full-frame) DSLRs, and the rule of 600 means you're pretty much stuck using 30s exposures (make sure to turn off noise reduction so you don't have to wait for 30s of processing after every photo). Which isn't terrible. I'm happy with the photos I've been able to get but I think they'd be far better with a DSLR. I'm uploading a couple example photos.
Third, there's a faint horizontal bar of red noise about 1/3 up the photo when I take photos like this. I don't know what causes this. This is a more minor issue for me because I've figured out how to edit it out in photoshop. I'm uploading a before/after photo to show this.
Random tip I just learned: If you want the photos you take with this camera (or any camera for that matter) to be geotagged, there is a solution. Make sure your camera timestamp is extremely accurate, and use the My Tracks app on an android (or an actual GPS or whatever the equivalent iPhone app is) to create a gpx track while you use your camera. Then you can use a command-line application called exiftool to assign GPS coordinates to all of your photos based on the location in the gpx track at the photo's timestamp. This is done with a single command (ie. exiftool -geotag=myroute.gpx G:\Pictures\Eye-Fi\GPX)