Panasonic’s new mid-range offering for Lumix lovers is the G6, and it replaces last year’s well-received G5. It sits above the smaller GF6 and GX1, and below the more advanced GH3 in the company’s mirrorless line-up, and its design suggests it’s aimed at enthusiasts who’re interested in D-SLRs, but are put off by their bulky size. With that in mind, can this Compact System Camera (CSC) tempt consumers away from the D-SLR market and towards their sleeker, slimmer cousins?
Features & build
The D-SLR inspired design of the G6 cradles a 16.05Mp Micro Four Thirds Live MOS Sensor at its centre, and this is the same size as its predecessor – the G5.
A 2x crop factor on the 17.3x13.0mm chip means the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens has a film-equivalent focal range of 28-84mm. However, Panasonic has eked more from this sensor by including a new and improvedVenus Engine processor, which doubles the ISO capability to an impressive new range of 160 to 25,600 (Extended).
Not only does this processor offer advanced Noise reduction controls, but it also boasts shooting start-up times of 0.5sec and high-speed burst shooting of 7fps at full resolution. The emphasis on speed is continued with the modestly named Light Speed AF system, which works by detecting contrast within the scene, and a newly-integrated Low Light AF claims to offer accurate focusing on the subject even in dim conditions.
The G6 features a 3in LCD touchscreen on its rear, which can flip out and rotate from the body, and packs 1036k dots – which is more than its predecessor. The touchscreen allows users to scroll through menus with the flick of a finger – just like a smartphone – and it also lets you set focus points simply by tapping the screen. If you prefer to compose your shots the traditional way, then you can use the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), which is nestled on the bridge of the camera. It features a 1440k dot OLED display with 100% coverage, and also shows your shooting information on the outer area of the frame.
A Mode dial dominates the top-plate and lets you set any of the usual M, S, A, P modes, along with two Custom Modes, a Panorama Shot Mode, Scene Guide Mode, Creative Control Mode and a Creative Video Mode, which lets you input the exposure settings manually.
Also on the top-plate there’s a function lever to control exposure compensation, a video record button and an Intelligent Auto button, which uses settings determined by the camera depending on scene information. Furthermore, sitting above the EVF is a pop-up flash, which itself envelops a hotshoe to add other attachments, such as a flashgun or microphone. The G6 also includes contemporary features such as Wi-Fi and NFC (Near Field Communication), so you can send your images to another device wirelessly, or control the camera via a smartphone or tablet.
Performance & Handling
The G6 couldn’t look more like a miniature D-SLR if it tried, and the design gives the impression that this is a high-quality bit of kit. The good news is, this first impression doesn’t deceive.
In the hand, the G6 is comfortable – a decent sized, rubberised hand-grip protrudes from the front of the body and on the rear, the thumbpad offers a vice-like purchase.
The button layout doesn’t feel cluttered, despite there being 12 (including the four on the D-pad) on the rear of the camera. Each button offers quick access to an array of commonly called upon options, and some can be reassigned depending on your preferences, while the Exposure Compensation lever is a welcome addition which allows you to fine-tune your exposures in tricky lighting conditions.
The on-screen menus are clear, simple and easy to navigate either using the D-pad or the touchscreen – the latter being slightly quicker in our experience. The 3in screen is bright; it handily flips out and rotates from the body to help you compose from unusual angles, and can be faced inwards against the body to protect the screen when not in use, which is always a welcome feature.
The EVF found on the G6 is excellent. It offers clear, 100% coverage, with no noticeable lag, and neatly displays shooting information on the edge of the frame. The Light Speed AF lives up to its name, too – in our test we found it locked on to almost all subjects within an instant, and the contrast-detect AF worked very well – even on subjects lacking any proper, hard contrast. It also performed well in typical low-light situations and we barely had to wait for the focus to lock on before taking a shot, which was impressive.
We also put the Panasonic G6 through its paces to see how fast the processor really was and how it dealt with continuous shooting. It certainly impressed us during our tests: on Medium Burst mode we were able to fire off 200 JPEGs at 4fps without the buffer ever filling; while on High Burst we managed to fire 12 JPEGs at 7fps before shooting slowed, and these files took 3.9secs to be written to our card.
In the G6’s Super High Burst mode it was capable of firing off 39 JPEGs at an impressive 40fps, and this took 11secs to be recorded to the card. When we switched to single shot, the G6 took 1.6secs to write a JPEG to the card, and when shooting RAW, the write time was extended just fractionally to 1.9secs. On Burst mode the G6 could handle seven RAW files at 7fps with a write time of 5.7secs. In all, a sprightly performance.
Value for Money
At £629, the Lumix G6 sits at the upper end of the mid-range CSC market, but you do get a lot of camera for your money. It matches its rivals in terms of technological features and design, with items such as a touchscreen, Wi-Fi and NFC, and it even boasts an EVF and a hotshoe – specs not always found on CSCs in this mid-price range. Other options to consider would be the Sony Alpha NEX-6, which comes with a 16.1Mp APS-C sensor at £629 (with 16-50mm), or the Samsung NX300 which has a bigger 20Mp APS-C sensor and costs £599 (with 20-50mm). Alternatively, if you’re looking at CSCs because you’re put off by the size and bulk of a D-SLR, then it’s worth looking at the Canon 100D. At £569 (with 18-55mm), it has an 18Mp APS-C chip and is barely any bigger than the D-SLR-inspired G6. However, if you’re after a CSC with a fast performance and all the latest technology, the G6 could well be the camera that helps you take your next step in creative photography.
The G6 may be similar to last year’s G5 in terms of its resolution and features, but the improvements made over the last 12 months to the processor and LCD screen do make this an undoubtedly better camera. It probably won’t be enough to tempt G5 owners to upgrade, but for enthusiasts coming to the CSC market for the first time and looking for a great performing camera with up-to-date technology, then the G6 is well suited to their requirements.
- Street price: £260 (Secondhand price as of July 2016)
- Resolution: 16.05Mp (4608x3456px)
- Sensor: 17.3x13.0mm MOS
- Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
- ISO range: 160-25,600
- Minimum aperture: f/22
- Maximum aperture: f/3.5-5.6
- Image stabilisation: Yes
- Shutter range: 60-1/4000sec
- Focal length: 14-42mm (28-84mm equivalent)
- AF system: Contrast AF
- Focusing modes: Single AF, Continuous AF, MF, Flexible AF
- Monitor: 3in 1036k TFT LCD with Touch monitor
- Flash: Yes, built-in pop-up
- Video: 1080p Full HD @ 60fps
- Storage: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Weight: 340g (body only)
- Dimensions: 122.45x84.6x71.4mm (WxHxD)
- Visit: www.panasonic.com/uk
This review was first published in the August 2013 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.