Panasonic has been in the Compact System Camera (CSC) game since the very beginning. The brand has released many models with the Micro Four Thirds mount to allow cameras and lenses to sport small dimensions while still producing quality imagery. The Lumix DMC-GM5 is the latest offering, replacing the GM1. Appealing to those seeking a small yet powerful CSC to pack in the hand luggage when holiday time rolls around, the GM5 will also interest street photographers looking to capture candid scenes without spooking subjects with a big D-SLR. Available in black or red, the GM5 is bundled with a 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens and an external flashgun.
Features & Build
Make no mistake, this is a small camera. In fact the GM5, which sports classy, retro styling, has dimensions more akin to a premium compact than a CSC. Panasonic has managed to cram in additional features missing from the older GM1. Most notable is the built-in Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). Although the EVF is small, it does boast 1,116k-dot resolution and is handy for composing in strong sunlight that could create glare on the main LCD. The EVF eyepiece does protrude a tiny bit, but that’s an acceptable price to pay for this extra technology.
A second notable difference is the pop-up flash seen on the GM1 has been replaced with a hotshoe mount. This can host the DMW-FL360L included in the kit bundle, or other compatible flashguns or triggers.
Although the GM5 has gained a hotshoe mount and a EVF, its dimensions remain incredibly small. Measuring 98x60x36mm, this camera genuinely fits in the pocket and weighs just 211g body-only and 326g with a memory card, battery and kit lens included – lighter than rivals such as the Olympus E-PL7 (309g body-only), Nikon 1 V3 (282g body-only) and Sony A6000 (285g body-only). Although small, the GM5 feels impressively robust thanks to its magnesium alloy construction.
It offers a 16Mp sensor, which is a little on the low side compared to the Sony A6000 (24Mp), but on par with the Olympus E-PL7 (16Mp). Another strong selling point is that the GM5 shoots RAW, offering photographers more potential when it comes to editing images.
The Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds mount opens up a raft of optical options, as the GM5 will not only take Panasonic and Olympus lenses, but also third-party optics from brands such as Samyang, Sigma and Tamron. The LCD includes touchscreen technology so features can be accessed and changed by pressing the relevant icons on the side of the screen. Additionally, the focus point in your scene can be quickly selected by tapping an area of your choice on the LCD – this feature can also track a subject in the frame. This is particularly useful if you have a moving subject and you don’t have time to keep refocusing.
Along with the normal PASM exposure modes, the GM5 offers eight effect filters including a Star Filter to add a starburst effect to any light sources in the scene. Flick the mode dial to Scene and 23 presets for typical shooting situations can be found, including Bright Blue Sky and Vivid Sunset Glow. These are perfect for those new to photography who want the best chance of capturing a great shot in a specific shooting situation.
Performance & Handling
The GM5 is an intuitive camera to use, especially for stop-start photography situations such as a day trip to a city. While it doesn’t have a pronounced grip, the small body still feels comfortable in the hand. Although the body and kit lens are beautifully balanced, heavier lenses would cause the GM5 to tip forward, but this is true of the majority of CSCs. Modes and functions are easy to adjust via the well-laid-out buttons on both the top-plate and the rear of the camera, or via the touchscreen.
Of particular note is the focus mode wheel on the top-plate that allows you to switch between Single Shot, Continuous and Manual focus at the flick of a thumb. Even the tiny rear command wheel works well and has a double function as it can also be depressed like a D-Pad button. The Menu system is adequate, but will take time to get used to if you are arriving at the GM5 from a different brand’s system.
In terms of autofocus, the GM5 locks on to subjects quickly and offers a clever feature that magnifies the focus area, giving a close-up view. Hardly any scenes troubled the AF, even when light levels were low. The GM5’s 5.8fps burst mode can’t match the Sony A6000’s 11fps, but certainly doesn’t feel sluggish and with quick write speeds of 1.8secs for RAW images, you aren’t left waiting ages to take images.
There are a couple of niggles to this great camera. The collapsible function of the 12-32mm kit lens is a hassle to keep twisting each time you slim down the camera to pop it back in your pocket. Also, the Movie record button – situated just above the D-Pad – is easy to activate accidently. While NFC and GPS are missing, the built-in Wi-Fi allows you to connect to a smart device and upload images to the Internet.
To achieve this, the Panasonic Image App must be downloaded to your phone or tablet first. Connection instructions explain how to pair your device with the camera via a QR code. Once completed, it offers a versatile remote shooting feature that’s useful in scenarios such as capturing birds landing at a feeding table, or shooting from a position where you can’t get your eye to the viewfinder.
Value for Money
For £649, you get the GM5, a 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, plus an external flashgun. Some retailers also sell an alternative kit bundle for £899 that substitutes the 12-32mm for a 15mm f/1.7 prime lens. The regular kit bundle offers the best value for money, although it is around £100 more expensive than rivals like the Sony A6000 or Olympus E-PL7. However, the GM5’s impressive spec-list, stylish retro design and robust build help to justify the slightly steep price-tag.
The GM5 is a fun camera that not only looks great, but is also small and lightweight enough to fit in your pocket or pack into the daysack when you head off on holiday. With a robust build quality, your investment of £649 is likely to stand the test of time. The addition of an Electronic Viewfinder shows Panasonic’s commitment to keep improving its Lumix line-up of beautifully-styled cameras packed with high-end features. Yes, there are a couple of niggles (particularly the easy-to-engage Movie record button), but with the kit lens and flash, you get a lot for your money.
Image quality is superb, especially when captured in RAW format, and the GM5 is an easy-to-use camera that’s suitable for both beginners and more advanced enthusiasts alike. There are certainly alternative CSCs that should be looked at too, but Panasonic has built a winner!
- Street price: £599 (Secondhand as of June 2016)
- Resolution: 16Mp (4592x3448px)
- Format: RAW & JPEG
- Sensor: 17.3x13mm Live MOS
- Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
- Stabilisation: Lens-based MEGA O.I.S
- ISO: 100-25,600
- Shutter: 60-1/16000sec
- AF system: 23-point Contrast-detection AF system
- Focusing modes: Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual focus and Face/Eye detection
- Metering: Multi-segment, Centre-Weighted & Spot
- Burst rate: 5.8fps
- Monitor: 3in, 921k-dot touchscreen LCD
- Viewfinder: 1,116k-dot Electronic Viewfinder
- Pop-up flash: No
- Hotshoe: Yes
- Wi-Fi: Yes GPS: No
- Video: Full HD 1080p at 60/50p
- Write speeds: 1.8secs RAW,
- 1.2sec Extra Fine JPEG
- Storage: SD, SDHC and SDXC
- Weight: 211g (body only)
- Dimensions: (WxHxD) 98.5x59.5x36.1mm
- Visit: www.panasonic.com/uk
This review was first published in the April 2015 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.