Design and features
While the body is compact, sturdily constructed, and very similar to the GF3, Pansonic has added back a few physical controls that had disappeared from that model. The most important physical change over the GF3 is the new grip; the GF3's was very slippery, and this larger rubberized grip is a huge improvement, especially if you need to shoot one-handed.
On the top, there's a small on/off switch, movie record button, shutter button and the direct-access Intelligent Auto button that Panasonic wisely puts on the top of all its models. (My only wish is that it wouldn't override my autofocus settings.)
The back has a large, delineated thumb rest, along with a four-way navigation wheel that controls drive mode, AF area, white balance, and exposure compensation. The inset button pulls up the menu system, and three buttons above and below control playback, display options, and the Q.Menu; the latter can be reprogrammed to a user-determined function as well.
|Nikon 1 J1||Olympus PEN E-PM1||Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3|
|Sensor (effective resolution)||10mp CMOS||12.3mp Live MOS||12.1mp Live MOS||12.1mp Live MOS||16.1mp Exmor HD CMOS|
|13.2 x 8.8 mm||17.3mm x 13mm||17.3 x 13.0mm||17.3mm x 13mm||23.5mm x 15.6mm|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 100 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded)||ISO 200 - ISO 12800||ISO 100 - ISO 6400||ISO 100 - ISO 6400/ 12800 (expanded)||ISO 200 - ISO 16000|
(60fps with fixed AF and electronic shutter)
(5.5fps without image stabilization)
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
unlimited JPEG/4 raw
18 JPEG/6 raw
(5.5fps with fixed exposure)
phase detection, 135-area contrast AF
|35-area contrast AF||23-area contrast AF||23-area contrast AF||25-point contrast AF|
|AF sensitivity range||n/a||n/a||n/a||0 - 18 EV||0 - 20 EV|
|Shutter speed||1/3 - 1/16,000; bulb to ; 1/60 sec x-sync||60-1/2,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes||60-1/4000 sec; 1/160 x-sync||60-1/4,000 sec; 1/160 flash sync||30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 flash sync|
|Metering||n/a||324 area||144 zone||144 zone||1200 zone|
|Metering range||n/a||0 - 20 EV||N/A||0 - 18 EV||0 - 20 EV|
|Image stabilization||Optical||Sensor shift||Optical||Optical||Optical|
|Video||1080/60i /30p, 720/60p H.264 MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV||AVCHD
1080/60i @ 20, 17Mbps; 720/60p @ 13Mbps/29 minutes
| 1080/60i/50i @ 17 Mbps
720/60p @17 Mbps AVCHD or Motion JPEG QuickTime MOV
|AVCHD or MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV
1080/60i @ 17Mbps
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/ 30p @ 12Mbps
|Audio||Stereo||Stereo||Mono||Stereo||Stereo; mic input|
|LCD size||3-inch fixed 460,000 dots||3-inch fixed
|3-inch fixed touch screen
|3-inch fixed touch screen
|Wireless file upload||None||Optional Bluetooth||None||None||None|
|Battery life (CIPA rating)||230 shots||n/a||320 shots||330 shots||470 shots|
|Dimensions (inches, WHD)||4.2 x 2.4 x 1.2||4.3 x 2.5 x 1.3||4.2 x 2.6 x 1.3||4.2 x 2.6 x 1.5||4.6 x 2.6 x 1.6|
|Body operating weight (ounces)||9.7||9.3||9.3||9.6||11.1|
|Mfr. price||n/a||n/a||$499.99 (body only)||n/a||n/a|
|$649.95 (with 10-30mm lens)||$499.99 (with 14-42mm lens)||$599.95 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens)||$599 (with 14-42mm lens)||$599 (with 18-55mm lens)|
|$899.95 (with 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses)||n/a||$699.95 (with 14mm f2.5 lens)||$749 (with 14-42mm power zoom lens)||n/a|
|n/a||n/a||$749.99 (with 14-42mm power zoom lens)||n/a||n/a|
|Ship date||October 2011||September 2011||July 2011||June 2012||June 2012|
To go with the higher-resolution LCD, Panasonic redesigned the look of the touch-screen interface, and it's a lot more attractive than before. It also incorporates the flyout tab that debuted in the DMC-GX1, as well as interface hints. The new touch screen is nicely responsive.
The feature set is pretty standard for its class, though it's one of the few that still has a built-in flash. If you're a touch-screen addict, you'll probably consider the ability to operate the power zoom lens via the screen a very nice feature. It's got a full complement of configurable special effects, and it saves a raw file simultaneously.
The hardest thing about recommending this camera is to know which configuration makes sense. The 14-42mm HD lens -- also called PZ for "power zoom" -- makes for the most convenient, compact kit. But it's also a fairly middling lens, especially given that you're paying more for the package. The cheaper kit with the standard 14-42mm lens is probably the best deal, but then the camera loses its size advantage. In some ways, that the problem with all of these entry-level ILCs, though.
I think the Sony Alpha NEX-F3 has somewhat better photo quality overall and it has a tilting LCD, but otherwise I like the design and interface of the GF5 better. If you can find the GF3 for a better price with the zoom lens, that's probably your best deal.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Raw shot-to-shot time||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)