Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5

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.)

You can tilt the GF5's flash backward for more attractive flash exposures.

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.

Panasonic's quick menu is one of my favorite interfaces. You can change the available options on the fly via that Q/wrench button on the lower left.
Nikon 1 J1 Olympus PEN E-PM1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 Sony Alpha NEX-F3
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
Focal-length multiplier 2.7x 2.0x 2.0x 2.0x 1.5x
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
Continuous shooting 5fps
(60fps with fixed AF and electronic shutter)
(5.5fps without image stabilization)
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
unlimited JPEG/4 raw
2.5 fps
18 JPEG/6 raw
(5.5fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder None None None None None
Autofocus 73-point
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
Flash Yes Included optional Yes Yes Yes
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
720/60p @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
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed touch screen
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed touch screen
920,000 dots
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
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 Power Zoom kit lens is convenient and collapses to make a very compact package. But it's a so-so lens, and reaching that zoom switch is annoyingly awkward.

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.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Sony Alpha NEX-F3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3
Olympus PEN E-PM1

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)