The Lumix DMC-G5 marks something of a rebrand. Up until now, Panasonic had called cameras with interchangeable lenses 'compact system cameras', or CSCs. It was a term picked up by the rest of the industry that stuck.
With the launch of the G5 though, it's looking to change all that, and in recognition of the fact that these cameras share more in common with a dSLR than a compact, it's starting to use the term dSLM, or 'digital single lens mirrorless'.
Lens and sensor
This is one of the most dSLR-like compacts I've used. It's larger than CSC siblings like theand . But while you won't be slipping it into a pocket, it still feels fairly light and very well balanced, with a chunky battery wedge at one end providing good grip and the powered kit lens adding just 1 inch to its overall depth when shut down.
The complete line-up now comprises an impressive 20 lenses and converters, including fish-eye, 3D and prime options, priced between £99 and £1,324.
The powered lens I used in my tests is a kit option, which you can swap for a manual unit of equivalent focal range. It's a 14-42mm arrangement, equivalent to 28-84mm on a regular 35mm camera. The zoom control sits on the side of the barrel, along with the manual focus rocker. There's a duplicate zoom control on the body itself, just behind the shutter release, which frees up your thumb for focusing if you choose not to leave that to the camera.
Maximum aperture at wide angle is f/3.5, and it stands at f/5.6 at full telephoto. Minimum aperture is f/22 and it has a closest focusing distance of 20cm.
That means you need to stand back a little when shooting macro images, but that's no bad thing as it keeps your shadow off the subject. The results are as good as anything shot at closer quarters. The subject itself is pin-sharp, with an appealing fall-off in the level of focus surrounding it.
The actual focal area is extremely tight, allowing you to accurately isolate the exact point you were after. Indeed, in the shot below, while the snail's shell -- my target -- is sharp, its eyes sit a little closer to the lens, so are thrown slightly out of focus. The length of its body was around 1.5 inches.
It sports a 16-megapixel sensor, with sensitivity ranging from ISO 160 to 12,800, and a broader than average compensation of +/-5EV in 1/3EV steps.
Its low-light performance is nothing short of excellent, with barely any noise evident, even at sensitivities as high as ISO 800. At this level, flat colours showed a tiny amount of digital spotting, but it's no more than I'd expect to see on other cameras at far lower sensitivities. Halving it to ISO 400 produces a result that you would be hard-pushed to tell apart from that achieved at its lowest setting, ISO 160.
You have to push it to extremes to introduce what I'd consider an undesirable level of noise, and certainly at its maximum level -- ISO 12,800 -- there is considerable dappling of the results. But even at this setting, colours remain true to their originals.
The G5 has four burst modes for continuous shooting, ranging from 2 to 20 frames per second. At 6 and 20 frames per second -- the two highest settings -- you don't get to use the live view. But the other two options -- 2 and 3.7 -- keep it active. Using a Class 4 memory card, it shot 10 frames in succession at 3.7fps before it needed to slow its rate to allow it to offload data from the cache. It continued shooting thereafter for as long as I kept the shutter release held down, at around 2fps.
It's very quick to find focus, highlighting the focal point almost immediately in auto mode. If you prefer to specify what it should be looking at, then a simple tap on the 3-inch (7.5cm) LCD screen sets your chosen point. Combine this with manual focus and that's the point that it enlarges as you tilt the focus rocker.
The screen is articulated through 180 degrees on each plane, so you can use it to take overhead, low-down or even around-the-corner shots. It's used for far more than just setting the focus and framing your subject. Fly-out menus let you control various settings and there's a handy horizon indicator to show when you're holding the G5 perfectly level. It works in both landscape and portrait modes, and also indicates tilt.
It's used in the scene and creative control modes too, where tapping the screen selects the effect you want to achieve, with several replicating the style of retro image tools in apps like Instagram.
The screen is supplemented by a digital viewfinder, with a proximity sensor below the eyepiece that automatically switches between the two when you bring it close to your face.