Review Date: December 29, 2014
Category: Serious to Advanced Amateur
Photoxels Editor’s Choice – Compact Interchangeable Lens Camera
HANDLING & FEEL
Ultra-compact marvel. When the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 first came out in 2013, it won many rave reviews for featuring excellent image quality and high performance in a really small body. Well, Panasonic has figured out how to squeeze even more goodness into the updated Lumix GM5, including a built-in high resolution EVF, 1080/60p video recording and a hot shoe. It’s all wrapped in a durable magnesium alloy frame which provides both excellent build and lightness.
The EVF (or Live View Finder, as Panasonic calls its electronic viewfinder) sports 1,166K-dot equivalent resolution with approx. 100% field of view and approx. 100% colour reproduction. At only 0.46x (equiv.) magnification, the view is on the small side, but very clear and usable. There is an Eye Sensor as well as a diopter adjustment.
The Lumix GM5 comes with the LUMIX G VARIO 12-32mm ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. F3.5(W)-F5.6(T) kit lens. The 24-64mm [35mm equiv.] lens provides 2.7x optical zoom, which you can invoke manually with the manual zoom ring. Since the 12-32mm kit lens does not feature a manual focus ring, manual focusing is accomplished either by using the RIGHT/LEFT ARROW keys or the on-screen slide bar. The GM5 paired with the 12-32mm kit lens makes a nice combo for street and portrait photography.
Of course, as an Interchangeable Lens Camera, the GM5 accepts any of the Lumix and Leica micro Four Thirds (mFT) lenses as well as mFT lenses from Olympus and third-party manufacturers.
The front of the camera is clean, with the Self-timer indicator/AF Assist Lamp on the left and the Lens Release Button on the right. The Shoulder Strap Eyelets are somewhat uncomfortably in the way, especially when the shoulder strap is attached. And if you are not careful and jostle them, the noise will be recorded while filming a video. There is no handgrip and though the camera does not feel particularly slippery in the hand (in part thanks to the raised thumb rest), we still recommend using the shoulder/neck strap as a precaution since the camera is so compact that there is not much surface area to hold on to securely.
On the top of the camera, you’ll find (from right to left, viewing from the back) a Mode Dial, the Shutter Release button with the ON/OFF Switch around it, the Focus Mode Dial, the Hot Shoe, and the two holes for the Stereo Microphone on either side of the Hot Shoe. The monaural speaker is on the left side (viewed from the rear) of the camera.
The Mode Dial rotates in any direction and features iA, PASM , Movie, Custom, Panorama, Scene and Filters. It is definitely stiff enough so that you won’t inadvertently move it off its setting.
There is a small external flash bundled in the box. The flash head is fixed and so does not allow bounce flash. It is good enough for fill-in (GN10.0 equivalent / ISO 200, GN7.0 equivalent / ISO 100) for portrait but not to light up a whole room.
TIP: Note that to remove the flash, you need to press and hold the Lock Release Button on the side and slide the flash off the hot-shoe.
The Lumix GM5 is compatible with the Panasonic DMW-FL360L and DMW-FL580L flash for wireless control and LED video light functions.
Startup is fast at less than 1 sec. (from Power ON to LCD ready for capture, i.e. time-to-first-shot). However, since you also have to twist the 12-32mm lens to extend it, that will add to the time. You can leave the lens extended for faster startup. Shot to shot times is about 0.6 sec. (16 shots in 10 sec. in M mode, 1/125sec.) in JPEG. You can take one shot after another, as fast as your finger can click the shutter. Shooting RAW, it’s also that fast but the buffer fills up after the 5th shot, when it starts to save and clear more space.
At Image Quality = Large Fine, a 16MP JPEG image is compressed down to anywhere between 3.2MB and 9.5MB. A RAW image occupies about 19.8MB.
In good lighting, there is no practical shutter lag and AF is fast. In very low lighting, AF is also fast when the AF Assist Lamp is used; without the use of the AF Assist Lamp, AF may require up to 1 sec. to lock focus, depending on the contrast of the subject. However, it all just feels very fast overall.
On the back of the camera, there is a 3.0-in. LCD (921k-dot). The LCD is touch screen, allowing Touch Shutter release, Touch AE, Touch AF, enlargement, Frame advance/backward, etc.
The LVF has a high 1,166k-dot equivalent resolution. It has approx. 0.46x (35 mm camera equivalent) magnification (with 50 mm lens set at infinity) and the eye point is approx. 17.5 mm from the eyepiece lens. The Diopter Adjustment Lever is a slider, has a very short travel and I found it a bit tricky to adjust (-4.0 – +4.0 dpt). A built-in eye sensor switches the view automatically between the LVF and LCD screen. As mentioned, the view is small but I can see everything with glasses on, and the view is very clear and usable. THe LCD is not tiltable. Both the LVF and LCD gain up in low light.
TIP: If you are buying the GM5 for its viewfinder, we recommend you try it out first. We believe that most enthusiasts will find its size more than acceptable, considering the compactness of the camera and the high 1,166k-dot resolution.
Above the LCD are the LVF (Fn2) button, Wi-Fi (Fn1) button, Playback button, and Rear Dial. You invoke Program shift by simply rotating the Rear Dial in P mode. To dial in an Exposure Compensation, push in the Rear Dial and rotate.
TIP: You can customize whether the Exposure Compensation stays or reset when you turn off the camera [MENU – Setup – Exposure Comp. Reset – ON/OFF]. Ditto for the Self-timer [MENU – Setup – Self Timer Auto Off – ON/OFF]. You can also decide how much of info you want to display on screen as well as whether the info should be displayed superimposed on the picture or outside the frame. You can even disable the touchscreen feature. It pays to take some time upfront to delve into the menu, explore the various options and customize the camera to the way you like to work.
Wi-Fi functions include Remote Shooting / Viewing using a smartphone or tablet, Easy Share to upload images to social media sites, Instant Transfer to save your shot instantly to an external media and Geotagging using the GPS log of a paired smartphone or tablet. There is no NFC. You’ll need to download the free Panasonic Image App onto your smartphone / tablet to enable these features.
To the right of the LCD are the dedicated Movie button, the Cursor buttons with the MENU/SET button in the center, the DISP button and the DELETE/QMENU/RETURN button.
You can shoot a movie, press the shutter release button to take a single picture, and the camera will just keep recording without a break. Two (or more) files will be recorded: the movie and the still picture(s). Since the zoom is manual, you can zoom during movie recording. The autofocusing and manual zooming are quiet enough that you may not hear them at normal ambience sound level.
TIP: Half-press the shutter release button to get your subject in focus first before pressing the Movie button.
You can select PASM modes for movie shooting, as well as apply Creative Control Filter. An interesting Snap Movie mode records a mere 2/4/6/8 seconds of video, short enough for sharing online and editable on your smartphone / tablet. You can specify Pull Focus or Fade effects for your Snap Movie. Other popular movie features include Timelapse and Stop Motion Animation.
On the right side (viewed from rear) is the Terminal Cover which gives access to the HDMI socket and the AV OUT/DIGITAL socket.
Cursor Buttons: UP = ISO. RIGHT = WB. DOWN = Drive. LEFT = AF Mode.
TIP: If you turn the Direct Focus Area option ON [MENU – Custom Setup – Direct Focus Area – ON], you can use the cursor buttons to move the AF area around the screen. You also need it ON to use manual focus with the 12-32mm kit lens. If you are not going to use manual focus, we recommend that you turn Direct Focus Area OFF. With touchscreen capability, you can simply touch the screen to move the AF area to wherever you want on screen. The functions of the Cursor buttons will then be enabled.
I love the Delete button that allows you to delete one, many or all the pictures without having to delve into the Menu.
You can display a Live Histogram on the screen and/or EVF either by setting it on in the Menu [MENU – Custom Setup – Histogram – ON] or selecting it from the screen [Fn tab – Fn5 (defaulted to Histogram)].
You can also display a Grid [MENU – Custom Setup – Guide Line – select one of 3 grid types]. You can have both the grid and Live Histogram displayed at the same time. You can also choose to display blinking highlights [MENU – Custom Setup – Highlight – ON] in Playback. To see blown highlight in Record mode, set Zebra Pattern ON [MENU – Custom Setup – Zebra Pattern – select ZEBRA1 or ZEBRA2].
For those who, like me, are horizontally challenged, you can set the Level Gauge on by either repeatedly pressing the Disp. button until it displays or select it on screen [Fn tab – Fn4 (defaulted to Level Gauge)].
There are 7 customizable Function buttons [MENU – Custom Setup – Fn Button Set]. Defaults are: Fn1 = Wi-Fi, Fn2 = LVF/MON, Fn3 = DOF Preview, Fn4 = Level Gauge, Fn5 = Histogram, Fn6 = Snap Movie, Fn7 = undefined. For any of these Function buttons, you can select from 41 functions [or 45 for the physical Fn1 and Fn2 buttons]: Wi-Fi, [LVF/MON, AF/AE-LOCK, AF-ON], DOF Preview, One Push AE, Touch AE, Level Gauge, Focus Area Set, Zoom Control, Cursor Button Lock, Photo Style, Filter Select, Aspect Ratio, Picture Size, Quality, AFS/AFF, Metering Mode, Highlight Shadow, i.Dynamic, i.Resolution, HDR, Shutter Type, Flash Mode, Flash Adjust, Ex. Tele Conv., Digital Zoom, Stabilizer, Snap Movie, Motion Pict. Set, Picture Mode, Silent Mode, Peaking, Histogram, Guide Line, Zebra Pattern, Monochrome Live View, Rec Area, Step Zoom, Zoom Speed, [Touch Screen], ISO Sensitivity, White Balance, AF Mode/MF, Drive Mode.
I like AF Mode [LEFT ARROW] that allows you to place the AF area anywhere on screen! Yes, anywhere! In Record mode, if you’ve set AF Touch on, touching the screen will cause the camera to immediately focus on that point. If you’ve set Touch Shutter Release on, then the camera will focus and take a picture as soon as you touch the screen. Continuous AF in movie will relock focus on a new subject; Touch AF makes rack focusing easy.
The Q.Menu (Quick Menu) displays a screen divided into 3 areas: the top and bottom areas list settings you can change; the middle area list the values available for a selected setting. You can use the Cursor Keys and Rear dial or touch the screen to select the desired settings.
There is no fast way to enter and exit SILENT MODE except thru the Menu [MENU – Custom Setup – Silent Mode – ON]. Fortunately, you can program it into a function button/tab [MENU – Custom Setup – Fn Button Set – Fn7 (or whichever Fn button you want to use) – Silent Mode].
On the bottom, the tripod mount is metal and in-line with the center of the lens. You will not be able to change battery and access the memory card with the camera on a tripod.
Included in the box is a rechargeable Li-ion battery DMW-BLH7PP that can take about 210 to 260 shots (depending on whether the LCD or LVF is used, and whether flash is fired) on a fresh charge. A Battery Charger DE-A99 plugs directly into a wall outlet and recharges a depleted battery in about 130 min. When the battery power gets low, the battery indicator turns red, starts blinking, you hear a series of beep and then the camera shuts off, all in a matter of seconds.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 accepts the SD, SDHC, SDXC cards. (Compatible with UHS-I standard SDHC / SDXC Memory Cards.)
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 fits in the palm of your hand but packs DSLR-level image quality and performance. It handles very well, is customizable to your liking and has lots of practical features.