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Review Panasonic GM5

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After 1 comes 5, I've learned. The Panasonic GM5 is the successor to the Panasonic GM1. Both cameras belong, along with the Nikon 1 among others, to the smallest mirrorless system cameras with interchangeable lenses. The sensor of these cameras beats out many SLR cameras with an APS-C sensor, when it comes to signal-to-noise ratio and dynamic range.
With the Panasonic GM1, we found the operation to not always be easy, due to the limited number of buttons on the camera. I also found it unfortunate that there was no viewfinder on the camera. Within a year, Panasonic has solved that with the GM5. Is the Panasonic GM5 the perfect system camera? Or will we find something else of note?

gm5front
GM5RED
Irresistable, little red devil: Panasonic GM5 plus telephoto zoom lens in attractive red (fake) leather.
The image quality of an SLR, with the power of attraction of Doutzen Kroes? Nearly.

Panasonic GM5 versus Panasonic GM1

GM5backMove your mouse over the picture.

At first glance, the Panasonic GM5 is nearly the same as its predecessor. But just the built-in viewfinder (top left) is already reason enough to choose the GM5, even if you use the screen when taking pictures. If it's so sunny that your screen becomes hard to read, then you can switch effortlessly to the viewfinder. Perhaps after that you'll use the built-in viewfinder even more often! When you look through a viewfinder, you're less distracted by the environment, and you therefore make stronger compositions.
The Panasonic GM5 is a bit taller (but just as light) as the Panasonic GM1 (move your mouse over the picture above). That made it possible to build in an electronic viewfinder and two extra buttons above the screen, and to move the buttons that were dangerously close to your thumb on the GM1 further down. That clearly increases the ease of use. On the GM1, you could adjust the shutter speed by turning the round wheel around the four-way switch. Instead of that, you now have a thumb wheel (with an indication arrow), and that works much better.

  • The GM5 has a built-in electronic viewfinder, a hot shoe and a separate flash included; the GM1 has no viewfinder and a built-in flash.
  • The GM5 has a rotating wheel on the back, with which you can more easily adjust the shutter speed and aperture.
  • The GM5 has a panorama mode; the GM1 doesn't.
  • The GM5, just like the GX7, has built-in image stabilization; the GM1 does not. This can be important when using Olympus lenses. Most Panasonic lenses have built-in image stabilization.
  • The GM5 offers full-HD video @ 60p; the GM1 doesn't go further than 30p/60i.

GM5 vs LX100 vs GX7 vs FZ1000

Read Why buy a Panasonic LX 100 when you could buy a GX7? on Dpreview.

Currently, photographers have a luxury problem when it comes to good, compact cameras. Those who don't have a great need to change lenses, but do want to profit from high image quality, can also choose for a luxury compact camera with a bright lens like the Panasonic LX100 or a bridge camera with a superzoom like the Panasonic FZ1000. Those who find the Panasonic GM5 just a bit too small can consider the Panasonic GX7. Which camera you prefer is really a question of taste and application. The editors of Imaging Resource loves the GM series: "Love at first sight," they write. Personally, I think the GX7 and the LX100 (with 4K video!) fit better in my (big) hands. The Panasonic GX7 is a little bit bigger and weighs 200 grams more (that's twice as heavy). Fans of bright lenses will appreciate the fastest shutter speed of the GM5 (1/16.000 second vs 1/8.000 for the GX7): that saves 1 stop, so that you can freeze action even better and can choose a large aperture even in bright light in order to make the background nicely blurred. On the other hand, the Panasonic GX has a bulb mode (with which you can make the exposure time as long as you want), which is missing from the Panasonic GM5. During the bulb mode, the sensor develops a lot of heat. That is easier to drain away in a large camera than in a small camera.

Design

gm5top
Move your mouse over the picture.
There is little to criticize about the luxurious finish of the Panasonic GM5. The Panasonic GM5 body is not sealed against dust or splash water, just like all starter SLR cameras and practically all luxury compact cameras. On top of the camera, you choose continuous AF, single-shot AF or manual focus. On the GM1, there was also a Fn1 button there, but that's now moved to the back of the camera. Why the Fn button did not remain on the top – you choose for yourself what function you assign to a Fn button – is not clear to me. On other Panasonic cameras, such as the GX7, there are multiple Fn buttons, and there are photographers who make grateful use of them. The PASM button at the top right on the GM5 offers a panorama mode (between C and SCN). Select the panorama mode, press the shutter release button and turn the camera in the direction that is indicated on your screen. It's just as simple – and just as good – as the panorama mode that you find on cameras from competing brands.
 

Screen and viewfinder

The touchscreen is bright, sharp and simple to operate. In comparison to the slightly larger Panasonic cameras, such as the Panasonic GX7, the GM5 is a bit less versatile, because the screen is not tiltable. The built-in electronic viewfinder – in my experience a big plus point in comparison with most other super-compact system cameras – has a relatively high refresh rate (60 Hz). Even so, you see, if you move the camera quickly, that the image lags a bit. The viewfinder image, with an enlargement of 0.46x, is smaller than the viewfinder enlargement of the Panasonic GH4 or GX7 (0.7x) or an SLR camera with an APS-C sensor (0.6x). I didn't actually find it noticeable. GM5touchscreen

Resolution

Dpreview chose the Panasonic GM5 as best interchangeable lens camera under $1.000

The Panasonic GM5 delivers sharp images, for which it is true: the higher the ISO values, the more clearly the noise suppression is engaged. Above 1600 ISO, you get rather more smooth (jpg) or more noisy (RAW) images. The image quality of a camera will be partly determined by the quality of the lens. Micro-43 is therefore an attractive platform due to the big selection of lenses.
With the Panasonic GM5, I think about both the Panasonic 12-32 mm f.3.5-5.6 and the Panasonic 35-100 mm f/4-5.6. Both very compact and light lenses put on very good performances when it comes to image quality. In our list of lens reviews, the results for all lenses are assessed in the same way, regardless of whether the lens is for a micro-43, APS-C or full-frame camera. Ideally, you would like you have a bit brighter lenses, but for a zoom lens, that's not possible in such a small format. Therefore, you can choose instead, for example, the Panasonic 15 mm f/1.8.

Straatfotografie met de Panasonic 35-100mm f/4-5.6

The Panasonic 35-100 mm is an ideal, little-noticed lens for street photography. 
(100 mm, f/5.6, 1600 ISO, 1/125 sec).

Dynamic range

dr

Both in practice and in our Imatest measurements, the GM5 gives nothing up to an SLR.

Move your mouse over the photo above. You then see the three original photos from which I put this picture together. It's so much brighter outside than inside that in the original shots, little could be seen of the covered market. That is where the dynamic range of a camera starts to really matter. A camera with a high dynamic range is able to simultaneously record both the highlights (the outdoor sky) and the shadows (the market) without too much noise. If you edit the images back at home, so that the market also becomes visible, then the results are good with a camera with a high dynamic range. With a camera with a poor dynamic range (smartphones), the shadows don't appear to include any more details, just black with a lot of noise. A camera with a low usable dynamic range might show the people in the shadows after editing, but the signal-to-noise ratio in the shadows is so worthless that you don't end up with a usable shot. The Panasonic GM5 scores very well on dynamic range.

Color reproduction

GM5kleur
The accuracy of the color reproduction of the Panasonic GM5 is just as good as that of other cameras that we have reviewed. Sometimes, the auto-white balance of the camera flops, which produces a orange tint in shots under artificial light. Nothing new under the sun, because that happens with cameras from other brands as well. 

Noise

1600isominiPanasonic GM5, 1600 ISO

Misconception: A small camera has a small sensor and thus a poorer signal-to-noise ratio than an SLR camera.

Noise becomes visible when insufficient light falls on the sensor, so the larger the sensor, the less noise. In theory, that's right, because the larger the surface of the sensor, the more light the camera captures. But in practice, the differences below 3200 ISO are often surprisingly small between micro-43 cameras and beginners' SLR cameras (with an APS-C sensor). First, there are various technological developments by camera manufacturers that are of interest. Otherwise, all sensors of the same format would score the same, and that's not the case. The influence of the sensor surface is often overestimated. The sensor surface of an SLR camera with an APS-C sensor captures only 50% more light than the micro-43 sensor of the Panasonic GM5. When you realize that this – without considering technological differences – means less than 1 stop of improvement in signal-to-noise ratio, then you know that this is not a point to worry about. There are few photographers that concern themselves with the difference in noise between 100 and 200 ISO (1 stop). If you compare the Panasonic GM5 with a smartphone or a compact camera, that's a different story. The sensor of the Panasonic GM5 is five to ten times larger than the sensor of such cameras. That delivers visibly less noise.

Don't let your creativity be limited by technology

The Panasonic GM5 delivers the image quality of an SLR with the ease of use of a compact camera.

In our camera reviews, we look first of all at the image quality, but one aspect that is increasingly important is the creative options of a camera. The Panasonic GM5 offers just as many options as competing cameras. In comparison with the GM1, the GM5 now offers the option of intervening manually with creative exposure modes, where you can choose from:

Clear Portrait / Silky Skin / Backlit Softness / Relaxing Tone / Sweet Child's Face / Distinct Scenery / Bright Blue Sky / Romantic Sunset Glow / Vivid Sunset Glow / Glistening Water / Clear Nightscape / Cool Night Sky / Warm Glowing Nightscape / Artistic Nightscape / Glittering Illuminations / Handheld Night Shot / Clear Night Portrait / Soft Image of a Flower / Appetizing Food / Cute Dessert / Freeze Animal Motion / Clear Sports Shot / Monochrome

Choice enough? Right?

PanoramaIn the panorama mode, you make a panoramic photo directly without panorama software.

Heading out without a photo bag, with the 24-70 mm and 70-200 mm

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Photographers with an SLR who want to head out with a high-quality set of zoom lenses often choose a 24-70 mm and a 70-200 mm lens. For a micro-43 camera, that corresponds with a 12-32 mm and a 35-100 mm zoom. The profit in size is enormous. The Panasonic GM5 with a 12-32 mm and a 35-100 mm can go along in your jacket pocket or hang around your neck without problems. With an SLR, you really need a photo bag for such a set. And if you want to choose a bright version, then you also notice quite clearly the weight that's hanging around your neck.

Conclusion Panasonic GM5 review

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Look in our list of reviewed cameras for specifications and for a comparison of this performance with that of other cameras.

Amateur
Year:2014
Overall score:6.5
Resolution:6
Dynamic Range:7.4
Noise:7.5
Color:8.8
Whitebalance:7
Megapixels:16
Sensor:M43
Sensor magn.:0.67
fps:5.8
Weight (gram):70
MSRP NL (Euro):850

 

Pros

  • Compact, light system camera with high image quality
  • Built-in viewfinder
  • Incl. WiFi, NFC so that you can easily share photos on social media and can synchronize GPS data with your smartphone

Cons

  • Small buttons
  • Small battery
  • No GPS (a smart synchronization option with GPS on a smartphone)

Those who want to photograph without worries, without having to lug along too much stuff, choose a Panasonic GM5.
Or a Panasonic FZ1000.
And otherwise a Panasonic LX100.

2014 has been a good year for photography. Not if you look at the profits of the camera industry, but certainly if you look at the products that have come to market this year. Photographers have a luxury problem: Do I switch from my smartphone to luxury compact camera with a fixed, bright lens and a large sensor (LX100), a bridge camera with a fixed zoom lens (FZ1000), with such a big zoom range that I don't need to change lenses, or do I choose between an SLR camera and a system camera with interchangeable lenses (GM5). All these choices provide a big quality improvement after switching, which you'll enjoy for years to come.
GS-award2014Let your choice be determined by the kind of photographer you are. Go to a photo specialty store and pick up the red Panasonic with 12-32 mm and 35-100 mm zoom lens. It wouldn't surprise me if you can't resist its allure and leave the store with a Panasonic GM5.

Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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