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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 Hands-on Preview


Preview based on a pre-production DMC-GF5

The GF5 is the fourth in Panasonic's range of small-bodied 'GF' Micro Four Thirds cameras, and sits below the G3 in the current lineup. The differences between the GF5 and its predecessor are relatively few, and we doubt they'll prove significant enough to tempt any GF3 users to upgrade. But they do combine to make the new camera a more attractive proposition to compact upgraders than the GF3.

The GF3 wasn't well terribly well received by photo enthusiasts at launch. In part this was because it continued the process of repositioning the GF series as a super-point-and-shoot, rather than a GF1-style enthusiast's camera. Since then, however, those needs have fulfilled by the GX1, while the arrival of Olympus' PEN Mini and Nikon's 1 J1 have made it clear that Panasonic isn't alone in believing there's a market for a small, simple and inexpensive mirrorless camera. With the benefit of this context, the GF5's role is clear - to put large-sensor image quality into the hands of people looking to upgrade from their compact camera.

With this in mind, Panasonic is pushing a kit that bundles the GF5 with its extremely compact retractable X Vario PZ 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS power zoom lens. The combination is impressively small for a camera that offers near-DSLR capabilities and is the closest any mirrorless camera comes to being pocketable when combined with a zoom lens.

Physically, the most obvious change is a new rubber hand grip, which improves on the rather slick, uncoated grip of the GF3, and a new texture to the body shell. Under the hood, the GF5's newly developed 12MP CMOS sensor is an evolution of the one used in the GF3, but with improved circuitry that doesn't block as much light entering the photosite, giving better low light performance. The image processor is also different, and Panasonic promises that the latest version of its Venus Engine will deliver improved noise performance. These factors, combined with a noise reduction system that treats highlights and shadows differently (since the dominant cause of the noise differs between the two regions), has emboldened Panasonic to offer a boost to the camera's ISO range, with it now being extendable to 12800, rather than the GF3's 6400.

Also slightly improved is the GF5's continuous shooting rate, from 3.8 fps to 4 fps, but more significant are a major bump in resolution for the touch-sensitive rear LCD, and change of video file format offered. With the GF5, you have the option to shoot in the MP4 format, as well as the now-standard (for Panasonic) AVCHD. Video clips shot in the MP4 format are easier to work with, because they're created as a single file, rather than a being split across a complex file structure, separate from your stills. MPEG 4 files are far more widely compatible when it comes to playback. As such, we think MP4 makes a lot more sense for an entry-level camera.

Improved touch screen

The GF5's rear LCD is now 920,000 dots, which matches the best-in class, and means that everything from menu navigation to image composition and review just looks that little bit sharper. The touch-screen interface has also been tweaked and improved. The addition of a hard button for 'Display' on the back of the camera, for instance, means the GF5 doesn't need to have any virtual buttons impeding your view as you shoot.

Other improvements are more subtle - the GF5 gains eight new filter options in its Creative Control Mode (namely Soft Focus, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, One Point Color, Cross Process and Star Filter) and filter effects can be previewed before they are applied. A further refinement for filter fans comes when the GF5 is set to intelligent Auto or intelligent Auto Plus mode. The camera will now suggest filter effects that it thinks might enhance your photo, based on analysis of the scene.

Panasonic's press release talks excitedly about a selection of professional photographs used to illustrate the types of photo the camera can be set to take, but the reality is a fairly standard icon-based interface for selecting between scene modes. These do at least include a couple of shooting tips and an explanation of what the mode is actually doing to the camera's settings.

Panasonic GF5 specification highlights

  • 12.1MP Live MOS sensor
  • ISO 160-6400 (extendable to 12800)
  • '3DNR' three-dimensional noise reduction system
  • 3.0", 920k dot touch-sensitive LCD
  • Full AVCHD 1080/60i video (from 30fps sensor output) with MP4 recording option
  • Stereo microphones
  • Built-in orientation sensor
  • 14 Creative Control filter effects options
  • Scene Guide mode with 23 modes

Differences between the GF5 and the GF3

  • Top ISO of 12800 (vs 6400)
  • MP4 video recording option (vs AVCHD only)
  • Built-in stereo microphones (vs. Mono)
  • Orientation sensor (not dependent on lens IS unit)
  • 3in, 920k-dot LCD screen (vs 460k-dots)
  • New 'Scene Guide' mode
  • 14 filter options in Creative Control Mode (vs six)
  • Redesigned, rubber hand grip
  • New body texture


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2011 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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I want it
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I had it
Discuss in the forums

Comments

Total comments: 70
wlsinwi

It's such a minor upgrade from the GF3. Now the GF6/7 is expected in April and I predict it will have the 16Mb sensor. I also think it will have the new and better 14-42 zoom which is lighter and smaller. Best advice - get the GF3 now to get started cheaply and upgrade for the better model when it is available.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
OneGuy

Oh why I cannot get GF5 body only?

I want to try out this model with my 20mm pancake as the next step. GX1 is not doing it for me (same size, same looks).

0 upvotes
HeadinSouth

Its funny since I read all the posts on DPreview and the review article when the GF5 came out and I ran far, far away from buying one.
I then went out and bought a NEX-5N, used it for a week, and returned it. The Sony took pretty good pictures and video that almost got me over how ugly it is. Then I just found that it was awkward and did nothing for me.
I then contuned my research and checked out another 10 cameras.
It wasnt until I went back and stumbled across some actual reviews of the GF5 that I went a store to check it out. I picked one up after being very impresed by how it handled and how small it was.
I just spent a weekend taking pics with the kit lens and the 20mm 1.7 lens. I can tell you with the prime lens the pics are awesome. Especially when you take into account how small it is.
Great camera, nice work Panny

0 upvotes
patchpuppy12

Just bought the panasonic gf5 and am disappointed, especially with the flash. I assumed it would automatically pop up in both low light and intelligent auto mode but camera repairs have said a button has to be manually pressed for flash to pop up ,its not designed to pop up automatically. Real pain! Maybe I've just fallen out of love with the camera now but its not the step up in pic quality I had expected either. I've just had a point and shoot up until now and thinking a DSLR would be a step more than I was ready for at the minute I settled for the gf5. Unfortunately its not what I expected!

0 upvotes
HeadinSouth

I actually get super annoyed by all the cameras that automatically pop the flash up. Most of the time, I find myself clicking it back down and cursing the camera.

6 upvotes
OneGuy

Keep shooting, patch. Flash-less pics are way classier than the flashed ones.

0 upvotes
Mongkul

Yes, auto pop up flash is really annoying.

0 upvotes
GDMitchell

Why would anyone who is not barking mad pay $599 for a camera that is as big as this with such a slow zoom lens. The 14-42 offerings of Panasonic and Olympus are very poor with a maximum aperture of 3.5 at best . The benefits of a large sensor will be overshadowed by poor glass. These modern GFs are pretty poor by comparison to the excellent GF1 and to some of the recent Olympus offerings too, dispensing of nearly all of the manual controls was a real act of arrogant naivety from Panasonic. Only the GX1 has prevented their miniature Micro 4/3 cameras becoming a laughing stock.

0 upvotes
Impagliazzo

Why do you think the GF1 is better than this GF5? And why do you think the GX1 is better? Curious since I don't know much about these compact M43s.

0 upvotes
balchinian

Same here, I'm curious too.

0 upvotes
whyamihere

There seems to be a bit of fondness for the overall design of the GF1 and GX1 among Micro 4/3 users. From an IQ perspective, the GF5 is roughly equal to the GF1 (both use 12MP sensors). However, the GX1 is a significant improvement with its 16MP sensor (read the respective DPR articles, and you'll see why).

After that, it's quibbling over housing, direct controls via knobs and buttons, etc. This is an area where personal tastes may vary. Personally, I don't mind the control differences, so long as I can shift from A to S mode and change ISO, aperture, and shutter speed quickly. I also like my big, chunky, metal-bodied E-P2, but I also like my small-yet-capable GF3. Some are more... sensitive, to these sorts of things.

So long as the controls make sense to you and it feels right in your hands, all you really have to worry about past that is IQ, and it's generally easy to figure out which cameras do well in that respect.

0 upvotes
Kodachrome200

I like this just because it is small. Mirrorless cameras seem pointless unless theya re truly compact

this fits that bill

2 upvotes
villagranvicent

Too many models in a very short period of time... I am glad I decided to get a like-new GF1 which still looks like a nice little real camera. Same "OLD" sensor as must people claim but at least it feels more solid. It is funny how people complain about sensors but still paying top dollars for a Digilux 2 with an ancient 5mp sensor who cannot go beyond iso 400...

2 upvotes
keekimaru

Pros:
- LCD has great color and viewing angles
- Light
- Stereo video
- Hotshoe
- Responsive touchscreen
- Snappy startup
- Dedicated movie button
- Automatic image rotate
- Flash is mechanically released; you can tilt it up for ceiling flash shots, which is nice
- Surprisingly easy to grip (not great, but better than expected for the slim body)

Cons:
- Menus a bit confusing
- Lens is huge (this is excusable)

More Detail :
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B004A8ZQJS/tipfla-20

0 upvotes
Gully Foyle

Uhm, no hotshoe, I'm afraid.
Also in the specs says no orientation sensor either, so how can it rotate images automatically? Unless the specs are wrong (which is probable of course).

0 upvotes
xmb

Orientation sensors are normally only fitted into the OIS range of lenses. But the GX1 has a sensor fitted for the non-OIS lenses.

The spec for the GF5 lists a Direction Detection Function so I assume this also has the orientation sensor like the GX1.

0 upvotes
xmb

Thanks Panasonic for bring out new models very quickly.

It means I can buy your old models really cheap and bag a bargain! I have just ordered a GF3 with the X Vario PZ 14-42mm lens for £325, or about the same price as the lens alone!

This will go nice with my GH1 which I also bag at a great price after the GH2 was released. As they say in life timing is everything!

0 upvotes
lightsculpture

This is one of the reasons why I stopped buying Panasonic cameras...

Those who went and bought the GF3 a couple of months back would have felt like fools for paying so much. They would have a problem selling their cameras in a second hand market (at a decent price), because with this launch, the new GF3 has dropped so much in price.

In the Amazon listing for GF3 above, there is even an entry that says 'Too low to display', whatever that means.

And looking at "Differences between the GF5 and the GF3" above, I seriously doubt there is enough justification for Panasonic to release a new camera based on these new features.

Unless ofcourse the dpreview sample images tell another story. Maybe dpreview should start giving us a high ISO preview with that furry toy mouse and that Chinese figurine. But I am not hopeful....

1 upvote
chadley_chad

That's the boat I found myself in! Paid £450 November, used once, just ebayed for £280 after the 3rd atempt. After fees that's over £200 lost in 4 months .... Never buying a new Panasonic again! (although to be honest, didn't rate it compared to my new NEX-C3)

0 upvotes
AndrewG NY

It was my understanding that unlike GF3, GF5 includes an orientation sensor.

1 upvote
ralph seifer

My thought, precisely. When I saw the reference to "rangefinder" I got excited to read more about this camera.

Then I scrolled down the specs, only to be disappointed to learn that this is another one of the beautiful breed of photo devices that we old guys can't focus when it's two feet in front of our eyes and the subject is a dozen feet farther away. I guess I'm still stuck with the Canon SD700is that I bought 6-7 years ago because it came with what passes for a rangefinder. Ralph L. Seifer, Long Beach, California

0 upvotes
blue camera

Yes, call it something, but don't call it a rangefinder, which is a way of focusing, not an actual body style. (There were bellowed Polaroids that had rangefinders, for instance. Definitely not "pocketable!") I have been happy to see the increasing viewfinder designs and improvements coming from various makers. Having a choice of using a screen or viewfinder is great, although the implementation on many viewfinders is not to my liking.

I might suggest springing for some progressive lenses if your eyes need help on close focus and not on distance, should you find a camera that you like but which has no viewfinder. Even though I prefer taking off my glasses and looking through a viewfinder when shooting, it's nice to be able to use a screen for other shots, and progressives let me do that and keep everything in focus.

1 upvote
TxCamFan

Still no ability to adjust flash output? Or did I miss that?

0 upvotes
joharis

Specs say: rangefinder style body. What has this body, without even an optical viewfinder, to do with rangefinder???
DPR must know better.

3 upvotes
007peter

Damn It....No Hot-Shoe again?

I "LOVE" the tiny shape of GF3/5 but the lack of Hot-Shoe is holding it back. I agree with previous poster, any camera above $200 should have a Hot-Shoe.

I shoot a lot of portraits of family members, and once I experience BOUNCE-FLASH, there is no going back to bulidin flash.

GF5's High ISO looks fantastic! so close yet so far

0 upvotes
Photo Grapher

Yes this 12 megapixels sensor is improved, I liked the ISO performance also

0 upvotes
chadley_chad

Stupid coment .... If it had a hotshoe it wouldn't be anything IIke what it is now! Just no pleasing some people ... If you want a hotshoe, buy a GF2!!!!

Comment edited 32 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
Potemkin_Photo

Ahem, Pany and SONY, put a proper hotshoe on any cam above $200 already, all right?!

1 upvote
NikonScavenger

I briefly had the GF3 before returning it to amazon. It wasn't the lack of "pro" features in this tiny camera that turned me off as much as the fact that everything was controlled by the rear touch screen which was sluggish and unresponsive (at least compared to a modern smart phone). Every input had to be deliberate, as if the camera was wondering if I had accidentally touched the screen.

0 upvotes
Rob Bernhard

Page 1 says: Built-In Orientation Sensor
Page 2 says: Orientation Sensor - No.

1 upvote
LukeDuciel

the idea of one simplistic cam that produce good image is gooood.

But, WTF*!!!!

This is about the 6th (i actually lost count) camera built around the same ooooooooooooooooooooooooold 12MP LiveMOS.

And that is one bad sensor for anybody.

Even the edge-of-broke Olympus showed deeper respect to consumers than Panasonic.

WTF!

0 upvotes
Mescalamba

Panny says it should be "new" 12 mpix. Photos will show.. They could improve original sensor, it wouldnt be bad actually tho.. 10 or 8 mpix would be maybe better. :/

0 upvotes
Boris F

Great noise performance:
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/panasonic-lumix-dmc-gf5-hands-on-review-18921

1 upvote
skytripper

You're not kidding!

0 upvotes
Tim in upstate NY

The E-PM1 and E-PL3 have better build quality than the cheap feeling plastic bodies of these Panny GF's and also the jpeg output is much better. There's been quite a lot of negative user feedback about the image characteristics of the 14-42X lens as well.

Comment edited 46 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Mescalamba

You still can buy different lens for it, if you wish. Its not like m4/3 doesnt have enough native lens. :D

0 upvotes
Vlad S

@Mescalamba: there are two issues with your suggestion:

1. if you start talking about all the different lenses, then you are probably more in the GX1 market, rather than GF5.

2. I really don't see why people would want to buy a product a part of which they would have to replace right away.

0 upvotes
Joesiv

The negative feedback has been from enthusiast that enjoy looking at their images in close scrutiny. The target market for this new GF seems to be the crowd that do not care for manual controls, and likely won't be quite as critical about absolute image quality. Compactness and similarities to their point and shoot is more of a concern. If there's any market that this x zoom makes sense given it's deficiencies, it'd be this one.

0 upvotes
bcalkins

I have to question why one would step 'up' from a more compact P&S if image quality wasn't your primary concern? Aside from the larger sensor, what does this offer over something like the LX-5 or ZX-1, whose faster lenses allow two stops lower ISO in low light, and match the slower 14-42x lens for depth of field control?

If you are going to MFT, you should be planning on getting at least one fast prime or you've missed the boat on the larger sensor (over a P&S with a fast lens).

Nice that they finally included an orientation sensor, though.

1 upvote
JohnFredC

If you are trying to pull business from the point and shoot crowd, you must understand that your competitor cameras are the travel zooms. All of these new, larger sensor cameras have better image quality than the TZs... but the low zoom ratios necessitated by the size of the sensors vs the size of the optics means that, in practice, such cameras seem almost useless for a person accustomed to the versatility of a TZ.

0 upvotes
Mal_In_Oz

I commend Panasonic for developing in this space. I like the idea of a really small body that can take a series of very small, bright pancakes, or super compact zooms. Its not the perfect camera for every occasion but it will at least be the camera you take with you everywhere. This way I can buy one set of lenses and share them between a super small body and a more fully featured body like the EM5 when I need the extra size or performance.

Sony have partially achieved the same goal with their NEX5N and NEX7 with the 16mm pancake. If they had a few more pancakes, and perhaps with more inspiring image quality, they would be a contender for the carry-everywhere camera too.

0 upvotes
Mal_In_Oz

@Maloy. Yes, that is why I suggested that Sony should produce some more pancakes with better IQ than the 16mm.

In my view Sony are just two pancakes from being a contender for the true "point and shoot alternative". Personally I want only for Olympus to come out with a replacement 17mm f1.8 pancake and an EPM2 with the EM5 sensor...

0 upvotes
fastlass

What's the point of the move from a manual to a motor driven zoom, size or production cost or?

To me you can have all the wonderful touch screen UI and design in the world: your camera could literally be able to read your mind for how to set a scene and you wouldn't have to press a button other than the shutter. But a manual zoom is so superior to button-driven zoom for the photographic process, prime shooters excluded.

Then again the owner can always buy a legacy lens :)

I'm sure I'm missing something obvious about a large class of photographers who will eagerly buy this camera.

0 upvotes
Vlad S

Size, and not having to twist the lens if you zoom in video.

Comment edited 45 seconds after posting
1 upvote
jquagga

As a GF3 owner my first impression is: "That's it?". It has a new LCD panel and a rubber grip. Nothing to improve the sensor quality or DR? So why on Earth would anyone shell out for this when you could get a GF3 for now much cheaper. Or a GF2 with a hotshoe for cheaper than that ...

I just don't understand Panasonic.

0 upvotes
Catalin Stavaru

Not sure if you read the part with "newly developed sensor" and "new processing engine". The only thing similar between GF3 and GF5 sensor is the number "12".

1 upvote
Vlad S

The sensor might be new, e.g., using the same technology as the G3 and GX1 sensors, but the resolution could be kept down to maintain maintain differentiation between GF and GX lines.

0 upvotes
DigitalPowerShot

C'mon dpreview: pink camera in the review?

0 upvotes
Mtsuoka

3DNR sounds like some BS to me
no sensor level improvements? maybe we will have to wait for GH3/G5

I hope they won't be using same sensor

0 upvotes
FlashInThePan

How do you know the sensor was not improved? Panasonic makes its own sensors, some of which are designed for just one camera model (GH1, GH2, AF100/101). The GF5 sensor may be totally new for all we know. Coupled with a new image processor, it may very well deliver results comparable with Panasonic's top models (i.e. less than a stop worse from APS-C competition).

Comment edited 56 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Andy Crowe

"...compared to higher-end G-series models like the G1X, the GF5's control layout feels positively spartan."

I think you might mean the GX1? :)

0 upvotes
mfj197

I'd just spotted that too! :)

0 upvotes
pdelux

May take good pictures but....
Aesthetically, its UGLY, almost toy like.

Over stated, too many "labels" and symbols.

1 upvote
ThePhilips

> almost toy like.

What is IMO is a plus for a camera for social occasions: it looks like P&S, it doesn't stand out, it is not serious or intimidating.

2 upvotes
Mescalamba

And you can get "that shot" .. if it does AF well. Its actually very usefull for real life to have small - toy like camera capable of delivering good results.

Try shooting random ppl with this and then with 1D sized camera. :D

Comment edited 31 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
JohnHoppy

Seems Panasonic is stuck in its own groove, leaving Olympus to make the running for the m4/3 team. The GF3 and GF5 appeal more to smartphone users than photographers. Rather than pick our pockets with a 6-9 month cycle, most photographers would rather see a new camera in 15-18 months but with real progress & innovation. The GX1 is a short step from the GF1, if the G5 when it comes is barely a step up from G2 & G3, core Pany supporters are likely to feel short-changed. With the mirrorless market on a roll and Canon's effort appearing this summer/fall, Panasonic need to up their game.

1 upvote
ThePhilips

I see that in your own private universe, the GH2 sadly was never released.

3 upvotes
FlashInThePan

In fact the G3 is very much changed compared to the G1/G2 - much better sensor (in terms of resolution, noise and read-out rate), much changed body (for better or worse) and many features added in firmware such as extended tele conversion, picture in picture focusing aid, quick menu and so on.

Have you used either of those cameras or do you simply believe you do not need first hand experience to make such comments?

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
4 upvotes
Valentinian

"Canon's effort appearing this summer/fall "
?
if you know something about that, would you please say it

0 upvotes
JohnHoppy

Between us, FlashInThePan, my brother & I have had G1, GF1, GF2, G2 & G3, as well as Olympus models (and several Canons), does that qualify for “first hand experience”? We felt the G3’s tiny improvement in IQ (you have to produce min. 13x19 to see any sign of it) was not a good trade for G2’s superior handling. Shelling out good money every 8-9 months for minor incremental improvements – some very questionable – may be what the camera makers want but we don’t see the sense in it and would prefer a more serious upgrade less often. The GF5 appears to move the game on hardly at all from the GF3, which anyway was Panasonic trying to out-shrink Sony’s NEX. Sure, it will take good pictures, but better designs are out there: Panasonic should take more note of what their m4/3 team-mate are designing.... in my opinion.

0 upvotes
klopus

@JohnHoppy Who forces you to engage in "shelling out good money every 8-9 months for minor incremental improvements"?

If you have what you like you keep it, if you think new thing isn't worth it you don't buy it. If you are referring to the the stupid must-have-now-latest-toy-no-matter-what crowd then it's consumer problem not Panasonic's.

And why you even think that with their incremental frequent updates Panasonic targets owners of existing models in the same series and not new converts?

3 upvotes
AndrewG NY

The only drawback to frequent introduction of new models is that people who feel the burning need to own the very latest are frequently disappointed by incremental improvement and the dark emptiness inside from owning (horrors!) the 'old' model.

For many other folks, this is a *good* thing. This means that most customers won't feel the need to wait for that longer cycle to avoid having their new camera immediately obsolete and maybe won't be as likely to feel they're missing out by (sensibly) skipping a model or two or three in the progression. It also means that any remaining inventory of the previous model on the shelves isn't as severely devalued when the new model appears.

0 upvotes
Bernard909

Nothing said about the problems with the 14-42 X Zoom ?

0 upvotes
Joesiv

It's a preview, not a review.

0 upvotes
Bernard909

The 14-42 Zoom is not a new product... It would be more interesting to have a follow-up on this issue rather than a preview on a new body with the same "suspicious" lens.

0 upvotes
Wellington100

Its using the same old 1st generation sensor that has very poor DR. No amount of software trickery can change that. I would rather buy a GX1 with a 14mm lens and have a similar size camera kit but with a much better sensor and lens, for a similar price.

0 upvotes
Knight Palm

Obviously this new GF5 is hosting a newly developed sensor, based on the low noise characterisitcs first seen in G3 & GX1, which means that it'll have the best per pixel performance of all Panasonic cameras at high ISO settings.

4 upvotes
locke_fc

The preview, if one actually bothers reading it, clearly states it's a new sensor

0 upvotes
Andy Crowe

Well it does say the sensor "is closely-related to that used in the GF3, but the processor is different" so I guess we'll have to wait for the actual studio test shots before we'll know how much improvement there is (if any in RAW) over the old 12MP sensor.

0 upvotes
Luminar

question, is the video rec, manual or automatic? is it 1080p or 1080i ?

0 upvotes
Total comments: 70