Less than a year after releasing the G5, Panasonic is back with another mid-range G-series Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens camera aimed at the upper entry-level DSLR/ILC market. The G6 sits above the recently-announced GF6 and below the GH3 in Panasonic's lineup and, although most of its key specifications are fairly familiar to anyone that's been watching the G-series for a while, the G6 does bring a couple of interesting new features, as well as some solid specification upgrades.

An interesting new feature is 'Clear Retouch', - a simple touch-based 'heal' tool. This function can be applied to captured images in review mode - you simply touch the area that you wish to clone-out and the camera attempts a context-aware fill, removing the offending object/blemish. We've only had a limited time with a pre-production camera, but we're not all that impressed by the feature's implementation. The 'healing' seems to be based on a highly simplistic proximity match, which we've found is more likely to insert bizarre, distracting textures than to effectively conceal unwanted scene elements.

More usefully, the G6 joins the GF6 in offering Near Field Communcation (NFC). NFC is a very short-range means of exchanging data that allows the camera to share details of its Wi-Fi connection with compatible smartphones or tablets through simply touching them against one another. The list of compatible devices includes many recent Android devices, though Apple has yet to embrace the technology.

Panasonic G6 specification highlights

  • 16MP Live MOS sensor
  • ISO 160-12,800 (extendable up to 25,600)
  • 3.0", 1.04 million dot capacative LCD
  • 1.44 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder with eye sensor
  • Full AVCHD 1080/60p video with full manual control (and 2.4X digital teleconverter option)
  • 3.5mm external mic socket
  • 7 frames per second continuous shooting, 5 fps with AF-tracking
  • 23 Scene modes including 'Cute Dessert' and 'Sweet Child's Face'
  • iAuto mode can automatically detect when to use 9 scene modes
  • 'Clear Retouch' touch gesture-based heal tool

In terms of core photographic features, the G6 offers a solid set of specifications, including the same sensor as the once range-topping GH2, albeit without that model's multi-aspect feature. Maximum effective resolution is 16MP effective, from 18MP (total pixels). Panasonic claims that the G6 offers superior image processing though, including improved noise reduction enabling it to achieve a maximum native ISO sensitivity of 12,800, extendable up to ISO 25,600.

Like its predecessors, the G6 has a built-in electronic viewfinder, an OLED unit no less, boasting 1.44 million dots (800 x 600 resolution). We're not sorry to say goodbye to the older field-sequential technology, with its associated issues with rainbow 'tearing' (issues that are not unique to Panasonic). Panasonic claims that the G6's finder is three times more responsive than that of the G5, too, and our first impressions are certainly very encouraging.

Of course, there's more than one way to compose your image, and the G6's fully-articulated rear display offers 1.04 million dot resolution. This is essentially a slightly wider, 3:2 aspect ratio screen, rather than the G5's 4:3 panel. As we'd expect from recent Panasonic G-series cameras it's also touch-sensitive though it now uses a capacative system that offers multi-touch control and should be more responsive than the pressure-senstive example that came before it. That said, as usual for mid-range and high-end G-series cameras, the G6 still has plenty of 'hard' control points for photographers that prefer a more traditional ergonomics.

NFC-simplified Wi-Fi connection

Connecting the G6 to a an NFC-equipped smartphone is as simple as starting the Panasonic Image App, pressing the Wi-Fi button on the camera and tapping the two devices together. NFC works over such short distances it may take a couple of attempts to locate the antenna on your smart device, but once located, it's all pretty simple.

If your device doesn't have NFC, the process involves manually selecting the right Wi-Fi connection in your phone's settings, then typing in a fairly long password (as is the case with most Wi-Fi cameras). Once you've paired your devices, the camera will remember the connection to speed up the process in future.

The Panasonic Image App on iOS gives a live view image and allows you to set the focus point, take the exposure or control the zoom if you're using a power zoom lens. The equivalent app for Android also gives the option to control manual focus. Panasonic says the apps will also give the ability to control exposure parameters (as is the case with the Lumix Link app for the GH3).
 
Both apps also allow you to view the contents of the camera's memory card and transfer images (at various sizes) across to the 'phone.  

The Panasonic Image App gives a pretty good level of control over the camera - allowing the user to position the camera's focus point, control a power zoom lens and the ability to control exposure (though this didn't appear to be available when we tried the currently-available version of the app). Once a shot is taken, it can be uploaded across to your smartphone - either at full or reduced resolution.

In addition to smartphone connections, the G6 allows you to create an account on Panasonic's Lumix Club cloud service. With this established, you can send images up to Lumix Club by connecting to a local Wi-Fi router, with the option that they are then posted on to various popular social networks, via Lumix Club. Alternatively, if you're connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your computer, you can get the camera to push all your images across to your computer as you shoot.

An advantage of using the GH2's sensor is that the G6 is able to offer more comprehensive video functions than the G5. It gains a socket for attaching an external mic as well as gaining full PASM exposure control over its movie capture. The G6 can capture movies in 1080 60p/60i/30PsF and 24p in AVCHD mode, along with 60p and 30p video in MP4 format (Cameras bought in PAL regions get the same combinations but with 50 and 25 frames per second).

Compared to its peers:

The Panasonic G6 and Olympus' flagship Micro Four Thirds camera, the OM-D, have similar dimensions but the retro-styled Olympus looks considerably skinnier and more angular. The G6's generous grip is very obvious in this view - the OM-D is not uncomfortable to use, but the G6's sculpted handgrip gives a really secure hold.
Despite the different approaches to body design the control and button layout of the two cameras is not too dissimilar, with a four-way controller and a few buttons located to the right of the screen and a screen that can be flipped out and tilted. However, the Olympus features two control dials, while the less-expensive G6 only has one - a slightly 'plasticky' small dial on the upper right of the camera's rear.
The G6's general size and layoput are very similar to the its predecessor the G5, but the higher 'shoulders' of the new model are very obvious in this view.

On the back, there are few significant changes - the G6 features five customizable 'Fn' buttons, but has only one extra control point - a button for activating the camera's Wi-Fi mode at the extreme lower-right of the rear control cluster.