Design & Operation

The GF5's design and operation are extremely similar to the GF3 to the extent that ever since taking delivery of our pre-production GF5 we've been muddling the two cameras up in the dpreview office. Like the GF3, the GF5's touch-sensitive LCD screen is central to the camera's operation and compared to higher-end G-series models like the G1X, the GF5's control layout feels positively spartan.

Or, to look at it another way, it looks a lot like a compact camera. The zoom lever might be on the lens, but in most other respects, the GF5 shouldn't be too off-putting for its target user, coming up from a small-sensor point-and-shoot. The lack of buttons isn't problematic, though, even if you do step away from its automated modes - the touch screen generally combines well with the physical controls to give plenty of access to settings if you want to change them.

It's only when you get it into your hand that you realize just how small the GF5 and retractable kit lens are together. The little rubber thumb rest on the back of the camera and the light weight of the lens means you can genuinely shoot one-handed, just as long as you don't need to zoom (though we'd still always recommend a two-handed grip for extra stability).

Compared to the Panasonic DMC-GF3

As you can see from these comparison images, the GF5 is very closely related to its predecessor the GF3 in terms of design and operational ergonomics. The most significant differences are a new, higher-resolution LCD screen and a more substantial rubber hand grip, which we think is a big improvement over the somewhat slippery grip on the front of the GF3.

The GF5 also gains an additional 'Display' button on the rear, meaning that no touch screen 'buttons' have to clutter the screen while shooting.

Compared to the Olympus PEN E-PL3

Compared to the Olympus E-PL3, the GF5 offers a smoother, more rounded, less 'boxy' design, and a proper handgrip. The E-PL3's more utilitarian design does offer more shooting flexibility though, and as well as a hotshoe, the Olympus also boasts a tilt/flip LCD, as opposed to the fixed touch-sensitive screen on the back of the GF5.

Like its predecessors the GF5 is designed as a crossover product for photographers coming from compact cameras, as an entry-point into Panasonic's growing 'G' series Micro Four Thirds cameras. As such, it's small, lightweight, and inexpensive, and when paired with the ultra-compact Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH Power OIS kit lens, the GF5 is about as close to offering truly compact camera ergonomics as we've seen in an interchangeable lens camera.