This year marks the 10th anniversary of Panasonic's Lumix digital camera brand which makes it an appropriate year for launching some exciting new products. One of those is the Panasonic Lumix G5, the ninth model in the G-series which introduced the world to the Micro Four Thirds standard and mirrorless system cameras in the shape of the DMC-G1, in 2008.

With its electronic viewfinder and SLR-like form factor the G5 is arguably the most direct competitor to 'traditional' entry-level SLRs in the current Lumix lineup. It sits above the simpler GF5 and below the top-of-the-line and enthusiast models GH2 and GX1.

Under the hood, the G5's 'newly developed' 16MP Live MOS sensor is what Panasonic calls a 'digital sensor' with some of the processing happening on the chip itself. In theory this translates into improved high-ISO performance which is very welcome news, the more so because the G5's maximum ISO setting has been increased to 12,800. The continuous shooting rate has also been bumped up compared to the DMC-G3, from 4 to 6 frames per second, but almost certainly more important to most users is the increase in resolution for the touch-sensitive rear LCD, from 460,000 to 920,000 dots. The LCD now also comes with a feature that is called 'Touchpad AF'. It allows you to move the AF area across the frame with your finger on the LCD while you're framing the shot through the EVF.

Video specs have also been improved. Like the GF5 the G5 now records video in the MP4 format, as well as the now-standard (for Panasonic) AVCHD. The latter Video clips shot in the MP4 format are easier to organize because they're not stored in a separate file structure to stills, and are far more widely compatible when it comes to playback. However, shooting in the AVCHD format allows you to capture footage at 1080 60/50p, vs 1080 60i on the G3. In this mode the camera captures video a t a bit rate of 28 Mbps which is in line with Panasonic's high-end consumer camcorders.

With most of the competitors in the mirrorless system bracket of the market offering a variety of digital filter it was only a matter of time before Panasonic followed. The G5 boasts nine new filter options in the camera's Creative Control Mode (namely Soft Focus, Impressive Art, Cross Process, Star Filter, Miniature Effect, Dynamic Monochrome, One Point Color and Low key). As with the GF5 these filter effects can be previewed before they are applied and when the camera is set to intelligent Auto or intelligent Auto Plus mode it will suggest filter effects that it thinks might enhance your photo, based on an analysis of the scene.

All in all the G5 comes with some interesting improvements over its predecessor. We will have to see how many G3 users can be tempted into upgrading to the new model but on paper the G5 certainly looks like a compelling camera that should be attractive to a wide range of photographers. We are looking forward to putting the G5 through its paces to see what the sensor is capable of and what difference the new features make in real-life shooting. In the meantime we've produced a 3-page preview which should give an overview of the salient points.

Panasonic GF5 specification highlights

  • 16 MP Live MOS sensor
  • ISO 160-12,800
  • 3.0", 920k dot touch-sensitive LCD with Touchpad AF control
  • 1.44 million dots electronic viewfinder with eye sensor
  • Full AVCHD 1080/60p video with 1080 30p MP4 recording option
  • 6 frames per second continuous shooting, 3.7 fps with AF-tracking
  • 14 Creative Control filter effects options

Differences between the G5 and the G3

  • 16MP 'digital' Live MOS sensor (vs analog)
  • Maximum ISO of 12,800 (vs 6400)
  • 6 frames per second burst shooting (vs 4 fps)
  • 1080/60p AVCHD and 1080/30p video recording (vs 1080/60i)
  • MP4 video recording option (vs AVCHD and 720p MJPG only)
  • 3 inch 920,000 dot LCD screen (vs 460,000 dots)
  • Eye-sensor below the EVF
  • Function lever
  • Touchpad-AF control
  • Aluminium front plate (vs plastic)
  • Position of the shutter button
  • Redesigned rubber hand grip and four-way controller
  • Improved battery life (320 shots vs 270)
  • 14 filter options in Creative Control Mode (vs 5)

Compared to its peers:

The Panasonic G5 and Olympus' flagship Micro Four Thirds camera, the OM-D, have similar dimensions but the Panasonic comes with a rounded, contemporary design while the Olympus features a retro-style. The latter also comes with an all-metal body. On the G5 only the front-plate is made out of aluminium.
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 (G5 only one).
The G5's general size and shape are ver similar to the its predecessor G3 but in this front view the larger handgrip and the changes position/angle of the shutter botton are immediately visible. The new model has also gained an aluminium front plate.
On the back we can see the new eye-sensor below the EVF and the new design of the four-way controller which is now shiny and silver. There's also a new thumb rest next to the control dial and a slightly changed button-layout.