Body & Design

At a quick glance the G5 looks very similar to its predecessor but a second look reveals a number of new features and specs - both on the outside and underneath the hood. The camera body has undergone a slight redesign as has the layout of the buttons and controls. Physically, the most obvious change is a new, larger, hand grip, which makes the camera a little more comfortable to hold, and the addition of a control lever behind the shutter button which controls the power zoom on compatible lenses. Alternatively it can be configured to operate exposure compensation or aperture in M-mode. Other, more minor modifications include an aluminium front plate, a redesigned four-way-controller, a larger mode dial and a changed position of the shutter button.

The G5 is an impressively small camera given its specification, and although slightly larger than its predecessor the G3, it forms an extremely portable package when paired with the collapsable 14-42mm PZ lens. The rear of the camera is dominated by a fully articulated 920k-dot LCD screen, which is also touch-sensitive. Panasonic's touch screen implementation is pretty well-established at this point, and like the G3, the G5 takes a 'non mandatory' approach to the touch UI. If you want to use it, it's there for you, but if you prefer buttons and dials, you have that option as well, via a more or less traditional interface of physical controls.

In your hand

The G5's hand-grip is much more substantial than that found on the G3, and the new camera is very comfortable to hold. Existing G-series users will be completely familiar with the control layout, which is largely traditional, with the exception of a new customizable control lever behind the shutter button. By default this controls the zoom on PZ optics like the 14-42mm (pictured).

Body elements

The G5's main top-mounted controls are fairly conventional - shutter release, exposure mode dial, on/off switch. Direct movie recording and 'iA' buttons are positioned on the right, but between them and the shutter release is a new rocker switch control for zooming PZ lenses. It can also be assigned to exposure compensation and aperture adjustment in manual exposure mode.
The G5 features a built-in TTL flash with a respectable guide number of 10.5 (at ISO 160). The flash is released with a mechanical catch on the side of the housing.
On the very top of the G5 you'll find the hotshoe, for mounting external accessories including separate flashguns, in case you need more power than the built-in flash can supply. Just in front of this is the G5's stereo microphone.
Like its predecessor the G3, the G5 features a fully-articulating, touch-sensitive LCD screen. Resolution has been greatly increased though, to 920k-dots (from 460k).

The screen can also be turned in to the back of the camera for protection.
As well as the large rear LCD, the G5 also offers an electronic viewfinder with 1.44 million dots. Coverage is 100% and +/- 4 diopter correction is available. The small dark rectangle beneath the viewfinder is a sensor used to automatically switch between LCD and EVF live view, but the button to the left of the diopter correction wheel can also be used.
The main control on the rear of the G5 is a traditional 4-way controller, at whose cardinal points are direct access buttons for ISO sensitivity, white balance, drive/timer mode, and AF mode. The button beneath this control deletes images in playback mode and can also be customised.
The G5's battery sits alongside a memory card in the base of the camera, inside the hand grip.

First Impressions

We've not had much time yet to shoot with the G5 but our initial impressions are very encouraging. It's an enjoyable camera to shoot with and although it might not be a groundbreaking upgrade to the G3, the new sensor is very promising, and the resolution bump of the rear LCD is very welcome.

The new function lever on the camera's top plate top is useful in combination with a powerzoom lens but even with a standard lens it offers you an alternative method for applying exposure compensation in a quick way. We also spent some time trying out the new touchpad-AF feature. It's something that we haven't seen on any other camera before and while potentially useful it certainly takes some time getting used to. Depending on what eye you are using to peek through the viewfinder it's easy to confuse the system by accidentally touching the screen with your nose. That said, we'll spend some more time looking at this feature when working on our full review and investigate how to make the most of it.

Looking ahead to the review, we are keen to put the camera through our range of image quality tests and view the results next to its peers. Considering the new sensor design we would not only expect better detail at low sensitivities but also improved performance at high ISOs. The updated video specs make the G5 potentially very attractive to video enthusiasts while the new filter options should appeal to compact camera upgraders at the same time.