PANASONIC LUMIX GF5
Price: $700 with 14-42mm lens
Smart alternative to a compact
THE LOW-DOWN: This camera with a 12 megapixel sensor is Panasonic’s latest entry model in its micro-four thirds interchangeable lens range. It is intended to appeal to customers wanting better image quality from a fully automatic camera. There are very few instantly accessible user controls and what can be controlled is mostly done through the touch screen. The LCD is a high resolution device with excellent brightness and fidelity. Like its predecessor and siblings it provides for touch and fire – touch the important spot on the screen and the camera focuses and fires. The test camera came with the more expensive powered zoom which is ideal for video, which the camera does well.
LIKE: Image quality is consistently good. Auto focus is very fast and even in auto-everything mode the camera works well. The rugged construction makes it feel heavy in comparison to a compact, but it is the reassuring bulk of durability and quality.
DISLIKE: The absence of an accessible knob to move from automatic into P, A, S or M mode (it is done through the menu) is annoying for anyone who wants to exercise user control. This is definitely a point-and-shoot camera.
VERDICT: We gave the little Panasonic a good work-out at a zoo and were delighted with the results. The LCD was better than average in bright sunlight, although it would be nice to have the option of an optical viewfinder, as Olympus provides for their equivalent micro four thirds camera. Considering the combination of small size, interchangeable lenses, fully automatic operation, nice touch screen, excellent LCD, RAW capture and great image quality, all at a price in the compact range, you have to ask yourself why would anyone choose a compact over the GF5.