The Lumix DMC-GM1 was Panasonic's first shot at making a mirrorless camera smaller than most prosumer compact cameras. The DMC-GM5 is Panasonic's second attempt at this.
At first glance, the GM5 looks to be a dead ringer for the GM1, but it is heavier by 7g, taller by 5mm and thicker by 6mm. Still, its body is no larger than a deck of playing cards.
With the 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens used for this review, the whole package came to 281g or roughly as much as two Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphones.
The GM5 new features include an electronic viewfinder (EVF), hot shoe, rear thumb rest and built-in Wi-Fi.
Though the thumb rest provides better grip, the camera's compact size and lack of a contoured grip made holding the camera awkward when using the EVF.
Essential dials and buttons - a mode dial, autofocus (AF) mode dial, shutter release and power lever - are squeezed on the top of the camera. At the back are plenty of buttons, including two customisable Function buttons, a dedicated video button and a control dial.
For such a small camera, the GM5 handles well. Powering it up takes only 1.1sec, but shut down takes longer at 2.1sec. Using an SD card with a writing speed rated at 30MB per second, it managed seven RAW images in 1.4sec before it ran out of buffer space.
The AF is nearly instantaneous in bright sunlight; it took no more than 2sec to lock on to a focus in dim conditions. During video recording, the AF secured a sharp focus in less than 2sec when the camera panned to a new scene.
The images shot with the kit lens were impressively sharp, with good tonal range and details. Colour reproduction was accurate under most lighting conditions.
Image noise performance is outstanding. Noise artefacts were visible only at ISO 3,200. At ISO 6,400, there was clear detail loss. I would not recommend any higher ISO setting than ISO 6,400.
While even its compact prosumer cousin, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100, is able to shoot ultra high-definition (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) videos, the GM5 can shoot only up to full high-definition (1,920 x 1,080 pixels). Still, the videos it captures are clear and crisp, with minimal ambient or wind audio.
However, its battery life is as disappointing as its predecessor's. It manages only 220 still images on a full charge - about 100 fewer than its competitors.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 is a tad expensive and it could do with better battery life, but for a tiny compact mirrorless camera it handles really well and delivers crisp images.
Price: $1,199 (with 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens)
Image sensor: 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds CMOS sensor
Display: 3-inch fixed touchscreen with 921,000 dots; electronic viewfinder with 1,166,000 dots
Weight: 211g (body with battery and memory card)
Value for money: 4/5
Battery life: 2/5
This article was first published on Dec 31, 2014.
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