Panasonic G5 - Review and User Experience - Assessment and Conclusion

For all of my posts on the G5 CLICK HERE.

I think I would love the GH3, but if its really going to be around £1400-1500 for the body only here in the UK when it first arrives, then I'm waiting until that price gets more sensible. I've no problem paying for a camera that gives me that "something extra" but I have the G5, and I'm not sure how much extra I want or need beyond what that gives me.

A "better" sensor you might say. The GH3 is rumoured to have the same Sony sensor thats in the Olympus OM-D. But in this post I compared the OM-D with the GX1 and wrote:-

"There is most obviously a difference in what actually constitutes a certain ISO setting. As you will see the Panasonic files are consistently darker than those from the Olympus. I did in fact think I had done something wrong and did the test again making sure that everything was the same including focusing on the exact same spot. The second set of pictures was exactly the same as the first with the GX1 getting noticeably less exposure. All images are out of camera jpgs. unaltered using the Standard settings for both cameras.

It seems that the Olympus files are marginally cleaner but at the higher ISO settings marginally softer. So the difference seems to be in how the images are processed, and as can be seen how ISO ratings are determined. Neither camera is colour accurate."
If you read some stuff on the internet you might think that the OM-D is streets ahead of other m4/3 cameras in terms of image quality, but I've got an OM-D and I'm pretty sure its not. As is usual in these cases any differences are GREATLY exaggerated. DxO (Bless them) have a 10 point difference between the OM-D and G5 cameras (whatever that means) mainly because they indicate a better dynamic range and better high ISO performance. And that may be true if you use a camera just like in a DxO test, but then who does? All I will say is having both cameras, as far as I am concerned the results I get from each are too similar for me to prefer one over the other. Compare both at base ISO with a Sigma DP2 Merrill and then you see a difference. A REAL difference, not some pixel-peeping self convincing "Yes I can see it if I look really hard" nonsense. As I concluded with the GX1 comparison, it mostly seems to be down to how you expose anyway. 

Having got that out of the way, I must say I like the G5. I have done ever since I bought it. It does however seem to have virtually disappeared off everybodys radar, I suppose as a result of the announcement of the GH3. But I intend to take this opportunity to assert again that its a fine camera, and in my opinion the best Panasonic m4/3 camera you can actually buy rather than fantasise about. If you don't need a hybrid "pro" video and stills camera and can live without the "next big thing" as far as m4/3 is concerned then this is a camera that costs 1/3 as much as the GH3 is being advertised for, and if you shoot stills only, and like your cameras small and light then this may in fact be the better option.
Before continuing I thinks its interesting how Panasonic are currently choosing to market their m4/3 cameras.

Its now very much a case of them being promoted as outdoor / landscape / location / travel cameras, which is what I always thought they were absolutely brilliant at anyway. The m4/3 format suits this area of photography so well, and with the great lens range now available, there is very little in the travel field they can't handle. Plus now the cameras are getting seriously quick. The G5 incidentally is way faster at focusing and getting the shot than my Nikons. 
With the G5 you can add in the much improved handling with the new grip and the wonderful electronic shutter that allows instant and totally silent picture taking.  

The thing I like so much about current m4/3 is the versatility. From very small, very light cameras and lenses to (the OM-D and when the GH3 arrives) a serious DSLR type outfit. And I can't think of any other system that gives you that choice. Sometimes I use my OM-D plus both grips with 12-35mm f/2.8 and 75mm f/1.8 lenses and thats a "serious" outfit, but then I've also got the option of a GX1 or E-PM1 with either 20mm or 17mm pancakes or the 14-42mm X zoom and all of a sudden I'm "invisible". So what happens is that I think about what I'm liable to be shooting and take out what I think will work best.

Now I've gone into great depth about how good I think the Sigma DP2M is in terms of image quality. However I have no desire to get an SD1 and lens system at present, so if I do take the Sigma out I'm generally using it together with another camera plus longer lens and this is usually a m4/3 camera. Plus there are times when the Sigma just won't work for the pictures I'm contemplating taking, and that is where a camera like the G5 comes in very useful. I still smile everytime I press that electronic shutter, its just so quick, so soft and so silent. With the adjustable screen this strikes me as everything that a "street photographer" would want. (Though of course it isn't a Leica, or look like a Leica, so that will rule it out for serious street photographers, won't it?) And though I'd never describe myself as a street photographer, if I want to work quietly and relatively unobtrusively, then its ideal. 

The electronic shutter is also useful for slow shutter speeds and in combination with an OIS lens allows for some pretty remarkable stabilisation. I've successfully taken sharp images at 1/4 sec. hand held, which is new to me, so that gives an idea of just how good this camera can be. Its not great at high ISO's, but then what m4/3 camera is? This is not the strength of the system and those who do a lot of low light shooting quite rightly don't even consider it. 

I have no hesitation in recommending the G5 and would suggest that, if possible, you give it a try before thinking about one of the "sexier" m4/3 cameras like the OM-D and the upcoming GH3. I would suggest also that you might just find it surprisingly good, and a camera that gives you a lot for your money. For me its a lot better than the G3, and with the built in EVF and adjustable screen I find it a lot more useful than the GX1. Its pretty much pot luck whether I take out the OM-D or the G5 these days if I'm having a m4/3 day and I like both cameras very much. The Sigma DP2M may be "my camera" but m4/3 is "my system" and the G5 is a somewhat neglected, but none the less fine example of what that system can deliver.

Highly recommended. 

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.
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