Hands-on review: Photokina 2014: Panasonic Lumix GM5

In October 2013 the Panasonic GM1 launched a new line of super-small compact system cameras for Panasonic. It's biggest selling point is that despite its very small size it houses the same 16-million-pixel Four Thirds sensor as is in the excellent Panasonic GX7. It also has the Micro Four Thirds mount so it can accept a wide range of interchangeable lenses.
Front view
Now Panasonic is expanding the GM line with the addition of the GM5. This uses the same 16-Mp sensor and Venus processing engine as the GM1 (and GX7), but it also has a 1.166,000-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) to make image composition and review easier in bright light.
There's also a hot-shoe to allow external flashguns to be mounted on the camera for extra illumination, and the camera comes bundled with a tiny flash. Both of these features are designed to make the GM5 more attractive to experienced photographers looking for a super-small camera capable of producing high quality images.
Top view
Further improvements upon the specification of the GM1 include: a sensitivity expansion setting of ISO 100, which takes the full range to ISO100-25,600 (it's ISO 125-25,600 on the GM1); a boost in the maximum continuous shooting rate from 5fps (frames per second) to 5.8fps, or 5fps with AF tracking engaged instead of 4fps; the addition of Snap Movie mode; and Manual Creative Control being available when recording video.
There's also a QR code screen to help with connection to the Wi-Fi system for the first time, Eye/Face Detection AF, Highlight and Shadow adjustment, and Panasonic's Creative Panorama, which allows 18 of the 22 Creative Control options to be applied when shooting panoramic images.
Dials detail
Like the GM1, the GM5 also has a 3-inch 921,000-dot touchscreen for composing images, making settings selections and scrolling through images.
Adding the EVF and hot-shoe to the GM5 naturally makes it a little bit bigger than the GM1, but at 98.5x59.5x36.1mm it is still very small for a Micro Four Thirds camera. Nevertheless, it feels nice and solid, and even though the front of the camera is flat, the small thumbpad on the back of the camera, as well as the textured coating, makes it feel nice and secure in your hand.
Lens detail
Like the GM1, the GM5 has a reasonable collection of dials and buttons on the body to speed up setting selection. On the top-plate there's a mode dial for switching between the various exposure modes on offer, including aperture priority, shutter priority and manual, as well as the fully automatic iA (Intelligent Auto) option and Scene modes. There's also a dial for selecting the focusing modes: single, continuous or manual.
Depending upon the exposure mode you're using, changes to the shutter speed and aperture are made using the dial near the thumbrest on the back of the camera.
Lens detail
Next to the three-inch touchscreen on the back of the camera is the customary four-way navigational pad, a menu button, a playback button, a movie record button and a delete button. The scroll dial around these buttons on the GM1 has gone however, and there are three buttons above the LCD screen next to the viewfinder. By default these activate the electronic viewfinder (although there's also a sensor to do this automatically), the Wi-Fi system and Playback mode.
As with the GM1, the GM5's screen is touch-sensitive and it's very responsive, allowing control over most features. There's also the usual customisable Quick menu for reaching the most commonly used features. The screen can also be used to set the AF point or trip the shutter.
Although I've only used a pre-production sample of the GM5 and I haven't been able to examine any images from it, as it uses the same sensor and processing engine as the GM1 and GX7 we can be confident that it will produce high quality images.
We found that the GM1 produces high quality images with plenty of detail and the results are usable at normal printing sizes when sensitivities of up to ISO 3200 are used.
Menu screens
Autofocus speed has been an issue for compact system cameras in the past, but things have improved dramatically in recent years. Panasonic has made particular strides in this area and the GM5's AF system appears to perform well, but it will be interesting to see how it copes with low light and moving subjects when we get a full production sample in for testing.
Although the image quality aspects (sensor and image processor) of the GM5 are the same as the GM1, the addition of a viewfinder should make the camera more attractive to a wider audience.
Menu view
There are also times when it seems more natural to hold a camera to your eye rather than at arms-length – when shooting moving subjects for instance. Plus, it can be hard to see the image on a screen in very bright light, so a viewfinder is useful in bright conditions.
The GM5 is a little larger than the GM1, but it is still a very small, neat camera that can be slipped into a jacket pocket.
Front view

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