As the first company to introduce a compact system camera, Panasonic has led the way in terms of innovation in this sector of the market.
The latest Micro Four Thirds camera introduced into the fold is the Panasonic G5, which it believes to be one of its best cameras to date.
Of course, a lot has changed since 2008, and now only Canon has so far declined to join the market. Panasonic shares the Micro Four Thirds format with Olympus, and, as it has been established the longest, it currently has the largest lens range (if you exclude the Nikon J1/V1 which can be used with F-mount lenses via an adapter).
Best compact system camera
The Panasonic G5 is an addition to its G line-up of compact system cameras (CSCs), rather than a straight replacement for the G3 (read our Panasonic G3 review). The company says it has identified a gap in the market for the G5, which includes a number of improvements over the one-year old G3.
Featuring a newly designed 16 million pixel digital sensor and the latest Venus Engine VII processor, Panasonic promises that this combination in the G5 delivers images which are cleaner and freer of noise than seen before on a G series camera.
As the G5 is considered a 'step-up' camera, it features a number of new and exciting extras in the package. This includes Eye Sensor AF which can automatically detect when the camera is lifted to the eye to begin autofocusing.
Also new for the G5 is the option to use the LCD screen as a TouchPad to control autofocus points when using the EVF.
Some ergonomic changes have also been made, with a new larger grip and the introduction of a Function Lever on top of the camera. A silent shutter mode has also been included, to help with discreet shooting.
Other features include full HD video recording, six fps shooting at full resolution, sensitivity reaching ISO 12,800 and Intelligent Auto mode.
Build quality and handling
The overall shape and size of the G5 is very similar to the G3, but Panasonic has made a particularly noticeable change to the size of the grip. It is now deeper and easier to hold, being more akin to a DSLR-style grip.
Like the G3, the G5 features an articulating rear LCD screen. It feels reasonably sturdy, and of course it's extremely useful for shooting in odd positions, such as from above (for concerts and so on) or from the ground - for macros etc.
It's also a touchscreen, and for the first time, Panasonic has incorporated what it calls a "touchpad" option, which allows the screen to be used to set the autofocus point even when using the electronic viewfinder (and the screen is off).
Although there will be some concerns about your nose touching the screen and altering the autofocus point, in reality the feature is extremely handy and you soon come to rely on it - and even wonder why it hasn't been done before. Using it in portrait orientation is a little more tricky, as your nose does indeed press the screen, but you can always flip the screen out of the way if it's causing too much of a problem.
Another new feature on the camera is the Function Lever on top of the camera. When pairing the camera with a Power Zoom lens, this can be used to zoom in and out, which should be particularly useful when shooting video. When another type of lens is attached, this can be used to set exposure compensation - which is handy for quick access.
On the back of the camera is a dial, which can either be used for altering the shutter speed or aperture (depending on the mode being used), or when pushed in can also be used for exposure compensation.
Making a return to the G5 is an eye sensor which can detect when the camera is lifted up to the eye and switches between the EVF and rear LCD screen. On the G3 you need to press a button to switch between the two, which can be a little frustrating.
One criticism of the eye sensor though, is that it is a little too sensitive, activating even when relatively far away from it.
Anyone familiar with any of Panasonic's other cameras will be familiar with the menu system, which on the whole has been well organised.
The Quick Menu is available via a button on the back of the screen which can then be operated either via the touchscreen or using the directional arrow keys. However you choose to use it, having these options quickly available is very handy.