Hands on with Panasonic’s new Lumix digital cameras

Panasnoic G5k

Panasonic announced six new Lumix cameras and three lenses today, some of which have some pretty cool spin. We got a chance to handle some of this new gear before it hits shelves – here’s the scoop.

What’s new

The new Panasonic Lumix cameras run the gamut from a Compact System Camera, several new long-zoom models, another with the obligatory Wi-Fi connectivity, and some fairly standard point-and-shoots. Panasonic offered few specifics on pricing and availability, except in the case of the FZ200 mega-zoom, which is a pretty special camera as you’ll find out shortly.

One of the key releases is the Lumix DMC-G5, the company’s latest mirrorless Compact System Camera. Due later this fall for around $1,000 with 14-42mm power zoom lens — this is as close as we could discover — the 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds G5 has a burst mode of 6 fps, making it faster than most entry-level DSLRs and CSCs. It also shoots AVCHD Progressive videos at camcorder-level 28Mbps compression rate.

The camera will replace the G3 and has a new processor to improve focusing speed as well as overall response. Panasonic brought us to The Track In Sonoma race course in California to test some of the new models. This was pretty nervy as speeding race cars are a tough test, even for high-end DSLRs. In the case of the DMC-G5 it did a decent job, but you’re not going to see the results on the cover of Car and Driver. We shot Audi TTs on a slalom course with better results than Audi R8s on the main track. A lot of this had to do with the fact shooting race cars is not a specialty of ours, the camera positions on the track weren’t the best, and also the lack of a wide range of lenses. But let’s get real and not compare this to a Nikon D4 or Canon 1D X. The camera worked well enough in burst mode and more often than not captured non-shaky images. Colors were quite good, but we wouldn’t expect anything less in the bright California sun.

Speaking of bright sun, the G5’s articulating 3-inch LCD (rated 920K dots) handled it fairly well, but in many instances we used the built-in Electronic Viewfinder. This EVF is one of the best we’ve ever seen. This makes sense since it’s 1.44 million pixels rather than the 200K of many competitors. A built-in eye sensor turns it on quickly as you raise the camera to your face so you won’t miss a shot. This viewfinder helps separate it from the plethora of mirrorless cameras on the market.

At Ram’s Gate Winery we had a good chance to test the camera’s low-light capability in the wine cellar. The G5 has an ISO range of 160 to 12,800 and the shots we took at very high sensitivity settings were much better than our previous experiences with Panasonic cameras. Don’t get us wrong: There was plenty of noise at 12,800, which is totally expected with Micro Four Thirds sensors. But the results were much improved and very good at 3,200. Our complaint with Panasonic CSCs has less to do with capabilities — it’s all about the money. They generally cost more than the competition. At close to $1,000, we’re nearing Sony NEX-7 territory.

Panasonic DMC-G5 sample photos

Panasonic Lumix DMC G5 sample picture barrels
Panasonic Lumix DMC G5 sample picture pond   Panasonic Lumix DMC G5 sample shot grapes   Panasonic Lumix DMC G5 sample shot audi helmet   Panasonic Lumix DMC G5 sample picture jim russell 57   Panasonic Lumix DMC G5 sample picture

Check out our full review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 digital camera.

The G5 also has 14 “art” filters (up from 6 in the G3). A nice preview feature lets you see what your image looks like before you press the shutter. We used the star filter in the wine cellar for some old-school effects. Filters are fun and we suggest you play with them as much as your sensibilities allow.

Another appealing new camera was the DMC-FZ200 with a 24x optical zoom and 12-megapixel CMOS sensor ($599; this figure was quoted by Panasonic execs). What sets this mega-zoom apart from the competition is the fact it has an constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the entire focal range (25-600mm). Previously, if you wanted f/2.8 at 600mm you had to buy a super-expensive DSLR lens. In most other lenses, as you increase the focal length, apertures close down, making it difficult to nicely blur your backgrounds using wider apertures. With the FZ200 you can do that. Unfortunately, the camera was not a full production model, so although we used several samples, quality could not be judged as final. What we did take made us anxious to get our hands on a full production unit. The ability to shoot an extreme telephoto at f/2.8 opens a lot of possibilities for photographers of all levels and is a real standout. Stay tuned.

Along with the f/2.8 lens, the FZ200 captures AVCHD Progressive videos (1920 x 1080/60p), has a top speed of 12 fps, shoots RAW, has OIS, a .2-inch EVF rated 1.3 million dots, a 3-inch 460K-dot LCD screen and 14 filters to add creative touches to your stills.

Panasnoic FZ200

Brighter lenses are among our favorite trends for point-and-shoot cameras — think Canon S100, Olympus XZ-1, Sony RX100, Nikon P310, Samsung EX2F and the long-in-the-tooth Panasonic LX5. It’s really nice seeing manufacturers introduce f/2.0 and wider models. These low-numbered apertures bring in more light so you can shoot faster shutter speeds in really dark scenes. Just as important is the ability to blur backgrounds for top-notch portraits and so on. In Sonoma Panasonic took the wraps off the new DMC-LX7, a compact camera with an f/1.4 lens at the wide-angle setting, f/2.3 at tele. It’s a 3.8x Leica DC Vario-Summilux optical zoom with a range of 24-91.2mm.

The LX7 — guesstimate of $549 — has a 10.1MP 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor and can grab 5 fps in continuous focus AF. It also takes AVCHD Progressive videos. Although this camera wasn’t great for shots on the track, it’s perfect for everyday photography and places like the dimly-lit wine cellar. It’s light, easy to carry around and we were pleased with the results. We must stress we didn’t have any of these units for our usual weeks-long test periods so these are really first impressions.

Here comes more Wi-Fi

Every camera company is wading into Wi-Fi so they can compete with smartphones for quick sharing of casual shots (good luck with that). We got a chance to see Panasonic’s latest entry in this arena. Due this fall, the DMC-SZ5 14.1-megapixel CCD, point-and-shoot was still in shake-down mode with new apps that weren’t quite ready for prime time. One nice demo showed how you could use your smartphone as a viewfinder and control the SZ5. Obviously, the jury is still out on this 10x 25-250mm edition.

More stuff

Panasonic also announced new Micro Four Thirds lenses along with the G5. The Lumix G Vario f/4.0-5.6 45-150mm zoom (90-300mm equivalent) has built-in Mega Optical Image Stabilization. Also coming later this year are 12-35mm and 35-100mm lenses bringing the total to 17 by the end of 2012. This is far broader than the line-ups of competing CSCs from Sony, Samsung and Nikon.

Additional new cameras announced today include the 16-megapixel CCD Lumix LZ20 with a 21x optical zoom (25-525mm equivalent) and optical image stabilization. It has a 460K-dot 3-inch LCD but only takes 720p videos. Rounding out the new introductions was the DMC-FZ60 with a 24x 25-600mm zoom. The Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens has a Nano Surface Coating to reduce ghosting and flare. The FZ60 has a 16.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, giving it a maximum burst mode of 10 fps, but this drops to 5 using continuous AF. It also captures AVCHD videos (1080/60i), has a 3-inch 460K LCD screen, a raft of filters and a built-in HDR mode.


OnePlus 6T vs. Honor View 20: We compare the cameras in these ‘flagship killers’

For less than $600, you can buy either the OnePlus 6T or the Honor View 20, two extremely capable smartphones with plenty of exciting features. But which one has the best camera? We found out on a recent trip to France.

The Panasonic FZ1000 gets a much-needed update alongside the smaller ZS80 zoom

Panasonic's 2014 superzoom camera with a larger sensor has finally seen an update. The new Panasonic FZ1000 II has a sensor that's better for low light, more physical controls, and new 4K Photo Mode features.

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…

From f/1.2 primes to the mysterious DS, here are Canon’s upcoming RF lenses

Canon's EOS R mirrorless series will gain six new lenses this year. Canon just shared a list of six lenses under development, including four zooms and two prime lenses. One has a mysterious new feature called Defocus Smoothing.

Fujifilm XP140 squeezes more durability, low-light ability into a waterproof cam

Fujifilm's waterproof compact can now head even further underwater. The Fujifilm XP140 features several upgrades, including a more durable body, a wider ISO range for low light, and expanded auto modes.

Fujifilm’s X-T30 is a semi-pro, feature-rich camera that’s affordable to boot

Fujifilm's newest mirrorless camera delivers the premium features of the X-T3 without the premium price, giving aspiring enthusiasts a lower-cost option that can still match the image quality of Fuji's flagship.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Photography news: Wacom’s slimmer pen, Leica’s cinema special edition

In this week's photography news, Wacom launches a new slimmer pen for pro users. Leica's upcoming M10-P is designed for cinema, inside and out, with built-in cinema modes in the updated software.

Be careful who you bokeh, jokes Apple’s latest iPhone ad

With iPhone sales under pressure, you'd think there wouldn't be much to laugh about at Apple HQ. But the company has seen fit to inject some humor into its latest handset ad, which highlights the camera's Depth Control feature.

What’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?

Lightroom CC has evolved into a capable photo editor, but is it enough to supplant Lightroom Classic? We took each program for a test drive to compare the two versions and see which is faster, more powerful, and better organized.

Luminar’s libraries gain speed, drop need for you to manually import images

Luminar 3 just got a performance boost. Skylum Luminar 3.0.2 has improved speed over December's update, which added the long-promised libraries feature giving editors a Lightroom alternative.

When you're ready to shoot seriously, these are the best DSLRs you can buy

For many photographers the DSLR is the go-to camera. With large selection of lenses, great low-light performance, and battery endurance, these DSLRs deliver terrific image quality for stills and videos.

Mirrorless cameras were built to be compact, so why have they gotten so heavy?

Mirrorless cameras launched as portable alternatives to bulky and complex DSLRs -- so why are they getting bigger and heavier? Cameras are trending towards heavier models, but that change comes with more advanced features.

The best place to print photos online in 2019

Have you been looking around for the best place to print out your favorite photos online or in store? Don't fret, we've pored through dozens of options and narrowed it down to the seven best.