Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Panasonic Lumix GM5: The purpose of M4/3 format


Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 / G Vario 12-32mm OIS


When I saw for the first time the new Panasonic Lumix GM5 I was sceptical of the ability of the camera in producing equivalent quality results like its bigger brothers into Panasonic and Olympus line-up. But more I have used the GM5 more I became convinced of the equally performance of the tiny model. In fact this is the first M4/3 format camera since my previous Olympus EP-3 model that is responding to my need for a real compact camera with the interchangeable lenses option and using a larger format than the diminutive Nikon 1 series or Pentax Q series models.

The diminutive Lumix GM5 alongside its big brother the Lumix GX7

Obviously the small size of the GM5 model has introduced important design limitations. The tunnel effect of the EVF (electronic viewfinder) can be annoying for a former Panasonic GX or an Olympus OM-D user. The fixed back LCD screen is another restriction you have to cope with. The tiny size of the control reel and the push buttons are more difficult to mastermind without looking at them. As usual this is an imperfect camera like many others as that I have seen over the past decades in the photo industry.



Spontaneous street photography is easy
But the big advantage of the Lumix GM5 is its small dimensions along with the possibility to interchange lenses. Furthermore it is a real compact camera with a good reactivity that helps to be ready to take picture in a short time.

The rear-setting reel is a good addition compare to the original GM1 model but you have to consider that is small reel with limited access and also the fact that this reel replaces the two reels of the higher class models. Pressing once the reel does the commutation of the functionalities.

The touch screen option is a big help to mastermind the interface of the GM5. It is by far more intuitive compared to the traditional menu way of interacting with the camera.




The external flash, which is part of the kit, is powerful enough to do fill flash but you may have to correct its power not to overexpose the compensating enlightened areas.


A tiny external flash for a tiny camera
The maximum workable ISO sensibility seems to be around the 800-1600 settings. Above that point the quality of the details of the picture may be below many expectations.

The battery life is short especially if you are using fully the LCD screen as a your main viewfinder. For a day shooting I recommend to use only the EVF and select the Display option that will shut down the LCD screen. This way you will extend the life of your battery charge significantly. Using the external flash is also very demanding. If you are a strong flash user, I suggest you to look for another external flash unit that employs its own batteries. For all day long photography session bringing one or two spare batteries at least is a real necessity.

The G Vario 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 O.I.S. kit lens is the basic combination to start with the GM5. Its strongest advantage in my sense is the 12mm focal setting that is giving a wide-angle equivalent of 24mm in 35mm format. For traveling or urban photography that angle of view appears to me as a minimum wide angle to have. The zoom ratio of the 12-32mm is very narrow and doing portrait can be a challenge. The G Vario 35-100mm F4.0-5.6 Mega O.I.S. lens is the real companion lens for the basic 12-62mm. Many GM5 users have completed their kit by selecting this 35-100mm for its compact size and its focal range.


FIne details with Lumix 42.5mm 1.7 lens
The fixed focal lenses are always very attractive mainly in reference of the good old nostalgia of the film era. Considering the fact that the GM5 have no in-board stabilisation option like the GX7 and GX8 models the use of these lenses can be deceptive especially in a hand holding shooting context. The only exception is the G 42,5mm F1.7 O.I.S. "portrait" lens equipped with the optical stabilization option. This 42.5mm f1.7 lens is a superb quality piece of optic made in Japan and can deliver high level of picture results. The focal fixed lenses force you to be more creative in your composition of the picture. They are introducing a kind of discriminating factor.

The stabilization factor is still a very important element for getting precise picture from those small cameras. It is easy to be mistaken by the tiny size of the GM5 but you have to consider the format (m4/3) and apply the same care during your shooting as you may already do with DSLR cameras. Finally by using the EVF you will improve your rate of success simply because you are holding the GM5 steadier.


The GM5 cannot be assimilated as a static camera that is able to freeze action with an high rate of success like most of the DSLR cameras. To cope with moving subjects you will need a sense of anticipation and to follow the action. As usual for EVF, my recommendation is to follow the action through the EVF viewfinder because of the obvious time lag inferred by the electronic respond to show the subject into the viewfinder.

Since the Lumix GM5 is a very light camera there is no inertia phenomena induced by the weight of the equipment. For people who have long experience in using heavier cameras such as DLSR or Leica type models it will represent a new challenge to handle and shoot with the GM5.




Automatic settings: WB, autofocus, exposure, and coloration
Generally speaking you can count on the automatic settings of the GM5 for most of the different situations. White balance is accurately done. In low light condition a slight but pleasant warm bias can be observed. The coloration is natural without the oversaturation as seen with some others models. In daylight the green color rendering happens to be occasionally a bit offset (may be too cold) for my taste. The automatic light metering of the GM5 is very performing allowing good general exposure. A strong frontal light can fool the metering system and in that case it is better to use the auto exposure memory option to lock the light meter settings or by scrolling manually the exposure compensation reel. The autofocus is working well even in low light condition but with a slower pace.



Using the Lumix GM5 with a tripod for static subjects will give you very excellent results even by using the Vario G 12-32mm O.I.S. kit lens. In my experience the O.I.S. stabilization system of the lens doesn’t interfere in the finesse of the picture rendering. It is not a specialized macro lens but close focusing is easy and setting the aperture at f8 will give you a good workable deep of field.

Sunny but very dynamic results


Picture quality perception
As most of the digital camera that I have experimented and owned (To my financial despair) you have to get used with the inboard picture treatment that has been implanted by the manufacturer. Each of them has its own formula of color, contrast, saturation, etc. You can fine tune those default setting but you need to be aware how you can manage interaction between all those factors. If you are not basically satisfied at least at the beginning it can be an everlasting process of corrections after corrections.

At ISO 200 the GM5 will deliver very fine details with amazing agility on Jpeg files, which are the most useful, and readiness way of imaging. I always try to avoid intensive post treatment of my pictures and I prefer to fine-tune the image with basic parameter such as exposure, brightness, contrast, etc. At ISO 1600 the image start to show some pixilation into a grainy aspect and inboard camera photo processor will generate some fuzzy interpolations with textures. Using high ISO will ask you to not heavily crop your picture.


Graphic B&W composition
People who know for my humble photographic experience are aware about my love for black and white picturing. In my youngest years black and white photography was still dominating the field and it was the basic way to learn photography. Digital photography is allowing us to regenerate this beautiful artistic experimentation of black and white imaging. The Lumix GM5 is producing very fine black and white pictures with strong contrast number 3 or 4 level as we use to call them black and white print paper. This is particularly true by using fixed focal lens such as the Lumix 42.5mm F1.7 lens.

The “way of seeing” of Panasonic had asked to me a certain psychological adaption since I used to be an Olympus, Fujifilm or Nikon user. But after few days I began to be able to anticipate picture results. As usual analysing your image with EVF viewfinder and LCD screen can be deceptive compared to your final picture seen over a computer screen or print on paper.  The same problematic was observed during the film era when you were trying to convert a negative to a final print. Each picture diffusion system has its own bias.


Clear Foreground/Blurry Background/Shallow DoF
Overall I have found the Lumix GM5 pictures detailed, saturated, contrasted and accurately color reproduced most of the time. The exposure latitude of the image captor is on the good side if you pay attention to your exposure settings. Even in the bright sun the white tone details can be preserved which it is very appreciated during your travels in sunny countries.

The Panasonic Lumix GM5 can be certainly seen as a everyday camera that can also deliver good and excellent results considering the limitations of the model. It surpass the usual rendering of more compact cameras and fairly approach the quality of picture done with more sophisticated models. The ability to change lenses gives a strong advantage compare to compact cameras with fixed zoom lens.

Yes it is a tiny camera but you can produce beautiful pictures from it.


Lumix GM5: A camera to grow with it.