An all-around excellent four-thirds camera that stands among the top of its class.
When it comes to build quality, the camera is expectedly solid. Weighing 225g with 107.7 x 66.6 x 36.8mm which is round about the same as the GF3 that preceded it. In our use, we found the interface and the design to be quite efficient for the end user. You can operate the camera in two ways – the touchscreen interface on the LCD itself when the camera is on or the controls outside on the camera. The touchscreen interface actually is quite detailed and does a great job of letting you access almost all the functions of the camera from in there if that’s what you prefer, but if not then the physical buttons are solid. There’s an HDMI port on the left and the microphone is clearly visible at the top. The wheel feels well designed and is actually well operational, and the shutter button along with the power button is thoughtfully placed for ease of use when one is taking quick pictures. The finish of the body is refined and it felt light enough for a camera that packs this much power, but the weight will eventually depend on the lens that you’re using for it as well as other accessories.
A huge clunker when it comes to the camera is the glaring lack of an optical viewfinder, which as any photographer knows is a preferred choice to take a picture with since it’s a more accurate representation of the image than a touch screen and can lead to steadier images. Here, there is only the LCD screen to use for that and even though it’s actually pretty high-res, nothing beats the option of having a viewfinder. And this wouldn’t be as much of a problem if you could attach a third party optical viewfinder after purchase onto it, but the problem is that the camera does not come with a hotshoe which basically means nothing can be attached to the camera. Now the market that this camera is aimed for probably won’t be too loudly complaining about this omission, but it’s a noteworthy one nonetheless.
There’s also a nice little red button near the shutter which is a feature called “iA” (Intelligent Auto) button, that puts the camera into a full auto mode that will allow it to choose the best settings for the scene in question rather than you fiddling around with it too much. There’s a one-touch movie button at the top which is also quite handy for quick video recording, and the best part is that the buttons themselves aren’t plastic this time like the GF3 but actually are made of metal which gives an expensive feel to the camera.
In our tests and usage of the camera for more than a week, the performance was more than impressive for a camera of its size. In daylight conditions indoor or outdoor, the image quality was solid and captured a lot of detail thanks to a strong sensor that doesn’t skimp on the fine detail of it all. The colors that it captures are pretty much as rich and true to life as a DSLR, and the JPEG compression is very solid with a 12 megapixel sensor. Panasonic also allows you to shoot RAW though, so you can always take the image and put it in an image editing software later to play around with the exposure and other settings to your heart’s extent. Here is an image of the Dubai Metro during the middle of the day.
The following image is of the escalator of the Dubai Metro station as well, and as common with CMOS sensors of DSLR’s and digital cameras of today, you can notice quite a bit of moire on the fine lines on the metal and a larger view of the picture will make that most visible. There’s nothing too dramatic about it since it’s not the only digital camera that does that, but it’s still visible in these small segments of pictures that contain shots of things like these. However, if you notice, the amount of detail has that has been captured here is tremendous and even zooming in you will see that you can easily make out the lines from each other instead of the camera just shuffling them together due to a loss of detail.