The Panasonic GM5 is one of very few cameras with interchangeable lenses that will fit into a trouser pocket or small handbag. It’s a crucial factor for anyone who finds other CSCs appealing but still a bit too big to carry around all day. It’s an update to the Panasonic GM1 and gains various new features, but its weight has only increased by 5g.
The most significant change is the introduction of an electronic viewfinder (EVF). It’s particularly useful when shooting in direct sunlight when the screen can be hard to see. Bracing the camera against your eye can also help to avoid camera shake. It’s not the best EVF we’ve seen at this price, though. The 0.46x (equivalent) magnification is on the small side and it doesn’t seem as bright as other EVFs. We’re happy to have it all the same, but given the choice, we’d have preferred a tilting LCD screen instead.
^ The new GM5 is noticeably taller than the older GM1 – its main competitor
Adding an EVF takes up space, Panasonic has made the camera 5mm taller and the screen has been changed to make more room. The display still measures 3in across but now has a widescreen aspect ratio. That means a bigger viewing size for videos, but a smaller one for photos at the standard 4:3 aspect ratio – although we know a number of (possibly crazy) people who prefer to shoot at 16:9 these days, as they prefer the shape and it fills their TV screen neatly. As before, the screen is touch sensitive, which makes it easy to adjust the autofocus point. It also adds various on-screen controls and provides an alternative way to navigate the menus.
^ The new design includes a switch to a more TV-friendly 16:9 display
The buttons and dials have been reorganised, with a new command dial that can be pushed inwards to toggle between various exposure-related duties, depending on the selected mode. It works well enough but the dial is a little too stiff for our liking. We found the GM1’s rear wheel easier to use.
There’s room for three new buttons between the command dial and EVF. One switches between the screen and EVF. There’s an eye sensor to switch it automatically, but the button overrides this. Another launches the Wi-Fi functions, with elegant image transfers, comprehensive remote control and GPS tagging facilities. Both of these buttons can be reassigned, with 46 functions to choose from. The repositioned playback button allows room for a proper thumb grip on the back of the camera without fear of accidentally pressing the record button.
As before, there’s a dedicated switch for single, continuous and manual focus. It’s a slightly strange choice – we’d have preferred an exposure compensation dial. Disappointingly, the Fn1 button on the GM1’s top plate has disappeared, so there’s no significant gain in the overall button count.
The other big change is the move from an internal pop-up flash to a detachable unit. This will probably be seen by most people as a retrograde step. It’s another thing to carry – or lose – when you’re out, and attaching it spoils the slinky design. It sits in a standard hotshoe, which means that larger flashguns can be used, although we doubt many people would bother on such a petite camera. The ability to attach wireless flash triggers could be more useful.
^ The pop-up flash is gone, replaced by a clip-on unit instead
Performance is up to scratch, taking just one second to power up and take a photo, and half a second between shots in normal use. Autofocus was reliably quick. Continuous mode ran at 5.6fps and lasted for 80 JPEGs or 6 RAW frames before slowing. It managed 4.4fps with continuous autofocus.
As with the GM1, it’s amazing how little Panasonic has compromised in its quest for miniaturisation. The lens collapses down when not in use, extending just 29mm from the camera body, and yet it still offers a respectable 2.7x (24-64mm) zoom. There’s no NFC for automatic configuration of Wi-Fi connections, but it isn’t much of a chore to do it manually or with the help of a QR code that appears on the camera’s screen. The 210 shot battery life is one casualty, though. It’s surprisingly comfortable to hold for such a slim camera, but we’d have preferred some kind of ridge on the front to serve as a grip. There’s an optional handgrip available (part code DMW-HGR1), but £90 is an awful lot to pay for what is essentially just a lump of metal.
There’s no compromise at all when it comes to video and photo quality, with the same high standards we’ve seen many times before from Panasonic Lumix G cameras. Video quality is particularly strong, with remarkably crisp, smooth details that make 1080p footage from other camera brands look a little coarse. Noise levels were modest at ISO 3200 – the top speed available for videos – and colour rendition was excellent.