Last year I decided I wanted a smaller interchangeable lens camera to use as a "take everywhere" second camera to my Olympus OM-D E-M1. The E-M1 is a fairly small package compared to my former Canon 60D, but it's still not so small that I take it with me everywhere. It's certainly not pocketable in normal coat/jacket pockets or slacks/shorts pockets. And that was what I was hoping to get, a pocketable camera that still would work with all my micro four thirds lenses. I had heard about the recently announced Panasonic GM-5 (released late fall 2014) that is a micro4/3 format camera. I considered it compared to the Olympus PEN E-PL6, which, in online comparisons didn't seem that much larger. I ended up deciding on the E-PL6 because of price ($299 compared to $899!) and the fact that I was already familiar with Olympus menu system.
I enjoyed using the E-PL6 for a little over a year and it was reasonably pocketable...in coats. However, a few weeks ago I began wishing I had a really pocketable, yet comprehensive, camera so I began looking at options again. I kept coming back to the Panasonic GM-5 and, so, watched videos again on it as well as reading more about the camera. I discovered the price had dropped to $485 through some suppliers and I became more convinced that the GM-5 was, in fact, quite a bit smaller than my E-PL6. I ordered it and got it a week or so ago. I sold my like new E-PL6 on eBay.
Wow! The Panasonic GM-5 dimensions don't make it seem that much smaller in the abstract, but when you see and hold it, trust me, it's smaller! And that suits me fine. It is, in fact, just what I have been wanting! I bought mine with its "made for the GM-1 & 5” kit lens, the Panasonic 12-32mm, f/4-5.6. The whole "package" is tiny in your hands but don't let that fool you. Even though the camera and lens are plasticy, the build quality appears to be very good. The camera has the standard micro4/3 16MP sensor (2x crop factor) and excellent quality components and the 12-32mm lens is quite capable. In fact, the other night I was blown away by how sharp a blow up was of the head of one person in a picture I took at 32mm from probably 70 feet (23m) away in a dark theater.
I don't intend this to be an in-depth review of the camera and lens, as there are many of those available online by people who report on all facets of the camera from both a technical and use perspective. These are, instead, my everyday impressions of the Panasonic GM-5 with its lens as a regular photographer who shot Canon for many years and Olympus micro4/3 for the past three years. I expect that some of what I'll write are things that others may find trivial or unimportant. And, I kind of hope that's the case, because I want to discuss the things that I look for when using a camera or things that surprise me in a positive way because I didn't expect them. So, the first thing is, as I have said, that this is one seriously small camera! However, even so, it is quite usable. Even with 12-32mm lens, it is possible to put the camera in pants pocket (not jeans!) and certainly a coat pocket or a purse. I wrote the other day about using a body cap lens with the GM-5 so that the camera really is then quite pocketable.
The Panasonic GM-5 has a hot shoe so I can use, for example, my Nissin i40 with it or, for that matter, any of my available hot shoe flashes. Panasonic does supply a small pop-on flash. This included small flash can be used to wirelessly fire other, off-camera flash units as well. The GM-5 added a small EVF (electronic viewfinder) which the previous GM-1 did not. It is small and does get some getting used to if one is accustomed to a larger EVF, but it is still very handy to have when shooting in bright, sunny situations or if you just don't like using the LCD as your viewfinder.
Another reason I wanted to replace my E-PL6 besides size was that it did not have built-in wi-fi. The Panasonic GM-5 does and, in fact, will connect to a router to connect to the Internet for direct posting of images. The wi-fi connection to the camera is done through a free mobile app provided by Panasonic and works quite well. My only complaint is that one can only select up to thirty images at a time to transfer to the connected smartphone or tablet. This is, of course, not really a big deal, but surprised me. One can also control the Panasonic GM-5 remotely using the wi-if connection. Both of these are features I have gotten very used to with my E-M1, so I am glad to have them on both of my cameras now. Connecting to the Internet via a router, however, is not so easy. That is, I have not yet been able to do it. You must set up an account with a free, Panasonic cloud service and then connect to your wireless router to access it. The Panasonic service, apparently, then transfers the image or images to the social network you have chosen. However, I'm still stuck at setting up the free account! More on this as I figure it out, but if anyone reading this piece knows some tricks, please do share!
The Panasonic GM-5's LCD is a touchscreen, so many of the settings can be done using your fingers on the screen. This is something I'm not used to so I am still getting used to using this capability. I like that the camera has a mode dial position (only one) labeled "C" for custom. One can, however, create up to three custom camera configurations. With the mode dial in the custom position, one then selects which of the custom camera configurations to activate. This feature is much like the MySets system I have on my Olympus OM-D E-M1 but it is nice to have a specific position on the mode dial to use with the feature. There are two physical (+ record button) and five touch screen buttons that can be customized which gives you a quick way to get to features you find yourself using often but have to dive into menus to activate.
There are multiple screen display options accessible by pressing the DISP (display) button on the lower right corner of the camera back. One of these is a Quick Menu Screen that displays many settings of the camera. Each of the controls on the screen can be accessed by a tap of the finger or you can press the "Q.Menu" button (with trash can icon) to activate a control selection and change it using the four-way button set on the middle right back of camera. I like this as it is much like the Super Control Panel display on Olympus cameras and the Quick Screen on my old Canon 60D.
Finally, my last favorite feature of the Panasonic GM-5 is that is it comes with a cordless battery charger!! I love this type of charger and don't understand why Olympus doesn't follow suit here. And that brings me to the things that are not so positive. The first, naturally, is battery life. The GM-5 takes a Lithium Ion battery and the supplied battery is rated at only 680mAh. Panasonic says this will allow you to shoot up to 200 images per charge. I have gotten accustomed to short battery life with these all-electronic, micro4/3 cameras, so I was not surprised at the short battery life. I always buy at least two extra batteries for my micro4/3 cameras. Interestingly, some third party batteries for the GM-5 are rated as high as 1050mAh, although the ones I got are only 1000mAh. One other negative for the camera is that it only supports a flash sync speed of 1/50 second. However, if one isn't going to use flash with the camera that much, this is not a big deal.
Overall, I am extremely pleased with my purchase of the Panasonic GM-5. I like that there is a dedicated dial just above the LCD to change shutter speed and aperture settings when shooting in Shutter-Priority or Aperture-Priority modes or Manual mode. It is small and I am still getting used to controlling it, but it is nicer than having to use the 4-button control set as I did on my E-PL6. A feature I wish the GM-5 had is an articulating LCD screen, even if - like the E-PL6 - it only articulated up and down. Maybe a newer version (perhaps "GM-6?") will be released and Panasonic will add that feature. Who knows?
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