Panasonic added a new model to its Micro Four Thirds camera lineup today, in the Lumix DMC-GF5. It's the successor to the GF3, and rather than making sweeping ergonomic changes — there's a better grip on the GF5, but it's mostly the same design — Panasonic just added its latest technology to the camera. The GF5 features a totally redesigned, 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor, plus the latest iteration of the Venus processor, and the two team up to offer some pretty impressive specs — like ISO range up to ISO 12,800, and 0.09-second autofocus. You can also now focus on as small an area as a single pixel, which Panasonic says makes the autofocus more accurate as well. The camera shoots 1080i video at 60 frames per second in AVCHD, or 1080p at 30fps in MP4.
The most noticeable change might be the user interface, though, which has been totally redesigned to be both more usable and more helpful. The GF5's 3-inch, 922,000-dot LCD is touch-enabled, and the interface now makes a lot more sense for your fingers; there are icons everywhere, and as you scroll or tap through a menu Panasonic also provides lots of explanations about what you're choosing, and what various settings mean.
The interface is indicative of how Panasonic sees the GF5: it's a step up from a point-and-shoot camera, rather than a companion to your DSLR. The company's goal is to offer simple use — lots of scene modes, plenty of automatic options — but also to slowly teach users, through the interface and controls, how to more capably use their camera. The camera will automatically suggest a scene mode based on what you're shooting, but will actually explain what, say, the "Romantic Sunset" mode means in terms of actual shooting settings.
We spent a few minutes using the camera, and though we didn't get to take scene mode-worthy pictures of sunsets, babies, or desserts, we did like how well-explained everything is on the GF5. The new grip also feels really nice, making the camera a lot easier to hold in one hand. Most importantly, though, Panasonic didn't really change a good thing — the GF5 and its lenses are still impossibly small, the camera's really fast, and the touchscreen interface seems to be more responsive than ever.
The GF5 will be available "later this year" in black, white, and red, and will cost $599 with a 14-42mm kit lens or $749 with a power zoom lens. Check out our comparison (or create your own) to size up the Lumix DMC-GF5 against its predecessor and competing cameras.