The realm of mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras is getting just as diversified and tiered as the world of point-and-shoots.
At the top of the mirrorless food chain are full-featured digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) competitors such as the Panasonic Lumix GH2 and Lumix GX1, the Pentax K-01, the Sony Alpha NEX-7, and the Olympus OM-D E-M5. People looking to step up from a point-and-shoot to a camera with a bigger sensor and swappable optics can opt for smaller, more user-friendly models such as the Olympus Pen E-PL and E-PM series, the Nikon J series, the Sony NEX-C3, and the just-announced Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5.
The largely touchscreen-controlled Lumix GF5 looks a lot like its predecessor, the Lumix DMC-GF3; but Panasonic says that the new camera has a "less plasticky" feel than the GF3, thanks to an anodyzed metal body and a rubber handgrip. Like the GF3, it will offer a RAW shooting mode, manual exposure controls, the ability to shoot 3D still images in .MPO format when used with Panasonic's 3D lens (sold separately), and touch-to-focus controls for shooting both stills and video.
The major changes under the hood include a new 12-megapixel sensor and processing engine--two factors that contribute to the GF5's faster autofocus system (Panasonic says the new camera is able to lock focus in less than one-tenth of a second)--plus a higher ISO equivalency of 12800, up from the GF3's maximum ISO of 6400. At 4 frames per second, its full-resolution burst mode will also be a bit peppier than the GF3's reduced-resolution burst speed of 3.8 fps.
All across its interchangeable-lens lineup, starting with the flagship Lumix GH2, Panasonic's touchscreen controls for focusing and exposure adjustment have been a strength. The Lumix GF5 will offer similar touch controls for refocusing while recording video and granular focus control for still-image shooting. Panasonic says that it has introduced some major changes to the camera's touchscreen and touch interface with this release. The GF5's 3-inch-diagonal touchscreen has twice the pixel density of its predecessor, with a 920,000-dot screen rather than a 460,000-dot screen.
The company has also redesigned camera's user interface from the ground up, which should be welcome news to anyone who has used the serviceable-but-pedestrian interface on previous Panasonic cameras. Big additions include live before-and-after previews of exposure adjustments and filters, as well as on-screen information about how to manually create the effects applied by each filter.
The Lumix GF5's body is 1.45 inches deep, which is a bit thicker than the Lumix GF3's body. It comes with a pop-up flash and stereo microphones, but no hot-shoe or mic-in port for outsourcing the flash or audio. Like the GF3, it will shoot 1080i video at 60 fps in AVCHD format, or 1080p video at 30 fps in MP4 format.
The Lumix GF5 should arrive by early June. Panasonic hasn't set a price yet, but the camera will be available in three kit configurations: a 14-42mm manual-zoom lens, a 14-42mm "powered zoom" lens (the operator uses an electronic lever on the side of the lens barrel to adjust the zoom), and a 14mm pancake lens. The Lumix G series has a focal-length multiplier of 2x.