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Product snapshot: Panasonic LUMIX GF5 camera

Micro Four-Thirds is a 'mirrorless' interchangeable lens digital camera system and lens mount family. If that all sounds a little daunting, here's a simpler explanation: these cameras have big sensors (like chunky digital SLRs) stuffed into tiny bodies, because all the unnecessary and complicated pieces of their designs have been abandoned.

Panasonic's LUMIX DMC-GF5, or simply just the GF5, is one of the smallest Micro Four-Thirds cameras available. It fits in a 12-megapixel Micro Four-Thirds sensor surrounded by all the usual trimmings, in a body that measures only 108mm x 67 x 37mm and weighs only 267 grams.

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The LUMIX GF5 is an upgrade from the earlier GF3, which evolved in turn from the GF2. It adds a higher-resolution touchscreen to the back of the camera, further streamlines the camera's body, and simplifies the control scheme to be more reliant on touch.

One of the big changes with the Panasonic GF5 is its bundled lens. It is available with the 14-42mm 'X-Series' lens, which is one of Panasonic's Power Zoom models. When you're not using it -- when the camera's turned off, or when you're looking at photos you've already taken -- the lens automatically retracts, becoming far more compact than any similar-range zoom lens for a digital SLR.

You control the X-Series zoom lens with two toggles switches on its side: one to zoom in and out at a speed of your choosing, and one to change the lens's focus if you want to adjust it manually. You can also get the GF5 in a twin lens kit, with a 40-150mm telephoto non-Power Zoom lens.

The camera is definitely easiest to use in its Intelligent Auto mode, although it's got all the usual manual settings -- although these can be hard to control through the touchscreen interface sometimes. It can take good pictures in everything but darker environments, and it's got video recording capabilities far more sophisticated than you'd expect.

We're very impressed with how compact the body of the LUMIX GF5 is. It's a great upgrade from a compact point-and-shoot digital camera, with the ability to pick and choose new lenses if you wish to -- including the option to stick with the smart and compact X-Series zoom.


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