Panasonic's strength has always been in making user-friendly cameras and that focus should be applauded (believe it or not, user-friendliness doesn't seem to always be a priority for camera companies). As Panasonic's newest entry-level mirrorless system camera, the GF5 greatest strength is how easy it is to use. We've always been fans of Panasonic's smart iA (intelligent Auto) mode which, when paired with the fast and accurate auto-focus system, makes taking photos quick and easy. The new Recommended Filter feature makes the camera more fun to use, by giving you easy access to filters. The improved hand-grip makes the camera feel more comfortable.
The one disappointment about the camera is that image noise is not cleaner at higher ISO settings with the new sensor, with visible jaggy artifacts appearing in ISO3200 JPEG images, more so than even on the GF3, thanks to what appears to be aggressive noise reduction. Even though the 12MP sensor and image engine in the GF5 is based on those found in the 16MP G3 and GX1, the GF5's image quality just doesn't match up unless you shoot in RAW - but how many casual users do? The odd behavior of the X 14-42mm lens, which launched with the GX1, also means that we can't recommend it, even though it's a perfect fit for the GF5.
The Lumix GF5 is a very user-friendly camera which falls down on execution in some aspects - it's still good, while it could have been great.
We believe the Panasonic GX1 is a viable alternative to the GF5, despite what Panasonic's marketing might say. While the GX1 is supposed to be a camera for the expert crowd, it's still a beginner-friendly camera - all you have to do when you're confused is tap that iA button. At 116 x 68 x 39mm and 318g, the GX1 is not much larger or heavier than the GF5 at 108 x 67 x 37mm and 267g. What you're really missing are the new Recommended Filter and Scene Guide features, but you get better image quality from the 16MP sensor.
The GF5's official prices haven't been released, but the GF3 cost S$899 (with 14mm lens kit) and S$1099 (with 14mm & 14-42mm lens kit), which is not a wide S$200 difference from the GX1's S$1299 for the 14mm and 14-42mm standard kit. As such, you can probably guess that the GF5 shouldn't cost much more than the GF3's pricing.
What about comparisons with mirrorless system cameras from other companies?
The Sony NEX-C3 is a compelling, entry-level mirrorless camera which comes with a 16MP APS-C sized sensor, the same-sized sensor as those found in entry to mid-level DSLR cameras. As such, the NEX-C3 delivers high quality images, but the Sony E-mount system has a noticeably smaller selection of native lenses compared to Micro Four Thirds. Another strike against the NEX-C3 is that E-mount lenses tend to be larger than their MFT counterparts, adding bulk to the entire camera. Still, at S$999 for the 18-55mm kit, the C3 is competitively priced, and might make a good choice for users who don't see themselves upgrading beyond the kit lens.
Olympus' entry-level Micro Four Thirds cameras, the E-PM1 and E-PL3 are a little long in the tooth at this time. Announced in mid-2011, the two cameras are nearly a year old by now. Unlike the GF5, neither come with touch-screens or built-in flashes. Since they're last year's models, we can't really recommend them over the newer GF5.
Nikon's 1 series J1 camera is a fast camera which can shoot up to 10 frames per second (up to 30 in a half-second burst if you lock AF to the first frame). Its hybrid AF system, which combines phase-detection and contrast-detect AF, is a first for mirrorless cameras, and with its groundbreaking 73 AF area points, the J1 is quick at capturing moments accurately.
There are even less lenses for the Nikon 1 mount than for Sony's E-mount, but the J1's quick shooting and acquisition speed - the fastest among all mirrorless system cameras - make it ideal for users like parents, who want a camera to keep up with their quick-moving kids, and who probably won't look to upgrade beyond the kit lens. The Nikon 1 series has a smaller sensor than even Micro Four Thirds, but bigger than compact cameras', there's less visible detail in images than current MFT cameras but image noise is impressively kept to a minimum.