Announced last quarter in April, the Panasonic Lumix GF6 mirrorless camera improves upon the GF5 while taking references from the higher-end, but older GX1. The Mode dial, which had been missing since the GF2, makes a comeback. There are no control dials, but the new Function Lever around the shutter release doubles as one, while the scroll wheel on the back is there just as ever. The touch-screen monitor now swivels nearly 180° to face the front.
Internally, the GF6 carries a new 16MP sensor and Venus Engine with Panasonic’s advanced noise reduction. It’s also quicker to snap a photo after startup (just as we found out from our overseas shooting trip in May), and comes with built-in Wi-Fi as well as NFC (Near Field Communication). With NFC, you can connect the camera with another NFC capable smart mobile device by bringing them together.
The GF6 is not a particularly attractive camera, even with the new silver highlighted top and a slightly less obvious hump than the GF5. The body feels flimsy like plastic does, but then again this is a particularly inexpensive mirrorless system camera.
Despite its appearances, the camera handles pretty well. New to the Panasonic G-series is a tilting monitor which swivels to a near 180° so you can take a selfie while still framing the shot (and still tap to focus on the touch-screen monitor). The Function Lever is a clever idea; if you mount a Power Zoom lens, the lever around the shutter release works like a standard zoom toggle found on digital compact cameras everywhere. With ordinary lenses, the lever doubles as a control dial, taking control of exposure.
Another reason the GF6 handles well is Panasonic’s smooth integration of touch and physical controls. You’re not forced to use only the touch-screen controls or the buttons, you can use either or and both options as they complement each other quite well. Especially the touch-to-focus feature, it’s become a staple on smartphones and mirrorless system cameras, but is still sorely missing on a lot of DSLR cameras. A Quick Menu overlay gives you instant access to essential commands like ISO, white balance and AF modes, as do dedicated controls on the back of the camera.
And of course, the Panasonic handy iA button, which quickly drops you in and out of Intelligent Auto mode, without having to switch modes on the Mode dial. For this reviewer, it means I can hand off the camera to someone else by pressing the iA button and not have to worry that the person has to figure out all my previous manual settings - which I can get back simply by pressing the iA button again.
One of the best bits about the GF6 is the built-in Wi-Fi, which lets you connect to a mobile smart device and control the camera using the Panasonic Lumix app. You can also share images between the GF6 and your smart device. The easy connectivity is appreciated (even essential in this Facebook/Twitter/Instagram age), and the live view window on your smart device which shows you what the camera is seeing is snappy and responsive. The app's interface, however, is still less than intuitive.