The GF5 adapts the same sensor used in the G3 and GX1, but its performance doesn't really match up if you're shooting JPEGs. Resolution is a slightly lower 2000 LPH (horizontal and vertical) versus the GX1's 2200 LPH. Generally speaking, we find that Panasonic's image noise is finer-grained and less destructive than the Olympus cameras at the same ISO sensitivities. Some prefer Olympus' color reproduction, especially their rich greens and blues, but we find the Panasonic colors to be quite pleasing as well. Like every other Panasonic G-series camera, the auto-focus is snappy and responsive, making it easy to grab shots quickly and accurately.
Image noise looks acceptable up to ISO1600, but ISO3200 is worse than the GX1 and even the GF3 if you're shooting JPEGs. Where previously ISO3200 on the GF3 was muddier, the grain was cleaner, whereas on the GF5 we see more destructive jaggies. Anything above that is unusable. ISO12,800 is so bad we wonder why it's even an (unlockable) option.
Suspecting that the jaggy artifacts at ISO3200 might be the result of aggressive JPEG compression, we shot in RAW and found that the jaggy artifacts disappeared. While the ISO3200 photograph looks noisier because the camera does not apply noise reduction to RAW files, a little noise reduction in Lightroom makes the final output look cleaner than a JPEG out of the camera.
The conclusion then is that the GF5 is perfectly usable shooting up to ISO3200, but only in RAW and not in JPEG. But we wonder how many of the casual users the entry-level GF5 is made for will shoot in RAW and know how to process RAW files. Another option would be to reduce noise reduction (a presumed cause of the jaggy artifacts) but there's no such option in the GF5 menu - again though, not many casual users will know what such an option did if it existed. We hope that Panasonic will tweak how the GF5 treats JPEGs in a future firmware upgrade - but once more, we wonder how many casual users upgrade their camera firmware after purchase.
These are sample photographs shot with the Panasonic GF5. The photos have not been post-processed and are copyright to SPH Magazines. They are provided for your reference only and we ask that you do not reproduce them elsewhere. Click for the full-resolution images.