Although Panasonic has stuck with the same 16.05 million pixel Live MOS sensor in the Lumix G6 that it used in the Panasonic G5, it has used a new, more powerful Venus Engine, a better touchscreen and an improved electronic viewfinder (EVF).
According to Panasonic, the compact system camera’s new processing engine enables the G6 to produce better quality images, and in turn enables a wider extended sensitivity range of ISO 160-25600.
In addition, the manufacturer says the new engine enables faster autofocusing, especially in low light. Panasonic has also worked to improve the G6′s ability to track moving subjects as well as boosting the maximum continuous shooting speed to 7fps.
As on the Panasonic G5, there’s a collection of creative control modes with options such as Toy Camera and Pop Colour that adjust the processing of the images to give them a particular look. These are accessed via the main mode dial and can be used when shooting raw as well as JPEG files, giving you a ‘clean’ image as well as one with the effect applied.
In addition, there are a selection of photo styles available (Standard, Vivid, Monochrome and more) that can be selected when shooting in any of the exposure modes apart from Creative Control.
Panasonic has also given the G6 Wi-Fi connectivity, and an NFC chip means that it is possible to connect quickly and easily to other NFC devices such as an Android smartphone or tablet.
As yet Apple hasn’t included an NFC chip in its iPhones, but rumours are rife that one will feature in the iPhone 5S/6.
The Panasonic G6 price will be £629 (around US$958/ AU$934) including a 14-142mm kit lens. It will be available from the end of May.
Build and handling
Panasonic has made a few subtle but pleasing changes to the appearance of the G5 for this new G6. For a start the camera looks and feels a little more serious than the Panasonic G5. The viewfinder bump is less pronounced and the texture of the body surface has changed.
The silver controls on the back of the Panasonic G5 are now black on the Panasonic G6, giving it a higher quality appearance.
There are also a couple of additional function buttons, bringing the total to five physical function buttons on the back of the camera. These enable greater customisation of the Panasonic G6, making it quicker and easier to use once you’ve set it to your preferences.
In addition, the Panasonic G6′s electronic viewfinder (EVF) has been changed to an OLED unit that is brighter than an LCD finder. Although the type of device has changed, its resolution is the same (1,440,000 dots) as the Panasonic G5′s EVF.
When we used a pre-production sample camera we found its EVF provided a very clear view, with lots of sharp detail and natural colours. We were still aware that we were looking at an electronic unit rather than an optical viewfinder, but the difference is much less than it used to be and the finder provides a natural-looking image.
An electronic viewfinder (EVF) also brings the benefit of showing how the image will appear when it is captured, taking into account any changes in exposure and white balance.
Another key upgrade made for the Panasonic G6 is the switch to a 3-inch electrostatic touchscreen, which is much more sensitive than the resistive touchscreen on the Panasonic G5. This makes making settings selections and adjustments quicker than before, putting the Panasonic G6′s screen’s response on a par with that of the Panasonic GH3.
It’s especially useful when using Touchpad AF, which enables the AF point to be selected by touching the screen while composing images in the EVF. It’s a significant improvement on the Panasonic G5.
We found the main LCD screen also provides a clear view even in quite bright light, and because it is mounted on an articulating hinge it makes shooting from awkward angles much easier than normal. Touch Shutter mode, which triggers the camera to focus on the point selected by a touch on the screen and then fire the shutter, is especially useful when shooting from a very low or high angle.
At times, however, it would be helpful if the on-screen digital level could be made a bit clearer, because its not always easy to see it change from yellow to green to indicate the camera is level when the screen is being viewed from an angle.
One minor issue that we have with the Panasonic G6′s controls is that the navigation buttons have a rather ‘squidgy’ feel and they sit low into the camera body, making them a little hard to identify with the thumb when holding the camera to the eye.
We have been able to shoot with a pre-production sample of the Panasonic G6, and despite the odd bug or two that will be ironed out before the camera comes to market, our initial impressions are very good.
Panasonic’s claims for the G6′s AF system seem to be borne out, since it is fast and accurate. We will have to investigate this further when we get a full production sample in for testing, but the Panasonic G6 seems better able to focus in low light and follow moving subjects than its predecessor.
Our images from the pre-production sample Panasonic G6 have good, natural colour, and the automatic white balance system seems to handle a range of lighting conditions well.
We are also impressed with the camera’s metering performance as the Multiple zone system coped well when bright areas of sky or bright objects were in the scene.
Image quality appears to be high and at least on a par with that of the Panasonic G5.
We will need to take comparison shots on a full-production sample before we can verify Panasonic’s claims for reduced noise and better image quality.
Our JPEG images taken at ISO 1600 have lots of detail, with very little sign of noise and just a hint of smoothing visible at 100% on the screen. As yet we haven’t been able to examine the raw files.
We haven’t been able to test the Panasonic G6′s Wi-Fi connectivity or NFC technology yet, but we are looking forward to doing so.
Panasonic’s Lumix Link app is excellent, because it enables you to take control over a wide range of camera settings via your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. We found it works very well with the Panasonic GH3.
We liked the Panasonic G5 because as well as producing high quality images it has all the headline features that we want from a modern compact system camera: a good viewfinder, a vari-angle touchscreen, the ability to shoot raw and JPEG images when using the Creative Controls and a sensible control arrangement with some novel thinking.
While Panasonic hasn’t done anything radical such as increasing the pixel count of the sensor, the Panasonic G6 has some good enhancements over the G5. The touchscreen, for example, is much more sensitive, which makes it faster and more inviting to use.
The autofocus system also seems to be faster and better able to follow moving subjects, although we naturally want to look into this much further when we get a full production sample in for testing.
It will be especially interesting to use the autofocus system and high sensitivity settings in low light conditions to see if the camera can be used for shooting a wider range of subjects than we traditionally consider appropriate for a compact system camera. Could it produce good sport or gig images, for example?