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Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review – Compact entry-level system camera: Panasonic announces Lumix DMC-GF6 with WLAN and NFC

Panasonic introduces the Lumix DMC-GF6, a new model of the especially compact mirrorless system camera for Micro Four Thirds. With a sensor drilled to 16 megapixel resolution, WLAN, NFC and the now movable touchscreen, Panasonic packs a lot of new technology into the compact case with a volume that has hardly increased compared to the predecessor model GF5. The screen not only folds down 45 degrees, but even 180 degrees up, making it ideal for self-portraits. NFC technology promises a particularly easy coupling with a smartphone via WLAN, as all necessary settings are activated via NFC.

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Extensive interval function
  • Catchy touch operation
  • Good processing
  • Excellent foldable display

Cons

  • Manual focus requires too long rotation distances
  • No flash connection
  • Viewfinder cannot be retrofitted
  • Carrier autofocus for video recording

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 is offered in the white version with the new G Vario 14-42 mm F3.5-5.6 II Asph. [Photo: Panasonic]

With the GF6, Panasonic offers a new entry-level model in its mirrorless system technology. Whereby the entry-level model seems to be stacked somewhat low, if you look at the price. For around 550 euro, Panasonic didn’t skimp on the equipment at least, even a WLAN module is on board. A respectable range of lenses is also available, as not only Panasonic lenses but also all Olympus MFT lenses can be coupled. A camera for carefree and above all light-hearted photography, but with the claim of an adult image quality. What has changed in comparison to the predecessor and what benefits the photographer can derive from it, we have tested in theory and practice.

 

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

The brown version of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 is also only available with the new G Vario 14-42 mm F3.5-5.6 II Asph. [Photo: Panasonic]

The Lumix DMC-GF6 uses a 16 megapixel image sensor with live MOS technology. Despite its higher resolution, it has a lower noise level, the GF6 offers a sensitivity range from ISO 160 to 12,800, even extending to 25,600. A three-stage noise reduction is supposed to ensure low-noise images, which is partly due to the more advanced and powerful image processor Venus Engine, which Panasonic no longer gives a more specific name. In only 0.6 seconds, the small mirrorless system camera, called DSLM by Panasonic, should be switched on. The powerful autofocus has a continuous mode that works at up to 3.7 frames per second and a tracking function for tracking subjects across the field of view. This autofocus is also active during Full HD video recording. Panasonic cheats a bit in the refresh rate, though. The sensor has an output of 25p, which is 25 full frames per second. Panasonic splits these frames into two fields and makes them 50i, or 50 fields per second, in AVCHD video recording. If you switch to MP4 as storage format, 30 frames per second are interpolated from the 25p. Why Panasonic artificially degrades the video quality in this way or pretends to achieve better quality through higher frame rates remains a mystery. By the way, the video sound is recorded in stereo, the GF6 has a corresponding integrated microphone with a switchable digital wind noise filter, but the buyer has to do without an external microphone input. If you wish, you can manually set the aperture and/or exposure time when filming.

The same applies to a hot shoe, which the GF6 does not have. After all, it has a built-in pop-up flash, but with a guide number of 5 at ISO 100, it’s rather weak on the chest, similar to the built-in flashes of small compact cameras. The basic sensitivity of ISO 160 increases the guide number to around 6.3, and despite the small body dimensions, Panasonic has given the GF6 a folding screen that can be folded down 45 degrees and even 180 degrees up, allowing self-portraits supported by a special camera mode. In landscape format, photographs can therefore be easily taken close to the ground or in an upside down position. The monitor measures 7.5 centimetres diagonally and has a resolution of 1.04 million pixels. However, its 3:2 aspect ratio is slightly wider than the native sensor aspect ratio of 4:3, but it represents a good compromise between 4:3 aspect ratios for photos and 16:9 for video. The touch screen allows not only to focus on a detail of the image by touching it, but also to adjust and trigger the exposure.

Besides the folding screen and the new sensor, the built-in WLAN module is one of the most important innovations of the digital camera. It enables the transfer of photos to smartphones, to the home WLAN on a PC or the remote control of the camera via a smartphone app. The GF6 also has an integrated NFC module. As usual for NFC, the range is only a few centimeters and the module is used to tell a smartphone held up to the camera that a WLAN connection is to be established and what parameters are required for this. This saves the user from having to configure the smartphone manually. But the Lumix can connect just as well to smartphones without NFC, just not as convenient. But WLAN also works in the opposite direction, i.e. the camera can use the GPS signal of the smartphone to geotag the photos taken. The GF6 also handles DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct and can transfer images to the Panasonic cloud. From there, publication in social networks such as Facebook is possible, and there are also connections to YouTube, Twitter and other services such as Picasa and Flickr.

Other new features of the Lumix DMC-GF6 include creative modes with 19 filters, a stop-motion movie function, new self-timer modes and a creative panorama function. The reintroduced mode dial on the top of the camera allows quick switching between intelligent auto, subject programs, program auto, semi-automatic with aperture or time preset, and manual mode. A new function lever close to the shutter release button allows the aperture or shutter speed to be set quickly; when using power zoom lenses, the zoom can also be operated with this lever. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 is available in black, white and chocolate (brown) since May 2013. Depending on the color, the GF6 will be offered with different lenses: In black with the pancake motor zoom 14-42 PZ for almost 700 EUR, in white, black and chocolate with the new 14-42 II set lens for about 550 EUR and again only in black as double zoom kit with the lenses 14-42 II and 45-150 for about 750 EUR.

 

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

The black version of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6, on the other hand, is alternatively sold with the more compact pancake motor zoom G X Vario 14-42 mm. [Photo: Panasonic]

 

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

At first glance, it’s not immediately noticeable that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 is three millimeters wider but two millimeters less high than its predecessor, the GF5. [Photo: Panasonic]

 

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

The 4/3″ sensor of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 now resolves 16 instead of 12 megapixels. [Photo: Panasonic]

 

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

An important innovation in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6: The touch screen can be folded down 45° and 180° up, making self-portraits possible. Over one million subpixels provide a bright, finely resolved image. [Photo: Panasonic]

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

Despite the folding screen, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 is only a millimeter thicker than the GF5. [Photo: Panasonic]

 

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

Behind the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6’s interface flap, there is only one HDMI and one USB socket. [Photo: Panasonic]

 

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

This side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 hides the NFC chip. It makes it particularly easy to establish a WLAN connection to the smartphone, as the necessary settings are automatically transferred via NFC. [Photo: Panasonic]

 

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 has a display that can be tilted 45° down and 180° up, making self-portraits possible. [Photo: Panasonic]

Ergonomics and Workmanship

The DMC-GF6 has become a bit more angular and larger, which gives it a more adult look compared to the GF5. Their somewhat cuddly and stocky shape has given way to a rather smooth simplicity that is now familiar from many mirrorless models. For large hands, the GF6’s housing is probably still a bit too small, but – at least with a pancake lens – it is suitable for a jacket pocket. It has also increased in weight, but remains pleasantly portable with the Kit-Zoom 14-42mm II OIS with 480 grams. The case looks very solidly manufactured, all switches and the newly added mode selector snap cleanly and are easy to operate. The cover of the two connections (HDMI and AV/Digital) is of sufficient quality, the memory card and battery compartments are of good quality. The tripod thread sits correctly in the optical axis and is made of steel, but prevents access to the battery when the quick-release plate is attached. A two-finger wide grip hump at the front and a small rubber application for the thumb at the back provide some grip, but the GF6 should definitely be held better with both hands. Then the mode selector on the top and the cross rocker on the back can also be conveniently operated.

The GF6 is also a bit thicker than its predecessor, which is mainly due to the swivel display. It can now be folded up and down, and the smart mechanism allows the display to swivel completely forward over the camera, making self-portraits convenient. However, it only reaches down to about 45 degrees, but this is hardly limited due to the good angle independence. In general, the display is a lot of fun. With more than one million pixels, it displays very detailed and brilliant images. Only in direct sunlight one would wish for a viewfinder, which unfortunately can’t be retrofitted due to the lack of an accessory shoe. The touch sensitivity can be inspiring. Scrolling and zooming into the picture is possible as usual on a smartphone, and the menus and many camera parameters can also be operated quickly with a combination of touchscreen and switches. Occasionally, this even works too well if you accidentally tap on the display while handling it and thus move the focus field to the edge of the screen unnoticed. This can lead to surprises when taking pictures. If this happens too often, it is better to deactivate the Touch AF. The display offers everything that makes sense: histogram, grid, exposure information and also image effects can be displayed directly if required.

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

The operation of the GF6 does not pose any puzzles to the beginner, as a simple press of the iA button turns the camera from any operating mode into a fully automatic one, so that hardly anything can go wrong. If individual settings are desired, the “all-round carefree automatic” can be switched off just as easily. A quick menu provides access to the most important parameters, and particularly popular settings can be assigned to positions C1 and C2 of the mode selector. The way to the full menu then offers a multitude of setting options and individualizations that should satisfy even demanding photographers. The overview is a bit of a mess, as the extensive parameters are divided into five (or six for certain settings) main groups, each of which contains up to six screen pages. Scrolling is therefore mandatory for a good user experience.

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

A special feature is the zoom lever on the shutter release familiar from compact cameras: Only when using a motor zoom lens such as the Lumix G Vario PZ 14-42 mm does it have the expected function. If there is no motorized zoom on the camera, this will set the exposure compensation, but this can easily lead to unintentional incorrect exposures. A better idea is that with manual exposure, the zoom lever controls the aperture and the wheel of the cross-rocker controls the exposure time.

Equipment

The Panasonic DMC-GF6 really doesn’t lack any automatics and picture effects. There are 23 scene modes alone, whose effect is fortunately not only demonstrated with partly flowery descriptions, but also with small sample pictures, giving a lot of room for experiments. In addition, there are 19 image effects that can also be assessed on the display. The photographer can save up to four of his or her own sets from the wide range of setting options and call them up via the mode selector or the touchscreen. Anyone who has been creative here may find their way back to the standard automatic or even manual controls, which are of course on board.

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

The panorama function, which covers almost 180 degrees wide pans with a fast image sequence, is very useful. Both the pan direction and the orientation of the camera can be set before shooting. Portrait panning produces images with a maximum resolution of 8,176 x 2,560 pixels, which should easily suffice for panoramas one meter wide. If you have some experience with panning, seams are rarely visible, but rather slight motion blur, since the camera is moved during the shot. Nevertheless the results are convincing. The remote control via WLAN from a smartphone is also inspiring. The only thing you need is an app that is available for free for both Apple and Android. Thanks to NFC, image and video data can be obtained at close range with appropriately equipped devices without the need for cabling or complicated network setup, and it should also be possible to view the recordings wirelessly on a DLNA-compatible television. Unfortunately, this was not possible with a current TV set from Samsung. Although the connection worked at first go, the television refused to show the pictures.

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

Despite all the automatic features, the Panasonic’s built-in mini flash must be folded out manually if necessary. It is not very powerful and looks more like a spot with more than two f-stops loss to the edge. In addition, the lens hood should be removed from the lens if you want to avoid its distinct shadows. Besides the forced flash for brightening up, the GF6 offers long time synchronization with and without pre-flash. The brightness can be adjusted by plus/minus two f-stops in all operating modes. In addition, the small light dispenser is used for wireless control of up to four system flashes. Unfortunately there is no connection for external flashes such as an accessory shoe.

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

The autofocus is pleasingly fast and accurate. It becomes especially precise when the automatic selection of 23 AF fields is switched off and the point AF is switched on. The photographer can then determine and control the point of focus with absolute precision, as the GF6 enlarges the image section selected as the focus point for a few seconds! But of course AF tracking and face detection are also available, and in manual mode the photographer is supported by a focus magnifier. The magnification factor can be selected with the zoom lever. At four times magnification, only the portion of the AF area is magnified. Unfortunately, the focus adjustment is somewhat indirect and a much too long angle of rotation makes the work more difficult. A distance bar, which unfortunately lacks an exact scale, graphically shows the approximate distance. In low light, an orange-red light supports the autofocus.

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

The GF6 is also suitable for video recording. Recordings are stored as AVCHD or MP4 at a maximum of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels at 50 frames per second, with virtually no focus noise picked up by the built-in stereo microphone. However, the GF6 is a bit too slow to adjust the sharpness, so that it already lags behind with somewhat faster movements or pans. Pumps, on the other hand, we could only detect in the close range. There is no provision for connecting an external microphone, but the audio level can be adjusted manually in four stages.

The Panasonic goes fast with the serial picture speed. In the highest mode, it takes about 40 images in just under two seconds, but at a significantly reduced resolution. In full resolution, it manages about 4 images per second, which it can hold for quite a long time depending on the memory card.

A very interesting function is hidden behind the menu item Stop Motion Animation. The Panasonic DMC-GF6 is capable of continuous shooting with intervals of between one and 60 seconds. Trick photography is made easier by fading the previous image into the viewfinder image in a semi-transparent manner. The camera can then calculate a video from the series of images. In this way, exciting time-lapse shots and animated films can be created with little effort and without any other aids – with the exception of a good tripod.

The retouching function called “erase correction” is only of limited use. Undesirable elements can be removed by finger wiping on the image. Unfortunately, the work on the display is much too coarse for good results, and so the whole thing is limited to free-standing interferers such as telegraph wires in front of the sky. Otherwise, the usual editing operations are possible: cropping, resizing, rotating and video splitting.

Image quality

With regard to the most important criterion for many photographers, the image quality, the new Panasonic also cuts a fine figure with the kit lens, as my test with the testing sofware depicts.

Already at open aperture, the resolution reaches almost 45 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm) up to medium focal lengths, but with a significant edge drop. Faded down to F8, the whole thing becomes more even, the resolution remains above 40 lp/mm and drops to about 30 lp/mm towards the edge. Above F11 the diffraction then lowers more and more the total result. Panasonic has a good grip on edge dimming and distortion at both the short and the long end, so that both errors only bother with critical subjects. Chromatic aberration should also only be problematic for pixel-peepers, because with a maximum width of one and a half pixels, color fringes are limited.

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

There is also nothing to complain about in terms of signal processing; the signal-to-noise ratio and texture sharpness are at a good level up to ISO 3,200. In the case of the luminance noise, there is even one step more, the grain size is quite fine and the colour noise hardly plays a role. The input dynamics are pleasingly even right into the high sensitivities. According to our measurements, the GF6 can cope with about ten f-stops, and only above ISO 6,400 does it fall below nine f-stops. Panasonic takes a moderate approach to tonal value transfer with the GF6, so that the photos are primarily suitable for direct printing, but minor reworking is also possible.

Panasonic Lumix GF6 Review

The GF6 is not quite as accurate with color reproduction, but it does tend to be pleasantly warmer and especially the red and purple tones more saturated. The white balance and exposure are very accurate and give no cause for criticism. Equally pleasing is the equally low shutter release delay of less than 0.3 seconds at all focal lengths.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a compact, handy and extensively equipped camera with good image quality, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 is the camera for you. The touch-sensitive folding screen, the panorama function and the interval shooting are particularly appealing. Those who are not afraid of a little network fiddling and own a smartphone or tablet computer will love the remote control via WLAN. Last but not least, the extensive range of lenses with many optical delicacies speaks for this Micro-Four-Thirds camera. The somewhat sluggish sharpness tracking in video mode, the missing viewfinder and the fact that no external flash can be connected would be criticized. For the target group, however, the GF6 offers a lot of potential for experimentation, and even advanced photographers will get their money’s worth. The GF6 is fun and can always be with you because of its size.

Profile

Profile
Manufacturer Panasonic
Model Lumix DMC-GF6
Price approx. EUR 550 at market launch
Sensor Resolution 16 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 4.592 x 3.448
(aspect ratio) (4:3)
Lens Lumix G Vario 1:3,5-5,6/14-42mm II Asph. OIS
Filter thread 46 mm
Viewfinder
Dioptre compensation
LCD monitor 3″
Resolution 1.040.000
rotatable
swiveling yes
as Viewfinder yes
Video output HDMI
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure
Scene modes
Portrait yes
Children/baby yes
Landscape yes
Macro yes
Sports/action yes
More 18 additional scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Flash connection
Remote release
Interval recording yes
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC
Video mode
Format AVCHD/MP4
Codec H.264
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
at frame rate 50 frames/s
Sensitivity
automatically ISO 160-12.800 (upper limit adjustable)
extended
manually ISO 160-25,600
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Shadows
Manually yes
Autofocus
Number of measurement fields 23
AF auxiliary light red-orange
Speed approx. 0,3 s
Languages English
More 15 other languages are available.
Weight
(Ready for operation)
480 g
Zoom
Zoom adjustment manually on the lens (for motor zoom with rocker)
Single-handed operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Triggering during storage possible. yes
Battery life approx. 340 pictures according to CIPA
– = “not applicable” or “not available

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Extensive interval function
  • Catchy touch operation
  • Good processing
  • Excellent foldable display

Cons

  • Manual focus requires too long rotation distances
  • No flash connection
  • Viewfinder cannot be retrofitted
  • Carrier autofocus for video recording

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 Data sheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor 4/3″ 17.3 x 13.0 mm (crop factor 2.0
)16.9 megapixels (physical) and 16.0 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 3.7 µm
Photo resolution
4.592 x 3.448 pixels (4:3)
4.576 x 3.064 pixels (3:2)
4.576 x 2.576 pixels (16:9)
3.424 x 3.424 pixels (1:1)
2.048 x 1.536 pixels (4:3)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 30 p
848 x 480 (16:9) 30 p
Video format
MPG4 (Codec H.264)

Lens

Lens mount
Micro Four Thirds

Focus

Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Tracking AF, Manual, AF Assist Light
Sharpness control Live view

Viewfinder and monitor

SLR viewfinder Grille can be faded in
Monitor 3.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 1,040,000 pixels, tiltable, with touch screen

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 144 fields, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 60 s (automatic)
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 3 shots, increments from 1/3 to 2/3 EV
Exposure Compensation -3.0 to +3.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 160 to ISO 3,200 (automatic
)ISO 160 to ISO 25,600 (manual)
Scene modes Baby, various scene modes, landscape, night scene, close-up, party, portrait, sunset, sports/action, and animals.
Picture effects Miniature effect, toy camera, bleach bypass, cross-process, various tint and filter in b/w mode, fantasy, high key, low key, retro
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sunny, White balance bracket, Shadow, Tungsten light, Manual
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 20.0 fps with highest resolution and max. 7 stored photos, 7 images with RAW, with JPEG to memory card full; alternatively 3 or 2 fps with LiveView
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Recording functions Live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (hinged
)Flash shoe: not available
Flash range Flash range with ISO auto
Flash code Guide number 5 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, red-eye reduction

Equipment

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
SD
Microphone Stereo
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery (7.2 V, 1,025 mAh
)330 images according to CIPA standard
Playback functions Red eye retouching, image rotation, image index, slide show function
Face recognition Face Recognition
Image parameters Sharpness
Special functions Live view
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous Venus Enginge image processorDust filter
with ultrasonic self-cleaning functionISO
25,600Autofocus
with scene recognition and trackingAdjustable
exposure parameters in program mode (shift function)
AE lock lock (AE lock)
AF lock (focuslock)
LCD image coverage 100% 16x
playback
zoomCalendar view playbackLight panel viewSimultaneous

RAW and digital recording

JPEG format possibleDisplay of
highlightsAfter
image resizing (resolution)
After
image
saturation correctionRAW processing functionStereomicrophone

with electronic windscreen filter and automatic and four-level manual level adjustment3D support
(playback via HDMI)

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 111 x 65 x 38 mm
Weight 418 g (ready for operation)

Miscellaneous

standard accessory Panasonic DE-A98A Charger for special rechargeable batteriesPanasonic
DMW-BLG10E Special rechargeable Li-Ion battery chargerUSB connection cableStretcherBeltCamera softwarePhotofunstudio 9.2 AEImage editing software
Silkypix Developer Studio 3.1 SE
additional accessories Nikon HDMI Cable Audio / Video CablePanasonic
Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25 mm 1.7 (H-X1025) Zoom LensLi-Ion Replacement Battery Power Supply Removable Memory Card