on 22 December 2013
In this review I explore the good and less good aspects of this Panasonic Compact System Camera; I consider who is this camera for and gives useful tips, for example, on how to set the camera up so that the JPEGs are almost as good as that produced by the RAW files, without having to do all the RAW work!
O.K. Lets get started by looking at what is particularly good about this camera:-
The GF6 looks good, has a nice professional quality feel to it and ergonomically is comfortable to hold and operate it's controls and touch screen. The screen itself is excellent and very high resolution which displays very clear images and video that is easy to see even in bright-lit conditions. The screen changes in brightness according to the lighting conditions, but you can change the setting to make it bright all the time if you so prefer. The 14-42mm 3x zoom lens that comes with the camera is of good quality and has O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilisation) that really helps to minimise blurring of your images due to camera shake at lower shutter speeds. The lens operates like a professional lens and has two adjustment rings, one to adjust the zoom and the other to adjust the focus in manual focus mode (In manual focus mode, the image enlarges to enable precise adjustment of focus). The lens is interchangeable and any of the range of Panasonic lenses can be used, making this a very versatile camera. The camera takes JPEGs and RAW images, or both at the same time giving you the best of both Worlds; on the Video side you can record your videos in MP4 (good for You Tube), or AVCHD (good for producing video DVDs).
Who is this camera for? From those with no photography knowledge, a beginner, to the keen amateur, right through to the professional photographer, this camera is for everyone. If your one of those who likes to point and shoot and let the camera do it all for you, no problem, next to the shutter release there is the `iA' button that glows blue when you press it; this is the Intelligent Auto mode and the camera does the thinking for you; useful when you need to quickly take a photo and you haven't got time to set the controls, even professionals can make use of it. For those of you who like scene modes, this camera has a very good selection of scene modes to help you get the best out of your photography. For the dedicated amateur and professionals alike there is the usual Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual Modes and a whole array of advance features, more than enough to satisfy the needs of most photographers. If you are a beginner and want to learn about photography, this camera can take you to an advance level as you learn; if you are a dedicated amateur, or professional who needs something small and light that is capable of taking excellent pictures, this camera in my view fits the bill. I'm a Nikon man myself and although I like the D7000 and love the D800, there are times when I just don't want to lug all that weight around, but need something that can still take decent pictures, this camera for me does the job.
O.K What about the less good, what are the camera's weak points?
First of all it should be understood that I am weighing this against cameras like the D800 with professional lenses, so I'm really putting things under a microscope here and that may seem a bit unfair, but professionals do want to know how the GF6 compares to professional equipment. First of all the 14-42mm lens that comes the camera is good lens but because it does not have the Nano coating it is prone to flaring under certain conditions, I would say more so then even the basic Nikon kit lenses. You do get a lens hood and one should make full use of it and this will help and to be fair Panasonic do offer lenses with Nano coating if you can afford it; most of the time this lens performs well enough.
What about the all important image quality? The image sensor is much larger that that found in most compacts, but still smaller that the APS-C sensors found in DX SLRs. The quality of images is little short of that produced by my D7000 and quite a long way off the D800 which has a full-frame sensor. I found that RAW images gave the best results and that was to be expected; I was a little disappointed at the default JPEG output in particular that I found a certain amount of colour noise visible in low contrast / shadow parts of the image; fortunately with RAW files, the default RAW settings in Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 5 eliminated this. The effect is not visible all the time and one has to zoom in on the image to see it. ISO over noise performance I found to give very good results up to IS0-3200, above this noise becomes a major issue (this compares to ISO-6400 on the D7000). The result is what I would expect for the size of the GF6's sensor.
The GF6 is a nice camera that takes good quality images; it's not perfect, it doesn't replace my professional equipment, but it's great for those unexpected photo opportunities and light enough carry around so that you never miss a shot.
Here are some tips and personal recommendations:-
How to improve the JPEG's output so that it is nearly as good as images produced from RAW files:-
Make the following changes from the normal default settings:
i.Dynamic - Set to AUTO
i.Resolution - Set to HIGH
ISO Limit Set - Set this to 1600
Photo Style - Set Sharpness to maximum +5 & Saturation to +1
Getting the best out of Auto ISO:-
For best results set `ISO Limit Set' to 1600
This is the best usable range of the camera, i.e. ISO-160 to ISO-1600 as image noise is well controlled and does not significantly degrade the image.
Make use of `i ISO':-
This is Intelligent ISO and works similar to Auto ISO, but if movement of the subject occurs it automatically increases the ISO to give a faster shutter speed to prevent blurring of the subject being photographed.
How to get the best out of the Camera's pop-up flash:-
If you use flash in an average sized room lit up with energy saving bulbs (e.g. at Home, after dark), there is an undesirable colour cast visible due to the difference in colour temperature of the camera's flash and that of the energy saving bulb; this can be minimise by setting the camera as follows:-
Select Aperture Priority mode
Set ISO to 400
Set Aperture to f/6.3
This makes the flash work harder and gives a big improvement in reducing colour casts.
How to get the best flash-sync speed and at the same time minimise colour casts due to different lighting:-
Set the camera as follows:
Select Manual mode
Set ISO to 400
Set Aperture to f/6.3
Set Shutter Speed to maximum of 160
This again makes the flash work harder to minimise colour casts, while giving you the maximum flash-sync speed. For larger rooms you may have to use ISO-800, but for best results ISO-400 is preferred.
Recommended Settings for Video:-
Set the camera as follows:-
Select Movie on command dial:-
i.Dynamic - Set to AUTO
i.Resolution - Set to HIGH
Sensitivity - Set to Auto
Exposure Mode -Set to P
Photo Style - Set Sharpness to maximum +5 & Saturation to +1
Mic Level Display - Set to ON
Mic Level Adj - Set to Maximum, Level 4
Wind Cut - Set to OFF
This should give good results once you have set the appropriate focus mode. MP4 is ideal for viewing on computers and uploading to You Tube and the AVCHD format for when you want to produce video DVDs.
on 11 July 2013
This is my first "proper" camera after owning a series of slightly smarter compacts (Canon S3 and Lumix TZ20 being the last ones). One of the primary reasons I've selected it was the size - I didn't want a full DSLR due to the size and weight. On the other hand, whilst great on outdoors holiday pictures, the compacts were continuously under-performing in low light or other more tricky conditions.
I had this camera first in my hands on a trip to Japan before it was even released in the UK and I immediately fell in love. Now I've had it on one holiday and here is the initial verdict:
* It is so intuitive and easy to use that even with Japanese language I was capable of operating it and basic adjustments (it probably helped that it is very consistent design with TZ20 that I own).
* It is very light and fits my small hands perfectly, I have easy access to all the buttons even holding it in one hand.
* It has incredibly smart iA mode - after some messing around at first and trying my luck with custom settings, I realized that I get best shots just allowing it to do its magic.
* No risk of missing that perfect shot opportunity whilst you're trying to figure out what settings you should use. Just press the iA button and you're in the comfort zone again - and then press it again to go straight back to your previous settings
* Good selection of pre-programmed scenes, and similarly to TZ20, they get really good results
* Takes good, sharp pictures in nice colours even in really low light
* Fantastic panaroma mode - you basically just press the button and move camera around, and moments later you can see the panorama picture stitched already on your camera - no messing around with extra software on your computer
* HDMI output for easy watching on pretty much any modern TV (warning: you'll need to order miniHDMI-HDMI cable seperately)
* Tilted screen for self-portraits - perfect for solo travelers, or for couples that want to have some pictures together without having to hunt for other people to take the picture
* Rather weak flash, or I haven't discovered yet how to force it properly. I was trying to take a picture from about 2m distance against the sun, and for love nor money could I force the flash to get something more than silhouettes on the picture
* WiFi / NFC sharing stuff needs more work and better software, especially NFC was really temperamental. WiFi worked okay, but it took me some time to figure out how to make it work (and I'm an IT geek! - admittedly, I haven't read the manual). It would be nice if you could just login to your facebook/twitter/whatever and share pictures directly from the camera. I'm hoping Panasonic might add it in future versions of the firmware
* I don't like the fact that some of the settings are only available from the touchscreen. I'd like to get everything available on normal buttons, even if that required a few more steps to select.
UNDECIDED (will update later)
* I don't have the skills yet to judge how good the pictures come out in manual mode - but I assume that since they are so good in auto, they should get even better when I get more photographic knowledge
* Not sure if buying the kit with 2 lenses was a good choice. I ended up having the 14-42 attached almost all of the time. I might appreciate it later but at the moment I think the main lens would be enough. From what I can see, the price of the double-lens kit has increased quite a bit since I got it, so definitely think twice about getting this option.
* Option to control the camera from your mobile - might be useful for taking self-shots from distance (tripod etc.) but haven't used it yet
* Video recording - haven't had a chance to use it yet
Overall, I am completely in love with this camera and I find it a great introduction to the wonders of photography. It is powerful enough to take fantastic pictures taken out of the box, without overwhelming the user with too many choices - but for the enthusiasts there will be enough to play with after they are done with the automatic mode.
If you're looking for a very easy to use camera that takes wonderful pictures as if by magic, with very little skill required, is as easy to operate as a typical point-and-shoot but the quality of the picture is supreme then look no further - GF6 is here.
on 11 August 2013
I got the GF6 with the 14-42 II kit.
First about the lens: This lens, as of today, is meant to be one of the strongest zoom kit lenses available. And after having used it I am pretty happy with its sharpness, focal range, and overall feel. It also came with the lens hood which is welcome (I hate having to buy a piece of plastic for a 500% markup as many other camera manufacturers force you to do). Both the zoom and focus rings are easy to find and feel nice to use. It is rubberized so no slipping. This isn't a power zoom (which I knew/expected). My only SLIGHT complaint is that with the lens hood on the lens in the reversed/storage position you cannot use the zoom ring, but that might be an unavoidable issue given the len's small size.
The camera: The screen is wonderful, in terms of its image quality, flip range (forward, down, and up a little), and also in terms of its touch sensitivity. I also really enjoy the feel of the "main" wheel on the back, and the on/off switch is well positioned. Overall while this isn't a particularly ergonomical camera the controls it does have it makes good use of. The fact it has a real mode selector on the top is a big plus compared to other cameras of this size/price.
The "auto" button on the top which overrides your current mode is great as an emergency "get out of jail free" card. The only downside is that it isn't always obvious when you're in auto-mode. I often found myself turning the camera on, switching into a mode, and then got confused why the camera was seemingly ignoring me. Only to then remember I used "auto" earlier in the day. There is a light on the auto button but it is invisible in strong daylight and annoying at night.
I think Panasonic really did try to squeeze a little too much into this camera even to the point of inappropriateness. For example, there are four configurable function buttons, but two of those "buttons" are actually on-screen controls which is kind of redundant with the quick menu. They added lot's of things like that, but at some point you have to wonder if "less is more" wouldn't have been a better approach to take? There are lot's of features which are really niche but kind of clutter the thing up (both onscreen and in the menus).
I found the A and S modes useable but "annoying." You can change the aperture or shutter speed pretty fast, but you better be comfortable with auto-ISO because there is no effective way of changing the ISO manually in those modes (i.e. without a menu). The exposure comp' also shares a button with power zooms, so that is something to keep in mind. If you try to use a power zoom then you'll have to use a menu for that too.
I am not really into using them but I found both creative and scene mode really enjoyable to use. I love the live preview in creative mode in particular. I'm almost tempted to use them even though I could do exactly the same stuff in photoshop later. I guess the live feedback is tempting.
The "creative" panorama mode is terrible. Worst sweep panorama I've used. I'd go as far as to say it is not functional. I'm not sure why they added creative filters when the basic sweeping was so terrible? On paper I like the fact it can do vertical or horizontal but the damn thing is so finicky about camera speed and likes to stop too early it is too frustrating to even try to use. If you need this feature get a Sony.
The flash is adequate. I like the fact it doesn't even try to fire unless you manually push the button (i.e. "opt in" rather than "opt out" as with other cameras). No hot shoe but I knew that getting into it. I believe the onboard can be used as a remote trigger for many other flashes however.
As far as weight and size: It is a little heavier than I expected. I knew the stats getting into it, but in real life for something of this size if feels "heavy." In fact it is as heavy with the kit lens as my 500D with 50mm 1.8 is (maybe a little heavier). It is obviously smaller than the 500D and you get a much more diverse lens than a prime, so I am not comparing apples with apples.
Price is the real killer feature. The lens alone is worth 1/2 of the total camera's price (well worth it). Similar cameras by other manufacturers are 50% more expensive than this, and while the IQ/IBIS on those cameras is superior, the lens on those cameras is worse and they lack a pop-up flash. If I exclude the price of the lens from the price of the camera this camera is a real bargain, you get a lot of camera for not a lot of money. It is imperfect, but still a darn sight better than a P&S.
If you're looking for a camera to use in auto or with the creative/scene mode then this is for you. If you just want the lens and a spare camera this is also for you. If you want to use stitch panorama then run away screaming.
on 5 January 2014
I got this camera from Amazon for Christmas and I have to say I'm really impressed with it so far. The camera itself is pretty sturdy but it doesn't feel too heavy, just about right in terms of weight and the look and design of it are pretty stylish.
As for the camera's image quality, the images I took with the standard 14-42mm lens kit were excellent quality and the pictures were nice and sharp with great detail, and its also really good at taking pictures with the ISO level increased and I generally set it at ISO 800, and the images are still noise free and pretty sharp. Then 14-42mm lens kit also comes with a lens hood to prevent the glare of strong backlight in images. And similar to a DSLR camera, this camera of course has interchangeable lenses and I also purchased the telephoto 45-150mm lens separately as well, and with that it also takes really good pictures, with excellent detail, although with the telephoto lens at maximum focal length you really are best using a tripod to keep the image steady and free from camera shake. And admittedly at first I found it a bit tricky to take steady shots with this camera that are in focus, but after a while you get used to it and now more often than not the photos I take are now in focus (mostly!).
The camera I found also is packed with the loads of features as well as the standard modes you would expect to find on a DSLR such as Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Manual control and additionally it has numerous scene modes such modes for taking potriat shots, different scenery settings, sports shots, and even food! The camera also records HD video and the image quality is pretty good and the camera also has a built in microphone which has stereo sound and the quality of the sounds is very good. One thing I did notice however about the HD quality is that it states that it is Full HD, however it records only in 1080i and not 1080p, so from that point its not true Full HD but I guess why bother quibbling over that, but its just something I noticed. And although the camera lacks a viewfinder, as all CSCs do, it does have an excellent LCD monitor screen which can be pushed into different positions and you can even use it to take a self potriat picture while you hold it. The LCD screen is also touchpad controlled so you can control different operations from the onscreen menu as well as using the labelled buttons on the camera as well, but thankfully the option to control most functions can still done by the buttons on the camera itself.
While this is a great camera, there are one or two niggles with it as well, first off the battery life isn't so great, as stated in the manual you can take a max of 340 shots, and after three days of taking pictures I had to recharge the battery again, although one good thing is the battery does retain its charge over a long period if you don't use the camera. But if you do an intensive shoot and take lots of pictures you would be best buying a spare battery (and the originals at £60 aren't cheap!). The camera's flash is also not so great either and it has a very limited range of up to 19 feet which is not much at all, and also the camera doesn't have a hotshoe to attach an external flash gun, although it is possible to use a compatible Lumix flash gun wirelessly with it.
Another issue I have with the camera is that there is NO rear lens cap supplied with the packaging, which I found to be pretty annoying, especially as if you want to change lenses you have nothing to protect the rear side of the standard lens kit with, which is useless if you are out taking photos and you want to change the lenses and store it in your bag. So in the end I had to purchase a generic compatible lens cap, which works fine, but this is something Panasonic should have supplied with the packaging at the time of its release. And lastly I thought the strap supplied with the camera is a little bit short for length and while they recommend wearing it round your shoulder given the length of the strap, this is almost impossible to do so you need to put it around your neck, as long as you hold the camera in your hands you won't do yourself an injury!
But despite that the Panasonic GF6 is an excellent camera that takes great quality images and is easy to use and is well worth buying if you don't want to commit to buying a full size DSLR and make a step up in quality from compact cameras.
on 20 July 2013
Over the years I've carried a number of cameras, started with compacts, moved up to a couple of film SLRs (the last being an Canon EOS 5), before deciding that having something smaller meant I'd carry it more. So my last camera before this Panasonic was a Canon G9, which has been retired after 4 years following a fall.
The compact system camera market has matured since I bought the G9, so replacing it with a G15 or G1X wasn't a no brainer. I looked at Canon's offering and was disappointed by the lack of built in flash and lack of lens availability. Then the Panasonic range was recommended to me so I did some research before landing on the GF6, and two weeks into using it I'm very happy. Opening the packaging made me realise that although the physical dimensions are smaller than the G9, the G9 was smaller to carry as the lens retracted. I'm seriously considering a "pancake" lens to make the GF6 easier to pocket.
I only shoot in either top quality JPEG or RAW formats. The quality of the photos I've taken so far have been great, I'll have no problem blowing them up to print on A2. But then again I could do that with images from the old Canon, I think that once image quality passes a point a casual photographer is hard pushed to distinguish any further improvement. The GF6 is happily past the point where I am very happy with image quality.
The shutter lag and burst speed are significantly improved over my previous cameras, I'd estimate that I'm getting a 3 or 4 second burst at 4fps before it fills the buffer and slows down. One of the main things I photograph is snakes, and in a single session I've captured more tongue flicks with the GF6 than I've done in the last year with my Canon G9. The only thing I'm missing from the Canon is the superb macro mode on the G9, the stock lens with the GF6 won't focus at 1cm like the G9, but I like that I can go out and buy a macro lens now and I'd expect to GF6 to take great macro photos with the right lens.
The auto and creative modes seem to take perfectly good photos. I'm still fiddling with the custom mode settings to find a setup that gives me any advantage compared to using an appropriate preset scenes.
Networking and remote control using my Android phone work reasonably well. I've not managed to playback directly from camera to my Samsung smart TV yet, I wonder whether it's a case of Panasonic narfing the feature for non Panny TVs... The remote app works well on my HTC Sensation, and the view on the phone barely lags at all. I've had no problems transferring images to my network, without using a USB cable. Although it is quicker to transfer a lot of images via the cable.
Overall, stepping up from a top-end compact to a compact system camera has been a pleasant experience. The new networking features are a welcome addition in today's networked world, and the wide availability of micro four-thirds lenses makes this new camera a flexible platform for me.
on 3 June 2014
I love this camera. I wanted a camera that takes good photos, offers the functionality of a full DSLR, and is relatively compact. This is all of those things.
I was interested in learning more about photography, as my previous experience was with smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras. I chose so I could become familiar with the different settings like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, as it offers good control of them, and many more. I've learned a lot, and now have lots of beautiful (IMHO) photos on my walls.
If you are interested in learning about photography but don't want to deal with a massive full-frame DSLR, this is an excellent choice.
on 31 May 2014
Generally a very good camera which gives excellent results.I would have preferred to have a camera dedicated to still photography without the video and sound features but such a camera is hard to find.
I like the viewfinder which tilts upwards rather than sideways.This allows me to take low down shots easily despite my advancing years.
I was so impressed with my first GF that I purchased a second with a longer lens which means I do not have to change lenses and,
hopefully, this will avoid problems with dust on the sensor.
I am still keen on using film but the GF is proving a good camera to start in the world of digital photography.
on 19 May 2014
2500 photos taken with this camera and 2nd hand 45-200mm lens and 14mm pancake lens - would recommend ditching the kit lens and buying these! Makes a huge difference.
Magnificent compact camera for travelling around with.
on 8 January 2014
I bought this to see how it would fair against my Canon 450D - I was tired of carrying the Canon around - and the bottom line is that the Canon now sits up on a shelf.
It has all the flexibility and quality of the 450D, with more settings, better performance in low light, and all in a much smaller well constructed package. The touchscreen gives some added flexibility, albeit I don't use it that much.
I bought the camera with the Lumix G 20mm F1.7 lens as well, which gives added versatility, albeit with zoom by foot.
The only thing I miss, rarely, is a viewfinder.
on 7 July 2014
I've used a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS3 for a couple of years and been pleased the with the results. However, I wanted a camera which would give me higher quality pictures, not be too big, and, as it would be having only occasional use, not too expensive. The reviews of the DMC-GF6 were so positive, and my previous experience of Lumix so good, that I settled on this one. I have not been disappointed, it's a great camera. Up to now I've only used a fraction of it's capabilities and will enjoy playing around with the other settings, but the pictures I've taken with the auto setting, indoor and outdoor, have been great. The only minor niggle I have is the position of 'menu' and 'Fn2' buttons on the bottom right hand corner at the back of the camera. I have accidentally pressed these a couple of times while taking shots. Because the lens is quite heavy, the camera wants to tip forward, and these buttons are in exactly the place I want to put my thumb to counterbalance the lens weight. However, I've adjusted my hold and am delighted with the results.