Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF6. Fused Connections.

The Panasonic GF6 may be entry-level, but it has the latest in terms of connectivity and features.

Just a year after the introduction of the GF5, Panasonic has announced the LUMIX DMC-GF6. With the introduction of this camera one can see a clear-cut effort from Panasonic to make a very strong base in the entry-level mirrorless segment. The 16.05MP GF6 has a lot of interesting technology that it borrows from the G6, including WiFi connectivity and NFC.

HOW WE TEST

Product Categorisation

We first segregate products into categories for the purpose of equitability in testing. The DSLR is divided into entry-level, semi-professional and professional categories. For compacts, we distinguish between advanced and basic compact cameras. Similarly, we also test consumer and pro lenses, flashguns, printers, and other photographic accessories and gear.

The Process

We primarily test for features, performance, build, ergonomics, warranty and support. While this remains constant, the weightage we give to these parameter differs from category to category, because different types of consumers have diverse expectations from products.

Final Ratings

Under each main parameter, we list out hundreds of individual variables (for eg. colour accuracy for individual colours in different lighting, individual features, dynamic range, center-to-edge definition, light fall off, etc) against which we either give points or simply mark ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Thus, we arrive at a score for that parameter, and then, the final score, denoted as a percentage. Additionally, based on the current pricing of a product, a star rating for ‘Value for Money’ is considered. Value for Money does not affect the final percentage, because prices for products change constantly.

Our Seals of Approval

Any product that scores 80% or higher in individual tests gets ‘Recommended’—a seal of approval from our team. In comparison tests, we also tag products as ‘Best Performer’ and ‘Best Value for Money’.

Features

Panasonic has decided to revamp the look and finish on the new GF6. The camera has the same sensor as the one we have seen in the enthusiast-targeted GX1. It also has an updated processing engine, similar to the one found in the flagship GH3. Both these changes are expected to result in speed improvements, as well as better quality. This was something we did see in practice as well, with a 1EV gain at the high end of the ISO scale, and improved dynamic range.

There are some other improvements due to the new processor. Shot-to-shot speed, start-up time and the signal-to-noise ratio have been improved. and improve on signal-to-noise ratio because of this combo.

There is a panorama-shooting mode, but it does not have the kind of finesse that Sony’s Sweep Panorama does.

This apart, there are 19 Filter Effects, which can also be used in conjunction with the panorama.

I found two modes really interesting. One is the Stop-motion Animation mode, which works quite well, while the other one is a Clear Retouch function. This mode actually allows one to clone out unwanted elements from a photograph.

Unlike the GH series cameras, the GF6 does not have pro features for video. Even then, the functionality is quite decent. You can record Full HD video, using AVCHD or MP4. You can also manually control exposure while shooting videos.

Just like the G6, the GF6 is also NFC enabled. This technology allows the camera to establish a regular WiFi connection just by tapping two devices together, something where an Android phone may come in handy.

The WiFi capabilities mean that remote shooting and Live View are easily possible via a smartphone or tablet. To make use of the connectivity, you need to download Lumix Link app onto your iOS device or Android device. The graphic user interface of this app is simple enough, and extremely versatile, for both shooting as well as backups.

The unique thing is that if a power zoom lens is attached to the camera, the app allows you to zoom in and out, as well. The communication response time is nearly instant, which makes the GF6 a great tool to shoot wildlife or sports.

Handling

As compared to the GF5, the Panasonic GF6 just seems to have much more finesse. One major point which gave us this feeling was the 3-inch LCD screen. Not only is the resolution much better (now an excellent 1040k dots), the touchscreen is now capacitative.

This actually works really well while on field, as compared to the resistive, pressure-sensitive screen that was seen in the older GF5.

Although it is not fully articulated, it helps to shoot from awkward angles and also flips up a complete 180 degrees, for shooting self portraits. The Sony NEX-3N that we have tested in this issue has a similar self-portrait optimised LCD, but the GF6 uses this in a much smarter way. Besides flipping completely up, the LCD also has a hinge. This makes both waist- level as well as overhead shots easy.

Thankfully, the mode dial has been brought back. However, the control dial on the back is small in size and can be accidentally rotated while shooting throwing your exposure off. Below this dial there are two customisable buttons and other two can be found on the touch LCD. The number of direct-access buttons is thus, more than those found in the older GF5.

The major part of the Menu can be access with the help of touch screen amongst them is the Quick Menu and the Info Display Menu but the Main Menu is still controlled with the help of navigation buttons.

We tested the GF6 with the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 HD OIS lens. Despite not being a power zoom, it is quite small, considering that it has a zoom ring, focus ring and stabilisation.

Performance

The start up time on GF6 is pretty fast and the camera is almost instantly ready for the first shot. The AF speed was noticeably faster than the earlier G series cameras. The different options while using autofocus are extremely useful. My favourite amongst the lot is Pinpoint, which is extremely accurate if you are shooting with a fast lens or a telephoto, where the margin for focusing errors is minimum.

I set the camera in Natural Picture Mode. I kept this setting while shooting in a jungle, on the streets and even while shooting a stage performance. The JPEG images out of the box show a good amount of detail. At the default setting, they are not the sharpest, but I think that is actually quite good. It means that these images do not have any over sharpening halos and they respond quite well to postprocessing.

The colours are well balanced and not over saturated. Auto White Balance performance was good for all the outdoor images captured under different lighting.

The video quality is impressive, and the built-in microphone has a good sensitivity to capture sound from about twenty feet. Unfortunately, there is no provision to connect an external microphone.

Conclusion

The GF6 is a competent mirrorless camera that compact camera users are bound to enjoy. The quality and inherent technology is impressive. The only caveat is its price tag in India. For Rs. 49,995, there are plenty of APS-C mirrorless cameras that are in the running, including those with a viewfinder and hot shoe, like the Sony NEX-6.

The Panasonic has some key highlights though. NFC, WiFi, an excellent touchscreen and remote flash control are some of this camera’s prime strengths.

The most important factor though, is the Micro Four Thirds mount, which has a much wider range of lenses than the competition.

If you do not intend to move beyond a kit lens, there are plenty of cheaper options, but for those who want to build a system, the GF6 is the right combination of good quality with a small footprint.

SPECIFICATIONS

Model name

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF6

MRP

Rs. 49,995 (with 14-42mm kit lens)

Effective pixels

16.05 megapixels

Max. resolution

4608 x 3,456 pixels

Sensor cleaning

Yes

Aspect ratio (w:h)

4:3

Focusing modes

AF-S (Single) / AF-F (Flexible) /

AF-C (Continuous) / MF

AF type

Contrast AF system

AF points

23 focus points

Metering

Multi, Centre-weighted, Spot

Shutter speed range

60-1/4000sec

Exp. compensation

+/- 3EV (in 0.3 steps)

Colour space sRGB, Adobe RGB

ISO

Auto, 160-12800 (Extended Mode: 25600)

White balance

Auto/Daylight/Cloudy/Shade/ Incandescent/Flash/White Set 1, 2, 3, 4/Colour temperature

Drive modes

6fps (max 18 shots of RAW+JPEG)

Built-in flash

Yes

External flash

Yes

Flash modes

Red-Eye Reduction, Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync, Slow Sync, Rear-curtain Sync

Flash range

12 (in meters at IS0100)

LCD size

3-inch TFT LCD

LCD dots

1040Kdot

View-finder

Yes, 100% FOV

File format

RAW, JPEG, MPEG-4, AVCHD

Image stabilisation

Only optical, not in-body

Live View

Yes

Remote control

Yes

Self-timer

Yes, 2, 10sec

Storage types

SD/SDHC/SDXC card

Time lapse recording

No

Movie clips

Yes

USB

Yes, USB 2.0, Mini-B connector

Environmentally sealed Yes

HDMI

Yes, Type-C

Battery

Lithium-ion

Dimensions (W x H x D)

111.2 x 64.8 x 38.4 mm

Weight

280g (body only)

WHAT’S IN THE BOX

Lithium-Ion BatteryPack

Battery Charger

Lens Cap

Lens Hood

USB Cable

Shoulder Strap

CD-ROM

FINAL RATINGS

Features

26/30

NFC, remote flash, no hot shoe

Performance

26/30

Fast AF, good noise control up to ISO 3200

Build Quality

17/20

Polycarbonate outer case with metal top

Ergonomics

12/15

Four customisable buttons, great touchscreen

Warranty & Support

3/5

Three-year warranty with a rather limited service network

PLUS

Image quality

Flexibility of the screen

High quality video

Built in WiFi

MINUS

No flash hot shoe

Average panorama performance

OVERALL 84%

Who should buy it? If you want a small camera that is customisable and can use a wide range of lenses.

Why? It is packed with a lot of interesting technologies that one would usually not see in an entry-level mirrorless.

Value for Money 3*

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