Panasonic’s compact system cameras (CSC’s) hedge their bets somewhat. The line up is split between those resembling digital SLRs and others ape-ing compacts, yet both incorporate the same Micro Four Thirds (4:3) ratio sensor.
The 16.5 effective megapixel G6 falls firmly into ‘DSLR Lite’ territory, even though the asking price would buy anyone a very good actual DSLR, such as Canon’s EOS 100D. It sits below the GH3 model in its maker’s line up, and alongside, for now, the older G5 it will eventually replace. Competition comes from the Olympus E-P5 and OM-D, Canon EOS M, Nikon V2, Sony NEX and Samsung NX models.
For a slight premium then we get DSLR-style handing with CSC-style approachability. For example, on the G6 recording video is a button push away; there’s no need to switch to Live View mode and to wait for a second or two while an internal mirror flips out of the way, as on a DSLR proper.
Panasonic users also get a very high-resolution – 1.44 million dots – electronic viewfinder (EVF) rather than the optical variety, which means the image relayed to viewfinder and screen below is exactly the same, albeit displayed at different sizes. A nice touch is that the EVF automatically activates as you bring an eye level with it; move away and it shuts down.
The larger 3-inch touch panel screen is also angle adjustable here – always handy for achieving shots and videos from otherwise awkward angles. Oddly Panasonic has elected to present the screen in 3:2 image ratio rather than the more common 4:3, which means digital images in the latter standard format appear on screen with black crop bands left and right.
Overall the G6 has a more streamlined appearance compared to the G5; the viewfinder and pop-up flash sit lower and the shooting mode dial is half embedded in the top plate rather than standing proud, which means that the thumb now comes to rest against the dial when gripping the camera.
Battery life is good for 330 shots from a full charge, which is comparable with the best competing CSC’s and falls just below the Canon EOS 100D’s performance.
In terms of picture quality the G6 doesn’t disappoint in providing well saturated colours and crisp detail, with another bonus being the fact that its built-in digital effects filters – such as colour-boosting “Expressive’ mode – can be used for Full HD video clips as well as stills. However, if you don’t choose to focus manually when recording then there’s the trade off of the video image occasionally going soft as the camera copes with a change of framing.