Panasonic Lumix GF5.

Panasonic Lumix GF5.

Price: $700 with 14-42mm lens
Smart alternative to a compact

The low-down: This camera, with a 12-megapixel sensor, is Panasonic's latest entry model in its micro four thirds interchangeable lens range. It is intended to appeal to customers wanting better image quality from a fully automatic camera. There are very few instantly accessible user controls, and what can be controlled is done mostly through the touchscreen. The LCD is a high-resolution device with excellent brightness and fidelity. Like its predecessor and siblings, it provides for touch and fire - touch the important spot on the screen and the camera focuses and fires. The test camera came with the more-expensive powered zoom, which is ideal for video.

Like: Image quality is consistently good. Autofocus is fast and even in auto-everything mode, the camera works well. The rugged construction makes it feel heavy in comparison with a compact, but it indicates durability and quality.

Dislike: The absence of an accessible knob to move from automatic into P, A, S or M mode (it is done through the menu) is annoying for anyone who wants to exercise user control. This is definitely a point-and-shoot camera.

Verdict: We gave it a good workout at a zoo and were delighted with the results. The LCD was better than average in bright sunlight, although it would be nice to have the option of an optical viewfinder. Considering this camera's combination of small size, interchangeable lenses, fully automatic operation, nice touchscreen, excellent LCD, RAW capture and great image quality, all at a price in the compact range, you have to ask yourself why would anyone choose a compact over the GF5.