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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Help! The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 vs Sony NEX 5 Digital Cameras

It's time to upgrade the camera I use to shoot all of the pictures I take for The Flirty Blog so I'd like to ask my friends (espcially professional photography and videography friends) if they can weigh in on which camera they think would best suit my needs.

The Contenders: I've narrowed my search to two cameras, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 and the Sony NEX 5.

I wish I could have that music from 2001 a Space Odyssey playing as you read this because that's how I feel when I think about these cameras. LOL

I want to move to a Micro Four Thirds (4/3) camera system. The size of the camera is small enough I can keep it and a couple of lenses right in my purse without having to carry an additional camera bag. Size is why I decided to let my hubby have my Canon T1i DSLR body I just purchased last year. More than it is heavy, I don't care for how its size feels too obtrusive at many of the events I attend, especially when other professional photographers are the official documentarians at said events. Smaller (less obtrusive and lighter) than the T1i and more powerful than my current point and shoot, with the option of using interchangeable lenses? I think a 4/3's camera is exactly what I need.

But which one should I purchase? Currently I'm leaning strongly towards the Lumix. But...

The Sony is faster and, most importantly, has a significantly larger sensor and higher resolution. I feel like nothing should matter more than the sensor size.

So why the confusion?

The Lumix has a superior touch menu navigation system. The menu is important, because I often reset my white balance and exposure settings room by room when shooting an event and even as the lighting conditions change in a single room. The Lumix also has 4 image ratio settings compared to the NEX 5's 2 settings. My current camera has three and I adjust the image ratio constantly, almost shot by shot. For convenience the Lumix has a built in flash (the NEX 5 doesn't).

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2

The Lumix also has far more lens options (19 instead of 3) including a 45mm / F2.8 ASPH. / MEGA O.I.S. Macro lens, and you know how I love my close up food shots and close ups in general.

What to do, what to do...

Perhaps the most important aspect is that I'm looking at this in terms of once I buy the Panasonic or the Sony I'm buying into a system. Are the odds better that Sony will come out with more lenses down the road, or will Panasonic develop a camera body (with a bigger and better sensor) that the lenses I purchase now will be compatible with later?

Lumix Micro Four Thirds Lens Options

So I'd like to ask: For the type of pictures I take for my blog, any opinions which would be the better camera for me? Or do you think either would work equally well?

Panasonic Lumix GF2 - Specifications

Sony NEX 5 - Specifications

Edited to Add: I went with the Panasonic Lumix GF2 and couldn't be happier. In addition to the body here are the lenses I use and what I use them for:

LUMIX G VARIO HD 14-140mm / F4.0-5.8 ASPH. / MEGA O.I.S (everyday zoom lens)

LUMIX G VARIO 100-300mm / F4.0-5.6 / MEGA O.I.S. (wildlife telephoto lens)

LEICA DG MACRO-ELMARIT 45mm / F2.8 ASPH. / MEGA O.I.S. (food and product macro lens)

LUMIX G 14mm / F2.5 ASPH (I almost never use this pancake lens)

Manfrotto MM294A3 Aluminum 3 Section Black Monopod

Manfrotto 494RC2 Ball Head with Quick Release (for Monopod)


  1. I would lean towards the Panasonic, even if only for the built-in flash and custom modes. You have to choose based on your preferences and shooting style. It sounds like you will get more enjoyment out of the Panasonic, and I doubt you will notice the difference caused by sensor size or tech specs. Can you get your hands on both for a few days via friends or rental? Otherwise, find a local distributor with a good return policy and take one for a 'test drive'.

  2. Thanks Oren. Just wasn't sure how important the sensor size should be. I recently read a NYT article by David Pogue talking about the importance of sensors in point and shoot cameras. I am picky, and it does bother me that sometimes, mostly in the concert photos I've taken and when photographing speakers from my dinner table, I hate that the images aren't a little (or a lot) more sharp. But I only took pictures at 4 concerts last year so I guess I shouldn't be too concerned about them :)

  3. I bought the Sony short time after it came out, and I could not be happier. My reasons for the Sony was size of body and sensor. I really like to get as noise-free pictures as possible in dim light, and I often take photos when it is a bit darker. Also, as you say, it often looks stupid with a big camera, and the bulk means it often stays at home instead!

    Another thing is wide angle. Taking pictures indoors means I often need a wider lens. The Sony with its 1.5x crop will facilitate this more than the 2x of 4/3. Same goes with depth of field, the bigger the sensor the better. In terms of settings, I doubt you'll have a problem as you can customize buttons to take you straight where you want it. So för example, you could set one button för were balance, this way you just press it once and then rotate the selector for the wb you need.

    In terms of lenses, sony has already announced a number lif new lenses for the coming year. If you look at the NEX line (some 5 cameras already, counting the video models as well using the same lenses) you will understand that Sony are investing in this, and so will 3rd party makers.

    And in the meantime you can use adapters if you don't mind manual focusing. I only have the 16mm from sony, then a 35mm from slr magic and 2 lenses made for Leica mount (Voigtländer 90mm, and a russian 50 mm 1.5) I absolutely love my manual lenses, and they opened a new world to me!

    These lenses can also be used on 4/3 with adapters obviously, but the argument is more that you should not let lens selection be a limitation. The one advantage I see with 4/3 is their lenses can be a bit smaller because if the sensor size, but in my opinion the sony is a better deal all over.

    Finally the flash. The Sony is supplied with a little screw-on flash, and it does not make the unit much bigger. For the very few times I need flash I can put it away somewhere like I would an extra lens.

    But as Oren says, go and test them out, what they feel like, how they handle and how you like the photos they take.


  4. Thank you so much for the detailed reply Peter! I really appreciate it. So navigating the NEX 5 menu has been ok for you? I'd like to stay away from the manual focus on the lenses. It's ok if I'm shooting at home or for fun but when at an event things often happen so quickly I find I need the AF to get every shot.

  5. I did not have a problem with the old menu that lots of people complained about. Just took some learning. The new one (firmware 3.0) has fixed most of the problems people were pointing out. You should be able to put the your most used functions on the easy access buttons.

    As for what you say about "image ratio", I am not quite following you as I have never heard that term before. Do you mean exposure compensation, where Sony has +-2? Yeah I prefer more too, but when 2 is not enough I simply go to Manual and adjust, where I will see the result on the screen in real-time.

    I like auto-focus as well, but the manual focus lenses are a wonderful extra for special occasions and a fun hobby too!


  6. HI Peter,

    Good to know about the menu.

    Perhaps I should have said aspect vs image ratio. There are three settings on the barrel of the lens that let me switch between 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9 modes. I use them accordingly when I'm taking a wide angle shot, or want something more cropped. Mostly the subject matter dictates which ratio I choose.

    Thanks for the advice. I appreciate it!


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