For the last two-and-a-half years, I've been very happily shooting with the Micro 4/3rds system, a first step up from the compact sensor cameras I'd outgrown. I bought a GF1 which became a fantastic travel, street or documentary camera - retro styling chops, light with full manual controls and the best selection of lenses in the CSC space: fast sharp primes for churches and museums, useful all-day zooms, stabilized reach at the long end for kiteboarding and wildlife and a gorgeous ultrawide for hiking.
But the GF1 was really the first serious enthusiast M43rds camera, and as such its shortcomings niggled: I had to add the electronic viewfinder which was essential but barely usable, the metering regularly assumed I could handhold at 1/5, ISO from 800 onwards was pretty dire and 12 MP didn't give me much room to frame in post. (Yes, yes I know - go full manual and frame before you take the photo. But this was for travel, remember, and I travel with an impatient, non-photographing fast walker - sometimes there just isn't time to do it all).
So to upgrade the body. In 2012 the obvious choice was the Olympus OM-D of course, it's won camera of the year everywhere. It promised vastly better dynamic range and cleaner ISO in the best M43rds sensor to date, sensible metering, an inbuilt usable viewfinder and those retro looks... Tempting...
However, as you'll have guessed while I meander, I didn't buy it.
Firstly the price - the OM-D costs twice as much as the G5! Twice! I regularly (and riskily) left the GF1 and 100-300mm in the car at the beach when kiteboarding and such a high price would stop me from doing that.
The G5 is stocky and very much mini DSLR-like - it's not covetable in quite the same way as the OM-D, granted. But it's also incredibly comfy in the hands.There are front and rear control dials, customizable function buttons and a fantastic custom menu system: really well thought out. (According to dpreview, there are whole threads dedicated to the obscure OM-D menu system, while us G5 owners are apparently just happily getting on with things).
The G5 is not weather sealed, unlike the OM-D - but neither are any of my current lenses: the ziplock bag is always going to come out when it rains. The built in viewfinder is, by all accounts, identical to the OM-D's and is really quite bright and a vast improvement over the GF1. The sensor is not quite as good as the OM-D's, but there's such a dearth of G5 reviews that the pixel peepers don't have much to go on. I can say it's a quantum leap forward from the GF1, and for my purposes ISO up to 3200 is fine - that makes me very happy. 16MP is much more flexible too.
The screen is fab with Panasonic's intelligent touchscreen interface. And it tilts and rotates fully closed, unlike the OM-D - that's important for me as when hiking it will be attached to my rucksack straps and so scraping against my jacket zip for hours. I also don't find the sensor that detects when you have the camera to your eye too jumpy at all. For silent street photos or churches, the electronic shutter will be so handy - I've programmed it on the custom button under my left thumb.
What more can I say? The G5 seems like a terrific little beast - its layout makes it easy to pick up after using a second camera, it's responsive and it's predictable. Perfect for hectic travel situations. Plus it was free! After selling my GF1 and 20mm lens (too slow and noisy when focussing, I prefer the Leica 25mm) I bought a practically box fresh one for the same cash on eBay. Result.