Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Panasonic Lumix GF2 vs. Sony NEX-5 - a Field Report Face-off

| Comments

While preparing this article, I shortly was tempted to write two articles - one for the Sony NEX-5 and one for the Panasonic Lumix GF2. Realizing that it would mean double the work and some repetition, I decided to scrap that idea and put both cameras into a Field Report Face-off, as this will give potential interested persons a much better idea of both cameras.

Me, being slightly obsessed with weight (that of gear!), I got out my lovely little digital scale, took both cameras apart and put them on it. My findings are presented in this neat little table:

The NEX-5 is thus defacto, with the battery included, without a lens, 16 gram lighter than the GF2. As I don’t have another lens for the NEX-5 (like the 16 mm pancake which Sony offers, claimed weight is 67 gram) the weight with lens is a bit off: the GF2’s 14 mm Pancake is inherently lighter than the NEX-5’s 18 - 55 mm lens, while the latter gives a tad more options in the zoom field. However, I need to do with what was loaned to me, so bear the difference of the lens in mind when reading this article.

Handling in the field

Probably the most important part. The GF2 fits easily in a hipbelt pocket of one or more liters volume, and the NEX-5 also fitted in my 1,5 liter hipbelt pocket. The cameras were only in a hipbelt pocket during travelling, though, as I carry the camera around my neck and shoulder with the strap, to have it close when a good photo presents itself. If you carry it anywhere else, you’ll not make as much photos, Period. Rain? Thanks to the use of umbrella windjacket, I can also photograph and carry the camera in the rain. If it gets really windy and rainy, the camera moves underneath the jacket, to protect it more from the elements while staying in reach.

The NEX-5 has a protruding handle, which lies nicely in the hand and gives me a good grip. I can easily operate the camera with one hand, and manipulate buttons with my thumb and index finger. With the lens on the left of the body, an uneven distribution of weight might be a concern, but in practice we’re speaking of a 526 gram camera - if you can’t hold that in one hand, you likely won’t be able to carry a backpack of four kilogram or more - so it really is no issue for me.

Panasonic gave the GF2 a very, very, very minimal grip on the right, but it has no use for me. I can operate the camera with one hand (balancing the GF2 on the palm of my hand, while navigating with my thumb and index finger - always half running the risk of dropping the camera), but it is not as comfortable as the NEX-5, and to manipulate settings on the GF2 I need both hands.

The On/ Off buttons on the GF2 is better. I don’t know why, but the On/ Off switch on the NEX-5 has a habit of switching itself on (and draining battery). That has happened a couple of times to me, and is immensely troublesome. I set the NEX-5 up to switch itself off after 60 seconds - the minimum. The GF2 has a Monitor-off which can be set to 15 seconds while the whole camera will then switch itself off after two minutes. Or, you switch the Auto LCD Off “Off”, which will set the camera sleep mode to 1 minute - like the Sony. The very interesting “feature” of the Panasonic is, that if you decide to photograph using their iA (intelligent Auto) mode, the Auto-off setting is magical overwritten and does not work anymore. I imagine that is a bug of sort, otherwise I can not explain myself this odd behaviour.

Both cameras survived the blistering cold very fine, and also the heat does little to them (Although the Sony gave me an “Let the camera cool down” message as I was using it for something like 20 minutes in the sun. Funny.). Bumping them into rocks, on the ground, and trees did them no harm, and also rain was no problem. Just make sure you don’t let them soak - photographing a few frames in the rain, however, is no problem.

The Menus on both cameras are good. They’re not Apple-like (which is the Benchmark for me), but they work. The Sony Menu is the winner in this battle, though: It is very well executed, with nice “hover” explanations, smooth animations, useful tips. The Panasonic Menu on the other hand appears in a functional 80s style. Here again there’s a difference depending on which shot-mode your in: Have iA on and the Menu is very limited, and you even won’t find some stuff. Have Aperture, Shutter or another Mode selected, and the whole Menu is there for you to navigate. I find this interesting - if I shot in iA I have one Setup page, go on a manual setting (Ap, S, M, whatever) and you have six Setup pages. Not good, Panasonic.

Battery life

The 2nd most important part of the equation. The NEX-5 which I had on loan didn’t have the best battery life. A normal day of shooting would bring the battery pretty rapidly down to under 50%, so two days of normal photographing are the maximum I get out of one battery. Add in shooting some videos, and you look at one day, and if you take a lot of photos and videos, then the battery will be done in half a day. In my opinion a spare battery is a must for the NEX-5 if you go for longer than a day out, to be able to have enough juice. And if you want to go out in the freezing cold, then you for sure want to take spare batteries with you.

The GF2’s battery on the other hand is pretty fantastic. I easily get four to five days of normal photographing with it, which is ace. If you add in video and photos, that goes down to three to four days, and if you go the intense way of shooting a lot of video and photos, the battery will serve you two days. Even in winter the GF2’s battery seems to be working still very well, and allowing me a day or two of intense shooting, more on a normal level.

My feeling is that the GF2’s battery live is thus better than the NEX-5’s battery live.

Photo comparisons

An not to underestimate point of comparing cameras is to compare photos. All the following photos were shot in RAW, were not manipulated but straight uploaded to iPhoto and then uploaded to the web via Picasa. I shot the first ones on Aperture Priority, and then on Full Auto to showcase its ability. All photos were shot with the help of a Tripod to get the exact same position and frame.

GF2, ISO 400, Exposure 1/10 sec, Aperture 3.5, Focal Length 14mm

NEX-5, ISO 200, Exposure 1/8 sec, Aperture 3.5, Focal Length 18mm

GF2, ISO 100, Exposure 1/100 sec, Aperture 3.5, Focal Length 14mm

NEX-5, ISO 200, Exposure 1/160 sec, Aperture 3.5, Focal Length 18mm

GF2 on Auto: ISO 100, Exposure 1/640 sec, Aperture 2.5, Focal Length 14mm

NEX-5 on Auto: ISO 200, Exposure 1/50 sec, Aperture 9.0, Focal Length 18mm

GF2 on Auto: ISO 100, Exposure 1/250 sec, Aperture 4.5, Focal Length 14mm

NEX-5 on Auto: ISO 200, Exposure 1/125 sec, Aperture 7.1, Focal Length 18mm

GF2 on Auto: ISO 100, Exposure 1/500 sec, Aperture 2.5, Focal Length 14mm

NEX-5 on Auto: ISO 200, Exposure 1/100 sec, Aperture 6.3, Focal Length 20mm

More photos for comparison,

Both cameras make fine photos, and any weight conscious backpacker will find that either camera can produce stunning results (if the photographer is up to the task, obviously). I found taking photos of Aurora Borealis with the NEX-5 a breeze, and have taken some superb photos of sunrise and flora & fauna with the GF2.

I like the limitation of the Pancake lens on the GF2, as it makes me look at stuff in new perspectives. It is good in low light, and can make some fine bokeh effects. Photographing flowers and such close up is wonderfully easy with it, and it takes really nice scenery shots.

I like the possibilities of the 18 - 55 mm “Zoom” lens on the NEX-5. It gives possibilities to get a bit closer to your target, and with the adjustable screen you can frame your shot in new ways. It has a sweet “Background Defocus” setting on Automatic, which lets you choose between lovely bokeh effect or a crisp all the way photo.


The GF2 sports a Touchscreen on its back, with which you can focus on different areas of the framed shot or manipulate the settings. While I was skeptical of it at first, I slowly started to use the focus feature more and more, and really like it nowadays. The GF2 has a well-hidden Flash, which only comes out when you want it to pop up.

You can get a Electronic Viewfinder for it (the one I used with the <a href=”http://www.hikinginfinland.com/2010/04/panasonic-lumix-gf1-field-report.html”target=”_blank”>Lumix GF1</a>) as well as a fixed, optical, 24 mm Viewfinder, which I used for a bit before ditching it in favour of the screen. Panasonic has a whole range of fine lenses where you will find anything for you need. And they’re sweet. I had the 8 mm Fisheye with the camera on loan, and it is a nice lens to play with, but for commercial and blog photos I much prefer the two pancakes - with a preference for the 20 mm Pancake.

Sony gave the NEX-5 a screen which can be tilted up - to photograph something very low without crouching on the ground - or down - to photograph stuff above your head. The tilting screen ROCKS. I use it all the time, as it allows for unique perspectives and easier framing of shots. No touchscreen, but the main button is always easy to access to control stuff like timer settings, Depth of Field, and other hogwash. It has a Panoramic shot function, which allows for nice Panoramas without the need to stitch separate photos with some software together. That’s pretty nifty if one is a lot in the mountains.

For the NEX-5 Sony offers a whopping three lenses. The 18 - 55 mm I had, a 16 mm Pancake, and a Zoom. However, with an optional mount adaptor you can use the full range of Sony α system A-mount lens, including the digital SLR lens lineup, so then it doesn’t look that bleak anymore, in case you judge a camera by the amount of lenses you can get.

HD Video

Both cameras do FULL HD video. Which is nifty, to say the least, and for me nowadays a mandatory feature. Three examples:

Sony NEX-5:

Panasonic Lumix GF2:

And both combined:

I think both cameras are great for video. However, I value the NEX-5 slightly more, as I have it with a better lens for video and it does not try to Autofocus as much as the GF2, and also Sony’s adjustable screen is very useful for video.

Sound then. Both cameras capture Stereo sound, and do so fine. If it is windstill. And no other ambient noise is around. For my needs the sound has become one of the reasons to move on. Even if there’s fancy Wind Cut and Microphone adjustable settings, they don’t cut it. The NEX-5 has an external Mic which you can buy, I haven’t tried it, though it might help in solving the problem. I’m not aware of something similar for the GF2. But my needs aside (they’re a bit higher now that I am producing a complete series), for Review videos, shooting scenery and other outdoor related needs both cameras sound capabilities are fine. Just be aware that they tend to capture a lot of extra sound which you might not want.


With the GF3 already out, and the NEX-5N coming any moment now, those two cameras might seem already outdated. Personally, I don’t think so. Sure, the two new models sport some improvement over these two (Personally I find the GF3 not that interesting, and do prefer the GF1/ GF2 - the NEX-5N or NEX-7, however, are HOT), but then they will be more expensive, and now is also a great opportunity to get any of these two cameras for a very good price. I’m certain you’d want that I declare one of the two the winner. I won’t. Both cameras are technically perfect for the UL backpacker’s needs, and both have advantages and disadvantages.

NEX-5 Disadvantages: - short battery life - switches itself easily on - tends to expose a bit lighter

GF2 Disadvantages: - a tad heavier - less easy too handle - tends to expose a bit darker - interesting Menu & Auto-Off choices when photographing in iA

If you’re a hardcore Sony or Panasonic fanboy, you already would have made your pick. If you’re new to the world of interchangeable lens cameras, then let me tell you that with either of these two fine cameras you’d be very well of to shave a significant amount of weight from your photo gear while maintaining the possibility to shot excellent photos and video. The NEX-5 with a 16 mm lens is 6 gram lighter than the GF2 with a 14 mm lens. The GF battery is 14 gram lighter, thus if you take a 2nd battery, the GF2 is again in the lead.

If I’d buy the GF2, I’d go for the body + 20 mm Pancake lens. I’d get an extra battery or two for longer trips. I’d also like the Electronic Viewfinder for bright days, and the 100 - 300 mm lens.

If I’d buy the NEX-5, I’d go for the exact camera I had (thus with the 18 - 55 mm lens). I’d totally get two extra batteries. I’d also get the 16 mm lens for when I don’t need any zoom.

Those who think to upgrade from a GF1, I personally would only do it if Full HD is a MUST. If not, invest the money into new lenses or go on a nice trip.

That’s it, really. The Panasonic lenses rock, the NEX-5 adjustable screen rocks, they’re both light, both make ace photos and videos, the both are small, and they both are a splendid tool to document your hiking, packrafting, skiing, climbing and backpacking adventures. You won’t regret buying either. If you got questions, well, that’s what the comments are for, right?

What others say:

<a href=”http://www.beuteltiere.org/”target=”_blank”>Basti</a> bought a GF2 before leaving to Iceland.
<a href=”http://www.backpackingnorth.com/”target=”_blank”>Mark</a> is an advocate of the GF1.

Buy yours:

Sony NEX-5  Panasonic GF2

Ultralight Climbing

Going ultralight on hiking or backpacking trips allows for a bit of extra gear - lets call them luxuries. Be it a packraft to go for a paddle, that enjoyable softcover book, an extra lens and small tripod to practice some photography, a Platypus of wine or some extra delicacies in the food department - when you go light, a little extra luxury is not an extra burden and makes your trip a more memorable experience. This summer I decided I will take some UL climbing gear with me, so tackle some boulder problems, go for a small scramble, and generally have some ultralight climbing fun. In this post I will showcase some of my lightweight climbing gear, and hopefully animate some of you to try this fascinating sport!

As with hiking, packrafting, skiing and backpacking, you're well advised to know what you're doing when you go climbing. There's a lot of potential to seriously injure yourself when you go climbing without proper training and instructions. You're best off to do a beginners course at your local climbing centre, to get a proper introduction and training. Even after that, you always should consider the safety of yourself and your climbing partner. You have been warned!

I made my first forays into climbing as a kid. Trees, and later rocks, hills and mountains were always a preferred destination to climb and play on for my brother and me. My parents took us in the holidays usually to Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol and Italy, all being prime destinations for scrambling about on those pointy bits. The highlight always were the hikes in the mountains - be it in the Italian Dolomites, or in a picturesque Austrian valley with a raging white water river and beautiful mountains surrounding us, with the occasional waterfall falling down a cliff guaranteeing Ahs! and Ohs! from us kids. The mountains are spectacular, an element of landscape of such grandeur and beauty that there is possibly no other landscape which fascinates us humans so much, and I often long to visit them - be it our Nordic mountains, the Alps, or the amazing landscape that are the rocks and canyons of Utah.

At the age of nineteen I finally managed to visit a climbing centre with my brother and friends, and we did a beginners course in climbing. Learning about proper safety, how to put on a harness, how to belay, the figure-of-eight-knot, and climbing technique. A few more visits to the climbing centre were in order to satisfy our thirst for this new, exciting hobby. And then I moved in the winter to Jyväskylä, Finland. There was no climbing hall. It was -30°C outside. I knew nobody who was interested in climbing. And so, except the rare visit to a climbing centre in another city, or a scramble up a rock, the climbing virus was silently slumbering away inside of me, unsatisfied. Three years ago I then moved to Tampere, a proper city, with two climbing centres. But still no climbing mates. That changed with a job in Helsinki, where a good friend was a passionate climber, and after a few visits to the climbing centre together with him I again was hooked. I decided that it is time to get my own climbing gear, and start visiting the local spots for bouldering, and practice my climbing when down in the capital.

So nowadays, even when I have two climbing & boulder centres in town, I often can not be bothered to get all the gear packed, cycle to the centre, climb for an hour or two and then head back home. That's why I decided to get a Trainingboard from Bergfreunde.de. I went for the Metolius Simulator 3D Trainingboard and a pair of Metolius Rock Rings 3D. The former is a state-of-the-art board, to be attached to an overhanging wall or above a door. It takes a bit of time and some extra material to get it attached correctly, but once the 3D Trainingboard is in place your workout can start! A lot easier to attach are the Rock Rings - I used two carabiners to attach them to my stairs, though you also could attach them to a tree outside! They are very nice for workouts, and have two, three, four and full hand holds all in one. Really nifty, and by far my favourite way to train at home.

However, when I venture south to Helsinki I usually also take a harness, shoes, belay and other gear with me. As said, most (all) of my climbing friends live in Helsinki, so when I visit the city for work, we often go for a climb before or after work. Helsinki has a few climbing centres, though I always end up going to the one in Ruolahti - it is a ten minute walk from the office, and has some really nice walls over several floors. So what do I bring? [Prepare for a deluge of gear advice]

The Scarpa Feroce (550 gram for the pair in Size 41) is my climbing shoe of choice. Climbing shoes are a fickle thing: They need to be tight-fitting so that you can get a good hold on small holds, but too tight and it hurts, too loose and you might not get the best hold when climbing. The common guideline is that it should be a "bearable" pain. I started at two sizes lower than normal and sized up until the pain was bearable, the fitting comfortable and I was able to get a good hold on litte protrusions. They get more comfy the more I use them, so it is all a matter of breaking them in. The shoe itself is easy to put on and off, and has a superb grip on boulder and inside walls, and is comfortable enough for me to wear it over several routes without breaks. A very fine shoe. Get the Scarpa Feroce here.

I have two harnesses for different applications. My go-to harness is the Arc'teryx R 320 harness (330 gram in Size M). It has four gear loops and a small loop in the centre back, which I use for my chalkbag. It is fully adjustable, and has a wide belt and leg loops, which make it very comfortable to wear. And that is why I chose this one, and why I usually use it - it is really comfy. If you're abseiling then the wide belt and leg loops make that a very comfortable experience, as your own weight is distributed a lot more evenly than on narrow-built belts. The build quality is excellent, as you expect it from Arc'teryx.

To keep my hands dry and ensure a good grip inside & outside, I find chalk indispensable. Nowadays there's even environmentally acceptable chalk if you climb outside, so environmental concerns are also kept in check. The Arc'teryx C80 Chalkbag (108 gram as bought, 88 gram after cutting off the cord) was my choice, as it has a big opening which is easy to open and close with one hand behind your back, and I can get both my hands in the opening, which is convenient. A chalkbag would also make for a fine MYOG project which could result in a lighter chalkbag, though I am at the moment rather short on time so I bought one. There's different sizes of chalkbags on the market, from S to L, so it is best you try the one you wanna get.

On the hardware side of things, the DMM Phantom keylock carabiner (41 gram) and the DMM Phantom carabiner (25 gram) are my 'biners of choice. Light, easy to use with one hand, and high strength, these were easy choices. I use a Petzl Verso (54 gram) as my belay device. I prefer this lightweight, manuel belay device over automatic devices who are a lot more heavy and also tend to have more parts to break than the simple Verso. With the Verso, it are skills and knowledge that matter, not fancy technology which can fail.

For climbing (& packrafting) I use a Camp Speed Helmet (238 gram), which is probably the lightest helmet on the market. Climbing outdoors without a helmet is dumb and asks for trouble, so get one. Its little weight means it is not a burden when climbing, plenty of ventilation holes let you keep a cool head, it is also comfortable - and hey, it is orange and makes you look cool! So no reason to not wear a helmet. Get the CAMP Speed Helmet at Bergfreunde.de.

The other harness I use is the Camp Alp 95 harness aka The lightest CE certified harness in the world at 114 gram in Size M. This harness gets used on fast and light trips where I plan to do a bit of bouldering outside, to have a place to put my chalkbag and hardware. It also will come in handy on future ski trips where glaciers want to be traversed, and hence a light belt which allows me to strap myself in is immensely useful. For climbing it is obviously also very well built, so if you find that you really only need the lightest harness in the world for your adventures, then you won't need to look any further. You can get it at Bergfreunde.de.

Ropes then. If you're only going bouldering, or climb in halls, chances are you won't need one. If you're venturing outside for your climbing adventures or traversing glaciers, chances are you want a rope. I have a Tendon 9.7 dynamic single rope. A high resistance to abrasion, great handling qualities and a good knotabilty characterize this rope, and with a weight of 61 gram per meter it is on the light side of ropes. You can use it for your climbing in the hall, your outdoor adventures and even for "extreme ascents in the mountains" as Tendon assures me. I use it for the first two endeavors, and should everything work out as I want, I might even give it a go when trying out ice climbing next winter. Get the Tendon 9.7 rope at Bergfreunde.de or at Camu.fi.

I pack it all in my Salewa Apex 28 BP pack, which I really love. At 752 gram (excluding the 45 gram removable hipbelt) it is a lightweight climbing pack, which can take a lot of abuse. Made of tough Cordura this pack is made for the mountains, but it is equally at home on dayhikes, UL trips of up to four days and I also use it for shopping & work trips where it makes a good figure. An internal hydration bladder pocket, and a small inside net pocket ensure some order, and the lid pocket is a really multipurpose wonder, with a waterproof pocket and a net pocket you have three separate pockets in the lid, which, yes, rocks. If time allows, I will do a video about this fine pack, though if you can't wait, get the Salewa Apex 28 here.

I also have a Camp Corsa ice axe for some mountaineering adventures, though more on that later! You can see more photos of all the gear in this Picasa Album.

Well, there you have it. A complete run down of all the gear I use for climbing. With me starting to eye increasingly climbing in the outdoors, the gear will expand, and start to include express sets, more 'biners, nuts, and another whole host of other stuff. But this gear will be the base from which to build upwards from, and it is a high quality, lightweight base - which in climbing, where you go upwards & need to carry everything, and your life can depend in some situations on your gear, is of utmost importance. And remember: Gear does not replace knowledge and skills, so do courses or go climbing with people from whom you can learn! Other than that, enjoy =)

Brands to look out for:
Camp from Italy. THE ultralight climbing company, excellent and lightest quality since over 100 years.
Tendon from the Czech Republic. High quality ropes for affordable prices.
DMM from Wales. My choice for 'biners.
Petzl from France. Experts in headlamps, mountaineering, caving and climbing gear.
Arc'teryx from Canada. Climbing gear and fine garments.
Salewa from Germany. Backpacks, clothing, soft goods and hardware.
Scarpa from Italy. My preferred climbing shoes - light and comfy.

The Week in Review

The Week In Review does not replace reading other blogs. You still should follow and subscribe to other blogs, as The Week In Review is my subjective look at things I found really good in the last week. With that said, I'm really curious to know how much value The Week In Review gives to you. I know some readers stop by on Monday morning, load up Instapaper with the recommended reads, and find it ace for the convenience it presents. Other bloggers like the boost in traffic it gives them. Some probably totally dislike it. Thus, with this simple poll I'm able to find out if it is worth to carry on with The Week In Review, or if it is time to give it a funeral and carry it to the blogpost graveyard.

You can leave additional questions, comments & observations about TWIR in the comments. Poll created by Poll Junkie. Simple, free, no registration. Me likely =)

And now for the totally awesome & sweet Ultralight A-Z Intro:

Sabine spent a month in Finland. In Lapland. With a packraft. Part I and Part II are the must read and see of this week.

And now for something completely different.

Jörgen is back from Canada, and shares his labor pains of getting to the Nahanni with us.

Joe goes Back to Basics.

Peter did this Tour de Pöyrisjärvi. Which is totally recommended to read, as it features really fine scenery.

Tor went hiking in Rondane.

Peter looks at the 2012 Haglöfs packs. There's something for us lightweight folks there as well, which is nice to see.

Chad likes Smart. Light. Cheap. I like what Chad likes.

Devin was secretly working on the FireFelt Alcohol Wick for the Backcountry Boiler, and he has been so stealthy about it that it is now available.

Mark's Ultralight Makeover: Redux is really awesome. Part 3 - Ditch Your Dome looks at tarps, tents and other shelters, and while it is of epic length, it is epically informative. Well worth your time, I'd say.

Joery wrote a very comprehensive How to photograph the Northern Lights article, and with that time of the year approaching you do well to read it to be prepared.

Carsten looks at the Steripen Adventurer Opti for making water fast & easy drinkable.

Gavin was in Iceland. Also known as the country where you can't take bad photos.

Liz and John made it. The summit of Katahdin, that is. Afterwalking five and half months on the AT. Congratulations!

Nibe needed a holiday. Thus he decided to go Vålådalen, like the Nordic Lightpackers did in 2010. Sweet!

The Jolly Green Giant looks for suitable underwear for hiking.

Helen made a MYOG Front Mesh Rucksack Pocket for her GoLite Jam pack.

Mark visits the outdoor gear manufacturer Cioch.

Phattire went backpacking in the Catskills. While it was raining. A lot. And still he snapped great photos.

Alastair did another Microadventure.

Antti helps out all the Finnish readers with his comprehensive Kevytretkeilykaupat article.

Chris found out that all miles are not created equal.

Maz did a very fine Classic Haute Route Pre-Departure Kit Analysis, which is usefully for those of you who plan similar alpine adventures.

Son looks at the HyperLite Mountain Gear Stuff Pack.

Dave has a good discussion going on on his The Future of Youtube article. Chip in!

Finally, if you enjoyed this post, why not Like it on Facebook, tell your friends about it and become a Follower?