With the warmer months approaching and a possible holiday on the horizon, Panasonic has pulled the covers from several new cameras that it hopes will convince you to upgrade. Before the cameras come out, though, we’ve taken them for a spin, with loads of pictures to show just what they’re capable of.

For this hands-on, Panasonic was kind enough to let us explore the lovely NSW coast, with an emphasis on some cute and cuddly animals with loads of detail, while also testing the high-speed shooting power with a hungry hungry crocodile.

There were four main cameras that Panasonic was showing off here, two of which were launched in the past few weeks – the G series mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras, G5 and GF5 – and the two newbies – the FZ200 and LX7 compact cameras.

The interchangeable G-series duo: Panasonic’s G5 and GF5

Panasonic hasn’t exactly been shy with announcing its new mirror-less cameras, with the unveiling of the GF5 happening in April and the G5 last month in July.

Now we’re being given the chance to play with the models, ahead of their release this month and in September.

The new models are follow-ups to the G3 and GF3, and if you’re wondering why there’s no fourth generation, that more than likely comes from the number four having a resemblance to the word “death,” something many Asian companies acknowledge by just skipping over.

First we took a look at the GF5, a slimmed down mirror-less camera aimed at bringing the Micro Four Thirds sensor to a small body with a 3 inch touchscreen, creative modes, and an element of manual control.

Essentially, the GF5 is the camera for someone keen to play with this slimmer interchangeable lens form-factor, but who doesn’t necessarily want to rely on manual controls.

Heading to stores in late August from $699 with a 14-42mm lens, the Panasonic Lumix GF5 offers up 12 megapixels of Micro Four Thirds goodness, with ISO up to 12800, RAW support, creative modes, 23 focus points, and a 3 inch colour touchscreen.

A very sharp emu for this 100% crop taken with the GF5.

Our pre-production GF5 didn’t provide the best of experiences, with some early bugs rearing their head and showing some slightly delayed response times for flicking through the menus and changing options, something that will no doubt be ironed out for when the camera is released.

The touchscreen still supports Panasonic’s well-established touch-focusing technology, making it possible for anyone to just touch where they want the camera to focus and letting the camera take the shot immediately.

Macro taken on the GF5

Or there’s always the traditional method – our preferred – of holding the camera with the right hand on the grip, forefinger on the shutter, and left hand holding the lens.

For the most part, we grabbed most of the photos with the G series bodies like this, and found the GF5 offered some solid colour and clarity, as is evident in our test shots here and in our gallery.

Coupled with the new 14-42mm lens (one that will cost you extra and is shown above), the GF5 is a reasonably compact little shooter, though its compatibility with both Panasonic and Olympus Micro Four Thirds lenses means this camera can do more than just be used for walk-around pictures, it could be handled with serious photography too.

Although, Panasonic does have another model it thinks is better suited for this task.

Arriving in September from $999 for the body only and $1099 with the 14-42mm lens, the Panasonic G5 is full-size mirror-less body, bringing the size closer to that of a small digital SLR.

This new camera features a 16 megapixel sensor, ISO up to 12800, 3 inch colour touchscreen with articulation, live view finder, high speed 6 frames per second shooting, insanely fast “light speed” auto-focus technology, and even some aluminium thrown in the build of the body.

In the hands, the G5 is a nice entry, with a surprisingly light frame that feels quite solid. The grip of the G5 is much easier to hold than that of the GF5, and we felt more at home with this style of camera.

On Panasonic’s Lumix G5, you look through either the 3 inch touchscreen, take advantage of touch-focusing, or even use the live viewfinder and bring the camera right up to your eye.

Panasonic has even combined the touchscreen functionality with the viewfinder, letting you keep your fingers on the touch panel and guide the focus points with a spare finger, pointing out where you want the camera to focus while your eye is otherwise occupied.

A new lens was launched with the G5, the Panasonic 45-150mm F4-5.6, and this lens practically stayed with our camera the entire time we had it.

A chameleon shot on the Lumix G5

Taking shots of a chameleon and baby wombat with this lens allowed us to get nice and close, offering some fairly sharp shots with soft backgrounds, even if the pre-production cameras gave us the occasional hiccup or two.

Getting up close and personal with the images, we found some excellent detail and strong colours, with the chameleon’s skin and beady eyes providing a perfect testing ground for the lens and camera.

A chameleon shot on the Lumix G5 (100% crop)

With Elvis the crocodile and his hungry need for fresh meat, we figured we’d test out the high-speed shooting on offer by this camera, with a blazing 20 frames per second offered on one mode, and a 6 frames per second on another.

Switching on the fastest of the two, we found our image quality dropped, with the 20fps mode firing images insanely quickly, but at a reduced four megapixel mode. While that should be more than adequate for most reasons to shoot quickly, it’s not quite the same as a 16 megapixel high-speed shoot-out, and the 6 frames per second burst gave us the proper image size we were looking for.

A high-speed shot taken at 20fps of Elvis the Crocodile. While the Lumix G5 is a 16 megapixel camera, the 20fps mode seems to reduce it to 4 megapixels.

Out of the two G series bodies, the G5 was our favourite, as it seemed to handle better and provide some very solid controls, more like that of a larger camera. We can’t wait to see the full review sample of this body.

Lots of zoom with the FZ200

We like cameras with lenses, but we can see the draw of having an all-in-one with plenty of zoom to work with, especially if you’re heading on a holiday.

Why carry several lenses with you to get the job done if you can find one camera that does it all?

Enter the Lumix FZ200, an advanced point and shoot with a massive 24x optical zoom spanning roughly 25 – 600mm, a larger range than most other cameras you’ll find out there.

Panasonic has given the FZ200 an aperture of F2.8 throughout the barrel, meaning there’s just that much more light for you to play with, whether you’re at 25mm, 125mm, or at the extremes of the lens at 600mm.

Like the Lumix G5, there’s an articulating 3 inch LCD screen here, but unlike the mirror-less cameras, there’s no touchscreen support, so you’ll have to rough it with regular physical button controls, just like the good ‘ol days.

The 12.1 megapixel shooter isn’t quite as powerful as its Micro Four Thirds brothers, able to capture RAW files but only supporting up to ISO 6400.

It does feature some new high-speed autofocus technology, and can even fire up to 12 frames per second in full resolution, with just over 5 frames per second with continuous autofocus.

An example of the black & white setting on the Lumix FZ200

While we didn’t spend as much time with the FZ200 as we had liked, the images we grabbed from it showed a camera with a lot of potential, especially for the photographer that wants to be able to take pictures of anything, from up close or even really far away.

Creative modes even grabbed our attention, making it easy for anyone to be arty where ever their travels would take them.

Panasonic’s Lumix FZ200 will hit stores in September, where it will retail for $799.

The compact and versatile LX7

Not everybody wants a camera with loads of zoom; some people want to imitate a rangefinder and carry a compact camera with a little bit of zoom and a lot of control, sort of like a mini digital SLR.

Panasonic’s LX7 tries to do all of this, throwing in a 10.1 megapixel sensor, F1.4-2.3 lens, 3.8x optical zoom, and some very cool controls that make it an easy to use walk-around camera for $649 RRP.

It’s one of those cameras that you can keep on your person at most times, with a small form-factor, pop-up flash, and some control switches that remind us of a proper SLR, with manual focus, shutter control, and even change the aspect ratio of the image from regular (3:2) to wide (16:9) and even to the classic square format (1:1).

There’s a hot-shoe adapter for adding an optical viewfinder or external light source, but also an in-built flash which should provide enough light for most situations.

Meanwhile, the F1.4 lens offers more low-light control than most compact cameras this model will compete against, and the sensor can pull up to ISO 6400 natively with a boost to 12800.

A lovely little koala, shot on the Lumix LX7

The zoom isn’t massive on this camera, not like with the FZ200, going with a fairly small 3.8x optical, which translates roughly to 24-90mm.

It’s not a huge length, but should be more than enough for a lot of people, with a switch on the side for macro photography when you need to pull the lens back to its start and focus on something close.

Oh, and there’s RAW support here too, with Panasonic officials telling us (while we were shooting) that the new sensor being used here is called a “multiple aspect ratio sensor” and can capture full RAW images using the specific aspect ratio you select on the top of the camera.

That’s a setting you can change pretty quickly too, literally at the flick of a switch, allowing you to jump from the 35mm framing to something more like that seen on Instagram.

Elvis shot in the 1:1 square aspect ratio on the Lumix LX7

Functionality on this camera was controlled by buttons and directional pads – no touchscreen here – and was very easy to use, even when switched into the manual modes.

While this was a pre-production model and thus not technically final, the image quality was pretty good. You wouldn’t really have much to complain about here, even if the ten megapixel count doesn’t seem like as much with much larger numbers coming out on cameras.

All up, this was an impressive camera, and was our favourite of the bunch. We can’t wait to get our mitts on the full model, and with an availability of September 2012, we probably won’t have to wait long.

We’ve got loads more images from the pre-production cameras we played with at the gallery above, so feel free to flick through and see what these things are capable of.