I own the GF1 and GH2 so I'll be comparing with those two cameras. I like the rangefinder-like body but as with using a camera, the photos and image quality comes above all. That's the reason why I use my GH2 more often than the GF1. But now with the GX1, it seems like Panasonic is finally able to put GH2 capability into a GF1 body. That's something I've been looking for.
The GX1 construction is sturdy. It's a metal body and now comes with a new rubber grip that I like. You get a firmer hold when using heavier lens.
The GX1 is slightly slimmer than GF1. At 272g, it's 13g lighter than GF1 and 120g lighter than GH2. By the way, the LVF2 is 36g.
Buttons behind are rearranged a bit. I've read a few reviews saying the buttons are cheap and misaligned, but I don't think that's so with my set.
The new flash can now be tilted back for a bounce lighting so that's useful. But the flash films filmsy. I seldom use it even with my GF1 so it's a small issue.
The battery used here is the BMW-BLD10, also used by the GF2. That means now I have three different batteries and chargers with GF1, GX1, and GH2. I seriously think Panasonic should release new batteries only when they can double the capacity. 2 old batteries are always going to last longer than whatever new battery. Panasonic, just choose a slim battery and stick with it for 10 years.
- SPEED (Autofocus and handling)
I value speed A LOT.
I'm glad to say that the autofocus speed is very comparable to GH2, which means it's almost instant.
The touchscreen is convenient for autofocus. Choosing focus points is faster with one touch, compared to several button presses on the GF1.
Everything seems breezy with the camera. Startup is fast. Moving through menus is fast. Writing to files is alright but that's dependent on the card speed. Class 10 is a good card speed. If you want really fast writing time, get a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1 card.
The improved speed makes it fantastic for street photography. See something interesting on the street. Power on, hold it to your eye, touch-focus and snap. It all happens very fast, as things on the street do.
- IMAGE QUALITY
The 16mp sensor here is similar to the one on G3. The ISO performance has improved a lot. On the GF1, ISO 800 is my no-go zone. On GX1, I can go up to ISO 3200 and not be worried that noise becoming the subject of the photo. I think there's about 1-stop plus advantage.
Image quality is great in most situation. Colours are pleasing but I still prefer Canon colours. Everyone sees colour differently. It's subtle and you have to compare photos side by side to see the difference. The colour temperature in the GX1 seems slightly cooler.
White balance is still a problem with artificial light sometimes. WB intelligence still has some ways to go. It's a small issue that can be easily fixed in post process.
Dynamic range has improved slightly I feel. Always shoot raw to get the best possible quality to tweak later if you so desire.
Overall, the image quality seems comparable to the GH2.
- VIDEO QUALITY
All Panasonic micro four thirds cameras have fantastic video quality out of the box. It gets better with good lens.
What's improved here is it can record 1080/60i movies now. It's great for those who need it. I normally shoot 720p on my GF1 and GH2, so I'll still be shooting 720p here. I like the 720p for the smaller file size which is quicker to upload online.
I'll rate the camera 5 stars in its class. However, if I include DSLRs for comparison, GX1 would probably be 4 or 4.5 stars. Image quality very good but not stellar, mostly the part on colours. I've to emphasis again that colours is quite subjective, so maybe it's just me.
It's a rather pricey camera (body only). And the new LVF2 goes for USD 299 at recommended retail price. So the total cost of camera and LVF2 can be higher than GH2 body!
I've always wanted a GH2 quality in GF1 body (and weight). The maximum ISO I reach in most situations is ISO1600 and this camera is perfectly capable of handling that, so it's a big plus for me.
The biggest reason to upgrade from GF1 would be for the improved ISO performance. If you've been missing shots because of photos being too noisy, it's a worthy upgrade.
BUT BUT BUT...if it's just the ISO performance, I might recommend, to get your money's worth, consider a good low light lens to use with the GF1. You can get the Panasonic Leica 25mm lens and still have change left! And I've used the Olympus 12mm lens with GF1 at night, shooting at 1/10s on ISO 400, and gotten a relatively sharp photo.
GH2 users have less reason to buy since image quality difference is not drastic. The more probable reason would be to get a lighter gear. It is 120g lighter. It's worth considering if you don't mind the missing viewfinder (available for a price). I see myself using the GX1 more because of the lighter weight. I don't shoot for critical events, and the GX1 can handle most of what I already do currently with the GH2. So if I start using the GH2 less, I'll be selling it away.
Last note. If you check back to reviews on the GF1 when it was first released, you'll be able to see much of the criticism have been addressed.
I still wish for that in-built EVF in the GF/X series but I don't think I'll see that from Panasonic in the near future. Well, a LVF2 is better than no alternatives.
on December 30, 2011
A conversation with a friend on Sony's Nex 7 started my journey into a full week research on these new mirrorless compact interchangeable lens cameras. My choices went from the Sony Nex 7, Samsung NX200, Olympus EP3, Olympus EPL3, Pentax Q, Fuji X100 (lens not interchangeable), Nikon J1 and the V1.
I'm looking for a pocketable camera that can take good pictures. I can sacrifice a few things if it means I'm more likely to carry it with me. With their smaller lens the m43s fit the bill. To counter the previous reviews, the build quality on the GX1 is excellent. I purchased the camera from my local Samys where I was able to play with the Olympus, Nikon and Panasonic cameras. From the bunch, the Panasonic felt the best. It has enough weight to feel legitimate in the hands. The hand grip is just about right for its size. The mode dial is firm and not likely to shift when maneuvering in and out of my jacket pocket. As common with the latest Panasonic cameras itt has customize-able C1 and C2 dial settings. Programmable soft keys (in the touch screen) are within quick reach. The menu system is nicely laid out and quick. The Q-menu, short for quick menu, is also customizable. I arranged mine to give me instant access to various settings for raw, metering, etc. This is a useable feature and found in other Panasonic cameras. It's clear that Panasonic pays a lot of attention to this aspect of the usability experience. You can pick it up and navigate through the menu without having to refer to a manual. Another cool feature is live manual focus mode. In automatic focus mode, you can adjust the manual focus ring and the body will automatically switch to that mode while zooming into the focus area so you can set your focus. Really cool for this body. The touchscreen is very good and with the firmware update it's excellent. Keep in mind these are your resistive type screens for usability reason as opposed to capacitive screens found in your cellphones. This prevents you from accidentally pressing soft buttons on the screen as you manipulate the camera.
Hooked up to a Panasonic 20mm the auto focus is extremely fast in my test shots at alternating distances (from close to far). Shot to shot is very quick but not as quick as quick as you would find in a full body dslr (as noticed when compared to my Pentax K20D), but still impresses my friends. Now, there is a jog dial for aperature, shutter, and EV settings thats context sensitive. In manual mode the dial operates aperature and a quick press will get it to shutter. Likewise, in aperture mode, a press of the dial will allow you to instantly adjust EV. The dial feels great. GX1 has a metal lens mount. In fact, most of the body is metal which sets it apart from the G3. It does have the touchscreen shutter release allowing you to snap away from just touching points on the screen to set the focus area just like the EP3.
There's quite a bit of fanboyism between the Olympus and Panasonic sides of the m43 house. Right now, Panasonic makes the better lens of both brands in image and physical quality of the lenses as noted by the price differences. The Panasonic 20mm is considered a must have. The 7-14mm, 45mm and others are among the best lenses. What's overlooked in comparisons is that you will not get the in-body chromatic abberation corrections using an olympus body with a panasonic lens. The lens you will keep for a long time while you upgrade your bodies in the years to come. If you're using a wide range of older tele lens WITHOUT a tripod you might do better with an Olympus, but I'm not sure there are many people hand holding a camera with a tele lens. On the other hand, the Panasonic's sensor is a stop or two faster due to the new sensor which gives it some shake resistance.
Then there's the question of picking the gx1 or g3. The G3 is a great camera and you should definitely consider it. It's feature packed with an evf and a full flip out screen (as opposed to simply articulating). Specs of these two side by side are available online. There's a few differences in performance and obviously build quality as the gx1 is mostly metal. If you're doing a lot of video then the gh2, and sony nex series are your candidates. The quality of the gh2 videos are already well noted and has been compared with the canon 5d mark II, especially with some hacked firmware.
Coming from the K20D and did my share of research for several weeks before purchasing this camera. As a result I went through several reviews, blogs and forums. You maybe in the same boat comparing the Olympus EP3 and the GX1 and you really ought to hold onto both cameras to see what feels right for you. I want to address a peculiar review on stevehuffs blog where he puts these cameras head to head in natural mode with no adjustment to compare jpgs (as Olympus is noted for their jpeg processor). A more useful review would have been to take both cameras and adjust the settings for what seems optimally pleasing to the reviewer. Otherwise, what's the point of having settings? This is akin to taking a hdtv out of the box and watching it as is compared to calibrating it, even if by eyeball. A little rant on how uninformative some of the review sites maybe.
In regards to the lack of an electronic view finder. You can purchase this separately if you need it so the issue is added cost. Just factor it in and consider it the ability for you to decrease the form factor without it. A non issue for some and others not so.
Also, there's a new firmware out and you should definitely upgrade. The Auto White Balance is much improved for indoor shots. I love the gx1. It's beautiful and you can't go wrong with either colors (satin, black). When I play with the gx1 after playing with my dslr the gx1 feels just fantastic to hold.
In the next year or so, I hope to see gorilla glass used by all camera makers for their dslrs and compacts. Another note, keep an eye on the Samsung compacts. The NX200 is a thing of beauty from the pictures and the system sports a good selection of lenses. I just didn't get the chance to handle one.
on January 29, 2012
I normally don't post reviews, but I've been surprised at how few reviews of this camera there are on Amazon. Some of the negative reviews have also been a bit bizarre, IMHO, so I wanted to share my opinion with other photo enthusiasts. Specifically, I'm writing to people who loved (or still love) the discontinued Contax G2.
My gold standard for a mirrorless (ie. rangefinder) camera is the Contax G2, which is a film camera. It stopped production when Contax died some time ago, but it still has a cult-like following. Some called it the poor man's Leica, but it's really an excellent camera. The mechanics were mostly very solid (the viewfinder housing was flimsy), the focus was confident and fast, and it had a suite of outstanding lenses. It was easy to hold, durable, and very pretty. I took a lot of photos with my G2 that I'm very fold of. Then I sold it because I got tired of scanning film.
I've been hoping someone would come up with a digital camera like the G2. Maybe Leica has, but I could never justify spending thousands of dollars for a basic body. Forget about the prices of Leica lenses... To give you context, I've been using a Nikon D700 with primarily the 24-70 f2.8 (excellent image machine but big - too big a lot of the time), the Panasonic LX5 (a great camera, small and very capable, but a far cry from the G2 when it comes to handling and image quality), and my iPhone (the iPhone 4S is pretty good if you don't force it to embarrass itself).
Panasonic's GF1 seemed like a nice camera, but I never was terribly impressed by the images I saw from it. As my lawyer used to say, nice try but no cigar. The GF2 and GF3 are fine cameras, I'm sure, but they weren't heading in the direction of the G2, so I passed.
I ordered the GX1 on a whim, prepared to return it if I didn't get much use out of it. After using the GX1 for 4 weeks, I've decided to keep it. It's the closest I've come to the G2 at a reasonable cost. The body is well-balanced, easy to hold, and pretty. The controls are familiar, probably because I'm used to the LX5. It's very responsive and well-built. I've mostly been using the 20mm f1.7 and the 14-45mm Panasonic lenses. It's hard to compare to images from the G2 because there are so many ways to manipulate images in post-processing, but with practice I'm pretty sure the GX1 isn't going to limit me any more than the G2 did.
Two things I think should be made clear:
1) If you like rangefinders, you should get the add-on viewfinder. Just consider it part of the base cost of the camera.
2) There's no dedicated focus button. The only way to initiate focus, as far as I can tell, is with the shutter release. That's a problem if you prefer to fix focus on auto as I do. You can manually focus, of course, but that's a pain.
Be aware of these two issues.
I'm not able to compare the GX1 to the plethora of other MILC cameras out there since I haven't tried them to the same extent. Having spent some quality time with the GX1, though, I think this camera is a good platform. I'll be sticking with it for a few years. There's a cost in time and energy learning a new platform, so I don't relish switching.
As I said, I don't normally write reviews, but I think there's a small group like me that just wants a small, pleasant, reliable photographic platform to build on.
I think the GX1 is that platform for those of us who miss the G2.
For Fellini fans, it's 8-1/2 of the G2 :-)
on June 17, 2012
I purchased the GX1 reluctantly because my GF1 is a very good camera and I was concerned that the improvement would be so minor that I would have wasted my money. It turns out my concerns were unfounded. The GX1 is a major improvement both in terms of image quality, particularly at higher ISOs, and usability, specifically the touch screen. The additional pixels are useful, but not as relevant as the overall improvement in image quality. Images shot at ISO 800 and 1600 are quite good with the GX1, whereas the GF1 began to seriously degrade at these ISOs. I'm a fan of selective focus and being able to set the focus area by simply touching the live image on the screen is truly helpful. With the GX1's predecessor, using the buttons to set the focus area often took so much time that the "moment" was long lost. Overall, this is a fine camera and a major improvement over the GF1.
Note that I have high expectations of a camera. I've owned nothing but high-end professional cameras for the past decade, including the Nikon D1X, D2X and my current 24-megapixel D3X. But I find myself using the GX1 more than 50% of the time, now. The combination of size, good looks, image quality and overall convenience is hard to beat at the moment.
on February 28, 2012
I should get a few things in the open first:
I haven't actually gotten to play with the RAW images yet. There's still no RAW codec for OSX yet. I don't know who's fault that is. I do know that the included software is rather pathetic and slow. As in, 10 hours to convert 200 pictures. Something is seriously wrong there.
The JPEGS I've played with all look pretty amazing. Given how sensitive the sensor is it's pretty nice.
The video looks great too, although very limited in control.
The build quality is really nice. It's solid feeling etc. I think almost every review will say the same thing.
The way the EVF works is nice, although that's a whole other product.
Customer service is terrible. I mean absolutely terrible. I had used the GX1 around town for a month and gotten used to the way it works. I got it so I could carry it in my messenger bag alongside my laptop or iPad. I'm a professional camera operator so I have lots of fun gear, but none is anywhere near the compact sized of the GX1. I even used it on sets to do BTS work. It's so small I can carry it with me while I work.
So what happened? While on vacation I decided to only take the GX1. I got it for this reason. Bad idea. Camera died 1st day into the vacation. Simply would not turn back on or anything. It flashed the screen green and then froze. Removed the battery and wouldn't turn on anymore. So a weeks vacation with no pictures.
When I got back I tried sending the camera in. I was informed via email to mail it to a Texas facility but I needed to fill out an online form first. When I did, it said since I was in Florida it couldn't help me and I needed to call. Calling gave me to an automated system that isn't an straight forward as Panasonic thinks it is. When I finally got to fill out a claim, it informed me I needed to send it to Ga instead. So I did.
A week later I get the camera back thinking "that was fast" but instead I'm greeted with "This item is not repaired at this facility." Go Panasonic. Thanks for wasting $15 so I could send it to the facility you told me to.
So a call back today. First issue: couldn't get ahold of a real person. It took me 20 minutes to do just that. When I did, no one seemed to know what a GX1 was. Yeah . . . . can we say third world call center? It's bad enough to play with automated systems, but to deal with someone who is underpaid and doesn't have the faintest idea what I'm talking about is unbearable. If they knew what I was talking about, I could forgive the foreign call center. But all they're doing is typing away at the keyboard and doing nothing to help.
Now once again I get to pay $15 bucks to mail it off to what I now hope it the right repair center. Maybe they'll know what this camera is?
As far as the camera itself, I'd give it 5 stars if I could use the RAW files right now. It's only been 3 months . . . As far as customer service goes, I won't be buying anything from Panasonic again.
I can finally edit the RAW files. Wahoo! As I've stated, for such a small camera the pictures are great. I don't pixel peep as I'm not a technician. I am a photographer. This isn't a 5Dm2 or similar camera, but it's highly portable. The images had really good latitude, handled being processed well and overall held up in post.
The bad, yet again. It's been over a month now and Panasonic still hasn't gotten my camera back to me. I get calls once a week informing me they are waiting on a part. When I contacted Panasonic demanding either a replacement or refund, all I get is a "we don't handle that, call this" blah blah blah. I've already had to use a different camera because of this issue. When, and if, I get it back I'm more than likely selling the camera.
I should also note I had a talk with the repair center. They fixed the issue I sent it in for within the first week. The problem was THEY broke something else and couldn't get the part in until I called and had to threaten to call a lawyer.
Another update May 13th.
So Panasonic finally shipped me the camera back. Yes, after 3 months I finally get the camera back. Only they don't tell me they're shipping the camera. I had a week long gig out of town doing what I do, video and film production. So I'm out of town for a whole week and how I do I find out Panasonic shipped my camera? I get a customer satisfaction survey. Yeah . . . I finally got home tonight and see all the UPS delivery attempts and the final notice saying they're shipping back. A quick call to UPS confirms it's already halfway back to MacAllen. We'll see how they decide to continue from here.
The camera FINALLY has made it's way back to me. After calling to complain after I knew they had received the camera back the promised to ship the camera out. They refused to give me any confirmation or tracking number. A week later I get a call asking to confirm my shipping address as the last attempt wasn't received. Let's just say the lady wasn't happy with my response. All in all, I have my camera back. It originally malfunctioned on Feb 13th and was promptly sent in for repair. I received it back on May 29th.
I will state that normally I would not rate a product based on the service of a seller. However, this is not a seller. This is Panasonic. Part of any product these days is the warranty and the service that goes along with it. Any warranty is built into the price of the product you buy and thus you are paying for it.
on June 25, 2012
This is a great camera - with some caveats.
I got into photography about a year ago. My last camera was also a micro four thirds camera and I invested a lot of money into the platform( read lenses) since I loved the small size and portability of the format. As most readers know the Micro Four Thirds(MFT) format has a crop factor of 2, which means, that the area of the sensor is ½ the size of a full format camera. This also means that a 20 mm lens will show the same size of picture as a 40mm lens on a full format sensor.
With that out of the way, let's look at some pros of this camera:
1. Small size, light weight: I do a lot of street photography. Having a big DSLR makes me stand out immediately and puts people on the defensive. The small size of this camera does make it very discreet and less obtrusive.
2. Lightning fast focus: seriously, lightning fast.
3. Availability of lenses: The MFT format supports pretty much all mounts for lenses using adapters. In the last year I have collected some great old glass ranging from Leica to Olympus OM to Kodak Cmount lenses. This format is a great way to shoot with premium glass like Leica on a budget. No need to spend almost $6K on an M9 body, you can shoot digitally for much less.
4. Upgraded internals: The sensor density has been increased by 33 percent to 16 megapixels from 12 megapixels of the older MFT cameras. This is not necessarily a great thing, but it does let you capture more detail. Also the JPG engine has been improved, though some might say that Olympus does a better job in rendering JPGs. I mostly shoot in raw so that does not really pertain to me.
5. Touch screen : This will be a boon to most newer photogs who are upgrading from a basic point and shoot. The touchscreen on the back of the camera allows you to select a focusing point and take a picture by just touching the screen. This does mitigate the apprehension that most users that are inclined to upgrade from a P&S.
6. Great low light performance: Speaking from personal experience here, I have found this camera to be 10 times better in low light performance. I have taken pictures at 1600 iso with minimal noise, whereas I was limited to 400 iso on my E-P1 before noise became an issue.
7. Built in flash: The flash is cool, the best part about it is that it can be used as a bounce flash (though with limited range) in an indoor environment. This was a major selling point for me, as my old E-P1 did not have a flash, and I was stymied in my ability to take pictures in dimly lit interiors.
8. 4 FPS burst mode: Not great, but definitely an improvement over other MFT cameras.
9. Highly customizable menus: you can set up menus to display your favorite settings.
Some things that irked me about this camera:
1. Touchscreen: The touchscreen is only 420K dots - which is subpar. It really is difficult to see in really bright situations. I bought the live viewfinder to mitigate this, but the viewfinder+body+lens ends up costing more than thePanasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 16.05 MP Live MOS Interchangeable Lens Camera with 3-inch Free-Angle Touch Screen LCD and 14-140mm HD Hybrid Lens (Black), which already has a built in viewfinder. Also, you cannot use the olderPanasonic DMW-LVF1 External Live Viewfinder for Panasonic GF1 Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Camera viewfinder, as it is not compatible with the GX1. So you have to get the Panasonic DMW-LVF2 External Electronic Viewfinder which is new, and costs over $200. I will recommend purchasing this with the camera, especially if you do a lot of daytime photography, or want a more stable way of holding the camera than at an arm's length.
2. Image stabilization: The inbuilt image stabilization in the E-P1 spoilt me. It was very forgiving. In order to get perfectly crisp pictures with this camera, you have to have perfect technique. It is not necessarily a deal breaker, as I feel it will force me to get better.
3. The power X lens: I played with one at a local dealer, and decided against getting it. Not sharp enough, too much CA. That's why I decided to just get the body.
4. Power hungry: needed to get an extra battery for extended shooting sessions.
5. Lowest ISO is only 160: 100 would have been better.
With all that being said - I highly recommend the Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens for Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Cameras lens. That combo really makes this camera shine as a street photography camera. Fast to focus, fast to take pictures - makes sure you don't miss anything. The menu's are pretty intuitive too - I had never had a Panasonic camera and it took me about 10 minutes of fiddling around to come to grips with most settings.
Overall, I give this camera a solid 4.5 out 5.
Now buy this, and go out and shoot.
How should I describe the Lumix GX1? Besides 'THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST DEALS YOU WILL EVER FIND, BUY IT!'?
I'll resist the urge to start with mirrorless cameras - if you're not familiar with what they are, do some research with a search engine - or a rundown of the Micro Four Thirds system. Suffice it to say that of the many good, recent mirrorless systems (they have become a trend with camera manufacturers in the past few years), M4/3 has a distinct advantage in body and lens choices, with some of the coolest lenses imaginable, readily available, although often outside of the dabbler's (read: me) price range. Any of myriad cameras by Panasonic and Olympus work with the array of lenses produced by the aforementioned brands, along with Leica(/Panasonic), Voigtlander and others, since M4/3 is an open standard, not a proprietary system like Nikon's, Canon's, et al.
On to the GX1. Panasonic has a robust series of cameras available in this system, although in the classic, rangefinder style Olympus has a higher mind- and market-share. Olympus does also have its share of diehard fans, who will say things like "Olympus jpg files are better" and "Olympus in-body image stabilization is best," but the truth is that both brands are extremely good. Panasonic has a bent towards video performance that Olympus does not; Olympus makes shinier, more eye-catching cameras. But you shouldn't let brand choices rule the day with this open standard system. Focus on the model you are drawn to, with the features you need.
The GX1 represents the highest fit and finish (and feature-set) Panasonic has made within this small, rangefinder format. It's a sort of leap from the GF series of lighter-featured compact cameras with a lot of the features of the more DSLR-shaped and enthusiast-aimed G and GH cameras. I've owned a GF3, which is a bit smaller, but the difference is in build quality: the GF3 is mostly metal, and decently put together, but feels like a consumer camera. the GX1 feels like an instant classic, don't-make-'em-like-this-any-more, tough, beautiful workhorse of a camera, with solid metal body, nice rubber grip, and perfect finish all around.
I feel like this camera bridges the gap between small size and ergonomic handling perfectly. The grip is big enough for my hand, but still compact, and even with a 3" LCD there are just the right amount of buttons for a hardcore enthusiast user. There are two programmable buttons, a dual-purpose wheel (click in to switch between which setting you're adjusting: brilliant), a nice four-way, and all are metal and finished perfectly. The touchscreen works well, although it is resistive, not capacitive, so you need to made your presses known or it will ignore you. This is so that you don't constantly mess up the camera when using it as your hand brushes against the screen.
The sensor is not the 12mp one used in the GF line, but a much nicer 16mp one that has much improved high-ISO performance against the GF3. I'm impressed with the ISO 1600 images I get, I remember when ISO 400 on a DSLR looked worse. Yes, the sensor is a bit aged now, and this kind of tech does move fast. However, for practical intents and purposes, the images it produces are excellent. I especially like the saturation and color rendition I've been getting with jpg files.
Which brings me to my last point: obsolescence. Panasonic and Olympus iterate on their Micro Four Thirds cameras constantly, and they don't exactly hold their value a couple of years in. The list price for the GX1 is $700 body only; you're seeing it for around $250. It's not that old of a camera, and certainly holds up well. But the fact remains that Panasonic has already replaced the GF3 with the GF5 and is now releasing the GF6... and this great model is also being replaced by the upcoming GX7 (by early accounts a huge update and a fine camera). So why should you look at the GX1? Because there is more to photography than the latest sensor, more to it than best-in-class noise performance or image stabilization. Cameras are tools, the user is the one who makes the photo. But you need a good tool, one you can grow with, one that is rugged, well-designed and does what you need it to when you need it to do it. And which simply makes you happy to use it. The GX1 is all that. The single most compelling reason to own it is the desire to make great photos with a great tool. Panasonic's fast iteration means that I could own such a tool for around $250, which is just astounding. This camera still feels like a $700 camera, still acts like a $700 camera, but brings it within the reach of just about everyone who is prepared to spend even enough for a decent point-and-shoot.
That's why the GX1 is so worth it. I use the 14mm f2.5 pancake lens, which is small and a great performer. There are many other lens options. The possibilities, as they say, are endless.
The GX1 is tiny. Not skinny jean pocket wee but, with 14mm F2.5 pancake mounted, it easily slides in a coat pocket or purse. It's at its best with small lenses but handles telezooms if you support the lens barrel. The metal body shell (magnesium?) feels solid. A contoured and rubberized grip makes holding secure, but wish it had room for two more fingers. The textured matte black finish is impeccable. The design is not vintage inspired like a Pen, but is more modern and reminiscent of Contax. I was pleased to see "Made in Japan" on the bottom.
CONTROLS: The GX1 is packed with advanced features but DSLR users should find controls intuitive. Major functions (ISO, WB, AF, etc.) have a dedicated button or dial and are labeled. Point 'n shoot converts will need to study the manual, but can start straightaway in auto mode. The buttons are small but I adjusted quickly. The single input dial/wheel, albeit tiny, falls naturally under the thumb. It's stiff and not likely to suffer inadvertent turning. The mode dial is knurled metal with firm click stops. There's a sturdy on-off flip lever on the top deck.
If you're used to a tabbed interface with options visible on a single screen, e.g., like Canon, these menus will feel disorganized. There is rough subject organization via 5 icons, but requires scrolling through as many as seven screens of illogically grouped options. Fortunately, after set up, most people will rarely visit the menus as important features have physical controls.
DISPLAY: The LCD is okay but falls short compared to current technology: resolution, refresh rate and brightness are lower than the LCDs on my E-P3, 7D and 5D MKII. The OLED of the E-P3 whips it silly. The slow refresh rate is bothersome: pans are smeared and jerky in low light. In fairness, nobody buys this camera for sports but a faster refresh rate would be welcome for panning rug rats 'n house critters.
You have a choice of touchscreen or buttons/dial for most features. Touchscreen implementation is clumsy compared to an iPhone or Olympus E-P3. I prefer buttons and dials so I can operate by feel, so no biggie. If your first camera was an iPhone, the responsive touchscreen of a recent Olympus M4/3 model will suit you better. Finally, the LCD can't be turned off for time-lapse photography or use with optical viewfinders. You must buy the DMW-LVF2 to gain a LCD off switch.
VIEWFINDER: The GX1 lacks a viewfinder but I purchased the optional Panasonic DMW-LVF2 External Live View Finder at Amazon for $160. It's pricey but you get a tilting EVF with LCD graphics. Using the DMW-LVF2 is the only way to shoot with the main LCD off. No eye-detect but is has a toggle button to deactivate the LCD. Viewfinders are essential for shooting in bright sunlight, for stealth in dark venues and the 90 degree tilt makes ground level shooting a snap. It also allows steadying the camera against the face, resulting in sharper images.
SHOOTING: This is my point 'n shoot so portability is paramount. I mounted a Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens and the package is so small and light I barely notice it has a lens. Single shot AF is fast and surefooted, even in dim light. AI servo tracking is weak but no buys this camera for sports. Exposures were normally accurate but night scenes tended towards overexposure, but it's easy to dial down with exposure compensation.
Images are sharp and richly nuanced when viewed on my 27" Cinema Display. I shoot RAW and "develop" in Apple Aperture. Image quality trails my 60D but is nipping at its coattails. The GX1 bests my E-P3 with 23% more resolution but noise levels are similar up to ISO 3200. I wouldn't hesitate using ISO 800 and ISO 1600 is surprising clean if you don't underexpose and apply noise reduction for skies and shadows. The GX1 yields 3 more stops of high ISO, extending to 12800, but beyond ISO 1600 is too noisy save for "emergencies."
Battery performance is weak and trails far behind my E-P3, 5D MK II and 7D, so carry a spare for a day of heavy shooting. Two hundred pics and your'e done. Using the DMW-LVF2, instead of the main LCD, doesn't save much battery power.
FLASH: I mainly use natural light and employ the popup for fill-in flash. Slow sync mode blends flash and background light for a natural look. Unfortunately, slow sync tumbles in really dim light, e.g., a dark bar, and requires both flash and exposure compensation. Oddly, flash compensation was the only feature lacking obvious controls and I had to look it up in the manual: press a function button and turn the input dial.
TRIPOD MOUNT: The tripod socket is centered under the lens but most quick release plates block the battery door. A small Arca plate with offset screw will clear the door. The Kirk PZ-130 fits fine and has an anti-twist lip.
MIA: Lumix cameras--save for the GX7--lack in-body stabilization. Instead, stabilization is built into lenses. Well, some lenses: Lumix prime lenses lack stabilization but zooms have it. I knew the GX1 lacked in-body stabilization but bought it anyway. So I use a table top tripod or brace against walls and fences in dim light.
LAST BLURB: Despite some grumbling, I like this camera. The positives of confident AF, near-DSLR image quality, stylish design, excellent fit and finish, petite size and useful features out weigh nitpicks. If this camera cost $600 I'd subtract a star or two for the zits. But for the closeout price of $250, this is a wonderful little camera.
on January 4, 2012
I won't re-iterate about how much improved this camera is over the previous generation. But I do want to comment on the disparaging remarks regarding build quality. It's great for the price point. This is not a pro-level camera, one cannot expect Leica or full-frame pro-DSLR like build quality. For what you get, it is excellent. Everything feels sturdy and well put together. Thumb wheel feels solid. Don't really care for an articulating screen either, would just add to the bulk. The flash is a very interesting design since you can position it for a bounce. I seldom if ever use flash photography anyway, look at the size, it's puny. Besides I wouldn't hesitate to use ISO 3200. That in combination with a large aperture lens makes for an excellent low-light kit.
Other things I'm really liking:
- size, loving how small it is and the quality of images it can produce
- touch screen, great for setting focus point (little slider is a very nice touch too, but why can't I customize it?)
- lots of button customization
- in general pretty intuitive to use
- videos, getting some amazing results
- Price of EVF. Although it is supposed to be superb.
This is my first micro 4/3rds camera, it's the one I've been waiting for. Up until now I've been lugging around a pro-level full-frame DSLR. Size and convince can't be beat, especially for street type photography.
on February 24, 2012
3.5 stars. Tired of carrying a heavy DSLR around, I was intrigued by the promise of micro four thirds. And the Panasonic GX1 attracted me most of all: small, stylish, with great functionality and build quality. Especially when combined with the new X lenses, it seemed like the perfect tiny package.
Reality has turned out a bit different, and I'd like to cover some things in this review that haven't seen covered in much detail in other reviews.
But first the good news: The Panasonic GX1 is very small and lightweight, and so are most of the lenses you can buy for it. Image quality is excellent, if not quite up to the same standard as the 1.5x format sensors available from Sony, Nikon and others. The build quality is quite good, and the usability is very good. Panasonic has done a great job with the touch-screen interface. The autofocus is fast and extremely accurate, much more accurate than any DSLR.
There are of course some drawbacks. The 16MP panasonic sensor has great resolution, but the high-ISO performance is not quite up to par with the best 1.5x format sensors, even when considering the smaller crop factor. The auto-focus is not very good at tracking moving subjects. And the framerate is only 4 FPS, so this is not a great camera for shooting action, if that is your thing. Also, Panasonic does not offer in-body image stabilization, unlike similar camera bodies from Olympus. Battery life is poor. The battery on my Nikon D7000 is not much bigger, and I can take thousands of shots with it, compared to a few hundred with the Panasonic.
The build quality of the GX1 is quite good, but not quite as good as I expected. There is no weather proofing. And the buttons are a bit flimsy. But in particular I was disappointed by the thumbwheel. This is one of the most important controls on this camera, and the thumbwheel is tiny and hard to operate. You also have to push it in like a button to access certain controls, and I found this to be cumbersome. I'm used to the nice front/rear wheels on my Nikon DSLR, and in comparison the thumbwheel on the GX1 is sorely lacking. I also wish the ISO was easier to change, and that Panasonic offered more customizable function buttons.
Now to the things that surprised me about this camera and that I wish I knew before I bought it:
- The shutter is loud and clunky, causing lots of vibration. This vibration may result in camera shake if the shutter speed is within the range of 1/60s - 1/320s or so. The result is a blurry photo, ranging from slight to severe, dependending on the lens, focal length and other factors. The 14-42 X lens that I had was very bad in this regard, especially at the long end. This vibration also affects the optical image stabilizer (OIS), resulting in photos that are less sharp than photos taken with the OIS off! After doing quite a bit of research on this matter, this seems to be a common problem, affecting not just the 14-42 X lens but other lenses as well, to a lesser extent. You are actually better off turning the OIS off at around 1/160s or so, except this can be quite cumbersome to do, especially on the new X lenses that don't offer an on/off switch on the lens barrel.
- The shutter is loud. I know I just mentioned that, but I want to emphasize this. It's louder than some DLSRs, mirror slap and all. Forget about stealthy shooting with this camera. A Leica rangefinder it is not.
- There is no way to reduce the shutter vibration by introducing a delay, locking the shutter beforhand, etc, like you have on some DLSRs. So even when the camera is set on a tripod, the shutter slap is going to affect your picture.
- The 2x crop factor means lenses start becoming diffraction-limited at f/5.6. The good news is the lenses for this camera tend to be quite good wide open. But if you have your standard f/4-f/5.6 zoom, this means you don't have to stop down much before you start losing image quality. Past f/11 things start to get really bad, so the usable aperture range becomes quite limited. And not many fast lenses are available (especially zooms). The flip side of this is you get good depth of field even at large apertures, and can use a larger aperture (and faster shutter speed) than you would on a DSLR. On the other hand, selective focus and shallow depth of field is harder to achieve.
- Panasonic will auto-correct photos for distortion and chromatic aberations (CA), even in RAW files! Not necessarily a bad thing, but good to know. It also means the optical quality of Panasonic's lenses isn't quite what it seems, especially when you compare them to other brands that don't automatically correct for the same lens defects!