Customer Review

55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Micro 4/3 pocket camera I've always wanted, December 11, 2013
This review is from: Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GM1KS Compact System Camera with 12-32mm Silver Lens Kit (Electronics)
Christmas came early for me when somebody (who shall remain nameless) left my Olympus PEN E-PM1 on the top of my car. Somewhere around 60 miles per hour, the camera shuffled off the roof and into oblivion, which suddenly placed me in the market for a replacement.

I've used Micro Four Thirds almost since its inception, upgrading bodies periodically as notable improvements found their way into the system. I have and still use the larger Olympus OM-D E-M5 which I greatly enjoy, but I really like having a smaller body with a pancake lens for family events and other situations where discretion and size win over ergonomics. I also find that a simple camera like the E-PM1 is easier to hand to the family member (who, again, shall remain nameless!) while generating good results from the automatic modes. The E-M5 can be a bit overwhelming due to all of its bells and whistles.

It was serendipitous that the GM1 was announced right around the time of "the E-PM1 incident;" even smaller than the E-PM1, new sensor, touchscreen, wifi, more buttons, flash... the list goes on. I waited for it to come out, and received my order on the very day before we left for our holiday vacation.

Out of the box: good golly, it's SMALL! I mean, you know it's small by looking at photos online, but it just really does not do the thing justice. It's small enough that I can wrap the camera in a single hand, and indeed I normally shoot with my thumb wrapped around the left side of the body and my fingers around the right. The rear LCD is partially obscured by my hand in this configuration but I can see enough to get by, and it's very secure.

Unlike the other very small Micro 4/3 bodies, Panasonic didn't totally skimp on the dials with this one. We have a proper focus mode dial, a hard FN key in the middle of it, a convenient on/off switch, and a proper mode wheel. Yay! These little physical dials are minor details that the GF series and E-PM series had been curiously omitting for a while, and it's good to see their return in this miniscule camera.

The touchscreen is really beautiful and works surprisingly well. A new (to me) addition for the UI is a "FN" menu on the right, which allows you to add virtual FN buttons of your choosing for easy access - I love it a great deal. Very convenient.

I'm happy to report that the kit lens is... pretty serviceable! Subject isolation is very difficult (at 64mm f/11 equivalent, unsurprisingly so), but if you're just looking for good resolution and detail it delivers. The 12mm wide end is especially nice to have around; in fact, this *zoom* lens is smaller than my 14mm pancake prime I'd been using before, and only a stop slower. It's pretty amazing what they can cram into such a tiny package. A few things of note: it feels really flimsy when not mounted (it actually rattles a bit), it has to be extended a bit before it can be used, and it has no focus ring (only a zoom ring). Manual focus with the kit lens on the GM1 is only possible using the touchscreen, making it really frustrating to be perfectly honest; you really should stick to AF with the kit zoom.

Oh, that's no indictment against other lens focusing though; this camera has focus peaking! And the CPU is fast enough so there's really no lag to speak of. It's a joy to use this body with your old manual focus lenses.

Other than the diminutive size and the teensy tiny lens, probably the most intriguing thing about the GM1 is its electronic shutter. The mechanical shutter is only capable of speeds up to 1/500, which is inadequate for outdoor shots with large apertures, and if you shoot at higher speeds the GM1 goes into full on electronic shutter mode. I found this to actually be incredibly handy, and found myself using the 20mm f/1.7 wide open in broad daylight with speeds up to 1/16000s! In some cases, you do notice a "rolling shutter" distortion, but 1) it's not always visible and 2) even when it is, it's not really a big deal. The compromise the GM1 strikes, with the ability to complete avoid the effect by using the manual shutter at speeds under 1/500s, seems pretty reasonable to me.

The sensor in this camera is every bit as good as the E-M5. Maybe better? To be frank, it's now irrelevant. Both cameras with a fast prime are good enough that any differences are meaningless. The GM1 does lack in body image stabilization, which is a loss felt mostly in video.

I also think the JPEGs look good out of the box with this camera! Panasonic has been maligned for default JPEG settings which lack "pop" or have weird auto white balance, but I really think you can shoot JPEG with the defaults and get good results with this guy.

Oh, and the thing even has a lil bitty flash. Sync speed is only up to a measley 1/50s, limiting its use as daytime fill, but it can be handy in dim light. The best thing about the flash, though, is that it can be held backward to bounce - a trick that I completely adore from Panasonic's cameras.

The GM1 also has this crazy wi-fi thing. I decided to test it with my Android smartphone along with the Panasonic image app, and I was surprised to find it potentially useful. Not only can you play back and download captured images (only 10 at once though, alas) with your phone, you can also remotely control the camera with full live view on the phone, which will no doubt be invaluable for selfies and situations where you might want to place the camera in an awkward location.

So! Here are the big takeaways:

* I dig the dials on the top and the customizable FN button

* sensor is quite good compared to the E-PM1

* kit lens? Pretty OK!

* I really like the popup's ability to bounce. I *don't* like the paltry 1/50 max flash sync speed, but what can you do?

* I'm not yet clear on what effect the rolling shutter artifacts will have on my life, but at this time I rather like having the ability to shoot at very high shutter speeds!

* I actually really like how the camera feels in hand with the "one hand wraparound" style grip. It sounds like it would be awkward but it works well. Adjusting settings when using this grip requires a repositioning, though.

* Speaking of that, I find the wheel on the back far too inclined to "click" rather than spin. I seem to accidentally hit the directions rather than spinning a good bit. I wish this instead had a thumb wheel like the old E-P2 or something.

* Wi-fi? Maybe not totally a gimmick?

* Price? Well, it's high, but it's not *that* high to start at.

I think the GM1 is a winner - it's the small M4/3 camera I've been waiting for, and it should have broad appeal to both casual shooters looking for a P&S replacement and E-M1/GH3 type shooters looking for a no-compromises tiny second body.

EDIT 05/2014:

After almost five months, this camera has proven to be everything I hoped for. I almost never use my E-M5 now; indeed the only things I really miss from that camera are the in-body image stabilization and the wireless flash capabilities.

I'm also happy to report that the GM1 kit lens has really surprised me in a good way. I initially kept it around mainly for the image stabilization (for video), but it now ends up getting a whole lot of use when the light is good and I don't care about subject isolation. The 12mm wide end is especially nice to have in something so tiny.

I have read that Panasonic will not release a GF series camera this year. I'm not disappointed by that one bit. If the GM1 is a sign of Panasonic's strategy moving forward, I can't wait to see what they come up with next.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 11, 2013 2:48:09 PM PST
Happypoppeye says:
Did I read about this on DPR?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 12, 2013 8:56:27 AM PST
Jeremy says:
Indeed, I posted about my first weekend with the camera at DPR! I've had a bit more time to experiment with it and I'll post more here as my experience evolves.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2014 10:22:32 PM PDT
Marie says:
Good review . Keep posting. I'm interested in this camera also.

Posted on Jun 11, 2014 7:12:53 PM PDT
I appreciate your thorough review and update. I am looking for a high quality camera to fill 2 very different niches. I'm a realtor, so I need to be able to take great quality stills at wider angles for marketing. And my daughter is a competitive figure skater, and my current point and shoot is hopeless for taking action shots of her. The rinks are very well lit, and flash can't be used because of danger to the skaters. I also want to be able to take decent video of her. I would also appreciate any particular lens recommendations for these 2 applications. Of course, I also take all the usual family / travel photos. In your opinion, would this camera meet these very different needs? Thanks in advance.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2014 6:45:20 AM PDT
Jeremy says:
The big limitation for real estate photos will be the lack of a flash hotshoe. Due to that you're limited to the tiny little pop up flash. If you've got white ceilings bouncing the little pop-up flash can generate reasonable results, and you can also shoot at really high ISO with no flash if you need to; of course the existing indoor lighting may not always present the room in the "best light" so to speak.

It will definitely be better than a point and shoot, but you might consider something which can use an external flash (e.g. the Olympus OMD series, or the Panasonic GH3/GH4/GX7).

The lens that comes with the camera goes as wide as 12mm which is at least as wide as most point and shoots. For interior shots of small areas, it may not be wide enough though. The Olympus 9-18mm lens is a reasonably cost effective option if you want something wider. Some cameras (e.g. the GX7; the GM1 does not do this) provide automatic panorama stitching but using a wider angle lens will often generate superior results.

I use this camera to capture my three year old who moves pretty quickly (though no doubt not as fast as a figure skater!) and find it to work quite well at that. I utilize the high speed burst mode with the electronic shutter and continuous autofocus and get good results. The GH4 and E-M1 should have superior autofocus, however! And you will certainly need a longer, better lens for capturing action regardless. The included kit lens will not have enough zoom reach.

For video, the GM1 is quite good. The big limitation is no in body stabilization. You must use stabilized lenses (the kit lens is stabilized, for example) or some kind of stabilizing mount like a tripod to avoid shaking. The OMD series, in contrast, does give you IBIS in video mode.

Basically the GM1 can do the job! However be aware of the compromises. If you don't mind a bigger camera, the E-M1, E-M10, or even the GH4 would probably be better suited.
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