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Customer Review

50 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's the camera we've been waiting for!, December 1, 2013
This review is from: Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GM1KS Mirrorless Digital Camera with 12-32mm Silver Lens Kit (Electronics)
I had to order the all black version from Hong Kong at a premium. I believe Panasonic is trying to differentiate their product from the rest of the high end compact offerings in the U.S. with their stylish two tone scheme, but I worried about the silver coating wearing over the years. I take meticulous care of my tools and want them to stay looking good.

In retrospect and with respect to the commenter Charles I changed "silver paint" above to "silver coating" and will add that I had read somewhere that the lens was constructed with plastic. I had visions of a silver paint scratched off a plastic lens.

I needn't have worried. The part of the lens that would get most of the wear is definitely metal and the extensions may be a tough composite or may be magnesium... they are a different temperature than the other metal when cool.

So, if you like the two tone, I would say the silver finish should be plenty durable.

I am not going to address Image Quality in this quick review as the other sites have already affirmed that the Image Quality is nearly identical to the acclaimed Panasonic GX7, in a word, remarkable!

Instead I want to address the usability, as the User Interface is why I have been using Panasonic cameras since the GF1.

The build quality of the GM1 is good, very lightweight but solid.

Comparing this camera to my GX1, it is a obviously a lot smaller but also feels much less dense.

While the GX1 has a button for every control imaginable, except a the Depth of Field Preview button- (for which you can designate a Function button) the GM1 has relatively few buttons.

I bought this camera on faith because I love the Panasonic GUI. I hoped that even with the very slimmed down controls I would be able to customize the camera to do what I wanted with a minimum of menu diving. (I hated the the menu diving in the Canon S95 I bought and quickly traded it for an LX5).
I was counting on selling my GX1, and just keeping the GM1 and Nikon D800e.

So, is the GM1 a GX7 in an LX5 (RX100) body?

There is one physical programmable Function button which I programmed to bring up the ISO settings. This gives me most of the controls I want since there is already a White Balance button.
Update: I have since found that a touch screen Function button works better for me when switching ISO on the fly and have reprogrammed the Fn1 button to AF/AE.

There are six programmable software Function buttons located on a sidebar tab on the touch screen and a customizable Quick Menu button for control of many settings depending on the Mode Dial. So far I set one of my Function buttons to Silent mode for taking photos of my reticent seven year old!

Some of the Q. Menu settings available are:

1) Photo Style. (Film Mode) which is a set of jpeg processing algorithms. You can choose from one of Panasonic's many pre-configured styles or customize your own. In Intelligent Auto or Intelligent Auto Plus your only choices are Standard or Monochrome (Black and White).

2) Picture Setting. A combination of Aspect Ratio and file size (pixel count) and Quality, where your choices are Raw and/or JPEG Fine or Standard. I always choose Raw and Fine although this takes up the most space on my SD card. Usually the jpeg is fine but I have a RAW file to adjust if needed.

3) Sensitivity. (ISO) When the mode dial is set to Intelligent Auto/ Intelligent Auto Plus you are locked out of the ISO settings unfortunately. The camera will pick an ISO setting for you all the way up to 3200 (1600 when the flash is active) by which time there is noticeable degradation in the Image Quality as can be seen on the Digital Photography Review Low Light Studio Comparison tool. ~[...]

I would prefer to be able to set an upper limit on ISO while in I.A. like on the GX1 and in my other cameras.

In P and A you have full manual control of your ISO from a base 200 up to 25600. You can specify an upper limit to the ISO in these modes. Go to, Menu, Record, ISO Limit Set.
Or you have the choice of Auto ISO or Intelligent ISO. The difference is that when in I.ISO the camera can vary the shutter speed after even the shutter is half pressed for metering/focus.

In S mode you still have access to Auto ISO but not I.ISO because I.ISO can vary the shutter speed.

When in M mode there is no access to Auto ISO, which I believe is an important oversight. I like to be able to control everything but let the camera set the ISO up to a maximum I set like on my Nikons.
Also when setting the ISO the Exposure Bar is not in view so you have to guess at the proper setting, further complicated by the lack of a dedicated ISO button.

(I called Panasonic with my questions about the limitations on ISO settings and was told to write the following address with firmware requests! Please write ~ consumerproducts09@us.panasonic.com ~ and request a firmware update on these important problems!)

4) Metering Mode. Multi, Center Weighted and Spot. Not available in the I.A. settings, where I presume the Multi-Metering mode is used. I usually prefer Spot Metering when using the "Focus (meter) and Recompose" method of shooting.

5) Flash Mode. Only available in the Custom Settings. Your options here are Forced Flash On, Forced On/Red-Eye, Slow Sync. and Slow Sync./Red Eye.

6) Various Movie Modes.

7) Auto Focus. Single or Flexible, where Flexible will follow focus on your subject even when the shutter is halfway pressed.

Also available in the Quick Menu Custom Setting Modes are Exposure Compensation and White Balance, though there are dedicated buttons on the outside of the camera for these functions.

The lack of physical buttons and the plethora of controls make for a distinct learning curve. I am going to need a few days for this camera to become second nature...

The camera is much smaller than even the Panasonic GX1, which is what I was looking for and the manual controls are there for the finding. The files look good as promised and the flash and white balance are very nicely handled.

The tiny 12-32mm lens is nice. I do appreciate the lack of zoom motor. I really hated the lack of zoom ring on the 14-42mm PZ! I sure do wish the 12-32 had a focus ring.

Manual focusing is a little strange. I believe there is a typo in the PDF manual. To use the Manual Focus on the 12-32mm lens you first switch the top lever/switch to MF, then press Left on the scroll wheel on the back of the camera.

This will pull up your manual focus screen with a magnified box enclosed in a yellow rectangle with arrows on the outside. This box can be dragged around the screen or moved up, down, left, or right by pushing on the respective sides of the scroll wheel.

Rotating the Scroll Wheel (Control Dial) changes the size of this Focus Subject Box.

Here is where the manual is misleading. To actually adjust the focus you need to push the Menu/Set button or press the "Set" button displayed on the right bottom of the screen.
This brings up a scroll bar which works ok but I changed it to work with the scroll wheel through Menu, Custom Settings, Lens W/O Focus Ring, Control Dial. You can choose to use the Control Dial to change the Focus or Magnification Level of the focus box. There is also a separate static magnification level also under the Lens W/O Focus Ring setting.

Thankfully the much touted Focus Peaking actually works, and works well! I tested the Manual Focus with Peaking on the text of a book in low light at a distance of several feet and was astounded at the accuracy!

In all the manual focus is much better implemented than on the 14-42mm PZ, Panasonic's other collapsable zoom lens option. I hated both the zoom and the focus nubs on that lens, and the manual focusing in the GM1 seems easier than I remember the GX1 being aided by the focus peaking.

The 12-32mm is also much smaller in diameter than the 14-42mm, though when collapsed they are about the same depth.

The auto focus "touch to focus" works well and very quickly, though you have to touch your focus point, then half press the shutter which is a little clunky. I would like it to focus on the fly.

I have found the "Silent Shutter" to actually work very well. My son has developed an aversion to my many photographs of him. Using the silent shutter has allowed me to photograph him successfully. This mode disables the physical shutter and just uses the electronic shutter. It also disables the Focus Assist Light, but the camera seemed to have no problem finding focus in less than ideal conditions.

The Artificial Horizon or Digital Level, which Panasonic calls the Tilt Sensor and is very handy is easily found by pressing the Disp. button.

I tried unsuccessfully for an hour or so to get the camera to connect to my Samsung Galaxy S4 via Wi-Fi. It would occasionally connect but wouldn't transfer photos or let me control the camera via phone. I'll keep trying.
Wi-Fi Update: (Check the comments below.)

Battery life is pretty poor, another trade-off for the size I guess. In fact I went through a full battery just referring to the menu for this review. Hopefully there will be some aftermarket batteries available soon!

This is the camera I have been waiting for! Truly pocketable with a large sensor and full manual controls!
Its a great, tiny camera that actually fits in a shirt pocket, though it does make an unsightly bulge! The collapsible 12-32mm lens does not disappear into the body of the camera like that on the LX7 or RX100 so it's not as slim but it's pretty tiny!

I did sell my GX1, but only because I also have a DSLR. I think the GM1 is a perfect walk around camera for someone who has a DSLR and doesn't want to compromise on Image Quality.

If I was to recommend a single camera for a consumer who only wanted one however, it would be the GX1. The image quality is stellar and IMO the GX7 is too large, though I admit I have not held one.
With all the external controls and the removable viewfinder the GX1 is a lot more camera! Especially at the current price!
I will probably end up buying another one.

But really the beauty of this camera is it's size, and I've resigned myself to using my D800e (sob) for planned outings.

I kept the awesome Panasonic 14-45mm zoom lens (not the 14-42mm or the Power Zoom) and tried it on the GM1. It works great! It only overlaps the body by a few mm. It is pretty long, but it felt fine, not out of balance and I love the ergonomics of the lens, with the full zoom ring and an (admittedly small) actual focus ring!
Focus Peaking works with the 14-45 but on Manual Focus, only the focus ring works to adjust focus. I have the Control Dial set to "Focus" when in Manual Focus and it reverted to changing the Magnification of the "Focus Box" when used with the 14-45mm lens.

If this camera had the external controls and better ISO control of my GX1 and was this same size well... bring on the GM7!

In fact I am withholding one star because I feel that Panasonic could add the extra controls and hotshoe we want and save us some of the menu diving. I feel like they are holding out for the next iteration or two, but I'm not waiting! They've got my money!
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Comments

Tracked by 5 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 1, 2013 7:13:12 AM PST
O. Rascon says:
Thanks for your review. Seems like a very fair and honest approach to this camera. Now I'm off to buy one!

Posted on Dec 1, 2013 1:07:39 PM PST
Beto says:
Thanks for the review.
What do you think about the flash? Is it decently powerful? I'm concerned about the lack of external flash (doesn't take wireless flash)
Regarding the color, I think silver is the natural color, being a magnesium allow body, and black would be painted, but I might be wrong.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2013 1:37:19 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 1, 2013 6:40:07 PM PST
Dr. Atomo says:
The flash is adequate, slightly lower power than the GX1, but the camera does a great job compensating and the files come out with very natural color and brightness.
As an enthusiast this is a perfect second camera for walkaround. I sold my Panasonic GX1, but not my Nikon D800e :)

As to the color. Yes silver is the natural color of magnesium, but the body is not left natural with a clear coat. That would be awesome! It is painted. But my real worry was the plastic lens getting scuffed and looking terrible!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2013 5:19:15 PM PST
Dr. Atomo says:
Enjoy!

Posted on Dec 1, 2013 5:52:27 PM PST
Common Sense says:
Nice to read a review by someone who has actually used the camera. I really enjoyed this.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2013 6:41:16 PM PST
Dr. Atomo says:
Wow! Thanks! I have been looking forward to a camera like this since the promise of the GF1!

Posted on Dec 2, 2013 12:49:47 AM PST
oluv says:
I am already waiting for mine, but they are not in stock in Germany yet.
My only concern is the lack of a dedicated ISO-button. I would rather want to use the Fn1-Button for AE-Lock, but then I have no other Button left for ISO. It is stupid, that Panasonic didn't add a normal and clickable back-wheel as they did in nearly all mFT cameras so far. The rotatable wheel is a bit clumsy and i already had problems with it on the Olympus E-PL1. I hope the touch-FN buttons will do the job, but I am not convinced yet.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2013 2:13:44 PM PST
Dr. Atomo says:
Yes, I wish there was a dedicated ISO button as well. As you probably read, I assigned it to my Fun. 1 button.
Now that you mention it the Manual states that AE-AF Lock button can only be assigned to Fun. 1.

The Touch Function buttons work well, though it takes two touches, one to bring out the Function Bar and another to get the Function Button you want. It's pretty quick and clean though, not as laggy and unintuitive as on previous cameras and I am getting used to it.

I really hated it when I lost all the keyboard buttons on my phone, but the onscreen keyboard is getting pretty good, and touch screens are cheaper and more durable (fewer moving parts) than physical buttons.

Still, enthusiast photography is about the process as much as the product. If we want buttons, Give Us Buttons Damn It!! This is an expensive camera!

I also think the "control Dial" is a poor substitute for the Clickable Wheel like on their other cameras. I assume the GM1 is, like the GX1, a placeholder for the GM7, which I expect to have many of the features lacking in this camera. (Though I prefer the size and modularity of the GX1 over the GX7.)

For now we can hope for some firmware updates, though Panasonic's firmware updates historically have been minimal. I am especially hoping for the ISO limits, and it seems like they should be able to at least remove the restriction to program the AF-AE Lock button, though... I guess if I had to choose the one physical for AF-AE or ISO it makes design sense for an extra click for ISO rather than AF-AE.
Personally I usually use center metering/focus, Non Continuous, half press the shutter and recompose.

I ordered my GM1 direct from Hong Kong as there are no all black ones in the U.S.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2013 6:56:11 PM PST
Charles says:
Can you confirm that the silver GM1 is painted? I haven't seen that stated anywhere and it doesn't stand to reason. An anodized aluminum top plate would naturally be silver. Black on the other hand is more often painted, although the GM1 may use powder coating or another durable finish for the black as well. I've ordered the black as well, but it would be a shame if your thorough review lead off with something that might mislead folks.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2013 9:27:43 PM PST
Dr. Atomo says:
Sure, paint, andodization, powder coating, whatever. The body is magnesium and probably powder coated. You are right though, if the black coating were to wear off it would probably be silver underneath.

Furthermore the lens body is not plastic after all so my main worries were unfounded. I edited my review. Thanks! I think Panasonic makes a pretty good product.
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