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Panasonic Lumix G1 Digital Camera Review

Panasonic Lumix G1 Digital Camera Review - In an ePHOTOzine UK exclusive, Matt Grayson gets to smaller grips with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, the first camera in the Micro Four Thirds system.

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Category : Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
Product : Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
Price : £489
Rating :
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After the recent announcement of the Micro Four Thirds system, Panasonic have released the first model in the new format. (Have a look at the Panasonic DMC-GH1 hands on review which is also on ePHOTOzine.)

Panasonic DMC-G1: Specification

  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Resolution: 12.1Mp
  • Sensor size: 17.3x13.0mm
  • Sensor type: Live Mos
  • Image size: 4000x3000
  • Aspect ratio: 4:3
  • Focus system: Contrast AF
  • Focus points: 23 focus points
  • Crop factor: 2x
  • Lens mount: Micro four thirds mount
  • File type: JPEG, RAW
  • Sensitivity: ISO100-3200
  • Storage: SD, SDHC, MMC
  • Focus types: Single AF, continuous AF, manual focus
  • Metering system: 144 zone multi pattern sensing system
  • Metering types: Intelligent multi, centre-weighted, spot
  • Exposure compensation: 3EV in 1/3 step increments
  • Shutter speed: 60sec-1/4000sec, bulb
  • Frames per second: 3fps hi-speed, 2fps lo-speed
  • Flash: Built-in, hotshoe
  • Flash metering: TTL
  • Flash sync speed: 1/160 or lower
  • Image stabilisation: Lens based
  • Live view: Yes
  • Self cleaning system: Yes (Supersonic Wave Filter)
  • Viewfinder: Electronic, 100% coverage, 1.4x magnification (1,400,000dot)
  • Monitor: 3in polycrystalline TFT LCD, 3:2 aspect, 460,000dot
  • Interface: USB 2.0, miniHDMI TypeC, NTSC/PAL
  • Power: Li-Ion battery
  • Size: 124x83.6x45.2mm
  • Weight: 385g (body), 195g (lens)

As a brand new system it's difficult to place it in a particular category. It has the interchangeable lens of a DSLR but the electronic viewfinder and lack of mirror box found on a bridge camera.

A quick scout online indicates a price tag of around £550 with the 14-45mm (28-90mm) f/3.5-5.6 lens. The Nikon D80 DSLR is a very popular camera and has only just recently been replaced by the Nikon D90. £559 will get you the camera with 18-135mm lens and offers a slightly larger 23.6x15.8mm sensor giving a lower 1.6x crop factor, faster flash sync of 1/200sec, optical viewfinder but is larger and heavier.

More modestly priced in the bridge camera arena is the Fujifilm FinePix S100fs at £389 which has a 14x optical zoom, 11Mp and offers film simulations like the Panasonic. The lens isn't interchangeable meaning you're stuck to the specifcations of what Fujifilm give you.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The Panasonic DMC-G1 resembles a DSLR even down to the interchangeable lens. Even the Panasonic website keeps it separate from the DSLRs though.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
AF modes have a dedicated dial on the left shoulder of the camera. Also visible is the pop up flash switch, eye dioptre and display button with the newly named LVF (live view finder).
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
Eye sensors will detect when you're looking through the view finder and turn off the back screen automatically.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The lens isn't Leica branded but has the Vario name printed on the front. Although it's a smaller lens, it still has an average 52mm filter diameter.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
the busiest part of the camera with the command dial, Q-menu and film mode buttons. The wheel can be seen on the front of the grip for changing the aperture and/or shutter speed.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The side of the DMC-G1 shows the lens based OIS (Optical Image Stabiliser) switch.

Panasonic DMC-G1: Modes and features
Micro Four Thirds was announced recently by Olympus and Panasonic and the DMC-G1 is the first offering featuring this smaller lens mount system. The name suggests that the Four Thirds sensor has been altered in size but that's been left alone.

Changes that have been made include removing the mirror box, prism and optical viewfinder coupled with a smaller lens mount means a much smaller, lighter body and lens can be created. In fact the lens mount has been reduced in size by around 6mm from the standard Four Thirds size. The flange-back has also been shortened by about half which is the distance between the lens mount and sensor.

Externally the DMC-G1 resembles a DSLR even down to the interchangeable lens. Nowhere on the Panasonic website is the DMC-G1 regarded as a DSLR though and I think that's a wise idea even if they consider it to be one.

Some people argue that a camera has to have an interchangeable lens to be a DSLR while others will say it needs a mirror box, prism and optical viewfinder. The DMC-G1 only ticks one of these boxes and I think if Panasonic had said that the DMC-G1 was either a bridge or a DSLR, someone would be up in arms about it. Instead they've opted to leave the classification blank and let you make your own minds up about it.

I like how Panasonic design their cameras and would probably have one if they ever dropped the Lumix name. It's plastered across the nose of the camera at the front of the pop-up flash where the manufacturer name would normally be. Panasonic are the only company I know that put the range name there and I guess it's to make the letters as big as possible. Writing Panasonic across would need a smaller font size.

The lens isn't a Leica branded model and is a 14-45mm which is 28-90mm in 35mm terms due to the 2x crop factor that comes with Four Thirds. Image stabilisation is lens based and the Mega OIS switch is found down the left side of the lens barrel.

Despite the diminutive size of the lens, it still retains a standard filter size of 52mm which is good. The left shoulder if the camera has a small dial for switching the focus system between single shot, continuous and manual focus. I think this dial is a little unnecessary as it could easily have been put in a menu or placed as a switch. A bulky dial makes the profile of the camera look blocky.

The film plane icon sits just next to this dial and the switch for the flash to pop-up is found on the contour of the flash as it rises up. On the right shoulder is the command dial with typical PASM, auto (renamed iA or intelligent auto), typical pre-programmed modes, access to more scene modes, colour adjustments and a custom mode. Thankfully Panasonic have left the heart off this mode dial.

Two switches are located below the mode dial for power and drive options. The Q-menu button previously seen on the Panasonic DMC-LX3 is to the right of the dial along with the film mode button.

Along with the Q-menu, the DMC-G1 has a main menu and a function button. This button, which is accessed by pressing down on the D-pad, has a dedicated setting for quick access and can be customised to whatever you think you'll use the most. Options include the aspect ratio, quality, intelligent exposure, metering and guidelines (rule of thirds grid). These features are all accessible in the Q-menu so I fail to see any distinct advantage of the function button. It will speed up some use but not by a great deal once you've got to know your camera.

A type of depth of field preview mode has also been fitted and by pressing the aperture button at the bottom of the camera, it'll then ask you to press display for a shutter speed demonstration which gives you a live view of the exposure with a small exposure display indicating under or over exposure.

In manual mode, the aperture and shutter speed have to be input by the user and this isn't all too apparent on how it's done. The aperture will be prioritised by default and the adjustment wheel found on the grip infront of the shutter release must be pressed in to switch over to the shutter speed and vice versa.

Panasonic DMC-G1: Build and handling
This camera is made to a very high standard and the only downside I can see quality wise is the lack of a Leica branded lens on the front. I wonder if Leica are refusing to put their name to the Micro Four Thirds system?

Live MOS is found on Panasonic and Olympus models and offers the image quality of a CCD with the lower power consumption of a CMOS sensor.

Panasonic have developed a new processor following on from the Venus Engine and have now added HD to its title. Probably the two most sought after letters today. This isn't a reference to the video capability because the DMC-G1 doesn't do video. It's actually the aspect ratio of 16:9 that you can shoot at. This will fill a HD wide screen television (and any other 16:9 screen for that matter) but the camera doesn't seem to do anything else different. It does have a HDMI output for connection but doesn't have a HD setting for increasing quality. This means you have to rely on the television's HD performance which should boost the image but I don't think it's fair to say the camera is high definition.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
An articulated screen means shooting in unusual angles is easier along with shading from the sun.

The wheels and switches move easily from one setting to the next in a nice, smooth motion but aren't badly made which means that they won't move of their own accord or if lightly caught. The screen is bright and articulated for those difficult to reach shots or avoiding sunlight. It could be made easier to flip out as it only has a small area at the top corner to grip onto.

I'm not a fan of electronic viewfinders, but the one on the DMC-G1 is actually very good. It has over a million dots which is more than the screens found on some DSLRs and this works out to around 466,666px. It suffers from no motion blur and is nice and bright. The menus all works within the screen although in the Q-menu the options will drop down on the monitor but don't in the viewfinder.

Panasonic have renamed the EVF to LVF which stands for live viewfinder. It does the same as an electronic viewfinder only better which can only be a good thing. When the monitor has been flipped closed, the viewfinder automatically defaults on and can be changed on or off by pressing the LVF/LCD button next to the viewfinder.

In contrast the screen only has 460,000 dots which is 153,000px. The articulated screen will rotate 720 degrees from one end to the other. It's bright and easy to view.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The primary colours look nicely saturated while the mono tones are balanced. The skin tone looks a bit on the pale side but portrait mode will warm this up automatically.

Panasonic DMC-G1: Performance
There are some really nice colours showing on the colour chart image from the nicely boosted primary blue to the balanced mono tones and rich earthy colours.

The skin tone looks a bit pale but looking at the portrait image, it doesn't damage the quality at all. In fact on the overcast day that this was taken on, the image looks quite vibrant in the flat light that was available.

Using the flash has added some missing light from the face and filled in the mild shadows from the previous image. Catch lights have been captured in the eyes bringing the face to life.

Auto flash is joined by forced on, off and slow as well as some hybrid versions of those that include red-eye reduction. This uses just one flash burst to reduce the circumference of the pupil to minimise red-eye.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
It was an overcast day so contrast and shadows are at a minimum. As speculated, portrait mode has warmed the skin up nicely.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
Using flash has brightened up the darker areas of the face and added cathclights. Shadow on the wall is at a minimum and no areas of the face are over cooked.

The standard lens has a close focusing capability of a paltry 30cm at all focal lengths but then it's not a macro lens so isn't designed to be spectacular. Even with hunting, focus time is under a second and will only need to scroll through it's full range when it can't lock because the subject is too close.

As the DMC-G1 offers manual modes such as aperture-priority as well as landscape mode for the beginners or inherently lazy, I took a test shot of the canal in both modes. Aperture-priority allowed me to amend the white balance to cloudy as well as selecting a more reasonable aperture rating to get more in focus. It also allowed me to forget to change the sensitivity from ISO1600 but luckily I'm not judging noise in this shot.

Usually I'll check the white bars that lead into the canal for chromatic aberration shown as a coloured line down the contrasting edges. The day was drizzly and lacked decent light so if that happens I'll turn my attention to the branches and leaves in the top left corner of the frame to check for fringing there.

The bars show zero fringing but this can sometimes be the case on a cloudy day such as this. However, the branches also show no fringing which is a brilliant result with a kit lens.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The image taken in landscape mode defaults the white balance to auto but remembered to choose ISO100 unlike me.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
In aperture-priority, a slight colour cast has developed which can be seen on the flags and in the sky.

the release of the DMC-G1 isn't about the features it has but about the system it's using. This means that it has no innovative programming to look at. What it does have is various film modes which can be accessed in the Q-menu or by the dedicated film mode button on the right shoulder.

There are various options from standard, vivid and natural to custom black & white and multi film options. The modes can also have the sharpness, contrast, saturation and colour values adjusted slightly to improve the image in camera. It's not very noticeable and doesn't give you the control that an editing system would.

The boosted image does show a difference in darker shadows but only by a fraction. I know the images have a cast, I wanted them warmer.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The natural mode without any adjustment.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The same shot with saturation, contrast and sharpening adjusted slightly.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
Vivid mode pushes the saturation up to enrich the colours.
 

The drive modes of the Panasonic DMC-G1 are adjusted by flicking the switch found under the command dial. You have two options for continuous shooting of high (3fps) and low (2fps). There's no obvious reasoning for having two separate options. Information in the specification shows that both settings will shoot a maximum of seven RAW images and JPEG amounts vary depending on the size of the card.

Panasonic DMC-G1: Focus and metering
In the Q-menu you can do just about anything and that includes adjusting the focus and metering options. Focus and metering also have dedicated buttons in different places of the camera.

The focus options can be accessed by pressing left on the D-pad and you can choose from one point AF, 23 point AF, tracking and face detection. The AF tracking is interesting. Locking the focus onto the subject, you can then let go of the shutter release and the camera will track your subject. If it leaves the frame, the tracking target icon will restore to the centre of the frame. In single point AF, pressing down in the AF menu allows you to adjust the position of the AF point which is good for off-centre focusing.

You can access the macro feature on the command dial but bear in mind that as the DMC-G1 has interchangeable lenses, it won't set the lens up for macro work. This means it has the same close focusing ability in any other mode as well. The macro mode will only adjust the shutter speed and aperture to cope with macro work.

You can also choose from single AF, continuous AF or manual focus by swivelling the previously mentioned small dial on the top plate.

Metering can be accessed either through the Q-menu or the function button. Focusing can't be set to this button. Metering choices are multi, centre-weighted and spot. There's also an intelligent exposure option in the Q-menu and is Panasonic's dynamic range optimiser. It has three options excluding off.

Panasonic DMC-G1: Noise test
The previously released DMC-LX3 from panasonic revealed slight over sharpening on JPEGs which showed up a lot on the noise images. I haven't seen evidence on it yet so the noise test is of greater importance than normal.

Noise control is very good on the DMC-G1 at low to mid range ISO settings. It doesn't become a problem until ISO1600 but when it does get there it really fails badly.

ISO800 does have some colour issues with purple blotches appearing in the grey card but it's hardly noticeable even at full size. The noise is a similar result to DSLR models from Olympus but has progressed a lot when compared against the Panasonic DMC-L10 DSLR which has really bad noise problems at the same levels.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The ISO100 test.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The ISO200 test.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The ISO400 test.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The ISO800 test.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The ISO1600 test.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The ISO3200 test.


DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.

Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Panasonic DMC-G1.

Panasonic DMC-G1: Verdict
I first heard about the Micro Four Thirds while talking to an Olympus advocate at the Adobe CS4 launch and I have to admit I was sceptical. Having used the DMC-G1 and seen the results of the images, I'm really impressed.

I've never seen a EVF (sorry, LVF) this good before and it's great to see one that's better quality than the screen on the back. This will urge people to keep using a camera the proper way.

Panasonic have shown a huge degree of maturity in the release of the DMC-G1. They could've hailed it as a new breed of DSLR or even as the camera to kill off the prism. Instead they've put the Micro G system in a separate classification and left DSLRs alone.

Nicely done, Panasonic.

Panasonic DMC-G1: Plus points
Smaller and lighter
Best viewfinder around
Articulated screen
Good noise control from low to mid point
Nice colour rendition
No over sharpening found on the LX3

Panasonic DMC-G1: Minus points
Focus dial is unnecessary
Fn button isn't needed

FEATURES

HANDLING

PERFORMANCE

OVERALL

 

Prices online are starting at £489 and the Panasonic DMC-G1 is available from Warehouse Express:

Panasonic DMC-G1
 

Take a look at the new video review on ePHOTOzine.tv here: Panasonic G1 video review.

Have a look at the Panasonic DMC-GH1 hands on review which is also on ePHOTOzine.

Explore More

Photographs taken using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1

ReflectionsChanging Kolkata Sky line 2Changing Kolkata Sky lineExcellent, Beautiful,a woodland walkRains from 23rd FloorUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledBalancingKolkata Skylinesilhouttesdarkness
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Comments


5 Nov 2008 5:26PM

Quote: and it's great to see one that's better quality than the screen on the back. This will urge people to keep using a camera the proper way.

huh ?

Just for me then, as I would love to use it in an improper way... how about the swivel screen? How fast and accurate is the focusing when using the screen ? How does it work ? is the rotation limited ? Don't tell me you didn't test this just because it didn't conform with your proper ways. I understand it isn't quite as important as the placement and the size of the word lumix, but still,

... some useful information on the matter would be very much appreciated !

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MattGrayson 7 622 3 England
5 Nov 2008 5:30PM

Quote: Quote:and it's great to see one that's better quality than the screen on the back. This will urge people to keep using a camera the proper way.huh ?

Just for me then, as I would love to use it in an improper way... how about the swivel screen? How fast and accurate is the focusing when using the screen ? How does it work ? is the rotation limited ? Don't tell me you didn't test this just because it didn't conform with your proper ways. I understand it isn't quite as important as the placement and the size of the word lumix, but still,

... some useful information on the matter would be very much appreciated !

Updated. Smile
5 Nov 2008 5:48PM

Quote: Updated


Quote: In contrast the screen only has 460,000 dots which is 153,000px. The articulated screen will rotate 720 degrees from one end to the other. It's bright and easy to view.

glad to hear it's bright.

Don't bother anymore, I will look for the useful bits elsewhere
Sad
Pete e2
13 18.4k 96 England
5 Nov 2008 6:15PM
The Live View on the rear LCD is incredibly good in my view. There's none of the refresh/lag you see on some SLRs. And, as Matt says, it's bright, very bright in fact! It really is like looking at a Live image. Focus is as fast as anything I've used, certainly up at Nikon and Canon standards, and there's a useful feature that lets you use the four scrolling menu to set a focus square anywhere on the LCD and you can see this move and the focus adjust immediately which would suit what you want it for. The size of the square can be set too so you really have good control over the AF

There's also (maybe not much use for you but great for learners) a shutter speed preview that makes the LCD simulate what you will get by setting a certain shutter speed. This is great when looking at the affect of speed on say a waterfall.

Another useful feature is instant exposure compensation viewing, and because the screen is so bright this becomes easy to adjust for backlit or tricky scenes where the normal meter isn't coping.

The screen comes out and has plenty of rotation. You can flip it for self portrait timer shots and the LCD image flips too so it's the right way up. You can also flip fully so it is on the back of the camera like a conventional compact or turned the opposite way to protect it, just like the Olympus E3 system. It's a shame it doesn't hinge out of the camera for waist level - you have to turn it through 180 degrees before you can rotate at an angle making the camera a little more conspicuous.

One final thing about the LCD that makes this a powerful camera is the manual focus mode. When you switch to manual and adjust the manual focus ring (which on the budget lens supplied with the camera is a bit plasticky and rough) you get a highly magnified focus area so you can be very precise. There are two levels of magnification.
Paul Morgan e2
13 15.2k 6 England
5 Nov 2008 10:31PM

Quote: I've never seen a EVF (sorry, LVF) this good before and it's great to see one that's better quality than the screen on the back

There`s been some very good electronic viewfinders in the past three/four years, where you suprised Mat Wink

I believe these will be available in a choice of three colours.
6 Nov 2008 2:11AM
thanks for the update Pete. that's all I needed to know and then some more.
Even the shutter speed preview may come in very handy as I have problems 'imagining' possible results. As I would like to try some more streetwork using motion blur in my subjects, this may turn out to be a very helpful tool.
too bad the lens isn't a leica, allthough the kitlens doesn't seem to be too bad. Wonder if anyone knows which other lenses can be used on this camera ?.
Paul Morgan e2
13 15.2k 6 England
6 Nov 2008 5:36PM
Any 4/3 lens Koen and most probally most other fits of lenses with the right adapter posibily even the old manual focus leica`s
7 Nov 2008 5:58AM
Thanks Paul Smile
MattGrayson 7 622 3 England
7 Nov 2008 9:09AM
Olympus have just released some firmware updates for some lenses to make them compatible with the G1. It's on the Olympus website.
Paul Morgan e2
13 15.2k 6 England
7 Nov 2008 9:07PM
Well they were aimed at the L10, should work on the G1 as well Smile
oneill 6 155 Ireland
18 Nov 2008 8:04PM
as always lads,, your review is great and spot on,, have just been playing with one, belonging to a friend of my wifes,, she got it yeserday,, great camera and the liveview fantastic both lcd,and l.vf,,is brill,,,this is a great little camera and would suit anyone ,,,,, and also any one with problems with there hands, that needs a light camera,,which takes fantastic pictures,,,, i would love to see the next g.hd that will be out in the new year,,if the hd, is as good as the cannon new dlsr,,panasonic will have another winner on there hands,,,,,pat
horley 7 United Kingdom
22 Nov 2008 5:02PM
a great review and I was also very interested with members comments about additional lenses.I might save up and treat myself to one for xmas
crookymonsta e2
6 697 10 England
2 Dec 2008 12:19PM
Thanks for this review, Pete. My husband has just bought me one for Christmas and totally spoiled me by adding the 45-200mm lens, largely due to the fact that one of the high street retailers has it half price when you purchase the camera. I have quite small hands which are beginning to be arthritic (early onset arthritis is a bit of a family failing!) and have been struggling with the Olympus E510, particularly with the bigger lens. Have been allowed a little play with it and found it perfect in terms of size and weight - just have to wait until Dec 25th now.
MattGrayson 7 622 3 England
3 Dec 2008 12:54PM

Quote: Thanks for this review, Pete. My husband has just bought me one for Christmas and totally spoiled me by adding the 45-200mm lens, largely due to the fact that one of the high street retailers has it half price when you purchase the camera. I have quite small hands which are beginning to be arthritic (early onset arthritis is a bit of a family failing!) and have been struggling with the Olympus E510, particularly with the bigger lens. Have been allowed a little play with it and found it perfect in terms of size and weight - just have to wait until Dec 25th now.

Thanks! Smile
It's Matt, by the way... Wink
oneill 6 155 Ireland
3 Dec 2008 10:00PM
sandra you ladys need to be spoiled now and again,,lol,,, and matt sure does a brill review,,, hope you have a great time with your new g1,,, i know first hand about arthritis,,have r/a 15 yrs now,,, hope you both have a brill time at christmas,get him to cook the turkey and you take the pics,,,lol,,,pat
crookymonsta e2
6 697 10 England
4 Dec 2008 1:08AM
Apologies Matt, the arthritis must be getting to my brain too!

Thanks for the kind thoughts Pat, Martin's contribution to preparing the Christmas dinner is lifting the turkey in and out of the oven - not known for his culinary skills! Sandra
I got the kit with 2 lenses.
Likes.
Fantastic viewfinder and lightness of system.
Image quality very good but slight CA here and there.
Lenses good with built in IS.
Battery life reasonable.
Uses SD card (the best kind of card IMO).
Dislikes.
Yet another mount. (I already have Canon and Olympus).
Viewfinder not good for continuous shooting while following action. It's one weakness.
aron71 4
2 Nov 2009 12:33PM
Unlike all other models of Lumix, G1 comes with inferior Lumix lens instead of high quality Leica lens. I think all the reviews should mention it boldly to make the consumers aware of the issue.

Thanks,
Aron
Panasonic Lumix G1 is great, but if you are looking for a best quality digital camera visit these site http://dslr-review.org
1 May 2010 6:40PM
Hi

I have some old Hexanon lenses, is there an adaptor available so I can use them on this camera?

cheers
Mav
9 Jun 2010 10:15AM
Which one is better. This Panosonic one or this one: http://www.ephotozine.com/article/Pentax-645D-12962
Sorry but I am a beginner.

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