Preview by Matt Grayson
It's been approximately a year since Panasonic announced the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 and in that time they've released the GH1 with additional video features, several lenses and now what, on the surface, appears to be an Olympus E-P1 clone.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1: Specification
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1: Features
- Resolution: 12Mp
- Sensor size: 17.3 x 13.0 mm (in 4:3 aspect ratio)
- Sensor type: LiveMOS
- Image size: 4000x3000
- Aspect ratio: 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1
- Focus system: Contrast AF system, AF-S, AF-C, Manual
- Focus points: 23
- Focus types: Face detection, AF tracking, 23 area focusing, 1 area focusing
- Crop factor: 2x
- Lens mount: Micro FourThirds
- File type: JPEG, RAW
- Sensitivity: ISO100-3200
- Storage: SD, SDHC
- Metering system: 144 zone multi pattern metering
- Metering types: intelligent multiple, centre-weighted, spot
- Exposure compensation: +/- 3EV in 1/3 step increments
- Shutter speed: 60sec-1/4000sec & bulb
- Frames per second: 3fps hi-speed, 2fps low speed
- Flash: Built-in, hotshoe (guide no. 6, ISO100),
- Flash metering: TTL
- Flash sync speed: 1/160sec
- Integrated cleaning: Supersonic Wave filter
- Live view: Yes
- Viewfinder: Optional LVF (Live Viewfinder)
- Monitor: 3in LCD 460,000dot (153,333px)
- Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI,
- Power: Li-Ion battery
- Size: 119x71x36.3mm
- Weight: 285g
The GF1 is a pleasant camera to look at, it's thinner than the two other models in the Micro FourThirds system and is aimed at the market place that want to move into DSLR territory but may be a little intimidated by the size of the cameras. They could also be worried about the features available on a DSLR system and fear that they don't have the skills to deal with it.
That's why the GF1 has the iA feature that Panasonic pioneered to make taking pictures much easier for the market share that weren't bothered about ISO and shutter speeds. Luckily, these expandable features are also available so if you're in the market for a camera with interchangeable lenses then you have an extra camera to consider now.
There are plenty of new features to whet your appetite such as a faster Contrast AF system which, Panasonic say, can find the subject in 0.03sec although I'm guessing this is in clinical conditions as the hunting took longer than that. However, it's a definite improvement on the Olympus E-P1 which is the main rival of the GF1. There's additional MyColour modes available including a rather interesting Silhouette mode. This is designed to aid in silhouetting backlit subjects making them definitely go black or, in my example, more black.
Without silhouette mode enabled.
The same shot in silhouette mode.
In silhouette mode, the camera can't adapt to an alternative light set up.
The interesting part is using it in other situations. For a group shot of the models, it brought out a result looking similar to a HDR image. Another time it over exposed which wasn't really suitable but what I started to realise was that because this is designed to be used in one particular scenario, it can't adapt to any changes meaning the results you harvest will be akin to using an out of date film where the outcome is pretty random. Unfortunately, flash can't be activated in this mode or I think I could have had even more fun with it. Other interesting MyColour settings include Expressive which is closer to the Olympus Pop Art mode, Retro, Pure, Elegant and Dynamic Art for a dynamic range effect.
Scene modes have been added to and now includes a peripheral defocus mode which brings up a target focus point that you can move around the frame and focus on off centre subjects. It's not the first time this has been seen, I used it on the late, great Canon Powershot G9 but the advantage it has here is that it can be used in video. However, the target doesn't cover the full area of the frame which is a shame.
Peripheral defocus allows off centre subject shooting.
Which you can then change after each shot by moving the navigation pad.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 also offers multi aspect ratios of 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and a new 1:1 square format. In the review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 review, we discovered the aspect ratios incorporated the extra pixels of the sensor to maintain resolution but this hasn't happened on the GF1 so you do lose it. It's not a massive loss though with a 1:1 image still pumping out 8.9Mp with a 2992x2992 image.The other sizes still maintain the longest edge at 4000 pixels to get as near to maximum resolution as possible.
The front is bereft of buttons less the lens release for the Micro FourThirds lenses to be changed over. The sensor is open to the elements when doing this so it's best to do it as quickly as possible although the dust reduction uses a super sonic wave which vibrates at 50,000 times per second. The top plate houses the pop up flash which is on a new structure which raises the flash a lot higher than we normally see. A dedicated hotshoe is sat next to the flash for external flash or the optional live view finder.
A large command dial dominates the top with a drive switch under it. I'm a bit hit and miss about the location of the switch as I kept catching it when changing mode meaning I would find myself in burst mode or self timer but once I realised what was happening, I could take more care. Next to the dial is the shutter release, power switch and a dedicated one touch video button which will start recording video regardless of the mode you're in at the time. In my recent review of the Lumix DMC-FX60, I mentioned that the camera needed one of these buttons so it's good to see one here. Video runs at 1280x720p and records in AVCHD Lite which is a more compressed version of HD recording for the maximum amount of recording time.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1: Performance
Below are a selection of the images taken at the launch. While these are full size images for you to download and enjoy, they're from a pre-production model so the performance and results of the camera could change at any time.
In Custom Black and White mode.
Aspect ratio 4:3.
Aspect ratio 3:2.
Aspect ratio 16:9. Notice how the top of the statue is missing due to the cropped format.
Aspect ratio 1:1.
A close detail shot shows every pore and good detail in the eyes.
Soft skin mode.
Soft skin mode with flash.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1: Verdict
After using it for a while, I'm more convinced that this is a good release. It seems to be based on the design of the Olympus E-P1 but has a better UI, more features and, frankly, takes better pictures.
It has its downsides, such as the lack of a built-in viewfinder, and I'd like to see the screen on the back give shooting information while I use the viewfinder to shoot.
If you're thinking of upgrading to a DSLR but it's putting you off lugging all that gear around, or if the idea of all those buttons and features is a bit daunting, then this is an ideal little camera to start with.
Prices are sketchy but look to be aimed at around the same mark as the Olympus E-P1.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1: Plus points
Good image results
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1: Minus points
No built-in viewfinder
Optional finder is low resolution
Switch under command dial can be tricky
The following scores are based on a pre-production model and could change when the final spec unit has been tested.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 is available to preorder from Warehouse Express at a price of £569 body only.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 body only