Camera Reviews
by Brad Soo on February 27 2009

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Here’s my review of the Panasonic Lumix G1 – currently the only interchangeable lens camera in the market without a mirror box or optical viewfinder, which it makes up for with full-time live view. Be sure to check out full-sized photos taken straight out of the camera in the Panasonic Lumix G1 photo gallery too. Hit the link for the full review of the camera.


DPInterface Panasonic Lumix G1 Review

Brad Soo – February 27th, 2009 (Updated February 28, 2009)

panasonic g1 intro

The Panasonic Lumix G1 is the first camera in the new Micro Four Thirds system created in a joint venture by Olympus and Panasonic. Some say it looks like one of those prosumer super-zoom cameras, while to others; it might seem like a small digital SLR. It’s neither but in fact; it’s actually a little bit of both.

Where does this all lead to? Smaller sized lenses for smaller sized interchangeable lens cameras (you can’t call them Single Lens REFLEX any more since there’s no mirror) of course… let’s find out how this one of a kind interchangeable lens camera performs.

Size and Weight

The Panasonic Lumix G1 measures 124.0 x 83.6 x 45.2 mm, which is fairly compact for an interchangeable lens camera but not tiny or pocketable by any means. Without a lens attached, any memory card or battery, the Lumix G1 weighs 385 g, empty.

Box packaging and lenses

The Panasonic Lumix G1 comes boxed with your standard digital SLR accessories, which are:

  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Neck strap
  • Body cap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Camera software CD (Photo Fun Studio viewer and Silky Pix Developer Studio)
  • User’s manual
  • Lumix G 14 – 45 mm, f3.5 – f5.6 Mega OIS lens (Kit lens)
  • Lumix G 45 – 200 mm, f4.0 – f5.6 Mega OIS lens (Dual lens kit)

The Panasonic Lumix G1 is the first camera in the new Micro Four Thirds system so the only two Micro Four Thirds lenses available. If you happen to have any normal Four Thirds lenses lying around, you can use them here as well via an optional adapter.

The Lumix G1 doesn’t come with any memory – something that’s normal with all digital SLRs – and you’ll have to use a memory card of your own (The G1 takes SD and SDHC cards). It’s advisable to use at least 2 GB of memory with the camera, more if you’re planning to take RAW images. A high-speed card would be nice as well since the camera is able to perform faster with one.

The Panasonic Lumix G1 includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and charger in the box. The battery will power the camera for about 330 shots with LCD live view ON, and an additional 20 shots if you use the electronic viewfinder. That’s pretty good compared to conventional digital SLRs in live view mode, considering the G1 uses full-time live view. But switch live view off on other digital SLRs, and they perform quite a bit better than the G1 (typically around 400-500 shots per battery charge).

Accessories

Being a new interchangeable lens system means there are few native Micro Four Thirds lenses for the G1; currently there are only two in the market (which are the aforesaid kit lenses). There are more on the way but if you’re looking to get a whole array of lenses, the only choice you’ve got is to use conventional Four Thirds lenses (which are larger in size) on the G1 via an optional adapter (which will set you back around $150 and autofocus will only work with limited Four Thirds lenses).

There are also various lens filters for lenses available – neutral density, UV, circular polarizing, you name them. Flashes are naturally available as well… you can even use third party flashes but only Olympus/Panasonic flashes will sync automatically with the camera.

And then there’s a wired remote control, AC adapter for powering the camera and various camera bags and cases. The only thing missing from the Panasonic G1’s accessories list is a battery grip which some (but not all) of the competing digital SLRs have.


Camera Tour

The Panasonic Lumix G1 is a live-view interchangeable lens camera which looks a lot like a traditional digital SLR (albeit a compact one). Panasonic could have made the camera even smaller and look less like a digital SLR (read: look like a compact camera with interchangeable lenses) but they didn’t want to risk messing up on their first step into the Micro Four Thirds system…

So here we have the current Lumix G1 which looks and feels like a (small) digital SLR. The camera is well built (except one part) and ergonomics are fairly good. There are a few things which raised some concerns and question marks though – the front command dial would’ve been better if it was placed a little higher, and why a whole dedicated dial on the left to house just three autofocus mode options? The memory card door isn’t quite sturdy and also doesn’t open wide enough (you’ll have to pinch the memory card to get it out).

The Lumix G1 uses the Micro Four Thirds system that takes the mirror box and optical viewfinder (and thus the “R” out of the word SLR) out of the camera; using the contrast detection autofocus and live view features of fixed lens cameras instead However, the Lumix G1 also maintains some digital SLR traits such as a full range of manual controls and expandability via accessories, and of course, it uses interchangeable lenses (which we all love, don’t we?). Its LiveMOS sensor is also larger than sensors in fixed lens cameras and has the same 2X crop factor as full Four Thirds cameras.

One thing very un-digital SLR-like about the Lumix G1 is that it comes in your choice of three colors: black, blue and red.

panasonic g1 front

The first thing you’ll see on the front of the Lumix G1 is the Micro Four Thirds lens mount; where you twist and lock to mount the lens. Compared to the regular Four Thirds mount, it’s smaller in diameter and has two additional contacts (thus the need for an adapter if you’re using regular Four Thirds lenses). You’ll also notice the G1’s LiveMOS sensor (which is also used for contrast detection autofocus) and the lack of a mirror. All lenses mounted, Micro Four Thirds or not, will be subjected to a 2X crop factor due to the sensor’s size. So that 14-45 mm kit lens will be equivalent to 28 – 90 mm in 35 mm terms.

The lack of a mirror means two things, one good and one bad: no mirror slap sound when you take a picture but the sensor will be more prone to dust. Thankfully there’s a dust reduction system on the G1 which SHOULD remove most of the dust. Speaking of mirror slap, there’s none but the camera isn’t exactly dead silent when taking a photo – you’ll still hear the mechanical shutter “snapping” a picture.

Above the lens mount and “Lumix” words is the camera’s pop-up flash which can be popped up via a switch beside it. The flash has an average guide number of 11 m at ISO 100. If that isn’t enough, you can add an external flash to the Lumix G1 via the flash hotshoe on top. There’s even a faux-digital SLR “flash hump” where the flash is placed – normally this is where the prism is housed, but since the G1 doesn’t have an optical viewfinder, the hump is here purely for aesthetic purposes only.

On the right side of the front is the G1’s grip and front command dial and on the left are the autofocus assist/self-timer lamp and button to eject the lens.

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The Panasonic Lumix G1 features a flip out-and-twist display…

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You can flip the screen out and rotate it so you can take photos at extreme angles, such as above-head or below-waist shots.

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You can also turn the display to face yourself for self-portraits or “close” the display inwards towards the camera to protect it.

panasonic g1 back

Oh, the screen is 3 inches in size and is sharp with 460,000 pixels. I found the display to be very usable in low-light and very bright outdoors too. Want something even better? Check out that electronic viewfinder above the screen – that thing has 1.44 million pixels and has a magnification ratio of 1.4X, both of which are much higher resolution than a typical EVF and larger in magnification size compared to your average digital SLR optical viewfinder. In terms of usability, the live view image in the LCD and EVF are both sharp and movement is buttery smooth, fluid, even in low-light (compared to conventional live view screens).

Beside the EVF in the viewfinder cup, there’s a proximity sensor that detects when you bring the camera up to your eye and automatically switches to and from the EVF. You can disable this if it gets in the way (ie when the camera is around your neck). To the left of the EVF is a dioptric correction wheel for those with less-perfect eyesight and a button that allows you to manually toggle between the EVF and LCD. Again, let me remind you that the Lumix G1 is strictly live-view only; there’s no optical viewfinder here, just the EVF which is like a “mini LCD” inside the viewfinder area.

Let’s take a look to the right of the screen where there’s the playback and autofocus/exposure lock buttons. You can customize the function of the AF/AE lock so it only locks focus or exposure, or both. Then there’s plenty of space for your thumb with a nicely shaped rubberized grip to the upper right.

The DISPLAY button cycles the amount of information being shown on the camera’s LCD/EVF display. That’s followed by the five way navigation pad on the Lumix G1:

  • Up – ISO sensitivity (Auto, Intelligent ISO, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)
  • Down – Function; a shortcut button that you can customize
  • Left – Autofocus mode (Face detection, focus tracking, 23 point AF, 1 point AF)
  • Right – White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, shade, halogen, flash, custom 1 & 2, color temperature)
  • Center – Main menu/Set

The Panasonic Lumix G1 has a customizable Function button as seen on some of Panasonic’s fixed lens cameras like the Lumix LX3). You can assign it to adjust aspect ratio, image resolution, metering mode, Intelligent Exposure or display composition lines. By default, it’s assigned to metering mode, which is fine by me since the other options seem less useful.

Finally, there’s one more button here, that’s the Photo Preview button which toggles the camera’s depth-of-field and exposure brightness preview.

panasonic g1 top

Right, we’re not done with the camera tour yet – here’s the top of the Panasonic Lumix G1. There are a few buttons, dials and switches here (but thankfully Panasonic didn’t go overboard with em here). Working our way from left to right, the first thing you’ll see is the camera’s focus mode dial on the left. You can select from Single Autofocus (AF-S) which is your traditional half-press the shutter button to focus, Continuous Focus (AF-C) where the camera is always focusing and manual focus (MF). Speaking of manual focus, the Lumix G1 utilizes Electronic Manual Focus where the lens elements aren’t directly linked to the focus ring – instead turning the manual focus ring sends a signal to the camera to move the focus elements. Thankfully, the system is well-implemented and everything is responsive here.

There’s also a hotshoe which is in-line with the lens, where you can attach an external flash unit (though only Panasonic flashes will sync automatically with the camera; you’ll have to use 3rd party flashes in manual mode only). The fastest flash sync speed here is 1/160 sec which is about average for an entry-level interchangeable lens camera.

The other dial you’ll see at the top of the Lumix G1 is the mode dial. There are many modes which we’ll cover clockwise, beginning from the tiny red icon:

  • Intelligent Auto – Fully automatic with Panasonic’s “Intelligent” features activated
  • Program mode – All the settings are unlocked but the camera still decides exposure for you. Program shift is available so you can select different aperture/shutter speed combinations
  • Aperture priority – Choose an aperture (it depends on the lens being used) and the camera will pick a matching shutter speed
  • Shutter priority – Choose a shutter speed (1/4000 to 60 seconds) and the camera will pick a matching aperture value
  • Manual mode – All the menus are unlocked AND you get full control over shutter speed and aperture.
  • Custom – Allows you to store three of your own custom set of settings here.
  • My Colors (doesn’t this sound a bit Canon-ish?) –
  • Other scene modes – sunset, party, baby 1 & 2 and pet modes
  • Main advanced scene modes – Night portrait, closeup, sports, scenery, portrait

The Panasonic Lumix G1 features Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto mode which activates face detection, auto scene detection, subject tracking, Intelligent ISO and Intelligent Exposure all at once. Basically you can use the G1 as a point-and-snap camera in Intelligent Auto mode as the camera handles everything, down to picking a scene mode for you based on what you’re aiming at.

The camera also has what Panasonic calls “Advanced scene modes”. These five modes are directly accessible on the mode dial and allow you to specify the type of scene you’re framing, which is great for beginners:

  • Portrait – Normal, soft skin, outdoors, indoors, creative
  • Scenery – Normal, nature, architecture, creative
  • Sports – Normal, outdoors, indoors, creative
  • Closeup – Flower, food, objects,, creative
  • Night portrait – Night portrait, night scenery, illuminations, creative

There are two switches below the mode dial – one is the on/off switch while the other one is the drive mode switch. The drive mode switch allows you to select between one shot, continuous mode (High and low speed), exposure bracketing and self-timer (2 seconds, 10 seconds, 10 seconds with 3 pictures). In exposure bracketing mode, the camera allows you to select and snap 3, 5 or 7 photos with different exposure values.

Saving the three buttons for the last bit, they are the shutter button, Quick Menu button and Film Mode button.

panasonic g1 side

On this side of the Panasonic Lumix G1 are three connectivity ports. There’s one side of the neck strap loop here and next to that is a port for the camera’s optional wired remote control (under the door).

panasonic g1 ports

The bottom two is hidden under a single door, and they are a Mini HDMI out port and a combined A/V out + USB port. The camera supports USB 2.0 High-speed connectivity.

The other side of the Lumix G1 features the camera’s memory card slot. The door over it isn’t very sturdy and it doesn’t open wide enough either. As a result, you’ll have to treat it right and may have to use your nails to pinch the SD/SDHC card when removing it.

panasonic g1 bottom

At last, after a long camera tour, we’ve reached the bottom of the Lumix G1. There’s the battery compartment with a solid and secure door (unlike the memory card door) and a metal tripod mount which is in-line with the lens. It may depend on your tripod head but chances are you will be able to swap batteries when the camera is on a tripod.

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

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And this is what you’ll see on the Panasonic Lumix G1’s shooting screen – a whole lot of information about exposure, camera settings, image resolution and compression details. One thing about the Lumix G1’s LCD is that its aspect ratio is 3:2 (as opposed to the usual 4:3), so expect to see black borders at the side when shooting in 4:3. There’s an optional live histogram you can toggle as well as three compositional grid lines available. If you’re using manual focus, there’s manual focus enlargement you can activate (2X or 4X) and you can move that enlargement box around the frame too, to make confirming focus an easier task.

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One VERY nice feature of the Panasonic Lumix G1 is its live histogram… you can move it around place it wherever you like.

There are just three image resolution settings on the Lumix G1 which are 12 MP, 6 MP and 3 MP along with three aspect ratios – traditional 4:3, print 3:2 or widescreen 16:9. There are two image compression settings available for JPEG images: Fine and Standard plus a RAW image mode.

You’ll have to process RAW files back on your computer using software (Either the bundled Silky Pix Developer Studio software, or your own, such as Photoshop), but you’ll get complete control over almost every single aspect of the image: white balance, noise reduction, contrast, saturation, exposure, colors, etc. If you messed up some camera settings but took the picture in RAW format, then most likely you’ll be able to correct it later on your computer.

The catch of having so much control over your pictures is RAW images need to be processed first into a JPEG image to become usable… and processing needs work. Second, RAW images have larger file sizes compared to JPEG pictures and you can only use full resolution for them.

If memory size isn’t an issue for you, there’s an option to save both a RAW image AND a JPEG photo (RAW + JPEG mode) at the same time. This will take up more space than ever in your memory card but if you find the JPEG image “good enough” later on while post-processing, you can instantly print a photo or post it on the net without having to process the RAW file.

Selecting lower JPEG image resolutions on the Lumix G1 automatically enables “Extra/Extended Optical Zoom”, which is essentially cropping, so you can get additional reach without lowering image quality (unlike traditional digital zoom). You can extend the G1’s zoom range by 2X if you select the 3 megapixel setting on the camera.

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This is what you’ll get with the camera’s info display…

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Now let’s head on to the camera’s shooting menu:

  • Aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2, 16:9 wide)
  • Picture size (Large – 12 MP, Medium – 6 MP, Small – 3 MP)
  • Quality (Fine, standard, RAW, RAW + fine, RAW + standard
  • Metering method (Intelligent multiple, center-weighted, spot)
  • Optical image stabilization (Off, mode 1, mode 2, mode 3)
  • Flash setting (Auto, auto + redeye reduction, on, on + redeye reduction, slow sync, slow sync + redeye reduction, off)
  • Software redeye removal
  • Flash synchro (1st curtain, 2nd curtain)
  • Flash exposure compensation (+/-2 in 1/3 step increments)
  • Intelligent Exposure (Off, low, standard, high) – brighten dark areas of photos
  • Extra optical zoom
  • Digital zoom
  • Burst mode (low speed, high speed)
  • Auto exposure bracketing (number of shots/exposure variance/capture order)
  • Self-timer (2 seconds, 10 seconds, 10 seconds + 3 pictures)
  • Color space (sRGB, Adobe RGB)
  • Long exposure noise reduction
  • ISO Limit – when using automatic/intelligent ISO
  • ISO exposure increments (1/3 step, 1/1 step)

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The Lumix G1 enables you to select a Film Mode preset or configure your own (My Film 1 and My Film 2) using your own combinations of contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction (Each +/-2 in 1 step increments). The preset options are: Standard, dynamic, nature, smooth, nostalgic and vibrant. If you’re shooting in black-and-white, you’ll get just three preset options: standard, dynamic or smooth. Don’t know what to choose? There’s Film Mode Bracketing which takes a picture and applies a different Film Mode to each.

Intelligent ISO mode on the G1 automatically adjusts ISO according to the amount of movement in the frame. More movement would mean a higher ISO setting to freeze action while a static scene will make the camera choose a low ISO setting. Intelligent Exposure is just like D-Lighting, iContrast and Shadow Adjustment on other cameras, and brightens dark areas of your photo at the cost of some increased noise.

As you’d expect on an interchangeable lens camera, the Panasonic Lumix G1 has several advanced white balance controls. There’s the typical “white set mode” where you set white balance by pointing the camera at a uniform white or gray surface. You can adjust white balance based on color temperature (ranging from 2500 to 10000K) or via a 2-axis color adjustment scale (adjustable to +/- 9 steps in either the blue/amber or magenta/green direction). If you’re using the color scale, there’s a white balance bracketing feature available so you can take three pictures in a row; each with a different white balance setting.

There’s also color effect bracketing which offers three options: Take a “Standard” color photo along with either a black & white or sepia photo, or take three photos with all 3 options together (Standard color, black & white and sepia)

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The Panasonic Lumix G1 has another menu called the “My Menu”, which remembers the 5 most recent settings changed so you can quickly access them.

Finally, there’s optical image stabilization on the Panasonic Lumix G1’s lens with three modes in the menu you can set for it: Mode 1, Mode 2 and Mode 3 (You can opt to turn the system off as well). The image stabilization system is more active in mode 1 to help you compose your photos steadily while mode 2 is more effective, activating the Mega OIS system only when the photo is taken. Mode 3 is useful when following a subject as stabilizes the shot as you’re panning.

Custom menu

While the Panasonic Lumix G1 has a SETUP menu, we already know what setup menus do – you can set the clock, camera sounds, TV connectivity settings and format the memory card from there. What we really wanna take a look at is the CUSTOM menu, which allows you to customize various things about the camera according to your preference.

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  • Set custom memory – customize 3 sets of your own settings on the CUSTOM mode dial spot
  • Live view finder & LCD display style
  • LCD info display – you can toggle it on/off, and choose one of three color schemes
  • LVF/LCD Auto – turn this on if you want the camera to detect your eye at the viewfinder and automatically switch between the viewfinder and LCD
  • Live histogram
  • Guide lines – compositional guide lines superimposed on-screen
  • AF/AE Lock button function (AF lock only, AE lock only, AF & AE lock)
  • AF/AE Lock hold
  • Preview hold

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  • Pre-AF (off, quick, continuous focus)
  • Direct AF area
  • Focus priority
  • Autofocus assist lamp
  • AF+MF – toggle if you can override focus
  • MF assist – manual focus enlargement
  • Exposure settings – how to activate exposure adjustment
  • Dial guide
  • Preview hold
  • Menu resume
  • Pixel refresh
  • Shoot without lens?

Live view

This is how the Panasonic Lumix G1 operates (it’s a full-time live view camera, remember?). Lumix G1 in-hand and tilting the LCD display during live-view.

panasonic g1 inhandpanasonic g1 liveview

Video Recording

The Panasonic Lumix G1 doesn’t have any movie mode though Panasonic does have plans to release a Micro Four Thirds camera with HD video capabilities somewhere this year.

Performance

All performance testing of the Panasonic Lumix G1 was performed using a high-speed 4 GB SanDisk Extreme III SDHC card.

The Panasonic Lumix G1’s startup time was instant like most digital SLR cameras. Something surprising about the Lumix G1 is that despite using contrast-detect autofocus (versus phase detect AF in regular digital SLRs), it’s focusing speeds rival that of digital SLRs of its class. Of course, like digital SLRs also, exact focus times depend on the lens being used on the camera. In manual focus mode, the camera can snap instantly without delay.

  • Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every second (no delay)
  • Shot-to-shot speed (RAW mode) – 1 shot every 1.2 seconds
  • On-board flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 5 seconds on average

Despite having an advertised “3 frames per second” burst rate, the Lumix G1’s continuous shooting performance is actually a tad lower in real life. The camera is able to shoot continuously at 2.8 to 2.9 frames per second up to 5 RAW+JPEG, 6 RAW only or an unlimited number of JPEG photos. Using the “low-speed” burst option makes the G1 shoot at 2 frames per second, up to 5 RAW+JPEG, 6 RAW only or unlimited JPEG pictures… which somehow seem to hint that the RAW+JPEG and RAW burst limits are software capped.

With no lens to retract, the camera just powers down instantly when you flip the switch. Overall performance of the Panasonic Lumix G1 rivals most other entry-level digital SLRs in its class, though in the burst mode department, it falls short in number of RAW pictures it can take, as well as burst speed (entry-level digital SLRs nowadays are gradually making their way to 3.5 to 4 frames per second).

Image Quality

Let’s have a look at how the Panasonic Lumix G1 performs in the image quality department:

iso100

ISO 100 (f5.4, 0.77 sec)

iso200

ISO 200 (f5.4, 1/3 sec)

iso400

ISO 400 (f5.4, 1/6 sec)

iso800

ISO 800 (f5.4, 1/13 sec)

iso1600

ISO 1600 (f5.4, 1/25 sec)

iso3200

ISO 3200 (f5.4, 1/50 sec)

All the sample photos of the Panasonic Lumix G1, including the crops above, were taken with the camera’s 14-45 mm kit lens.

The Panasonic Lumix G1 produces good quality photos at its lower settings – ISO 100, 200 and 400 all look very similar. We only start seeing a little color noise at ISO 800 which still should be acceptable for most cases (unless you’re shooting in utter darkness). Going up to the higher settings, there’s a noticeable jump in noise as we approach ISO 1600, and again at ISO 3200, so expect to do some software post-processing and noise reduction if you’re planning to take photos at the two higher ISO settings.

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It’s hard to say exactly the amount of distortion you’ll get in your pictures since that varies according to the lens being used on the camera. Using the Panasonic Lumix G1’s 14-45 mm kit lens, I am glad to report that distortion and edge softness was low. Color fringing (chromatic aberration) shouldn’t be a problem at all on the Lumix G1, no matter what lens is used, since Panasonic’s imaging processor will remove that automatically.

In terms of redeye, there was none when using even the G1’s on-board flash. While this may vary in different conditions and photos, if you do get redeye in photos, there are two solutions available: enable the Lumix G1’s (software-based) redeye removal mode or use an external flash with the camera.

As an interchangeable lens camera (complete with a large imaging sensor), the Panasonic Lumix G1’s image quality is as good as you’d get on a regular Four Thirds camera and is competitive with other entry-level digital SLRs. When comparing the two higher ISO settings (1600 and 3200) with that on other digital SLR cameras, just remember the FourThirds-sized (2X crop) sensor the G1 has is actually slightly smaller than APS-C (1.5X crop) sensor on conventional digital SLRs.

Photo gallery

There are full-sized photos available in the Panasonic Lumix G1 photo gallery.


Playback

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The Panasonic Lumix G1 has a good playback mode for an interchangeable lens camera. There aren’t any fancy features but the basics are all here: image rotation, print marking, image protection, resizing, trimming and aspect ratio conversion. You can playback photos one-by-one, in sets of thumbnails (12 or 30 thumbnails), by date in calendar view or automatically using the slideshow feature. Photos can be enlarged by 16X so you can inspect details or check focus. You can also tag photos as your “favorites” so you can play only those later on.

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The default view of the Panasonic Lumix G1 shows you just basic photo information… you can switch to the second view which shows you both camera settings and exposure information. The third view is all about exposure – there’s shutter speed, aperture, ISO, a brightness histogram and RGB histograms.

Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix G1 is “the world’s smallest” interchangeable lens camera at the moment. It works like a digital SLR, takes pictures like a digital SLR, is as expandable as a digital SLR… but it takes away the mirror box (and thus the optical viewfinder) so it can be small and quiet. Despite the “world’s smallest” claim being true, the G1 isn’t exactly what you’d call tiny or pocketable. Rather, it’s just slightly smaller than most other digital SLRs of its class (entry-level ones).

The Lumix G1 offers things you’d typically expect from a digital SLR – fast autofocus and performance, near-instant response, full manual controls, an array of accessories and of course, good image quality. Besides that are a few changes from the norm – thanks to the removal of the mirror box, the camera is near (but not completely) silent, and operates on live-view full time. You can choose between the flip-out and rotate LCD, which allows for creative, angled shots or that very nice, high-resolution “live view finder”. When you hear the word “liveview”, you’d normally associate it with “movie mode”… unfortunately, there isn’t one here on the Lumix G1. Instead, you’ll have to wait for “the next Micro Four Thirds camera” that Panasonic will announce later this year.

There are a couple more perks you can find on the Panasonic Lumix G1 such as face detection, a custom mode dial spot, custom Function button, the ability to move the AF-point around the frame and you can put that live histogram wherever you want. The camera has a regular old playback mode, no fancy features or editing functions, but you do get to see a lot of information about your photos and FOUR histograms.

Despite having so many good points, the Lumix G1 isn’t flawless. There were a couple of design issues – the improperly placed front command dial, memory card door that is flimsy and doesn’t open wide enough and a fairly redundant dedicated dial for focus modes (they could’ve just used a small switch on the side of the camera). Then there’s the issue that comes about as a result of the G1 being a full-time live view camera: battery life is good considering live view is used 100% of the time; but compared to digital SLRs in this class (which use optical viewfinders), it’s actually on the low side.

As the first camera in the brand new Micro Four Thirds system, it isn’t surprising that there are only two native Micro Four Thirds lenses available to the Panasonic Lumix G1. You can use regular Four Thirds lenses but not without an expensive adapter and autofocus doesn’t work on all those “regular” lenses. The camera itself is also expensive, currently retailing at around $650 versus other entry-level digital SLRs going for around $500.

The Panasonic Lumix G1 is a very nice camera which offers digital SLR-like performance and operation in a not-so-SLR way internally… but with the slightly high price tags (both the camera itself and lenses & accessories) and the Micro Four Thirds system is currently at its infancy, the G1 isn’t exactly the ultimate camera. The camera does deserve my recommendation though for being so capable and its digital SLR like performance. I feel the Panasonic Lumix G1 is most suited to people who haven’t bought into a digital SLR system yet or taking their first step into the world of digital SLRs from compacts and want the smoothest transition possible.

For those who already have a system and are just looking for secondary system so you can have “a small SLR”, you might wanna consult your wallet as well (owning two interchangeable lens systems has never been cheap).

What’s hot:

  • Very good image quality; automatic color fringing and redeye removal
  • Small size for interchangeable lens camera
  • Very good live view implementation; focusing speed rivals digital SLR competitors
  • 3 inch flip out and rotate LCD and super-high resolution electronic viewfinder
  • Customizable mode dial position and function button
  • Great for beginners: Intelligent Auto, face detection and good kit lens
  • Quick performance
  • Full manual controls (As you would expect)

What’s not:

  • Noise at ISO 1600 & 3200; need post-processing to deal with that
  • Camera is more expensive than competing digital SLRs; and pricey accessories
  • Below average battery life (versus other digital SLRs); no battery grip option
  • Restricted choice of lenses at the moment, normal Four Thirds adapter is expensive
  • Very plain and basic playback mode
  • Lacks any sort of movie mode

Recommended Accessories:

2 GB or 4 GB high-speed SD/SDHC memory card


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2 Comments

  1. helen December 25, 2009 Reply

    MY NEW LUMIX G1F IS ALL SET UP, BUT, ALL THE IMAGES ARE JUST BLACK! IT TAKES THE PICTURE, I HAVE CHECKED THE CARD IT IS NEW, IT PLAYS BACK FROM OTHER CARDS WITH PHOTOS TAKEN ON OTHER CAMERAS, BUT, ALAS, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, IT EVEN COUNTS THE NUMBER OF NOTHINGS!

    • Brad December 27, 2009 Reply

      Check if you’ve removed the lens cap, then remove the lens to see if there’s anything stuck between the lens and camera. If nothing seems wrong, it could be that your sensor and/or shutter mechanism is messed up and you should contact Panasonic’s official support to get the camera fixed.

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