Panasonic Lumix GF1 Review and All About the Micro Four Thirds System
Text and Photos by Allison Gibson
The Micro Four Thirds System
The Micro Four Thirds standard, co-developed by Olympus and Panasonic in 2008, has been gaining popularity since its inception. But many consumers (and manufacturers) are still hesitant to commit their money to the system. The advantage of the mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera is that you get an interchangeable lens system on a more compact body, and with a smaller lens mount (about 6mm), than that of a D-SLR. Also, though the size of the image sensor is 30-40% less than the APS-C size sensors used in most D-SLRs, it’s about nine times larger than that of a point-and-shoot. The slimmer body of the Micro Four Thirds camera is achieved by abandoning the mirror box (which in a D-SLR is necessary for the viewfinder to see exactly what the lens sees), operating exclusively with Live View shooting. Essentially, Micro Four Thirds offers photographers the image quality—and freedom of interchangeable lenses—of a D-SLR, while at the same time allowing for the portability of compact fixed lens cameras.
However, the difference between Micro Four Thirds and D-SLR isn’t about the former having a lower price tag, necessarily. The eight Micro Four Thirds cameras on the market right now—the Panasonic G1, GH1, GF1, G10* and G2*, and the Olympus PEN EP1, EP2 and EPL1—are in the $600 to $1,500 price range (*the G10 and G2 were announced by Panasonic on 3/8/2010 but are not yet available to consumers). Meanwhile, entry-level D-SLRs can be found for under $500. There are also new competitors to the Micro Four Thirds genre, beyond the existing D-SLR. There have been a couple new advancements in the realm of compact interchangeable lens cameras since the beginning of 2010, including the Samsung NX10. Introduced in full at CES in January, the NX10 (not yet available to consumers) incorporates a 14.6-megapixel APS-C size CMOS sensor with a mirrorless interchangeable lens, all in a package much smaller than a standard D-SLR. And at PMA in February, Sony announced a concept camera that will also rival the Micro Four Thirds genre in terms of what it offers—a larger than point-and-shoot image sensor, interchangeable lenses and a stealth body size.
Panasonic Lumix GF1
The latest addition to Panasonic’s Lumix G series lineup of Micro Four Thirds cameras is the Lumix DMC-GF1. At $899.95 (MSRP), the 12MP GF1 is at the middle price point of the three in the series. The kit comes with a 20mm f/1.7 Micro Four Thirds “pancake” lens, though I tested it with Panasonic’s Lumix G Vario14-45mm f/1:3.5-5.6.
The boxy retroish style of the GF1’s body makes the camera seem important, like a part of photographic history. And though the manufacturer markets the camera as, “the world’s smallest and lightest system camera,” it definitely feels solid in-hand. In fact, it seems too solid, and heavy really, to hold out in front of you to frame a shot with the LCD, but since there is no built-in viewfinder that’s what you’re left to. Panasonic does sell an optional external electric viewfinder (DMW-LVF1), which offers 100% field of view when attached to the hotshoe, and I regret that I didn’t test the camera with it.
The 3-inch wide angle LCD is nice and bright, but I had the urge to hold the camera up to my eye to frame each shot, the same way I would with a D-SLR. It’s funny that the key function buttons on the camera are even set up in such a way that they’d work fine if you had your eye to the viewfinder. The dial for adjusting the aperture and shutter speed hits right where the thumb can get to it, and there is even a dedicated video button on the top near the shutter release so that you can jump to video mode regardless of what shooting mode you’re currently in. Other external functions include: a drive mode lever (for burst, auto bracket and self-timer), and buttons for: playback, opening the pop-up flash, ISO control, White Balance and Auto Focus mode, among others. Within the digital menu, there are easy to navigate layers, including Film Mode (more on that later), Aspect Ratio choices and controls for video (“Motion Picture”) mode.
With the GF1’s impressive full-time Live View, you’re able to see your real time adjustments to exposure, aperture and even shutter speed, so there are no surprises after you take a shot. And as soon as you press the shutter release, you’re taking your picture—there’s no lag time from shot-to-shot like with a point-and-shoot—which is another reason this camera feels on par with a D-SLR.
The GF1 shoots in RAW and JPEG, and offers full Manual shooting mode as well as Aperture and Shutter Priorities, Auto mode, 18 dedicated still image Scene modes and 11 movie Scene modes. The GF1 also boasts an interesting list of “Film modes,” including for color: Standard, Dynamic, Nature, Smooth, Nostalgic and Vibrant; and for black-and-white: Standard, Dynamic and Smooth, which emulate film effects. There are also options to create and save custom Film modes. The GF1’s available ISO sensitivity is from 100 to 3200 with Auto and Intelligent ISO. It shoots High Definition video (1280 x 720 at 30fps) in AVCHD Lite format (Motion JPEG).
You probably don’t know a lot of people who own a Micro Four Thirds camera, mainly because the standard is relatively new and there are so few models out there. If you’re looking into it now, it’s probably because you’re drawn to the interchangeable lens system, compact size and D-SLR-like image quality, and you’re excited by the technology of it all. The Panasonic Lumix GF1 will certainly set you apart, and you will have the tools to capture large, sharp and dynamic images. While the smaller lens mount size means you can’t use anything from an existing arsenal of D-SLR lenses, there are more than 20 available Leica M/R lenses and 30 Four Thirds lenses that can be used with the Micro Four Thirds System standard GF1 (with a lens mount).
Panasonic Lumix GF1
- $899.95 (comes with a 20mm f/1.7 Micro Four Thirds “pancake” lens)
- 4.69”W x 2.8”H x 1.43”D; 0.63 lbs.
- Image Sensor:
- Image Sensor Size:
- 17.3 x 13.0mm
- Still Recording Format:
- JPEG(DCF, Exif 2.21), RAW, DPOF compatible
- 3-inch LCD (460,000 pixels)
- Manual Exposure Control:
- Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual
- ISO Sensitivity:
- Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, Intelligent ISO
- Special Features:
- Full-time Live View, Built-in Pop-up Flash, Hotshoe, Burst Shooting Mode, Scene Modes
- Video Recording Mode:
- 1280 x 720/30fps in AVCHD Lite format (Motion JPEG)
- Provided Accessories:
- PHOTOfunSTUDIO 4.0 HD Edition software, SILKYPIX Developer Studio 3.0 SE software, USB Driver, Battery Charger/AC Adapter, Battery Pack, Body Cap, AV Cable, USB Connection Cable, AC Cable, DC Cable, Shoulder Strap, CD-ROM
- Power Source:
- ID-Security Li-ion Battery Pack
Tags: Camera Reviews, Cameras, micro four-thirds, Olympus, Olympus E-P2, Olympus EP1, Olympus PEN E-PL1, Panasonic, Panasonic DMC-G2, panasonic lumix G1, Panasonic Lumix G10, Panasonic Lumix GF1, Panasonic Lumix GH1 | 1 Comment »
Along with the just announced Micro Four-Thirds Lumix G10, Panasonic has introduced the DMC-G2—the “world’s first digital interchangeable lens system camera with a touch control movable LCD.” The 12.1 MP Live MOS sensor LUMIX G2 records 1280 x 720 HD videos in the AVCHD Lite format and features iA (Intelligent Auto) mode as well as full manual and aperture and shutter priority shooting modes. The G2 will be available in red, blue and black, though pricing and availablity won’t be known until 30 days prior to shipping. See the press release below.
Secaucus, NJ (March 7, 2010) – Panasonic today announces the LUMIX DMC-G2, the world’s first* digital interchangeable lens system camera with a movable LCD that allows for touch-control, and the successor to the award-winning and revolutionary LUMIX G1, which was the world’s first Micro Four Thirds digital camera. The intuitive touch-control shooting elevates the camera’s operability, letting the user adjust auto focus (AF) simply by touching the subject on the large 3.0-inch 460,000-dot high- resolution LCD. The LUMIX G2, also shoots 720p High Definition video using the AVCHD Lite format, and joins the LUMIX G10, also introduced today, as the latest models in the LUMIX G Micro System.
With the touch-screen operation, users can even snap a photo by touching the LUMIX G2’s screen. Additionally, the touch-screen operation excels not only for shooting but also during playback. Users can touch one thumbnail viewed among many to quickly and easily see the full size of the desired photo. Also, to view images one-by-one, photos can be dragged across the screen to browse as though flipping the pages of a book.
“With the LUMIX G2, Panasonic is pleased to continue to lead the evolution of the Micro Four Thirds platform and also be the first in the industry to offer a touch-screen interchangeable lens system camera,” said David Briganti, Senior Product Manager, Imaging, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. “Touch-operation is a user interface with which many consumers are both familiar and expect, and we think the LUMIX G2’s touch-operation makes it easier and quicker to take photos and videos that have professional-like effects.”
Using the touch-screen operation, once a user locks onto a subject, the LUMIX G2 enables AF Tracking and will track the subject as it moves within the frame. Then, with a touch on the screen, users can select the part and the size of AF area with the 1-area AF. The Multi-area AF sets a group of AF points according to the composition. While using the manual focus, users can enlarge a subject by touching it and then choosing to enlarge it by 1x, 5x or 10x and then smoothly moving the part by dragging it on the screen. With this touch operation, menu settings can be changed quickly; cutting the time it takes to navigate using standard cursors. However, all setting changes can still be done using the control pad, if preferred.
The LUMIX G2 records 1280 x 720 HD videos in the AVCHD Lite format, which increases recording capacity and is highly compatible with audio-visual equipment. With a dedicated video record button, users can easily start recording a video. To complement its high-quality video capabilities, the LUMIX G2 features advanced audio options, as sound is recorded with Dolby Digital Creator and an optional accessory stereo microphone can be attached. A Wind Cut function further enhances the sound as it helps reduce noise caused from background wind.
The 3.0-inch touch-operation LCD has a wide-viewing angle and rotates 180° from side to side and tilts 270° up and down, providing approximately 100% of field of view. This free-angle LCD with a touch-screen operation makes it possible to both view and touch the screen from any angle. The double Live-View function offered by the high-resolution, 460,000-dot free-angle Intelligent LCD and 1,440,000-dot 1.4x (0.7x) Live View Finder allows users to see the settings’ results before pressing the shutter.
The 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor featured in the LUMIX G2 offers the best of both worlds – the outstanding image quality of a CCD sensor, and the lower power consumption of a CMOS sensor. Advanced technology enables it to read four channels of data simultaneously, helping the LUMIX G2 to deliver 60 frames-per-second Full-time Live View images, while faithfully reproducing high-resolution images with fine detail and rich gradation. Plus, with the high-speed, high-performance Venus Engine HD II, which has been re-engineered to further improve image quality.
The new high-speed, high-performance Venus Engine HD II supports the new image processing technology Intelligent Resolution, which enables the recording of beautiful photo and HD video with high quality signal processing. With Intelligent Resolution technology, three areas – outlines, detailed texture areas and soft gradation – are automatically detected. The outline parts are enhanced effectively to give edges increased clarity, while simultaneously giving a moderate accentuation to the textured areas so they look finely detailed. For the soft gradation areas, the improved noise reduction system of the Venus Engine HD II is applied to achieve a smoother effect. Apart from the uniform enhancement of sharpness, the innovative technology Intelligent Resolution precisely performs signal processing pixel by pixel in the most effective way, resulting in images that are naturally clear.
For users looking for additional creative options for both photos and videos, the LUMIX G2 delivers. While shooting HD video, users can set the camera in “P” mode – to change the aperture for professional-like movie effects where the images blur into focus. For still photos, the LUMIX G2 features the My Color mode with a total of seven preset effects – Expressive, Retro, Pure, Elegant, Monochrome, Dynamic Art, and Silhouette while also keeping the Custom mode, which lets users manually set the color, brightness and saturation levels and save their favorite settings into memory.
On the other hand, for beginner users not yet ready for manual modes – the LUMIX G2 features iA (Intelligent Auto), a popular setting in the LUMIX point-and-shoots that automatically engages features and settings for optimal image quality by detecting the shooting environment. Panasonic iA is available in both still photo and video recording settings and a new dedicated iA button, which illuminates in blue when engaged, makes it even easier to use this handy feature.
Other features of the LUMIX G2 include:
* Dust Reduction System: If dust or other foreign matter gets inside the camera when you’re changing lenses, it could cling to the image sensor and show up as a spot in your photos. The Dust Reduction System in the G2 helps eliminate this possibility by placing a supersonic wave filter in front of the Live MOS sensor. Vibrating vertically around 50,000 times per second, the filter repels dust and other particles effectively.
* Included Software: PHOTOfunSTUDIO 5.0 HD Edition makes it possible to sort and organize photos. Videos can be uploaded directly to YouTube using the built-in YouTube uploader – even in HD quality. It also lets you create a 360-degree rotation panorama file in .MOV files. The software is compatible with the Windows 7.
The Panasonic LUMIX G2 will come equipped as part of its kit, with the newly announced LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH/MEGA O.I.S. lens. The new lens offers a versatile zoom range of 14-42mm (35mm camera equivalent: 28-84mm), making it suitable for a wide variety of scenes, everything from dynamic landscape to portrait. Additionally, the LUMIX G2 is compatible with all Micro Four Thirds System lenses, allowing users even higher levels of performance in a digital interchangeable lens camera.
The LUMIX DMC-G2 and other LUMIX G Micro System digital cameras can use any interchangeable lens that complies with the Four Thirds standard via an optional mount adaptor DMW-MA1 and with the prestigious Leica M/R Lenses via DMW-MA2M or MA3R. Other accessories include external flashes, filters, a remote shutter, HDMI mini cables and a variety of stylish straps and bags. To learn about the Panasonic LUMIX Micro Four Thirds System and all the available accessories, visit www.panasonic.com/lumix. The Panasonic LUMIX G2 will be available in red, blue and black models and pricing and availability will be announced 30 days prior to shipping date.
*As of March 7, 2010.
· Design and specifications are subject to change without notice.
· Some functions may not be available depending on the lens that is mounted.
· Use a card with SD Speed Class with “Class 4″ or higher when recording motion pictures in [AVCHD Lite]. Also, use a card with SD Speed Class with “Class 6″ or higher when recording motion pictures in [MOTION JPEG].
· The “AVCHD Lite” and the “AVCHD Lite” logo are trademarks of Panasonic Corporation and Sony Corporation.
· Dolby and the double-D symbol are trademarks of Dolby Laboratories.
· YouTube is a trademark of Google Inc.
· Windows and the Windows logo are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies.