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 »
Panasonic has announced the Lumix DMC-G10, a new addition to their G series lineup of compact, interchangeable lens Micro Four-Thirds cameras. It’s being hailed by the manufacturer as “the world’s lightest digital interchangeable lens camera with a [digital, with 100% field view] viewfinder.” The G10, like its predecessors in the G series, “uses a mirrorless structure as part of the Micro Four-Thirds standard, eliminating a number of components that are found in a conventional interchangeable lens camera, including the mirror box and optical viewfinder unit.” The 12.1MP Live MOS sensor G10 will be available in black only, though there won’t be word from Panasonic as to availablility or prices until 30 days before they ship. See the press release below.
Secaucus, NJ (March 7, 2010) – Panasonic today introduces an addition to its Panasonic LUMIX G Series, the LUMIX DMC-G10, the world’s lightest* digital interchangeable lens camera with a viewfinder, which packs a host of advanced digital camera functions designed to be easy-to-use for users new to system cameras. The new compact and portable LUMIX G10, which can record High Definition (HD) video in addition to high-quality still images, joins the LUMIX DMC-G2, also introduced today, as part of the Panasonic LUMIX G Series.
“The LUMIX G Micro System has revolutionized the photography industry ever since the release of the Panasonic G1, the world’s first interchangeable lens system camera based on the Micro Four Thirds System standard,” said David Briganti, Senior Product Manager, Imaging, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. “We continue to expand this award-winning LUMIX G Series, and with its easy-to-use features and compact size, we expect the G10 to attract a lot of new users who want to step-up from their point-and-shoots.”
The LUMIX G10, with its incredible compact body and portable design, uses a mirrorless structure as part the Micro Four Thirds System standard, eliminating a number of components that are found in a conventional interchangeable lens camera, including the mirror box and optical viewfinder unit. This innovative structure allows for the LUMIX G10 to be the world’s lightest system camera in a compact digital camera design that is a desired feature for new users. Adding to its lightweight body, the LUMIX G10 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 shooting a wide-range of scenes, from dynamic landscape to portrait.
Panasonic designed the LUMIX G10 to be easy to use offers iA (Intelligent Auto) mode – with its shooting assist functions that have proven extremely popular in LUMIX compact cameras. Panasonic’s iA (Intelligent Auto), an easy shooting mode with automatic optimization according to the scene in either photo and video recording, is helpful to beginner users unfamiliar with an interchangeable lens system camera. With the new dedicated iA button, which illuminates in blue when engaged, activating this mode is even easier and can be used to shoot both photos and videos.
When shooting still photos, iA offers the following: MEGA O.I.S., which helps prevent blurring from hand-shake; Intelligent ISO Control, which reduces motion blur by adjusting the ISO sensitivity if the subject moves; Intelligent Exposure optimizes exposure for each part of an image, preventing blocked shadows and blown highlights and helping ensure that gradation and details are reproduced properly; Intelligent Scene Selector detects the most common shooting situations – Portrait, Night Portrait, Scenery, Night Scenery, Close-up and Sunset – and switches to the appropriate Scene mode automatically – no setting changes needed.
The LUMIX G10 can record 1280 x 720 HD video in Motion JPEG, QVGA, VGA and WVGA formats. Users can enjoy recording HD videos while taking advantage of the high quality lens and the flexibility to change to other lenses. Even users new to recording videos will find the LUMIX G10 makes it easy. Panasonic’s iA for video offers the following: Optical Image Stabilizer (O.I.S.) helps prevent handshake when using high-powered zoom; Face Detection** automatically detects a face in the frame and adjusts focus, exposure, contrast, and skin complexion; Intelligent Exposure continually checks the ambient light level and adjusts the exposure setting as conditions change to prevent blown highlights and blocked shadows; Intelligent Scene Selector automatically switches between Normal, Portrait, Close-up, Scenery, and Low Light modes according to the situation to optimize visual quality.
With AF Tracking, the LUMIX G10 can lock onto any subject and keep it in focus even if it moves – making it easy to get beautiful, clear shots of moving subjects, such as children and pets. Simply aim, lock, and shoot. The Face Recognition function remembers registered faces to give an appropriate AF/AE on the people. In playback, you can choose to display only photos that contain a specific registered face using Category Playback. The contrast AF system adopted by the LUMIX DMC-G10 is not only accurate and easy to use, but also very fast. Users can choose from a wide range of AF modes, including AF Tracking, 1-area AF, Face Detection AF/AE and 23-area AF.
The LUMIX G10’s Live View Finder, with a resolution of 202,000-dot equivalent, 1.04x (0.52x*) retains the viewability of an optical viewfinder and displays information about its settings that users can see without removing their eye from the subject. The 60 fps Live View is powered by the Live MOS sensor, which takes signals directly from the image sensor and sends them continuously to the LCD, in real time. Both the Live View Finder and LCD provide approximately 100% field of view. This allows the user, when composing a shot, to check the framing accurately from corner to corner. The 3.0-inch large 460,000-dot high-resolution LCD with wide viewing angle automatically controls the brightness according to the situation as an Intelligent LCD.
The 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor and the new Venus Engine HD II help to separate chromatic noise from luminance noise and apply the optimal noise reduction to each, so users can capture clear and beautiful images even when shooting at high ISO sensitivity levels. The high-speed, high-performance Venus Engine HD II, which has been re-engineered to incorporate the new image processing technology, Intelligent Resolution, 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 achiever 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.
All Panasonic LUMIX G Series digital cameras are equipped with the highly-efficient Dust Reduction System. If dust or other foreign matter gets inside the LUMIX G10 while changing lenses, it could cling to the image sensor and show up as a spot in your photos. However, with the Dust Reduction System, it 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.
Other features of the LUMIX G10 include:
* My Color mode with a total of seven preset effects – Expressive, Retro, Pure, Elegant, Monochrome, Dynamic Art, Silhouette. Also includes Custom mode, which lets users manually set the color, brightness and saturation levels. For beginners, the LUMIX G10’s full-time Live View function lets users see how these settings will affect the images before they shoot, making it easier to capture the exact mood or atmosphere desired.
* Scene modes total 26, including the Peripheral Defocus mode, which lets users take a photo where the foreground is in focus and background is blurred – or vice versa. This popular effect can be intimidating for a beginner, but in the Peripheral Defocus mode, by simply selecting the objects to be blurred and focused using the camera’s keypad, it is simple for photographers of any level.
* Exposure meter can be displayed in the P/A/S/M shooting modes. The correlation between shutter speed and aperture is shown, with a color-coded warning system that alerts users when the settings are not in the proper range. For those new to system camera digital photography, this makes it easy to learn proper settings both visually and logically, enhancing their photography skills.
The Panasonic LUMIX G10 is compatible with Micro Four Thirds System lenses, allowing users even higher levels of performance in a digital interchangeable lens camera. In addition to LUMIX G lenses, the LUMIX DMC-G10 and LUMIX G Micro System 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.
Pricing and availability for the Panasonic LUMIX G10 will be announced 30 days prior to shipping date. It will be available in black. To learn about the Panasonic LUMIX Micro Four Thirds System and all the available accessories, visit www.panasonic.com/lumix.
*As of March 7, 2010.
**Turn Face Recognition item ON and register the person with full-face portrait on the shooting menu in advance.
· Design and specifications are subject to change without notice.
· Some functions may not be available depending on the lens that is mounted.
· Lenses that are not compatible with the contrast AF function can be used with manual focusing.