Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1

For the world's first camera based on the micro four thirds format, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 is incredibly refined, though not perfect. Still, its size, image quality and design will undoubtedly sway many a first-time SLR buyer.

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Panasonic's Lumix DMC-G1 is the first camera to be based on the micro four thirds system, a joint initiative between Panasonic and Olympus.

Unlike any other digital camera that has come before, the G1 has been designed without the legacy of 35mm film in mind. It's an SLR in terms of looks and interchangeable lenses, but has been designed first and foremost as a purely digital camera. There is no longer a traditional mirror and pentaprism arrangement (the system used to reflect light from the lens through to the viewfinder) as found in other SLRs, which removes a lot of the bulk from the camera body.

In terms of looks alone, the G1 certainly displays all the hallmarks of an SLR. If you didn't know any better, you would assume that the G1 was either a really sophisticated compact camera or a miniature SLR.

Weighing in at a diminutive 385 grams, and measuring 8.36x12.4x4.5cm, the G1 can sit comfortably in your hand just like a compact; indeed, we'd be inclined to compare its size with some megazoom cameras like Canon's SX1 IS or Olympus' SP-565UZ.

Everything on the top looks like a normal dSLR so far.
(Credit: Panasonic)

The whole unit is clad in a particularly pleasing plastic, textured to a degree that allows you to grip it securely when shooting, but not enough to visibly taint the design. Plus, it comes in three colours: a deep red, black and ocean blue — another cue that distinguishes the G1 from other dSLR competitors.

In general, the layout of the controls on the G1 is nothing out of the ordinary. There's the usual mode dial, which is surrounded by the power switch and the shooting burst rate switch. There's a pop-up flash and hotshoe, and the dial at the front of the camera swaps between the aperture and shutter speed selector when you press or click it inwards. Once we had gotten used to it, we found that it was actually quite intuitive.

Panasonic's intelligent auto mode is also standard here, designed to make the step up to the G1 as painless as possible for those used to automatic settings on a smaller model. That said, there are a myriad of scene modes and preset functions to keep anyone busy, plus the usual manual/shutter/aperture/program priority modes.

Sitting high on the feature list of the G1 is the 12-megapixel Live MOS sensor, which is the same size as used in other four thirds cameras (18x13.5mm). Due to the nature of the G1's construction, live view is always active on the camera; think of it as a trait carried over from compact digital cameras.

The back of the G1 with its rotating swivel screen facing outwards.
(Credit: Panasonic)

Next on the list is the rotating 3-inch LCD screen that can flip and rotate on an axis to sit facing inwards or outwards on the back of the camera, or face the body if you choose to use the viewfinder exclusively.

Unfortunately, due to the unique mirror-less construction, the G1 has to make do with an electronic viewfinder as opposed to the traditional optical one. Thankfully, the EVF supplied on the G1 isn't bad at all, with 1.4 million pixels packed inside and a speedy refresh rate at 60Hz.

At this stage, there are only two Panasonic lenses available for the G1 — 14-45mm f/35-5.6 and 45-200mm f/4-5.6. They're two capable units that cover a fair range, but we would have liked to see some more choice. Panasonic has stated that as of this year there will be several more additions to the micro four thirds lenses, including a 20mm f/1.7, 14-140mm f/4-5.6 and 7-14mm f/4.

Adapters are also being made available that allow four thirds lenses to be mounted on the G1, though given the small stature of the camera, any lens not specifically designed for micro four thirds is likely to dwarf the unit. Also, autofocus will only work if the lens supports contrast AF.

Performance and image quality
The closest point of comparison for the G1 really has to be an entry-level dSLR. With that in mind, we tested the G1 over the same areas that we would have tested a dSLR.

Start-up time on the G1 was surprisingly quick, with next to no delay between turning the switch on and the camera being ready to shoot. Shot-to-shot time was similarly impressive; on the RAW+JPEG combination, we found there was about a one-second gap between pictures.

It may seem intuitive on a dSLR style camera to immediately head straight for the viewfinder, but the G1 has always-on live view which means that using the LCD screen to shoot is just as easy. There's a motion sensor that automatically detects when you put your eye up to the viewfinder and swaps the display away from the screen, which is quite clever in theory but was over-zealous in practice; when we held the camera a little too close to our body, the G1 thought that we wanted to shoot with the viewfinder.

Click through for our photo gallery of shots taken with the G1.
(Credit: Alexandra Savvides/CBSi)

Furthermore, the EVF may seem almost identical to shooting with an optical viewfinder in most situations, but in darker environments it struggled and a fair amount of noise was visible.

The colours that this camera delivered were really quite lovely. Greens and blues in particular jumped off the screen with a natural warmth and no excessive over-saturation. Of course, there is the option to over-saturate the colours in the dedicated art mode found on the dial — an interesting tool that can produce some quirky effects in-camera rather than in post-production. Another pleasing aspect was the mode to preview changes in shutter and depth of field; a great idea for those who would rather see the effects of changing settings before they take the picture.

Lens sharpness was another surprise with the 14-45mm, delivering accurate and even clarity across the frame with little to no vignetting. At high ISO levels we also found that the G1 coped admirably, with only slight levels of noise — as would be expected on a dSLR. Indeed, in low light and night situations it performed a lot better than we had expected, with next to no colour noise.

The G1 was able to keep noise under control across the ISO range. Click image to enlarge.
(Credit: CBS Interactive)

One problem that we did find with the G1 was that it underexposed constantly. It's not so much of a problem if you shoot in RAW, but those who choose the JPEG path might wonder why their images are always a little too dark. The big issue with the G1 though is saved for video mode — there isn't one. Panasonic has stated that the next iteration of the camera will have HD capabilities, which is a surprise given that this feature is pretty much standard on Panasonic's high-end compacts.

What sets the G1 apart from other entry-level dSLRs is really its size, flexibility and unique features. We really enjoyed using the G1, and though it does have its problems, for anyone looking for a compact alternative to an entry-level dSLR and with no current investment in a lens system, it's an incredibly strong contender.

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JP posted a review   

The Good:Not too heavy, Easy to Use for Amateur, Great Price

The Bad:Preview Button Hard to Press

I love this camera. As an enthusiastic amateur I have got some brilliant shots with it. I have arthritic joints in my hands and the weight of this camera is not too heavy (although I shoot using a tripod 99% of the time). I would highly recommend this to someone who wants to upgrade from a compact but is not confident with a full DSLR.


CuriousofAustralia posted a review   

The Good:Picture quality, fast shot to shot, manual focus assist, low light shooting

The Bad:Small hard to get at review button, lots and lots of obscure functions

Sorry, screen timed out when writing comments on following post. Adding rating now.


CuriousofAustralia posted a comment   

I've never used a 'real' camera before but am learning fast and love the quality of the photos taken by this camera. It's easy to take photos in low light without flash and the digital zoom is pretty good, albeit like most digital zooms you'll need to use a tripod or rest on something when taking shots or it blurs easily. The 'flower' mode for close up doesn't work that well for me. You can pull back a bit and zoom to get a close up but zooming increases the likelihood of blurring. What I've found is better to switch to M and adjust the manual focus ring on the lens (it has a magnifier assist function that is great) and this works perfectly. Have been able to take very clear close ups this way. I don't care that this camera doesn't take video, so the only faults I can find with it are the review button is in an awkward spot, and I may never know some of the functions as there seems to be myriads of obscure things it can do. The buttons themselves make sense and with a week's practice I can drive it by touch while looking through the viewfinder. Menus display in the viewfinder when you're pressing buttons so you know where you are. If I could have a wish list it would be to rationalise the 5 menus (the main one of which has 19 items in it, a number of which have further options within them again!), 1 quick menu and 1 film mode into a more cohesive set of options. Instead of 7 menus, to me there should be one for photo settings, one for camera settings and a favourites/quick look up menu that the user could customise with the 10 or so things used most often. There is a My Menu, but it seems to just be just the last five settings adjusted. Having the 7 sets of choices is all a bit much. The flip screen is fantastic. I prefer using the viewfinder, so being able to fold it closed when not in use is going to save a million smudges and scratches. If you do want to use it, it makes shots from lots of angles possible and great self portraits if you are so inclined. I've noticed, though, a little leaflet in the box from Panasonic, obviously added after this model went on sale, stressing to treat the flip screen gently - I'd assume from this that there's been a number of breakages. This model has been superseded so I got a great deal on a store demo model. Well worth getting if you can find one.


spOOk posted a review   

The Good:light, quality much better than a compact, easy point and shoot, swivel viewfinder, manual focus option, exposure compensation easy, auto viewfinder, nice practical kit lens focal length, good in low light, fast to focus, can use fully manual, manual zoom (fast!), maual focus is very good..

The Bad:pop up flash is masked at close range by the lens, mode dial easily bumped, preview button awkward to press.

I wanted something that produced pictures with the quality of a conventional entry level dSLR but without the weight. Now that this model is ending retail stock (Aug 2010), when you find one there are deals to be had. I didn't want the HD video, or the price tag of the G2 so I bargained for a display model and got a good deal. Grab one while you can! It's an awesome camera. You have the choice to point and shoot to grab those shots that anyone with a complex camera will miss, and you also have the options to be creative or more careful with the exposure etc. I like the front-dial as you just press it in and turn with one finger to instantly compensate exposure in 1/3 stop increments. As with all modern consumer electronic devices there are probably features that are in there that are in there simply because it's possible, but luckily you can ignore those that are trivial. I'd like a quicker way to choose flash-mode, i.e. forced, or forced+red-eye reduction and so on.

The best about this camera is that you can keep it in intelligent auto mode for rapid shots and to hand to your partner without fear of a bad result. People complain that it under exposes, but that's easily post-shot corrected, and you can keep the exposure compensation +1/3 stop even in auto mode. It's better to slightly under expose than over expose where details get lost.

The quality of the lens and overall result, is perfectly adequate for A3 size prints and probably much larger. You would need to spend a great deal more to get a noticeable improvement.


DorotaBarbara posted a review   

The Good:-Easy to handle and not too big to take with you
-Picture quality
-Perfect for everyday use

The Bad:-Picture exposure not always enough.

I just got my Panasonic DMC G1 today and after shooting the first 300 pictures with it, I am thrilled! The ease of use, the handling, the quick response and the picture quality ist fantastic. I can only recommend it for the everyday amateur user.


wolf3188 posted a review   

The Good:good price
good design
good brand

The Bad:cheap crappy lenses

its not really that cameras are good (i have the point and shoot lumix fs3) but it has a leica lens. panasonic lenses are low quality


bradb posted a reply   

I don't agree with this assessment of the lenses. I find both kit lenses to be remarkably good on all parameters. Panasonic lenses are not low quality, and in fact exceed almost all other kit lenses on cameras of equivalent price (or in many cases greater price). I base my comments on hundreds of shots with both kit lenses, in all kinds of shooting conditions, and comparisons with thousands of my earlier shots (including lots with Leica lenses).


canberra_photographer posted a review   

"Still, its size, image quality and design will undoubtedly sway many a first-time SLR buyer."

And the price... this camera is a failure.

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User Reviews / Comments  Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1

  • JP



    "I love this camera. As an enthusiastic amateur I have got some brilliant shots with it. I have arthritic joints in my hands and the weight of this camera is not too heavy (although I shoot using ..."

  • CuriousofAustralia



    "Sorry, screen timed out when writing comments on following post. Adding rating now."

  • CuriousofAustralia


    "I've never used a 'real' camera before but am learning fast and love the quality of the photos taken by this camera. It's easy to take photos in low light without flash and the digital zoom is pret..."

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