Scared by the size and weight of regular interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs)? The Panasonic GM1 is the camera for you.
Design and features
Unlike most ILCs, the GM1 would not look out of place sitting next to fixed-lens compact cameras. It's that small. Definitely palm sized, almost pocket sized.
Teamed with the kit 12-32mm lens, the entire package is highly portable and weighs only 274 grams. This makes it one of the lightest ILCs around, just beaten out by the Pentax Q series in weight.
Despite the miniaturisation, the GM1 is just as easy to use as any other Panasonic G-series camera: perhaps even more so because the design is simplified to include only essential elements. There are two dials on the top of the camera, one for changing the shooting mode and the other for selecting the focus mode. They are both placed within easy reach and fall under the right thumb with ease.
In the hand, the GM1 is a comfortable fit. Overall, it may be a little small for those with larger hands, although the nicely textured body goes some way in making up for the lack of any specific front grip.
A small but capable performer: pictured is the GM1 in the wild.
There is just one control wheel at the back, surrounding the directional pad that has controls for exposure compensation, white balance, AF mode selection and continuous/timer options. This single wheel may be limiting for some manual shooters who are used to two control wheels. To flick between shutter and aperture selections in manual mode, press the exposure compensation button.
The pop-up flash is activated with a small slider at the rear of the camera. It can be tilted back 90 degrees for bounce purposes.
Beginners are catered to with a range of options, including Panasonic's intelligent automatic mode, creative filters and scene modes. If you never want to dive into the manual shooting options on this camera, you don't have to.
For those who like to tweak, however, the GM1 includes focus peaking. In manual focus, peaking lets you precisely see on the screen which areas are in focus, thanks to an overlaid area of colour. Time-lapse photography and automatic creation of a stop-motion animation are both supported. Delve into the camera's menu system to find these options. Unfortunately, the GM1's design means there is no extra room for a hotshoe attachment or to attach an electronic viewfinder anywhere. This wouldn't be a huge problem, except that the screen can be a little difficult to see in bright situations.
Some examples of the creative filters on the GM1, including rough monochrome, impressive art, cross-process and toy effect.
The shutter mechanism has been re-engineered to fit inside the small body, which means that the mechanical shutter tops out at 1/500 second. Any faster and the electronic shutter takes over. It's not necessarily an issue for static subjects but can introduce rolling shutter effects in video and action shots. We tested the electronic versus the manual shutter in a number of different situations, with no noticeable difference between the results produced in real-world situations.
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
Olympus OM-D E-M1
Panasonic Lumix GX7
Panasonic Lumix GM1
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in FPS)
Olympus OM-D E-M1
Olympus OM-D E-M5
Panasonic Lumix GM1
Panasonic Lumix GX7
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The contrast AF system ensures snappy focusing results in the majority of situations. In fact, we couldn't find a test situation where the GM1 wasn't able to find focus within a second, even in low light.
Panasonic rates the battery at 230 shots when paired with the 12-32mm lens. This is definitely below average for an ILC and on par with point-and-shoot cameras.
In continuous mode, the GM1 can take an unlimited burst of JPEG photos but stops to process after seven RAW frames.
Normally, kit lenses don't bring out the best from the sensor. This doesn't seem to be the case with the GM1, as the 12-32mm lens is one of the sharpest kit versions we've seen bundled with an interchangeable lens camera. Although the focal length is not extensive, it covers enough ground for most applications. Extending out from the body with a twisting mechanism, the lens is highly compact even when opened, making it only slightly bigger than a pancake lens. Image stabilisation is built into the lens itself, as is the case with all other Panasonic G-series cameras with the exception of the GX7.
As you may have guessed from the praise lavished on the 12-32mm, the GM1 produces impressive images with this lens. Sharpness drops off only slightly towards the edges of the frame, while there is little evidence of any barrel or pincushion distortions.
In automatic modes, exposures are accurate and do not tend to blow out highlights or lose shadow detail like some other ILCs can do.
At the time of writing, the only program able to read this camera's RAW files was the bundled SilkyPix software, but that will change in due course. SilkyPix is far from the most intuitive editing suite out there but shows that there is plenty of latitude for detail recovery in photos. Shadow detail is retained well when recovering the image in SilkyPix, while there is very little noise generated when pulling detail from the shadows.
In a nice touch, the GM1 produces similar-looking RAW and JPEG files. There is a bit of extra noise reduction and sharpening on the JPEG file, as you can see in the 100 per cent inset crop, but overall, it's very good indeed. This photo was taken at ISO 3200.
Images stay clean up to and including ISO 400. From ISO 800 and above, noise starts to creep in but is only noticeable when inspecting images at 100 per cent magnification. It only starts to become an issue at ISO 6400 and above, where some colour shifts occur.
The GM1 supports touch AF in video mode. There is a stereo microphone on the top of the camera, but that is all when it comes to audio recording as there's no external microphone input. Full manual exposure control is available for video, although you need to select the dedicated video option from the mode dial to be able to access the overrides.
Video recording options are plentiful, including:
AVCHD: 1080/50i with 50/25p output or 1080/24p
AVCHD Lite: 720/50p
MP4: 1080/25p, 720/25p or 480/25p.
Image quality in video mode is very good, although there are some interlacing artefacts visible despite the camera outputting in progressive. For audio, there are several mic level and wind cut adjustments to compensate for different environments. Audio quality is fine for a camera of this class.
Exposure: 1/200, f/7.1, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/400, f/10, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/300, f/5.6, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/320, f/7.1, ISO 200
A pocket rocket with more than just good looks to its name, the Panasonic GM1 is a great little camera that has the added bonus of interchangeable lenses.