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Panasonic LUMIX GF1 Digital Camera Review

 Digital Camera Review by: Simon Vrantsis

 

panasonicgf120100916.jpgPanasonic have released a number of cameras in their G Series over the past couple of years. Each iteration added minor improvements that, many would say, should have been implemented in its predecessor. But this should, really, be forgiven for Panasonic ironing out the kinks in a previously untested technology.

Where many were slightly underwhelmed, however, was the form factor of the cameras. Expecting, close to, DSLR quality in something dramatically smaller, it was easy to be disappointed looking at a design only reduced to four-fifths the size of an entry-level DSLR. Finally, Panasonic has delivered the camera many were hoping for based on its mirror-less four-thirds technology. The GF1.

Panasonic have fitted the Lumix GF1 with a 12.1-megapixel micro four-thirds sensor, and considering the size of the GF1 is, pretty much, identical to Canon’s advanced compact, the G11, the image quality delivered is quite amazing. To get the most out of the GF1, however, it has to be recommended that users shoot in its RAW capture mode which produced spectacular result, with JPEG shooting being slightly less vibrant when compared to its closest rival, the Olympus E-P1.

The image quality and resolution is great when shooting up to ISO 1600, with detail retention quite high. Combining the GF1 with the superb 20mm f1.7 pancake lens really makes the camera something to behold, creating a classical photographic tool that is extremely easy to take anywhere and produces results that would defy many onlookers’ expectations. The combination of the GF1 and the 20mm lens does mean a lot more thought is required when composing shots, and although it can be quite restrictive, it ultimately draws the user to open their eyes to the world a lot more before simply pressing the shutter. It’s something of an introduction into the world of photography for those transitioning from the often-simplistic compact market. An alternative is available with a 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 lens for those looking for a bit more flexibility but, to many, this may defeat the purpose when looking for something more streamline. Speaking of those upgrading from the compact market, Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto mode should give the novice user good results while in the process of learning about how to stray away from traditional point and shoot techniques.

The general performance achieved by the GF1 is also quite a feat with exposure and focusing being accurate, and white balance quite reliable. The one area that it truly excels is with its auto focus using a fast contrast based system that delivers results comparable to many entry-level DSLR’s, and clearly ahead of its closest competitors. The auto focus also features subject tracking that allows action photographers, or those chasing their kids around, to keep well focused while panning.

Apart from the size of the GF1, what will draw many to the camera is the simple fact that its just fun to use. Handling is excellent with a multitude of external controls making changes to core camera settings very simple. The ‘push and turn’ dial is very intuitive when having to make changes and more than compensates for the lack of a secondary dial. Panasonic have included a dedicated button to operate the GF1’s movie mode, which continues to show the sign of an industry moving to all-purpose recording. It must be said that although very serviceable, the HD movie mode is a step back from what many considered the best on the market delivered from the previously released GH1. But if it’s an obvious secondary option, the GF1’s value and compact nature should win out.

Panasonic have produced great build quality out of the GF1 with its all-metallic construct, and have fitted a superb 3.0” LCD screen with a 420k resolution, as well a frame rate of 60fps making for smooth composing. Having pack so much into such a compact design, some liberties had to be taken, and the obvious omission to most will be that of a viewfinder. Panasonic does, however, have an optional electronic viewfinder on the market that should suffice for those against composing with the LCD screen. Image stabilisation does take place on the lens with the GF1 but the 20mm tested with the camera did not have stabilisation and, currently, the range of IS lenses available is limited.

medal-platinum-r.jpgThe only real downfalls to the GF1 are the dynamic range and contrast that it produces, along with a high ISO performance that can’t quite match that of its rivals. Along with that, the built-in flash is relatively weak, and the shutter has a hint of lag when compared to an SLR but is good compared to most compact cameras.

To say that the Panasonic Lumix GF1 was a pleasure to use is something of an understatement. Fitted with the 20mm pancake lens, it is not only pocketable but delivers image quality of the highest order and the lens is fast enough to not require a major ISO boost even in dim lighting. Whether its used as a travelling companion, a scouting tool for those with an existing DSLR or simply for those wanting to make the jump from the compact market to a more thought-provoking photographic world, its hard not to recommend the GF1.

 

Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality
4.5 stars
Lens quality
4.5 stars
View finder / LCD screen 4 stars
Value for money 4 stars
RRP (AUD) $1,499
SPACER.GIF  
Effective Pixels 12.1 Million mega pixels
Image Sizes 5 Sizes
Lens - zoom wide [mm] 0mm (35mm equiv.: 40mm)
Lens -zoom tele [mm] NA
Lens - Optical Zoom NA
Resolution Settings From 1504 x 1504 to 4000 × 3000
Shooting Modes Portrait/Soft Skin/Scenery/Architecture/Sports/Peripheral Defocus/Flower/Food/Objects/Night Portrait/Night Scenery/Illuminations/Baby 1,2/Pet/Party/Sunset
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Focus Range [cm] 0.2m / 0.66ft
Aperture Range F1.7
Aperture Priority Yes
Macro NA
Macro Range [cm] NA
Shutter Speeds 60-1/4000 sec. and Bulb (up to approx. 4 minutes)
Shutter Priority Yes
ISO Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, Intelligent ISO (Live View Mode)
LCD Monitor Low temperature Polycrystalline TFT LCD
Monitor Size: Free-angle 3.0inch / 3:2 Aspect / Wide viewing angle
Pixels: 460K dots
Field of view: Approx. 100%
Brightness Adjustment: Auto, Power LCD, Manual (7 levels)
Viewfinder External Live View Finder (Optional)
Flash Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync., Forced On/Off, Forced On/Red-eye Reduction
Hot Shoe Yes
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, White Set 1,2, Colour temperature setting, Flash
Self Timer Yes, 2 seconds / 10 seconds
Movie Options Yes. Limited only by memory card size.
Video Out Yes
Storage Type SD Card (TM), SDHC Card (TM)
Storage Included [Mb] NA
Image / Audio Formats Still Image: RAW, Fine, Standard, RAW + Fine, RAW + Standard
Motion picture: QuickTime Motion JPEG
Connectivity Yes, USB 2.0 High Speed, Mini HDMI
Power Source Battery Charger/AC Adaptor (Input:110-240V AC) (Included)
Battery Options ID Secured Lithium-ion Battery (7.2V, 1250mAh)
Dimensions 119 (W) x 36.30 (D) x 71mm (H)
Weight Approx 285g

 

About Panasonic

 

Panasonic Australia is a proud member of the Australian corporate community. With long standing links to local manufacturing and with hundreds of employees, Panasonic Australia is committed to fostering good relationships with consumers, businesses and governments alike.

 

On both a Local and International basis Panasonic is deploying long term strategies related to stable economic growth, responsible use of resources and being friendly to the environment.

 

The pages contained within the 'About Us' area will give you an insight into how Panasonic Australia operates and an overview of our companies history.

 

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