Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1

Review Date : Thu, 11 Dec 2008

Author :

Panasonic Lumix G1
Panasonic Lumix G1 Panasonic Lumix G1 Back Panasonic Lumix G1 Top

Panasonic Lumix G1 is a Micro Four Thirds DSLR-like camera with interchangeable lens; it's far smaller than a conventional DSLR but has features to fight its corner. So how does the Lumix G1 fare when put to the test? The What Digital Camera Panasonic Lumix G1 review investigates...

Pros: 3in articulating LCD, overall design and build quality, compact size
Cons: Price at odds with specification, over-sensitive LVF eye sensors, image flatness

Panasonic Lumix G1 Review

The Panasonic Lumix G1 is partly the accumulation of Panasonic and Olympus' joint announcement of a new camera system - Micro Four Thirds - that offers the interchangeable lens functionality of a DSLR, but, by doing away with the mirror-reflex technology as found in DSLR cameras, drops the optical viewfinder whilst shedding a good few pounds and trimming down to a svelte and much smaller DSLR-like camera.

Cameras from this Micro Four Thirds system therefore aren't technically DSLRs, meaning the system sees the birth of a new type of camera altogether - the Panasonic Lumix G1 takes charge of this lead.

The Panasonic G1 is considerably smaller than a conventional DSLR in both lens and body and, complemented by the choice of three colours, is clearly aimed at those who may not have considered a DSLR before. But what compromises, if any, have been made with the Micro Four Thirds system? Is the Panasonic Lumix G1 merely a prototype rushed to market, or is it the forebearer of a camera system set to change the face of photography as we know it? The What Digital Camera Panasonic Lumix G1 review investigates....

 

Panasonic Lumix G1 review - Features

 

 

Panasonic Lumix G1 Micro Four Thirds system

 

The Panasonic Lumix G1 features the first full implementation of the new Micro Four Thirds system - the model's inner-workings are devoid of the mirror-reflex system that characterises traditional DSLRs, the result of which is around a 50% shallower flange back than a standard Four Thirds body (which means the distance between the lens mount and sensor is, in effect, halved).

Aside from size modifications, the Micro Four Thirds system sees a complete revamp of the original Four Thirds lens mount. The new mount is 6mm smaller in diameter than before, and features 11 electrical contacts in contrast to the previous nine. Olympus claims that the benefits of the two extra electrical contacts include both smoother live view shooting and faster communication between lens and camera. If you already own a range of standard Four Thirds lenses the G1 may still be for you, as an adaptor is available for combining any of the old optics with the camera.

 

Panasonic Lumix G1 sensorPansonic Lumix G1 review - sample image

The Lumix G1 possesses a specification similar to that of a conventional Four Thirds system DSLR. Its sensor is the standard Four Thirds format, measuring 17.3 x 13mm, and boasting a resolution of 13.1MP, translating to 12.1MP effective.

The sensor captures in three aspect ratios - either 3:2, which matches the dimensions of the LCD screen, 16:9 or the conventional 4:3, with a maximum resolution of 4000 x 2762, 4000 x 2248 and 4000 x 3000 pixels in each aspect ratio respectively.

 

Panasonic Lumix G1 LCD screen and view finder


One of the more obviously impressive and instantly striking features of the Lumix G1 is its articulating LCD. The screen's dimensions measure three inches, with a resolution of 460k dots, making it competitive with the LCD screens of its peers.

However, the LCD screen's major selling point is that it pulls away from the main body of the camera, making it viewable from both sides of the camera and around a pivot of 270°. One point to note, however, is the screen itself has a native aspect ratio of 3:2, one that isn't the best fit with the highest-resolution image the G1 can churn out. What this means is if you want to get the most out of the sensor, you'll have to change the aspect ratio, resulting in black margins either side of the LCD screen.   

The Micro Four Thirds system sees the removal of the mirror-reflex workings from the inside of the camera. What this means is that the G1 has to revert to the same technology as a bridge camera to provide images in the ‘viewfinder' - step forward the G1's ‘live' view finder (LVF). Providing the same function as an electronic viewfinder, and essentially the same in every respect, the G1's LVF is said to be class-leading and like no other EVF before, offering a resolution of 1.4 million dots in equivalent terms, and a 100% field of view.

The user can opt to use either the articulating LCD screen or LVF to compose and review images, but Panasonic also provides the technology to take the decision out of your hands. Beside the LVF sit two small sensors that detect when you're holding your eye to the LVF, and as such switch the display between LCD and LVF, meaning you won't have one on while using the other.

 

Panasonic Lumix G1 dust reduction


As with all Four Thirds bodies the Panasonic Lumix G1 offers dust reduction, aided in operation by a Supersonic Wave Filter. What's more is that the kit lens provided as standard (14-45mm f/3.5-5.6) offers the Panasonic's Mega Optical Image Stabilisation, with three modes selectable on the camera to cater for all-purpose stabilisation and panning along a single axis.

 

Panasonic Lumix G1 auto mode


The Lumix G1 sports an Intelligent Auto mode, alongside a range of both scene and custom shooting modes, topped off with a choice of several different film effects. The Intelligent Auto mode has come to characterise Panasonic cameras of late, and it involves the camera taking control of functions such as ISO, shutter speed and aperture, and combines it with either face-detection AF or motion-tracking AF - this ensures the best shot with minimal understanding of camera functions.

 


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Verdict

The Micro Four Thirds system will definitely have an impact on the photography world, not least the Panasonic Lumix G1. The reduction in size that the new system allows means interchangeable-lens cameras are going to get smaller, and as such will appeal to a wider audience. What?s more is that, as more models hit the market, the price of an entry-level model in the system will fall. There is no arguing that Panasonic's Lumix G1 is a very good camera. Build quality is excellent, as is the articulating LCD and LVF (aside from the minor quibbles with over-sensitive eye sensors!). Image quality is also good, with overall exposure, tone, and noise control comparable with its Four Thirds peers. However, the G1's current price tag is wildly at odds with where it sits in the camera food chain - it's currently sitting more in price-line with mid-range DSLRs, even though everything about it screams entry level, from marketing, to size and features. In time I'm sure the G1 will become a cracking proposition around the bridge camera price point, but right now it?s merely a good, but pricey, forebearer of greater things to come.


Digital SLR Reviews

Price as reviewed

£550.00

Scores

Scores
Features 18/20
Design 18/20
Image Quality 17/20
Performance 17/20
Value 15/20
Overall Score 85%