Panasonic GX1 Review

Panasonic GX1 Review

Panasonic announces the Lumix DMC-GX1, a new Micro Four Thirds top model in compact design. The GX1 has a similar housing as the GF series cameras, but offers a higher resolution of 16 megapixels and many, partially configurable controls.

Brief assessment

Pros

  • High image quality
  • Easily accessible, high quality video function
  • Super fast autofocus
  • Many individualisation options
  • High quality processing of camera and control elements

Cons

  • With about 300 pictures, quite short battery life
  • No wireless flash control
  • Weak resolution of the set lens especially at the edge of the image

 

With the Lumix DMC-GX1, Panasonic is introducing a fourth Micro-Four-Thirds series and has added a particularly compact system camera to the GF3, which is intended to meet somewhat more sophisticated requirements. This can be seen, for example, in the slightly more pronounced grip, but above all in the flash shoe with the possibility of connecting an external viewfinder. But also the increased number of control buttons, some of which are configurable, underscores the higher demands of the GX1.

The GF3, the latest GF model, has been criticized because it has neither a flash shoe nor an electronic viewfinder connection and is generally aimed more at beginners. The GX1 now remedies this shortcoming. With it, Panasonic virtually shoots a high-end GF series out of its sleeve, but calls it GX. This means that Panasonic now offers a fourth model series in the Micro-Four-Thirds system in addition to GF, G, and GH, while Olympus has three comparable model series. The GX1 has a live MOS sensor with 16 megapixel resolution. In addition to photos at up to 4.2 frames per second, it can also record FullHD video at a maximum of 50 fields per second. Panasonic also wants to have improved the contrast autofocus and calls a reaction time of only 0.09 seconds for it. The Japanese manufacturer emphasizes that contrast autofocus works more precisely with high speed lenses than the phase autofocus of a DSLR. This is achieved by the powerful Venus Engine processor and the image readout rate of 120 frames per second for autofocus. Within 0.09 s about 11 measurements can be made.

Panasonic also underlines the GX1’s high standards in its operation. Although it has a three-inch (about 7.5 centimeters diagonal) touchscreen with a resolution of 460,000 pixels, it also has numerous operating elements: These include the large main setting ring, the multifunctional rotary and click wheel for the thumb, individually programmable function keys and the direct start buttons for intelligent automatic and video recording. The latter records the sound in stereo via the integrated microphone and stores it either in AVCHD or MP4 format.

Also new is the optional DMW-LVF2 electronic viewfinder, which offers a high resolution of 1.4 million pixels (800 x 600 pixels) and can also be used as an angle finder by folding it upwards. Compared to a 35 mm viewfinder, it offers a remarkable magnification factor of 0.7, and the Lumix DMC-GX1 is available since January 2012. The case will be offered in black at a price of about 600 EUR. The set with the pancake power zoom H-PS14042 is said to cost 830 EUR and includes the camera in titanium silver.

Ergonomics And Workmanship

The GX1 is relatively simple, noble and well made. Their metal housing is very well manufactured and gives a high-quality impression. The rubberized handle, which gives the flat camera a good grip in the hand, is also a success. However, it is not a hand-held pen, as the GX1 is primarily intended to be compact and to give a little rangefinder camera feel. Consequently, the Lumix is offered with the new pancake zoom as standard, this combination can easily be put in a jacket pocket. We miss a microphone connection in the interfaces on the grip side, HDMI, USB/AB (combined) and a cable remote control connection are present, however, and even a power supply unit can be used with a battery adapter. The lithium-ion energy source is sufficient for almost 300 shots, which is not exactly luxurious for an interchangeable lens camera. The memory card also finds its place under the battery cover, whereby the camera swallows SD, SDHC and SDXC. The obligatory metal tripod thread in the optical axis is also located on the bottom side, but an attached tripod or a quick-release plate blocks the battery/memory card compartment.

The GX1 even has a built-in flash that pops up quite high as soon as you unlock it mechanically. Only its performance is not quite convincing; for more luminosity, an external flash unit in a system hot shoe is a good choice. Its cover also protects the viewfinder data port on the back of the camera, which allows the GX1 to be expanded with an electronic viewfinder. Also on the top of the camera is the power button, which is perfectly accessible for the thumb, and the program selector wheel, which offers two practical user memories in addition to the classic recording programs P, A, S and M. Two triggers within index finger reach ensure that you can take a photo or video at any time. The iA mode can also be directly activated at any time via a button, which allows you to switch immediately to carefree mode for taking pictures.

On the back is a touch-sensitive, three-inch (7.5 centimeter) screen. It is very brilliant and high-contrast as well as sufficiently bright, but its resolution is only a mediocre 460,000 pixels. The operation by fingertip is not absolutely necessary, those who prefer buttons will find enough of them on the back of the camera. Although they are quite small, they are easy to operate and offer direct access to the most important functions. In addition, two of the buttons are configurable, giving quick access to preferred functions. Not quite as well done is the rotary click wheel. The idea and functionality with the switchable function by pushing is excellent, but the grip of the wheel is not. It is quite slippery and sluggish.

The camera menus are attractively designed and very extensive. However, this also leads to the fact that you have to search for some functions for a longer time. Also, the abbreviations are sometimes puzzling, so sometimes a look into the manual is necessary to use the full range of functions of the GX1. The quick menu, which can be operated by fingertip on the display and via keys, is very successful. Those who wish to do so can configure the included functions themselves in order to set priorities according to the preferred application.

Equipment

There is not much to criticize about the functionality of the Lumix DMC-GX1. No matter whether you just want to take pictures – that’s what the iA mode is for. It controls all parameters automatically and, for example, in addition to the shooting situation, even detects whether the subject is moving or the photographer; or whether you prefer to take control of the image parameters yourself and control the aperture, exposure time, ISO sensitivity and even the focus manually.

In the latter case, the camera supports you with a practical focus magnifier that appears automatically as soon as you change the focus on the lens. At the pancake zoom, this is done with a slider instead of a focus ring. The magnifier section can be moved across the image field, which is extremely useful when focusing on image details outside the image center. The GX1’s autofocus is as fast as lightning and the camera takes less than 0.2 seconds to focus and release. Just a few years ago, it was hardly conceivable that a contrast autofocus could outshine the phase autofocus of a DSLR, but the GX1 easily beats any entry-level DSLR. It is only in sports situations that a phase autofocus can still have advantages when tracking subjects and predicting the sharpness of fast continuous shooting.

The flash functions of the GX1 cover almost every wish. Whether internal or external flash, the photographer can use a pre-flash to reduce red-eye (although the camera also offers digital retouching), activate a long-time sync to mix flash and ambient light, flash on the second shutter curtain to achieve certain wipe effects and, of course, the flash output can be increased and reduced. Only a wireless flash control is generally not offered by Panasonic. There is also no computer control of the camera or interval function. But the GX1 is predestined as a compact camera for on the road anyway, for example for reportage or street photography.

The lens zooms optically three times from 14-42 millimetres focal length, with the small Micro-Four-Thirds sensor providing an apparent doubling of the focal length in relation to 35 mm. The record-breakingly compact zoom lens even offers an optical image stabilizer. The electronic control of the focal length by means of a rocker switch seems to be a bit unusual, but it also offers some advantages. Zoom levels can be controlled, the focal length can be set with millimetre precision or, if desired, the camera can remember the zoom position when it is switched off and automatically return to it after switching on. The motorized zoom also proves to be advantageous for video recordings, as it puts an end to the jerking during zooming, which should be used sparingly.

Focus tracking works very smoothly and precisely in video recordings, but when you look closely, the occasional pumping of the focus can be a little disturbing. The sound is recorded via a built-in stereo microphone, unfortunately there is no external connection possibility. After all, the level of the microphone can be displayed and changed if desired. Storage is either in AVCHD format or as MP4, whereby the recording time per clip is limited to a maximum of just under 30 minutes, as otherwise higher import duties would be necessary, as the camera would then be considered a camcorder. No manufacturer can afford to have this higher price in a highly competitive market.

Image quality

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 is a particularly compact system camera that is designed to meet the demands of the most demanding amateur photographers. Operation, equipment and ergonomics are designed accordingly. However, we have tested whether this system camera also meets the highest image quality requirements with the testing software measurement methods. The standard zoom Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42 mm F3.5-5.6 Asph. was used as lens. Lenses are usually provided to us by a regional distributor.

Unfortunately, the pleasantly flat Pancke zoom has some weaknesses, specially the resolution decreases visibly in the wide angle towards the edge of the image, in telescopic position it is altogether a little weak. The distortion, however, is fine. On the Lumix DMC-G3, we tested another copy of the lens some time ago and came to quite similar results. All in all, the lens tested on the GX1 seems to draw somewhat sharper than on the G3, but that’s not necessarily due to a serial scattering, but more likely due to the better image processing of the GX1, which after all is a few months newer and therefore more advanced than the G3.

The GX1’s color noise is visually unimportant; the brightness noise is only visible at ISO 3,200 and above, and is even strong at the highest sensitivity of ISO 12,800. The grain size is with approximately 2 pixels but still quite fine and on an A4 sized print hardly to be seen. Up to ISO 400, the images are very detailed, at ISO 800 there is minimal texture loss, and already at ISO 1,600 the image becomes softer. This is where the noise suppression strikes unmistakably. After all, the sharpness does not decrease completely even at the highest sensitivity, so that the images appear soft, but not completely detailed. The signal-to-noise ratio is good at ISO 160 and 200, still OK at ISO 400, but then drops rapidly at ISO 800. The input dynamics, on the other hand, are very uneven. The strong image processing from ISO 800 leads to a visual gain in dynamic range here and at ISO 1,600, but from ISO 3,200, the dynamic range drops below the 9 aperture stops that are just considered good.

The GX1 is very precise when it comes to manual white balance and maintaining the set ISO sensitivity, the latter in particular being interpreted very freely by some competing cameras. Colors, on the other hand, deviate tolerably from the intended value on average, but for some color values the deviation is visible to the naked eye, this is especially true for orange and purple: these shades are too saturated. The autofocus proved to be astonishingly fast in the laboratory. With 0.16 to 0.2 seconds it is very fast and beats every DSLR with a set lens by far. Considering that a shutter release delay of 0.06 to 0.08 seconds is already included, the value is even more surprising.

The noise, its suppression and the resulting loss of texture is also always interesting. Color noise is hardly noticeable visually, but brightness noise becomes visible at ISO 3,200 and above, and even strong at the highest sensitivity of ISO 12,800. The grain size is with approximately 2 pixels but still quite fine and on an A4 sized print hardly to be seen. Up to ISO 400, the images are very detailed, at ISO 800 there is minimal texture loss, and already at ISO 1,600 the image becomes softer. This is where the noise suppression hits mercilessly. After all, the sharpness does not drop completely even at the highest sensitivity, so that the images appear soft but not completely detailed. The signal-to-noise ratio is good at ISO 160 and 200, still OK at ISO 400, but then drops rapidly at ISO 800. The input dynamics, on the other hand, are very uneven. The strong image processing from ISO 800 leads to a visual gain in dynamic range here and at ISO 1,600, but from ISO 3,200, the dynamic range drops below the 9 aperture stops that are just considered good.

All in all, the GX1 delivers a thoroughly good image quality, but at higher sensitivities one has to accept limitations that the image processing can’t conceal satisfactorily in all respects. Those who value high image quality in the form of high resolution all the way to the corners should look for higher quality zooms (the 14-45, for example, is still available and much better) or even fixed focal lengths, such as the F1.7 bright yet compact 20 millimetre or the outstanding Olympus 45 millimetre F1.8.

Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 is an all-round successful camera that has few criticisms. The range of functions and operation leaves hardly anything to be desired, but there is still room for improvement in details. The image quality of the 16-megapixel sensor is very good up to ISO 400 and good at ISO 800, but above that, noise, reduced detail due to noise reduction, and a decreasing dynamic range become noticeable. But especially the pancake zoom has to accept criticism. It scores specially with its compactness, but cannot fully convince with the resolution, specially at the image edge and in telescopic position even in the center. The F1.7 high-intensity 20-millimeter pancake, on the other hand, makes the camera suitable for available light, for example, and offers better image quality for minimalists without the zoom option for identical compactness.

Profile

Profile
Manufacturer Panasonic
Model Lumix DMC-GX1
Price approx. EUR 900* EUR 900* EUR 900* EUR 900* EUR 900* EUR 900* EUR 900* EUR 900* EUR 900* EUR 900* EUR 900* EUR
Sensor Resolution 16 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 4.592 x 3.448
(aspect ratio) 4:3
Lens Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42 mm 3.5-5.6 Asph. OIS
Filter thread 37mm
Viewfinder optional electronic
Dioptre compensation
LCD monitor 3″
Resolution 460.000
rotatable
swiveling
as viewfinder yes
Video output AV and HDMI (each PAL/NTSC)
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure yes
Scene modes
Portrait yes
Children/baby yes
Landscape yes
Macro yes
Sports/action yes
More 11 additional scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Flash connection yes
Remote release Cable
Interval recording
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC
Video mode
Format AVCHD or MP4
Codec H.264/AVC
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
Frame rate (max.) 25 frames/s
Sensitivity
automatically ISO 160-3.200 (upper limit adjustable)
extended
manually ISO 160-12,800
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Shadow, flash, manual color temperature selection, fine correction
Manually yes
Autofocus
Number of measurement fields 23
AF auxiliary light yes
Speed approx. 0,2 s
Languages English
More 15 additional foreign languages
Weight
(Ready for operation)
320 g (housing only)
420 g (with lens*)
Zoom
Zoom adjustment manual or motorized on the lens
Single-handed operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Triggering during storage possible. yes
Battery life approx. 310 pictures according to CIPA
– = “not applicable” or “not available
* with lens Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42 mm 3.5-5.6 Asph. OIS

Brief assessment

Pros

  • With the exception of the set lens, high image quality
  • Easily accessible, high quality video function
  • Super fast autofocus
  • Many individualisation options
  • High quality processing of camera and control elements

Cons

  • With about 300 pictures, quite short battery life
  • No wireless flash control
  • Weak resolution of the set lens especially at the edge of the image

 

 

 

 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Data sheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor 4/3″ 17.3 x 13.0 mm (crop factor 2.0
)16.7 megapixels (physical) and 16.0 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 3.7 µm
Photo resolution
4.592 x 3.448 pixels (4:3)
3.232 x 2.424 pixels (4:3)
2.272 x 1.704 pixels (4:3)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Colour depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.21), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 25 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 25 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 25 p
Video format
MOV (Codec Motion JPEG)
AVCHD (Codec H.264)
MPG4 [codec MPEG-4]

Lens

Lens mount
Micro Four Thirds

Focus

Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Tracking AF, Manual, AF Assist Light

Viewfinder and monitor

Monitor 3.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 460,000 pixels, transreflective, with touchscreen

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 144 fields, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 60 s (Automatic
) Bulb function
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 3 shots, step size from 1/3 to 3 EV
Exposure Compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 160 to ISO 12.800 (manual)
Scene modes Baby, Landscape, Night scene, Close-up, Party, Portrait, Sunset, Sports/action, Animals, 0 additional scene modes
Picture effects Toy camera, various tint and filter effects in parameterizable b/w mode, nostalgic
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sunny, White balance bracket, Fine tuning, Shadow, Tungsten light, Manual
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 4.2 fps at highest resolution and max. 9 stored photos
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Recording functions Live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (hinged
)Flash shoe: Olympus/Panasonic (also Leica compact camera), standard center contact
Flash range Flash range with ISO auto
Flash code Guide number 7 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, red-eye reduction

Equipment

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
SD
Microphone Stereo
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery (7.2 V, 1,010 mAh
)300 images according to CIPA standard
Playback functions Red eye retouching, image rotation, image index, slide show function
Face recognition Face recognition
Image parameters Sharpness, contrast, color saturation
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous Dust protection filter with ultrasonic self-cleaning functionAutofocus
with scene recognition and trackingAdjustable
exposure parameters in program mode (shift function)
AE lock (AE lock)
AF lock (focuslock)5-step color saturation adjustment5-step
sharpness adjustment5-step
image contrast adjustment3-step
graduation adjustment (high-key, normal, low-key)
LCD image cover: 100%16x
playback
zoomCalendar view
image
playbackLight panel viewSimultaneousRAW and digital recording

JPEG format possibleDisplay of
lightsVenus

EngineAfter
image resizing (resolution)
After
image
saturation correctionRAW processing functionVideo codec

AVCHDFace recognition
with recognitionTouch autofocus

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 116 x 68 x 39 mm
Weight 318 g (ready for operation)

Miscellaneous

standard accessory Panasonic DMW-BLD10E special battery chargerUSB connection cableAV cableRestraint strapCamera software

Photofunstudio 7 HD EditionImage editing software
Silkypix Developer Studio 3.1 SE

additional accessories Nikon HDMI cable Audio- / Video cableOlympus
FL-700WR Plug-on flash with swivel reflectorPanasonic
DMW-AC8 Power supplyPanasonic
Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25 mm 1.7(H-X1025) zoom lensDMW-BLC12
Li-ion replacement battery Removable memory cardLens adapterDMW-MA1, -MA2M and MA3RStereomicrophone
DMW-MS1Flash units
DMW-FL220, DMW-FL360 and DMW-FL500Zoom lever
DMW-ZL1Remote cable release
DMW-RSL1
Previous articleNikon D50 Review
Next articleNikon AF-S 18-200 VR II
Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.