Panasonic Lumix G1 Review
With the introduction of the Panasonic Lumix G1, Panasonic caused quite a stir with its “EVIL camera”, a completely new system concept. EVIL stands for Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens.
The current technology finally makes possible what many users have been dreaming of for a long time: a compact camera, flexibility through interchangeable lenses, precise and fast focusing directly on the sensor and a high-resolution electronic viewfinder that really shows what you are shooting – and not just the image section like a classic SLR viewfinder.
Pros And Cons Of The Panasonic Lumix G1
- Flexible monitor
- High processing quality
- Outstanding quality for an electronic viewfinder
- Fast autofocus
- Only acceptable input dynamics, output dynamics with too high black level
- From ISO 1,600 high noise
- Currently a small selection of compatible lenses (or expensive FourThirds adapters and only a few Live AF compatible lenses)
- Adjustment wheel too slippery and difficult to turn
Ergonomics and Workmanship
Panasonic sets well proportioned and modern accents. The camera is very straightforward with some curves and skillful simplicity.
Panasonic uses high-quality plastic as housing material. It feels solid and at the same time smooth as if the case has been treated with some kind of roughened silicone or rubber.
The thumb rest is additionally set off with a rubber that does not have a grained structure and thus fits well into the rest of the no-frills camera design.
Besides black, the camera is also available in dark red or blue. However, it is particularly noticeable in the colored versions that the protective caps of the connections are made of a different plastic.
It is not only slightly different in color but in contrast to the material of the camera, it is also extremely sensitive to scratches. Unfortunately, this disturbs the otherwise high-quality impression.
With the colors as with the camera concept in general, Panasonic is addressing a new target audience: Changeover from compact and bridge cameras, who shy away from a large and heavy DSLR, but also women who otherwise prefer compact cameras. But also the one or other owner of a DSLR will surely take an interesting look at the “cute” G1.
In terms of interfaces, the Panasonic Lumix G1 looks almost like a DSLR: the tripod thread on the underside of the camera is made of metal and is arranged in the optical axis. But the tripod plate has to belong to the smaller ones in order not to cover the access to the battery compartment.
Herein, a rather bulky lithium-ion battery is hidden, but it still has a capacity of 9 Wh with 7.2 V and 1.250 mAh.
This results in an acceptable runtime of 450 images according to the CIPA standard measurement procedure. By the way, due to its design, a wrong insertion of the battery is impossible; it simply does not lock in place.
No power supply connection has been provided for tripod use in the studio, instead, there is an optional battery dummy.
Two interface flaps are located on the left side of the camera: Behind one of them, there’s a jack connector for an (expensive) cable remote control, while the connections for USB or AV-Out and HDMI are hidden behind the other.
The latter is very practical for high-resolution slide shows, the FullHD resolution of 1080p is supported. On the right side of the camera is the SD card slot, which of course also accepts SDHC cards up to 32 GBytes capacity.
The control buttons of the Panasonic Lumix G1 are also similar to those of a DSLR: numerous wheels and full of smacking mechanical switches are a real pleasure.
The front control wheel on the handle is not quite as successful. It is a little sluggish and looks a little cheap. In addition, it is too smooth and therefore does not have a good grip for the finger.
A smart feature is the possibility to press the wheel like a key. By turning the wheel, for example, the shutter speed can be adjusted; if you press it once, you can then adjust the aperture. The twelve buttons on the back and top of the camera are very easy to operate.
Most of the space on the back of the camera is taken up by the 3″ monitor, which has an aspect ratio of 3:2. It is very stable in viewing angle, bright (with automatic brightness adjustment or manual brightness selection), has a sufficiently fine resolution of 460,000 pixels and shows a brilliant image.
But the best thing about the monitor is its pivoting and folding mechanism: this is what really makes the camera show off the advantages of LiveView.
Ground-level shots or photos over crowds of people are thus possible without any problems and without major dislocations.
Numerous fade-ins inform the photographer about important settings, but a histogram or various grids can also be faded in and make image composition easier. To protect the monitor from scratches, it can be folded up with the inside facing the camera, which is also useful if you prefer the electronic viewfinder.
The viewfinder of the Panasonic Lumix G1 should also be seen by skeptics of the electronic viewfinder principle: It has a resolution of 1.44 million pixels – six times the resolution of conventional electronic viewfinders. Converted, this corresponds to a resolution of 800 x 600 true color pixels. And actually, they are.
The Panasonic Lumix G1 uses a viewfinder technology from the broadcast sector (professional TV cameras): an LED changes color from red to blue to green in rapid succession.
The generated light is reflected by a partially transparent disc onto an LCD. The reflection of each of the 800 x 600 LCD pixels can be controlled in its intensity.
The LCD changes its pixel pattern in the same rapid sequence as the light-source color change, producing a red, blue and green image in succession and being perceived by the human eye as a true-color image.
The viewfinder can produce a fluid 60 frames per second and covers the full NTSC color space. Another advantage of this viewfinder technology is that you can no longer see the usual grid between the pixels.
In terms of size, the viewfinder is equivalent to a DSLR’s full-frame viewfinder, which magnifies 0.7 times. Although the viewfinder cannot “stink” of the sharpness impression against a full format DSLR viewfinder, it can stink against the rather small viewfinders of various entry-level DSLRs.
The picture impression is different, but you can see what you are recording (exposure preview, histogram, grid display, white balance, 100% image detail also in 3:2 or 16:9 format), you don’t have to take your eye off the viewfinder to operate the menus and you can even view the recorded images in the viewfinder.
Manual focusing is also possible with pixel accuracy. A magnifying glass, whose magnification is adjustable, helps here. Only the image noise in darker light conditions is somewhat disturbing, the delay of the viewfinder image compared to the real image is only about 30 milliseconds.
For people with defective vision, the wide adjustment range of the viewfinder from -4 to +4 DPT is very useful. A very handy feature is the eye sensor (which can be turned off) that activates the EVF as it approaches.
Equipment And Features Of The Panasonic Lumix G1
Panasonic uses a new generation of Venus Engine to meet the high-performance requirements of all components. This is a dual processor, as it has been known from computers for a long time.
This provides the necessary computing power for autofocus, high-resolution LiveView and of course the many intelligent automatic functions that a modern Lumix offers. These include face detection, subject detection, motion detection, contrast enhancement, etc., so that the camera can optimally adjust all shooting parameters.
After all, the main focus of this camera is to be as easy to use as possible, which should not pose any problems even for quality-conscious buyers who do not want to deal with the technology. This includes the orientation sensor, which automatically rotates the images.
However, some subject programs are also available to the user if he does not want to rely on the reliable automatic system. In addition to the “coarse selection” on the program selector wheel, a “fine selection” can also be made in the menu.
In each of the Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports and Night Scene programs, you can further specify the shooting situation, such as Portrait indoors, Portrait outdoors, with beautiful skin or creative, while Macro lets you choose from flowers, food, objects or a creative mode.
At first sight, the nesting seems to be a bit more clearly arranged than 30 scene mode programs listed one after the other. But whether such a fine selection is more helpful or confusing for the inexperienced user is up to the question.
The experienced hobby photographer, on the other hand, has all the setting options he is used to from SLR cameras. In addition to semi-automatic and manual modes, this also includes an index-finger wheel on the handle for quick adjustment of important camera parameters.
In addition, the program selector wheel offers a programmable setting that allows the user to save his preferred settings and recall them at any time. The camera offers further customization options with the programmable Fn button on the back of the camera, a favorites menu where you can save your favorite menu items and call them up more quickly, and generally the many adjustment options on the menu.
For example, the user can choose where the information displays are shown in the viewfinder and on the display: bottom only or top and bottom only.
The sensitivity can be set flexibly using the dedicated key. In addition to the intelligent automatic function that detects and takes into account camera shake as well as subject movement, the automatic function can be limited to a maximum value.
ISO 800 is a good choice here, as above this value, the noise increases significantly (see the section on image quality). But also a manual selection for full sensitivity control is possible. Here the G1 is in no way inferior to other cameras, even a 1/3 EV fine gradation is possible.
An interesting feature is the “Film Mode” button on the top of the camera. This is not a function for taking moving pictures (the G1 has no video function), but the possibility to adjust the camera to different film profiles such as natural, colorful, black and white, sepia, etc.
If you like to be creative in this direction, you will find a wide range of setting options, including the definition of your own film profiles. Each mode can be parameterized individually. Conservatives may consider this button unnecessary, but the Q.Menu, which can also be accessed via a button on the top of the camera, will certainly be useful to any user. If you press it, you can use the arrow key to move through all the parameters displayed on the screen and adjust them without going into the menu – even the histogram, if it is activated, can be placed freely on the screen.
This is also the fastest way to get to the flash settings. Here hardly any wishes remain open. In order for the flash (with a guide number 11.2 measured by us) to ignite at all, it must first be unlocked manually – it does not pop up automatically.
In addition to an automatic mode, a fill-in flash can be switched on or a long-term synchronization can be activated. In addition, there is a pre-flash for red eyes; however, the digital distance, which the camera also masters, works better.
Creative flash photographers will not only enjoy the flash exposure correction, but also the ability to flash on the second shutter curtain, i.e. at the end of the exposure.
Of course, a system camera also includes a system hot shoe that can take both Olympus and Panasonic TTL flashes (FL220, FL360, and FL500). The shortest flash sync speed is generally 1/160 second. That’s a pity, but it’s because the camera still has a mechanical shutter (see the lens section for more details).
The continuous-advance mode is quite powerful mainly because of the fast writing speed to the SD memory card – assuming a correspondingly fast SD card. In JPEG mode, the camera easily takes 170 shots at 3.2 frames per second – after which the speed slumps to a still respectable 1.8 frames per second. With RAW recordings, on the other hand, the “speed orgy” comes to an end after only five frames – after that, only a miserable 0.6 frames per second remain until the memory card is full. If you want to take more pictures at a constant speed but need less than three frames per second, you can slow down the speed in the menu.
The Panasonic Lumix G1 is the first implementation of the Micro FourThirds system, which is based on interchangeable lenses similar to “classic” digital SLR cameras but does not include an oscillating mirror in its concept.
As a result, the flange back, which indicates the distance from the sensor to the lens, was able to shrink significantly from the usual 40 mm to 20 mm. This allows not only for more compact (flatter) cameras but also for more compact lenses, which is especially noticeable in the wide-angle range – where usually very bulky and expensive retrofocus constructions are required.
The 14-45mm kit lens offers a size saving, while the 45-200mm telephoto zoom is hardly noticeable; if there is no lens on the camera, the direct view of the sensor is free. This pretends that the G1 no longer has a mechanical shutter curtain, which is not true, but it is open by default.
On the one hand, this leads to the rather long flash sync speed of 1/160 second (without it, the entire shutter speed range up to 1/4,000 second would be possible), but on the other hand, it also results in a distinct shutter release noise, which one would not expect from a camera without oscillating mirror.
The shutter must move four times each time the shutter is released: first, it closes to darken the sensor and set it to “zero”, then it opens for the exposure, closes again at the end of the exposure and then opens again to release the sensor for the live image function. This cannot be a good thing for the life of the closure, it is halved. One can only hope that Panasonic has installed a very high-quality shutter here to compensate for this.
Due to the new bayonet, the choice of lenses is extremely limited. Besides the 14-45mm kit lens, there is only a 45-200mm tele zoom – you will have to wait a little bit for more lenses. For quite expensive 230 dollars you can get a mechanical adapter to FourThirds lenses, but with a few exceptions, these lenses have to be manually focused – not exactly a buying argument for owners of a FourThirds system.
Those who like to focus manually, on the other hand, should take a look at Novoflex: This company now offers a Micro FourThirds adapter for Leica-M lenses. So here old treasures with manual focusing can be turned into new forms. In principle – purely mechanically – adapters can also be built for all other bayonets that are currently still on the market.
However, the biggest problem is probably the aperture control of modern lenses. Even though the lens range is currently still quite thin on the ground, you can build on the future, because Panasonic is planning a systematic expansion of the system. Interestingly, the two Kit-Zooms do not carry a Leica label. The built-in optical image stabilizer can already be taken for granted.
The autofocus of the Panasonic Lumix G1 sets new standards. At around 0.3-0.4 seconds, it is rat-fast and whisper-quiet – even if, according to Panasonic, the lenses have no ultrasonic drive.
The G1 truly does not have to hide from any entry-level DSLR. But the live autofocus has quite different advantages: You can move the autofocus point on the monitor practically steplessly, and parts of the subject can be recognized and followed according to their structure. Faces are identified and a maximum of 23 autofocus fields are read out simultaneously.
Classical DSLRs, on the other hand, are fixed to specific autofocus points that can do nothing but measure sharpness. And to be able to do this, an SLR requires many mechanical tricks: The image must be separated and redirected in a complicated way with semi-transparent mirrors, after all, the AF sensors are located in the ground.
This results in higher mechanical tolerances, which also have a negative influence on the reliability of the autofocus – all this is eliminated with the G1.
Even with fast lenses, the autofocus is highly accurate, and the faster the lenses are, the greater the gain in accuracy of the G1.
Even in low light, the autofocus should still work; Panasonic specifies a range of 0-18 EV at ISO 100. If it is even darker, an optional orange LED auxiliary light is switched on, but it is quite bright.
Image Quality Of The Panasonic Lumix G1
With all the highlights, the sensor resolution almost falls behind, but here too there is a further development to report.
Although the resolution remains relatively modest at 12.1 megapixels (physically 13.1 million), even if the resolution of the 4/3 sensor thus increases by 2 megapixels (e.g. compared to the Panasonic L10 or Olympus E-3/420/520), this would correspond to a resolution of a good 50 megapixels with a corresponding pixel density with a full-format sensor.
Panasonic’s live MOS technology has been tried and tested and is being used again. It combines the advantages of various techniques and is capable of high image quality, as can be seen, for example, on an Olympus E-3.
Thanks to MOS technology, smear effects in LiveView – in contrast to CCD technology – also play no role whatsoever. This means that in LiveView mode, highlights (reflections or the sun in the image) do not produce continuous vertical lines in magenta or other colors.
To test the image quality, we tested with the testing software. The following explanations are based on the results with the 14-45mm kit lens provided by the local distributor.
The resolution of the lens on the G1 is good at all focal lengths in the center of the image but shows a marginal drop at short and medium focal length.
The aperture used is hardly important – both faded in and faded out, the edge drop is visible, a difference in resolution between the apertures is not visible. Therefore, the lens can be considered as open aperture suitable – for a kit lens an extraordinarily good performance.
Panasonic is not exactly timid when it comes to processing fine image details. Clear aliasing and moiré effects can be seen especially on diagonals, with color moirés dominating. This can be quite disturbing when reproducing certain structures. However, this phenomenon is more or less evident in almost all cameras. Very good, however, is the sharpening, which is not restrained but also does not produce artifacts, double lines or black and white clipping.
In addition to its open aperture capability, the lens is also convincing in terms of distortion. Although there is barrel distortion at short and medium focal length, it is surprisingly small for the focal length, especially at the wide-angle end.
The minimal barrel distortion in telescopic position, however, can be neglected. This makes the kit lens one of the very best in terms of distortion unless the correction is done by camera-internal image processing. In another important discipline of the lens, the result is a mixed image. Vignetting is most pronounced at wide-angle with the aperture open, and here – as at the telephoto end – it shows a slight spontaneous vignetting component, which makes the edge darkening more visible. Dimming, on the other hand, can be neglected at all focal lengths.
We were curious about the noise behavior of the sensor. Up to ISO 800, it is surprisingly low. There is a very slight color noise and a little aggressive brightness noise. From ISO 1.600, on the other hand, the noise rises sharply. Although the color noise remains low, the brightness noise shows aggressive “salt & pepper” parts.
At this point, however, you have to give Panasonic credit for not trying to embellish the results with a strong shadow noise suppression. With other manufacturers, this has long been common practice, which is to the detriment of the detail drawing in the shadows, but which improves the signal-to-noise ratio in the shadows and the input dynamics.
Since Panasonic does not do this, the measured input dynamics also drop significantly from ISO 1.600. However, with about 8.2 f-stops it belongs rather to the lower class. The mixed picture continues with the initial dynamics. This is surprisingly neutral and especially in the lights very linear. In the shadows, it is a bit softer, but above all, it gives away the exploitation of the really deep black tonal values, whereby the shadows lose their brilliance unnecessarily. Fortunately, this can easily be remedied in image editing.
The images are saved in RAW or JPEG format with two compression levels each. The lower JPEG compression is visually lossless. With the higher compression, about 2½ times as many pictures fit on the memory card, but you also have to live with some loss of detail due to compression artifacts.
Alternatively, the resolution – in all three aspect ratios (4:3, 3:2 and 16:9) – can be reduced to half or a quarter to save memory space. The G1’s exposure metering works with ease.
In addition to multi-field, it can also be switched to center-weighted integral or spot metering, depending on the subject requirements. The automatic white balance hung does not work optimally in all lighting conditions.
Although it is very reliable in natural light, a slight green tint may creep in under fluorescent light, whereas an orange tint occurs under incandescent light.
The white balance presets don’t help much with these problems, as there is only one artificial light setting where other camera manufacturers offer incandescent light plus three fluorescent tints.
The photographer only has the choice of manual white balance, which comes with two memory locations, or manual color temperature selection. This can also be useful in other lighting situations, e.g. if you know the color temperature of the lamps in the studio. If you don’t like the white balance presets, you can also adjust them with flexible fine correction.
Conclusion: Is The Panasonic Lumix G1 Worth It?
The Lumix G1 is a great entry from Panasonic into this newly created market segment. Practically everything of existing, state-of-the-art technology is built into the camera, and it also convinces haptically. The G1 is in fact the further development of the anachronistic DSLR.
You really get the feeling that Panasonic has wanted to build such a camera for a long time, but has so far only lacked the concept (Micro FourThirds) and the technology (viewfinder, image sensor, processor speed).
All in all, the image quality up to ISO 800 is convincing, the resolution is right, and the lens is – despite the lack of Leica lettering – almost outstanding compared to other kit lenses.
However, Panasonic should do its homework again with the input dynamics and the black level. Anyone who enjoys photography, simplicity and modern technology will certainly be enthusiastic about this camera.
- Flexible monitor
- High processing quality
- Outstanding quality for an electronic viewfinder
- Fast autofocus
- Only acceptable input dynamics, output dynamics with too high black level
- From ISO 1,600 high noise
- Currently small selection of compatible lenses (or expensive FourThirds adapters and only a few Live AF compatible lenses)
- Adjustment wheel too slippery and difficult to turn
Firmware update 1.2 for Lumix DMC-G1: Improvements
The firmware update can be installed independently. If you are afraid of the possible risk of destroying the camera in the process, you should seek help from a dealer or Panasonic Service.
Panasonic Lumix G1 Datasheet
|Sensor||CMOS sensor 4/3″ 17.3 x 13.0 mm (crop factor 2.0) 13.1 megapixels (physical) and 12.1 megapixels (effective)|
|Image formats||JPG, RAW|
|Color depth||24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)|
|Metadata||Exif (version 2.21), DCF standard|
|Autofocus functions||Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light|
Viewfinder and monitor
|SLR viewfinder||17 mm eye relief|
|Monitor||3.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 460,000 pixels, transreflective|
|Video finder||Video viewfinder available, dioptre compensation|
|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, increments from 1/3 to 2/3 EV|
|Exposure Compensation||-3.0 to +3.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV|
|Photosensitivity||ISO 100 to ISO 3,200 (manual)|
|Scene modes||Baby, Landscape, Night scene, Close-up, Party, Portrait, Sunset, Sports/action, and Animals|
|Picture effects||various tint and filter effects in the parameterizable B/W mode, nostalgic|
|White balance||Automatic, Clouds, Sun, Fine Tuning, Shadow, Tungsten Light, Manual|
|Color space||Adobe RGB, sRGB|
|Continuous shooting||3.0 fps at highest resolution, or 3 fps with max. 7 consecutive images for RAW recording|
|Self-timer||Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)|
|Recording functions||Live histogram|
|Flash||built-in flash (hinged) Flash shoe: Olympus/Panasonic (also Leica compact camera), standard center contact|
|Flash code||Guide number 11 (ISO 100)|
|Flash functions||Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, red-eye reduction|
Equipment And Features
|Image stabilizer||no optical image stabilizer|
|Power supply unit||Power supply connection|
|Power supply||1 x lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery (7.2 V, 1,250 mAh) 330 images according to CIPA standard|
|Playback functions||Red eye retouching, image rotation, image index, slide show function|
|Image parameters||Sharpness, contrast, color saturation|
|Connections||Data interfaces: USB USB type: USB 2.0 High Speed|
|AV Connections||AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)|
|Supported direct printing methods||PictBridge|
|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
image contrast adjustment3-step
graduation adjustment (high-key, normal, low-key)
LCD image cover: 100%16x
playbackLight panel viewSimultaneousRAW and digital recordingJPEG format possibleDisplay of
image size change (resolution)
Subsequent saturation correctionRAW processing function
Size and weight
|Dimensions W x H x D||124 x 84 x 45 mm|
|Weight||437 g (ready for operation)|
|standard accessory||Standard battery chargerVideo connection cableUSB connection cableStretch strapCamera software
Photofunstudio Viewer 2.
|additional accessories||Olympus FL-700WR attachable flash with swivel reflectorPanasonic
Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25 mm 1.7 (H-X1025) zoom lensPower supply
DMW-CDD3 removable memory cardCamera bag