DCRP

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: November 6, 2011

Last Updated: December 9, 2011

Back when the Lumix DMC-GF3 came out, I bemoaned the fact that Panasonic was moving further and further away from the GF1 that I personally own (and enjoy using). While the GF1 (and the GF2 that followed it) were flat-bodied, rangefinder-style cameras, the GF3 was a compact model aimed more toward the point-and-shoot crowd. Many of us GF1 lovers have been waiting for a true successor to that camera, and it's finally arrived in the form of the Lumix DMC-GX1 (priced from $699).

The GX1 takes the guts from the SLR-style DMC-G3 and stuffs them into a body closely resembling the original GF1. The chart below compares the GX1 to all three GF series models. You may need to widen your screen so it all fits!

  Lumix DMC-GF1 Lumix DMC-GF2 Lumix DMC-GF3 Lumix DMC-GX1
Resolution (effective) 12.1 MP 12.1 MP 12.1 MP 16.0 MP
Light Speed AF
(120 fps drive speed)
No No Yes Yes
Touchscreen LCD No Yes Yes Yes
Mode dial Yes No No Yes
Burst rate 3.0 frames/sec 3.2 frames/sec 3.8 frames/sec 4.2 frames/sec
ISO range 100 - 3200 100 - 6400 160 - 6400 160 - 12800
Flash range (at ISO 100) GN 6 GN 6 GN 5 GN 6
AF Flexible mode No No No Yes
Pinpoint AF No No Yes Yes
Full-area touch AF No No Yes Yes
Intelligent Auto+ mode No No Yes Yes
Electronic level No No No Yes
Creative Control mode No No Yes Yes
Intelligent Resolution No Yes Yes Yes
Intelligent D-Range Control No No Yes Yes
Shading compensation No No Yes Yes
Movie resolution 1280 x 720 (30p) ** 1920 x 1080 (60i) ** 1920 x 1080 (60i) ** 1920 x 1080 (60i) **
Movie codecs AVCHD, M-JPEG AVCHD, M-JPEG AVCHD, M-JPEG AVCHD, MPEG-4
Sound recording Stereo Stereo Monaural Stereo
Hot shoe Yes Yes No Yes
Accessory port (for EVF) Yes Yes No Yes
Remote-in port Yes No No Yes
Battery used DMW-BLB13 DMW-BLD10 DMW-BLE9 DMW-BLD10
Battery life * 350 shots 300 shots 320 shots 300 shots
Available colors Black Black, white, red, silver Black, white, red, brown Black, silver
Dimensions 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 in. 4.4 x 2.7 x 1.3 in. 4.2 x 2.6 x 1.3 in. 4.6 x 2.7 x 1.6 in.
Weight (body only, empty) 285 g 265 g 222 g 272 g

* With 14 - 42 or 14-45 standard zoom lens
** Sensor output is 30p

Whew! As you can see, the GX1 has more in common with the original GF1 than either the GF2 or GF3 -- and that's a good thing.

Ready to find out if the Lumix DMC-GX1 is a worthy replacement to the much-loved GF1? Read on -- our review starts now!

What's in the Box?

The DMC-GX1 will be available in three kits, in two different colors (black and silver). There's a body only kit ($699), a second with the standard 14 - 42 mm zoom lens ($799), and a third with the new 14 - 42 mm power zoom lens ($949). Here's what you'll find in the box for each of those:

  • The 16.0 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-GX1 camera body
  • F3.5-5.6, 14 - 42 mm Lumix G lens w/OIS [DMC-GX1K kit only]
  • F3.5-5.6, 14 - 42 mm Lumix G X power zoom lens w/OIS [DMC-GX1X kit only]
  • DMW-BLD10 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Body cap
  • Lens hood [DMC-GX1K kit only]
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROMs featuring PhotoFunStudio 7.0 HD Edition, SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.1 SE, and full camera manual
  • 47 page basic manual (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM
Power Zoom lens collapsed Power zoom lens extended
Images courtesy of Panasonic

Folks who already own a Lumix G camera will probably opt for the body only kit, though some may be tempted by the package with the new, compact power zoom lens. This lens has the same specs as the regular 14 - 42 mm lens (also available with the GX1), but it collapses when powered off, making the camera much more portable (see above photos). There are no dials on this lens -- just sliders for operating the zoom and focus. I found the zoom control to be a bit too far away from where my hand was gripping the lens, making operating it a bit of a stretch. You might want to get your hands on this lens (no pun intended) before you buy to see if you agree. Optically, the power zoom seems solid, with relatively low distortion and corner blurring.

If you've got a collection of "classic" Four Thirds lenses sitting around, you can use those too, via the DMW-MA1 adapter -- though not all will support continuous autofocus. Panasonic also makes adapters for classic Leica R and M-mount lenses, and I don't see why you can't use Olympus' OM adapter either.

Whichever lens you end up using, there will be a 2X focal length conversion ratio to keep in mind. In other words, those 14 - 42 mm lenses have a field of view of 28 - 84 mm.

Interchangeable lens cameras (which includes regular digital SLRs) never come with memory cards. So, if you don't have one already, you'll need to pick one up. The GX1 supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards (including super fast UHS-I cards). If you're mostly taking stills, then a 4GB card is probably fine. If you plan on taking a lot of movies, then you'll want something like an 8GB or 16GB card, instead. Picking up a high speed card (Class 6 or higher) is a good idea, especially if you'll be taking HD videos.

The DMC-GX1 uses the same DMW-BLD10 as the DMC-GF2 and DMC-G3 (at least). This battery has 7.3 Wh of energy, which is above average for a camera this size. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life w/live view
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Nikon 1 J1 230 shots EN-EL20
Olympus E-P3 330 shots BLS-1 / BLS-5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 300 shots * DMW-BLD10
Pentax Q 230 shots D-LI68
Samsung NX200 330 shots BP1310
Sony Alpha NEX-5N 430 shots NP-FW50

* With the 14 - 42 mm kit lens

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

The GX1's battery life is the same as on the GF2, but 15% lower than what the original GF1 could pull off (the GF3 gets 320 shots per charge). In this group of interchangeable lens cameras as a while, the GX1's numbers are a bit below average. If you want to pick up a spare battery, an extra DMW-BLD10 will set you back at least $54.

When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it in into the included charger. It takes two hours to fully charge the BLD10 battery. The charger plugs directly into the wall (at least in the U.S.), which is always nice.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 with electronic viewfinder
The GX1 with optional Live Viewfinder

As with the other members of the Lumix G family, plenty of accessories for the GX1. They include:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Lenses Varies Varies The GX1 supports all Micro Four Thirds lenses, with a 2X focal length conversion ratio.
Four Thirds Adapter DMW-MA1 From $110 Lets you use "regular" Four Thirds lenses on the GX1; do note that not all lenses will support continuous autofocus.
Leica M-mount adapter
Leica R-mount adapter
DMW-MA2M
DMW-MA3R
From $170
From $165
Allows you to use M and R-mount Leica lenses; they will be manual focus only.
External flash

DMW-FL220
DMW-FL360
DMW-FL500

From $136
From $223
From $389
The FL220 is a basic flash without a swivel head. Stepping up to the FL360 and FL500 gets you that plus an AF-assist lamp and a much longer range.
Electronic viewfinder DMW-LVF2 $250 This EVF attaches to the hot shoe / accessory port and has 1.44 million pixels and a magnification of 1.4X. It can tilt upward up to 90 degrees.
Remote shutter release DMW-RSL1 $51 A shutter release button on a 1.5 meter cable.
A/V cable DMW-AVC1 $9 If you want to connect your GX1 to a standard television, you'll need this. Should've been included in the box.
AC adapter DMW-AC8
DMW-DCC9
From $56
$15
You need BOTH of these parts in order to power the camera without using the battery.
Soft case DMW-CG3-K From $31 Holds the camera and the 14-42 mm power zoom or 14 mm pancake lens. Comes in black.
Leather case DMW-CGK13-K
DMW-CGK13-T
N/A Classic-style leather case attaches to the tripod mount, and comes with a lens cover that fits over the 14 - 42 mm power zoom or 14 mm pancake lens. Comes in black (K model) or brown (T model).
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

And those are just the most interesting accessories. There are also filters, a zoom lever (for filming movies), and a tripod adapter (for big lenses) available. The optional EVF is very nice: it's sharp, there's not much of a rainbow effect, and the ability to tilt the viewfinder upward is very handy. While you can buy the soft case here in the U.S., odds are that the fancy leather cases will not be available.

Panasonic includes PhotoFunStudio 7.0 HD Edition software with the Lumix DMC-GX1. This Windows-only software handles basic tasks fairly well, though the whole "wizard" system gets tired quickly. On the main screen you'll see the usual thumbnail view, and you can view photos by folders, date, or by things as specific as scene mode. The software can learn to recognize faces (much like the camera itself), which offers you another way to browse through your pictures. Available editing features give you the ability to crop, rotate, or change the aspect ratio of your photos, as well as adjusting color, brightness, saturation, and more. You can apply special effects to photos, overlay text, or remove redeye.

PhotoFunStudio can also work with the movies produced by the GX1. You can edit your video and then burn the results to a DVD (but not Blu-ray) disc. You can also save the edited movie in MPEG-2 format. If you want to use something else to edit your videos, most modern Windows video editing suites can work with the AVCHD files produced by the GX1. Mac users should be able to use iMovie or Final Cut Pro without issue, though you won't be natively editing the AVCHD files. Another option for movies is to use the MPEG-4 format instead of AVCHD, which are much easier to work with and share.

Something PhotoFunStudio cannot do is edit RAW images. For that, Panasonic provides SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.1 SE, for both Mac and Windows. SilkyPix isn't going to win any awards for its user interface or poorly translated menus, but it's still a very capable editing tool. If you'd rather use Adobe Photoshop to edit the RAW files (and I know I do), then be sure to have version 6.6 release candidate or newer of the Camera Raw plug-in.

As with all recent Panasonic cameras, the GX1's documentation is split into two parts. In the box there's a thin "basic manual" to get you up and running. For more details, you'll need to load up the full manual, which is in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. Neither manual is very user-friendly, as they're loaded with confusing tables and fine print. Documentation for the bundled software is installed onto your computer.

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