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!
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:
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.
The GX1 with optional Live Viewfinder
As with the other members of the Lumix G family, plenty of accessories for the GX1. They include:
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.
Design & Features
If you've used the DMC-GF1 or GF2, then you'll feel right at home with the GX1. The camera has a rectangular shape with a mostly flat body, save for its new, larger right hand grip. Don't believe me? Have a look:
|My old GF1 next to a shiny new GX1|
You can see that a few things have moved around since the GF1, and the accessory port is different, as well. While the original GF1 didn't have the dedicated iA button or stereo microphone, the GF2 that followed it did. The opposite is true about a mode dial: the GF1 had it, the GF2 didn't (which not a popular decision), and it's back on the GX1. The DMC-GX1 has two customizable Function buttons, compared to one on the GF1 and GF2.
The DMC-GX1 is very well built, with a solid metal body, "notchy" dials (this is a good thing), and metallic buttons. The only things that seem a bit flimsy are the pop-up flash mechanism and the door over the battery/memory card compartment. The GX1 is easy to hold, with the most important controls within easy reach of your fingers.
Images courtesy of Panasonic
The GX1 is targeted more toward enthusiasts than consumers, so it should come as no surprise to hear that it comes in silver and black, instead of things like red and pink.
I already compared the dimensions and weight of the GX1 versus its predecessor back in that huge table at the start of the review. How does it fare against other interchangeable lens cameras? Have a look:
As you can see, the GX1 is the largest, but not quite the heaviest camera in this class. It's not the pocket camera that the GF3 was, but it travels just fine over your shoulder or in a small bag.
I don't know about you, but I think a tour of the GX1 is in order. Use the tabs to navigate your way through it!
As with all of Panasonic's Lumix G series cameras, the GX1 supports the Micro Four Thirds lens mount, with a 2X focal length conversion ratio. As I mentioned earlier, there are numerous adapters available that allow you to use other lenses, as well. To release an attached lens, just press the button to the right of the mount.
At the center of the photo is the GX1's 16 Megapixel Live MOS sensor, which is apparently the same one that's on the DMC-G3. Micro Four Thirds sensors are smaller than APS-C (used in Sony and Samsung interchangeable lens cameras) but much larger than what you'll find on models from Nikon and Pentax. Recent Lumix G cameras had their sensor drive speeds increased from 60 to 120 fps, which greatly increased autofocus speeds. Panasonic has taken things one step further on the GX1, boosting the camera-to-lens communication speed to the same rate, allowing for focus times as short as 0.09 seconds, which is faster than the DMC-GH2 and most professional D-SLRs.
With the sensor exposed to the elements, you need a system to prevent dust from collecting. Like its siblings, the GX1 has an ultrasonic dust removal system that shakes dust off the low-pass filter at 50,000 cycles per second.
While many interchangeable lens cameras have image stabilization built right into the body, Panasonic's do not. This feature is built into the lens instead, and both of the available kit lenses have it.
At the top right of the photo is the GX1's pop-up flash, which is released manually. The flash has a guide number of 6 meters at ISO 100, which is consistent with what similar models offers. If you want a more powerful flash, there's a hot shoe right next door that you can use.
The only other item of note on the front of the camera is the AF-assist lamp (also used for visually counting down the self-timer), which is located right under the GX1 logo. This lamp is fairly easy to block with your fingers, so be careful.
On the back of the camera is the now familiar 3-inch, 460,000 pixel touchscreen LCD that's found on many other Panasonic cameras. The screen is very sharp, and outdoor visibility is top-notch, as is usually the case on Lumix cameras. In low light, the screen brightens up nicely, so you can still see your subject. I'll tell you about the touchscreen functionality later in the review.
Above the screen is the accessory port, which is where the optional electronic viewfinder plugs in. As I mentioned earlier, the EVF is very nice, though it's on the expensive side.
Everything else here is either a button or a dial. There are two customizable buttons (Fn1 and Fn2), plus three more covering what's shown on the LCD, switching focus modes, and entering the Quick (shortcut) Menu. The four-way controller can also be found here, which is used for menu navigation, replaying photos, and also adjusting the ISO, white balance, and drive/focus modes.
Up at the top-right of the photo is the camera's sole control dial, used for adjusting manual exposure settings, as well as navigating menus.
The first thing to see on the top of the camera is the flash, which is closed here. When it's popped up, there's a little "ditch" in which can you put your fingers, if you're holding the camera that way.
Next to that is the hot shoe, with the stereo microphone above it. The hot shoe works best with the three Panasonic flashes I listed earlier, as they'll sync with the camera's metering system. If you're using a third party flash, you'll have to set the exposure manually. You can use shutter speeds as fast as 1/160 second on the GX1. None of Panasonic's cameras support wireless flash control.
Moving to the right, we find the mode dial (which I'll tell you about after this tour), which has the power switch attached to it. The buttons to the right of that include shutter release, movie, and Intelligent Auto mode. The iA button will quickly switch the camera into this easy-to-use shooting mode, which can be a blessing when you hand the camera to someone who isn't as camera savvy as you are.
Here you can see just how far up the GX1's flash protrudes from the camera. This isn't a big surprise, as it has some large Micro Four Thirds lenses to clear!
Down near the bottom of the body is the GX1's speaker.
The 14 - 42 mm power zoom lens is at its wide-angel position here. You can see the manual focus lever on the bottom, with the zoom lever above that. As I mentioned earlier, reaching the zoom lever was a bit of a stretch for me.
On the other side of the camera you'll find its I/O ports, which are under a plastic cover. The ports here include remote control input, USB + A/V output, and mini-HDMI.
Aside from the sizable right hand grip, the only other thing to mention here is that the power zoom lens is at full telephoto here.
On the bottom of the camera is a metal tripod mount (hidden from view here) and the battery/memory card compartment. The door over this compartment is on the flimsy side, and you won't be able to open it while the camera is on a tripod.
At the lower-right of the photo you can spot the included DMW-BLD10 battery.
The "view" in live view, complete with histogram and electronic level
Now we're going to talk about features. The most important one on the DMC-GX1 is its live view feature, which is what you'll use to compose all your photos on this mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Panasonic has created a first rate live view experience on all of their G series cameras, with the GX1 being no exception. You get a bright, fluid image, super fast autofocus, a movable histogram, customizable grid lines, and frame enlargement for manual focus. There's now a handy electronic level available, too, which handles both tilt and pitch.
|The customizable Quick Menu can be accessed via touchscreen (or buttons)||The "tab" menu can slide out with the touch of your finger, and offers various soft buttons, plus two custom spots|
Since we're talking about live view, I figure that I should tell you about the features tied to the GX1's touchscreen LCD now. Here are some of the touch-enabled features that you'll have access to:
- Touch AF: touch the area of the frame on which you'd like the camera to focus (for stills or movies); you can adjust the size of the focus point, as well; the Pinpoint AF lets you do this practically at the pixel level
- Touch Shutter: same idea as above, except that the camera will take a photo, too
- MF assist: enlarge the frame and then use your finger to move around; handy for manual focusing
- Sliders: makes adjusting depth-of-field, color, or brightness (the last two in iA+ mode) a snap
- Touch zoom: if you've got one of the Panasonic power zoom lenses attached, the tab menu can show zoom controls
- Custom grid lines: don't like the preset choices? Drag the lines anywhere you want with your finger.
- Custom menus: drag-and-drop to create a custom Quick Menu (which can also be operated with the four-way controller); there's also a drawer on the right side which holds a few extra things, including two more custom Fn buttons!
- Touch playback: swipe your finger to move between photos and tap to zoom in; deleting a bunch of photos is a snap -- just tap the thumbnails you want to trash
The nice thing about the GX1 is that you can choose which touch features are active. You can shut most everything off too, if you're a button person like me.
One of the features that was lost on the GF2 and GF3 that has triumphantly returned on the DMC-GX1 is a real, physical mode dial. Here are the options that you'll find on it.
Adjusting brightness, background defocus, and color in iA+ mode
The first thing you may be wondering is, where's Intelligent Auto mode? While it's not on the mode dial, you can turn it on at any time by pressing the dedicated button on the top of the GX1. Once in iA mode, the camera will handle everything, including scene selection, blur reduction, intelligent sharpening, shadow brightening, and more. If you want a bit more control, head to the menu and turn on iA+ mode, which gives you sliders that let you adjust the background defocus, brightness, and color, without having to know what aperture, exposure compensation, and white balance (respectively) mean. Panasonic's iA modes really are the best auto modes out there, whether on compact or interchangeable lens cameras.
If you want to pick a scene mode yourself, there are plenty to choose from, as you can see. There is also a Creative Control mode, where you can select from various special effects, and then adjust them to your liking using the touchscreen.
Naturally, the GX1 has full manual exposure controls, as well. There are also two spots on the mode dial that can hold a total of four sets of your favorite camera settings. As you'll see below, the camera has plenty of other goodies that enthusiasts will enjoy.
Now I want to talk about some of the items found in the GX1's menu system. Before I do that, let me say that the GX1's menus are attractive and easy to navigate. About the only thing I'd add are help screens for the menu options. Keep in mind that you won't have access to some menu options when using the automatic shooting modes. And with that, let's go over the most interesting items in the shooting and custom settings menus:
- Photo Style: allows you to have multiple sets of image parameters, which include contrast, sharpness, saturation, and noise reduction; there are several presets (standard, vivid, monochrome, etc), plus a custom style, all of which can be adjusted
- Quality: the GX1 supports JPEGs in a number of sizes, plus RAW, or a combination of the two. A RAW image should be about 20 MB in size, while a Large/Fine JPEG weighs in at 9.1 MB
- Face recognition: the GX1 can recognize faces (automatically or manually), and you can attach a name and age to that person. In future photos, they'll be given focus priority
- Quick AF: the camera activates autofocus when it detects that the camera is being held steady, which reduces focus times (though at the expense of battery life)
- Redeye removal: the camera will digitally remove redeye from photos, as they are taken. Or at least try.
- Intelligent Resolution: a "smart" sharpening system that looks for detailed texture areas, outlines, and soft gradations, and applies different amounts of sharpening to each. There are four levels to choose from, including "extreme". It's off by default, except in iA mode.
- Intelligent Dynamic: improves overall contrast in a photo, though it does more for shadows than it does for highlights; three levels to choose from, off by default, except in iA mode.
- ISO range/limits: the GX1 has a range of 160 - 12800, and you can choose to go up in 1/3 or 1EV increments; you can also set the highest ISO that the camera will use when Auto ISO is turned on
- Extended tele conversion: gives you extra zoom power when you lower the resolution, up to a maximum of 2X for stills and 3.6X for movies, without a drop in image quality
- Auto bracket: take three, five, or seven shots in a row, each with a different exposure; this is a good way to ensure accurate exposure; you can also bracket for white balance, as you'll see below
- Fn button set: assign functions to the two physical and two touchscreen buttons here; you name it, it's probably available
- Touch settings: here's where you turn touch AF, the tabbed menu, or the whole interface off
I want to write a bit more about some of those options. Let's begin with Intelligent Dynamic, which brightens shadows and is supposed to help with highlight clipping, as well. This feature is always on in Intelligent Auto mode, while in the manual modes it's off by default. There are three levels of Intelligent Exposure to choose from (in the manual shooting modes): low, standard, and high. Here's a real world example for you:
|I. Dynamic off
View Full Size Image
|I. Dynamic low
View Full Size Image
|I. Dynamic standard
View Full Size Image
|I. Dynamic high
View Full Size Image
If you flipped through all four of those, you may be thinking "Jeff, you screwed up the link on the last one". That's not the case, actually, because when you set the Intelligent Dynamic setting, you're choosing how much of this effect the camera will use. In this situation, the camera didn't need to use more than "standard" level brightening, which is why they're the same. Intelligent Dynamic does work at brightening shadows, but it's very finicky. While it worked here (mostly), It did nothing in the purple fringing tunnel, a place where there are plenty of shadows to be brightened. One thing Intelligent Dynamic doesn't so anything for is highlight clipping, unfortunately.
Next up is Intelligent Resolution, which selectively sharpens objects that need it (edges, trees), and leaves alone things that don't (skin or the sky). There are four levels to choose from (low, standard, high, and extended), plus "off". As with Intelligent Dynamic, this feature is on by default in iAuto mode, and off in every other mode. Below are crops from a larger photo that attempt to show this feature in action (view the full size images too):
|I. Resolution off
View Full Size Image
|I. Resolution low
View Full Size Image
|I. Resolution standard
View Full Size Image
|I. Resolution high
View Full Size Image
|I. Resolution extended
View Full Size Image
Hopefully you can see what happens as you increase the level of Intelligent Resolution! It's really hard to tell the difference between high and extended, but if you flip between "off" and, say, standard, the increase in sharpness is obvious. I personally like the standard setting, and it's what I'd use if I owned the GX1.
Fine-tuning and bracketing white balance at the same time
I'll have examples of those two "Intelligent" options in the final review. There are two things only available via direct buttons that I want to talk about next, with the first being white balance. The DMC-GX1 has the usual presets (save for fluorescent) as well as two custom spots (for use with a white or gray card). You can also set the color temperature manually, with a range of 2500K - 10000K. If that's not enough, you can also fine-tune and bracket for white balance (see screenshot).
|23-area AF mode doesn't have to be automatic; here I selected five points in the frame to use for focus.||In 1-area mode you can select the location and size of the focus point, all using the touchscreen.|
The other thing I wanted to mention are the camera's AF modes. You can choose from face detection (15 faces max), AF tracking, 23-area (you can select sections of the total area to focus on), 1-area (which can be moved and resized), and pinpoint. The camera has the usual single and continuous AF modes, plus a new Auto Focus Flexible (AFF) mode, which keeps unpredictably moving subjects in focus. There's also manual focus, of course, and you can use the touchscreen LCD to enlarge an area of the frame (and move it around), to ensure that your subject is properly focused.
Now let's talk movies. The GX1 can record Full HD movies at 1920 x 1080 / 60i (30p sensor output) using the AVCHD codec, complete with Dolby Digital stereo sound. You can keep recording until your memory card fills up, except in Europe, where you're limited to just under 30 minutes. If you don't need Full HD, you can also drop down to 720p60 (30p sensor output).
AVCHD movies look great on your HDTV, but they're kind of a pain to edit and share. Thankfully, Panasonic gives you another option: MPEG-4. You can record both 1080p and 720p video using this codec, both at 30 frames/second. The only real downside to MPEG-4 is the 4GB file size limit, which is reached in about 22 minutes at the 1080p setting.
The camera supports continuous AF in movie mode, so if your subject is moving or you're zooming in and out, they'll stay in focus. The touchscreen LCD allows you to tap on a subject and the camera will focus on them almost instantly. If your lens has an image stabilizer, that'll be available too. The extended tele conversion feature will let you get up to 3.6X of extra zoom power in movie mode, at all resolutions except for Full HD.
Panasonic has pretty much made the DMC-GH2 their "movie camera". That's probably why the GX1 lacks manual controls in movie mode, and doesn't have a external mic input either. Everything will be point-and-shoot when you're recording a movie, though you can adjust the microphone level. An automatic wind filter is also available, which comes in handy when recording videos outdoors.
The GX1 has two ways in which you can take still photos while recording a movie. In motion picture priority mode, the camera records movies at 2 Megapixel, without any pause in the video. If you switch to still picture priority mode, the camera takes up to eight full resolution stills, though the video will pause while they're recorded to the memory card.
Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the highest quality setting. I converted the AVCHD file to QuickTime format using Final Cut Pro X. If you'd like to download the original MTS file, it's yours for the taking.
The DMC-GX1 has a pretty standard playback mode for a camera in this class, though I have to admit that the touchscreen interface makes it a bit more pleasant to use. In addition to things like slideshows, image resizing/rotating/cropping, there are also these features:
- Playback mode: view only still photos, 3D photos, videos, and photos taken in certain categories (which are auto-assigned in scene modes and can be chosen in playback mode, too)
- Calendar view: quickly jump to photos taken on a certain date
- Title edit / text stamp: print the date and time, location, names of recognized subjects, and more on your photos
- Video divide: pick a spot in your video and split it two
- Multi Delete: deleting a bunch of photos is a million times easier with the touchscreen, so it deserves a special mention
Sadly, there's no redeye removal tool in playback mode, which is something you might need on the DMC-GX1.
By default the GX1 only gives you basic information about your photos. Pressing the display button will give you a lot more, including an RGB histogram. The camera moves between photos instantly, whether you're using buttons or the touchscreen.
Performance & Photo Quality
Panasonic's interchangeable lens cameras are typically among the fastest on the market, so I had high expectations when I took the GX1 out of the box. Here's what kind of performance you can expect:
As you can see, the GX1 is above average in nearly all areas. The only real delay is when the power zoom extends, though that only takes about half a second.
The DMC-GX1 is capable of shooting at 4.2 frames/second, which is the same as on the similar DMC-G3, and not far behind the flagship DMC-GH2. There are four speeds to choose from, including a super-fast 20 fps mode for small-size JPEGs only. The table below tells you what you can expect in the real world from the GX1:
The DMC-GX1 can shoot pretty quickly at the high speed setting though, as you can see, the buffer memory fills up quickly. It also takes almost twenty seconds to save all the images to a memory card when RAW files are involved. For all but super high speed, you can keep shooting after you hit the limits in the table above, just at a much slower rate. Keeping up with a moving subject should not be a problem, as the image on the LCD keeps up just fine.
Let's move on to photo quality now, shall we? With the exception of the night test shot, all of these were taken with the 14 - 42 mm power zoom lens. The night shots were taken with my own Panasonic F4.0-5.6, 45 - 200 mm lens.
The GX1 did a nice job with our macro test subject. There's actually not much of a brownish cast here, which is a common problem that Panasonic cameras have in my studio (the GX1 struggled elsewhere, though). Colors are accurate and saturated. The subject has a smooth appearance, and would be sharper if Intelligent Resolution was turned on. I looked and looked for any sign of noise, but didn't find any -- and that's a good thing.
The minimum focus distance will, of course, depend on what lens you have attached to the DMC-GX1. The minimum distance for the power zoom lens is 20 cm, while it's 30 cm for the standard 14-42. If you want a dedicated macro lens, Panasonic sells a pricey F2.8, 45mm Leica model.
Ahh, there's that brownish cast I was talking about (you can see it in the church interior shot too). For those wondering what the colors should look like, have a look at this RAW conversion of that same shot (all I did was change the white balance from "as shot" to "tungsten", which is what the camera was set to in the first place). Anyhow, the photo (taken with the 45-200 zoom) is slightly soft, but otherwise satisfactory. The camera brought in plenty of light, and highlight clipping isn't too bad. Noise isn't a problem here, though I think noise reduction contributes to some of the softness. Purple fringing is present, but not bad enough for me to consider it a problem.
Now, let's use that same night scene to see what noise levels look like as you increase the sensitivity on the GX1:
Aside from the brown color cast, noise levels are low through ISO 400. At ISO 800 you start to see a bit of detail loss (notice how the corner of the US Bank building fades away), but it's still usable for midsize and large prints. Detail loss is more obvious at ISO 1600, so here's a good time to either switch to RAW, or just lower your output size. I'd save ISO 3200 for desperation only, and you should absolutely use RAW here. I would pass on ISO 6400, and avoid ISO 12800 altogether.
I already showed you that shooting RAW was a good way to rid yourself of nasty color casts like the one you see in the night shot. You can also use it, along with some easy post-processing on your computer, to improve image quality. Let's take those ISO 3200 and 6400 crops from above and see if we can't make them look a bit nicer:
As you can see, there's a slight improvement in the amount of detail visible at ISO 3200. I don't think there's much you can do to save the ISO 6400 shot, though -- it's just too noisy to be usable.
We'll do this test again under better lighting in a moment.
Like all of Panasonic's cameras, the GX1 combats redeye in two ways. First, it'll fire the flash before the photo is taken, to shrink your subject's pupils, which is supposed to reduce the risk of redeye. If that doesn't work (and it usually doesn't), then the camera will digitally remove any redeye that it finds in the resulting photo. Panasonic's digital removal system is very finicky in my experience -- sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. This time it worked well, though yours truly needed to get the eye drops after seeing this photo! The bottom line here is that your redeye results may vary. For the least likelihood of redeye, use an external flash.
Lens used: Panasonic F3.5-5.6, 14 - 42 mm (from DMC-G3 review)
14 - 42 mm Power Zoom lens
Both the standard and power zoom 14 - 42 mm zoom lenses show relatively mild barrel distortion at their wide-angle positions. Both of these lenses had very little in the line of corner blurring, and vignetting (dark corners) was not an issue.
Now it's time to see how the DMC-GX1 performed in our studio ISO test. Since these photos are taken under consistent lighting, you can compare the results with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years. Keep in mind that the crops only show a small portion of the test scene, so view the full size images too. And with that, let's take a journey from ISO 160 to 12800:
Everything is as smooth as butter through ISO 800, though you'll notice a slight drop in color saturation at that sensitivity. Noise levels remain low at ISO 1600, and it becomes pretty obvious at ISO 3200. It's at this point that I'd be switching over to RAW or making small prints. The ISO 6400 photo is still usable for small prints, but the same cannot be said for the ISO 12800 shot.
A few paragraphs up I did a RAW vs. JPEG comparison with the night shots. Let's do it again here, this time at the GX1's highest sensitivities:
Here again you can see that you can squeeze more detail out of the DMC-GX1 by shooting RAW, though don't expect anything dramatic. Colors are more vivid and there isn't as much detail smudging, which will allow you to use ISO 6400. I'd still probably avoid ISO 12800, unless you're really desperate.
Overall, the Lumix DMC-GX1 produces very good quality photos. The only real issues are highlight clipping and the possibility of color casts in artificial light (mentioned above). Exposures were generally accurate, with occasional underexposure. Colors look pretty good to me -- nice and saturated. With Intelligent Resolution off, photos are "smooth" rather than "tack sharp". Turning I.R. on will certainly sharpen things if you think that's required. As the previous tests showed, the camera keeps noise at bay until ISO 800 in low light, and ISO 1600 in good light, though you can go at least a stop higher and still get usable pictures, especially if you shoot RAW. Purple fringing is a lens-related annoyance, and it was mild with the 14 - 42 mm power zoom lens (and the previously tested standard zoom, as well).
As always, don't just take my words as gospel. Have a look at our GX1 photo gallery, maybe printing a few photos if you can, and then decide if its image quality meets your expectations!
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 is an interchangeable lens camera that brings the design of the beloved DMC-GF1 back into the Panasonic lineup. It has a solid, rangefinder-style body, and it comes in your choice of black and silver. While there have been several minor changes to the design of the GX1 (mostly button rearrangement), one especially nice addition is a large grip for your right hand. The DMC-GX1 supports the Micro Four Thirds lens mount, with a growing collection of lenses available. If you'd rather use something another lens mount, there are plenty of adapters out there. Like all of Panasonic's MFT cameras, the GX1 has image stabilization built into its lenses, rather than the body itself. Photos are composed via a 3-inch touchscreen LCD display on the back of the camera, or via an optional electronic viewfinder. The LCD is sharp (with 460k pixels), and offers very good outdoor and low light visibility. The GX1 has a built-in flash with a guide number of 6 meters, and its hot shoe lets you add something more powerful.
The GX1's feature set is not a whole lot different than the GF1 that it unofficially replaces. You'll still find an Intelligent Auto mode, which is easily the best auto mode on the market, just with a few new bells and whistles. Many of those new toys are related to the touchscreen LCD (something the GF1 lacked), and include touch focus, shutter release, zoom (for use with a power zoom lens), and image review. There are also "sliders" which allow you to adjust the amount of background blur, color, and brightness, without having to know what the words "aperture", "white balance", and "exposure compensation" mean. The GX1 has plenty of scene modes and a good collection of special effects (known as Creative Controls), as well. If it's manual controls you're after, the GX1 will be right up your alley. In addition to the usual exposure controls, you've got two types of bracketing, numerous white balance adjustments, and support for the RAW image format. The GX1 is highly customizable, whether you're talking buttons, menus, or spots on the mode dial. You can even place a histogram or grid lines wherever you want them. Two other features of note are called Intelligent Dynamic and Intelligent Resolution, which handle shadow brightness and sharpening, respectively. The former is rather finicky and only works in certain situations, but when the camera decides to use it, it works. Intelligent Resolution always works, and is worth turning on if you want sharper photos. One of the biggest differences between the GF1 and GX1 is in the movie department. The DMC-GX1 records Full HD video at 60i (though sensor output is 30p), with stereo sound and continuous autofocus. There are two codecs to choose from: HDTV-ready AVCHD, or easy to edit and share MPEG-4. The bad news about movie mode? No manual controls (unless a wind filter counts).
Camera performance is very good in most respects. If you're using the standard 14 - 42 mm lens, then you can expect the GX1 to be up and running in about 0.7 seconds. The new power zoom takes some time to extend, so you'll end up waiting for around a second before you can start taking pictures. Panasonic says that the GX1 focuses even faster than the GH1, and that certainly seems to be the case. It often feels like focus is instantaneous, and the only time you'll really do any waiting is in low light. Shutter lag was not a problem, and shot-to-shot delays were very brief, regardless of the image quality setting or if you're using the flash. While the GX1 is capable of taking full resolution photos at up to 4.4 frames/second, the party ends after nine RAW or twenty-two JPEG images. At slower speeds you'll be able to shoot for longer (infinitely for JPEGs), but RAW images will always be limited to around nine or ten shots. While battery life on the GX1 is a bit below average amongst its peers, it's not horrible.
Photo quality on the Lumix DMC-GX1 is very good, and comparable to what you'd see on other Micro Four Thirds cameras (including the DMC-G3, which shares the GX1's sensor). Exposures were generally accurate, save for the occasional underexposure. Like other MFT cameras, the GX1 will clip highlights, so you'll want to keep an eye on that. Colors were pleasing 95% of the time, with the 5% being under artificial light, where there's a pronounced brownish color cast (this is a common issue with Panasonic cameras). With Intelligent Resolution turned off (which is its default setting in most shooting modes), images have a "smooth" appearance to them. Turning on the I.R. feature will make things a lot sharper and more pleasing. Noise is kept under control until ISO 800 in low light, and ISO 1600 in good light, and you can squeeze a bit more detail out of your high ISO photos by shooting RAW and doing some easy post-processing. Purple fringing is mostly a lens thing, and it is not an issue with either of the 14 - 42 kit lenses. Redeye may or may not be a problem for you. You'll definitely want to turn on the camera's digital removal system, but don't expect it to catch this annoyance every time.
While the Lumix DMC-GX1 isn't a big leap over the now the two year-old DMC-GF1, it doesn't really have to be, as the GF1 was a very solid product. Panasonic did throw in a new sensor, Full HD video support, a touchscreen LCD, and even more customizabiliity If you've got a GF1 (like I do), you'll have to decide if these changes are worth the price of an upgrade. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, and just want a capable interchangeable lens camera with tons of features and a rangefinder-style design, then the DMC-GX1 should be high on your list.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality
- Solid rangefinder-style body is easy to hold, comes in two colors
- 3-inch touch LCD with 460,000 pixels, good outdoor/low light visibility; touch features include AF, shutter release, zoom control, image review, menus
- Responsive performance, with very fast autofocus
- Full manual controls with RAW support, numerous ways to adjust white balance, two types of bracketing, and more
- Intelligent Auto mode does it all for you; sliders in iA+ mode let you adjust white balance, exposure compensation, and aperture without having to known what those words mean
- Highly customizable: two custom buttons, do-it-yourself quick menu, and movable grid lines (to name a few things)
- Intelligent Resolution sharpens photos nicely
- Fast continuous shooting, though buffer fills up relatively quickly
- Handy electronic level for both tilt and pitch
- Records movies at 1080/60i with stereo sound and continuous autofocus using AVCHD or MPEG-4 codecs
- Optional articulating EVF
What I didn't care for:
- Some highlight clipping
- Images have yellow/brownish cast in artificial light
- Buffer memory fills quickly in burst mode
- No manual controls in movie mode
- Poorly placed zoom controller on 14 - 42 mm power zoom lens
- Can't access memory card while camera is on a tripod
- Full manual on CD-ROM (it's not very user-friendly, either)
As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera or electronics store to try out the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 and its competitors before you buy!
Check out our photo gallery to see how the GX1's image quality looks!