Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 review

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PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-GM1 KIT LENS

The 12-32mm F/3.5-5.6 lens was a pleasant surprise. I expected it to be flimsy and just average in optical quality but it turned to be quite opposite in real life. It is extended just by rotating it (no unnecessary “lock” switch). The lens is made from plastic (mount is from metal) but is very solid with no loose parts or play whatsoever. It has a reassuring resistance when rotated and there is no possibility to accidentally extend it or change zoom. Olympus and Sony made theirs collapsible lenses with motorized zoom but that is inferior solution: mechanical link is less susceptible to malfunction and it does not use precious battery life.

Optical quality is also excellent; the lens appears to be sharp from corner to corner. Optical stabilization is built-in what is essential for video shooting or low light use.

Beside 12-32mm lens, I tested this camera with Olympus 17mm F/2.8 pancake. Due to small size this camera is wonderful to use with a lens small as this, as it will be with any other pancake lens like Panasonic 20/1.7 or 14/2.5.

LCD

LCD has a 3 inch diagonal and 1,036,000 dots. Image quality is very good, detailed and bright even in daylight. It has touch capability what is a great feature for focusing, browsing and zooming recorded photos. Multi-touch is supported. If you don’t like touch interface, it can be disabled.

There is no viewfinder or the option to attach one. Having in mind the size of the camera and target customers this cannot be taken as a draw-back.

PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-GM1 SENSOR AND IMAGE QUALITY

Sensor used in GM1 has 16 megapixels what seems to be a sweet spot between resolution and noise. I am glad Panasonic did not try to push 20+ megapixel sensor just because Sony and Nikon have them, since 16 is more than enough for almost all amateur and even professional application.

Since this is 4/3 type sensor it still uses 4:3 image ratio typical of compact cameras. You can select other image ratios: 1:1, 3:2 or 16:9. You lose a bit of resolution then though.

Image quality is excellent. I see no real reason to complain since the images have excellent color reproduction, dynamic range and usable higher ISO (up to 3200 for my taste). This once again proves my opinion that there are no bad sensors in modern cameras. Yes, I could pixel-peep images to death and always find some difference but it doesn’t matter in real life shooting. Digital cameras of today are for the most part better than most photographers can and know how to use so you alone will be the main reason when not getting perfect images.

A detail unique to this camera is the full-electronic shutter. This means the camera can take an image just be read-out of sensor data without the mechanical movement of shutter. This has two effects: the camera is dead silent (no noise at all when taking a shot) and it can do it at an insane 1/16000 of a second. For comparison, high-end professional DSLRS like Canon 1Dx or Nikon D4 only have 1/8000 shutter speed. It is arguable whether 1/16000 is of any use for amateur use but it is better having it than not.

There is a limitation regarding electronic shutter you have to pay attention to though: flash does not work when you use full electronic shutter. It almost drove me crazy the first day I got the camera and took me a few hours to realize why the flash is disabled no matter what I pressed. The menu system gives you three options: Auto, EFC and ESHTR (auto, hybrid electronic-mechanical or full electronic shutter). Even when used with mechanical shutter, the camera is still very silent and you can use flash unit. Mechanical shutter does not offer more than 1/500 of a second though.

PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-GM1 MEMORY AND BATTERY

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 uses SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards. Battery is a Li-Ion unit which lasts up to 250 shots at best what is not that great but keep in mind how small this camera is. Charging lasts between 2-3 hours. External charger is part of the kit.

MENUS AND RESPONSIVITY

Menu system is relatively easy to get used to, but I feel options could have been grouped in more logical fashion. You can select four color layouts none of which suited my taste, but this is just me.

Quick menu is also available and is used to adjust often needed options like white balance, resolution, ISO, focus points etc.

Overall responsivity is quite good for a mirrorless camera. Still it is not as fast as a DSLR which turns on or off in a fraction of a second.

Not to be omitted – this camera has a silent option. It can be enabled in the menu system and it makes the camera really silent by engaging full electronic shutter, disable-ing flash, AF assist lamp and all sounds at he same time. This can be really handy in quiet envoirements like churches or concerts (classical music at least; I doubt guys from Slayer and theirs audience would be distracted with AF confirmation beep) :)

AUTOFOCUS

Auto focus is quite fast and dead silent with kit lens and most Olympus and Panasonic lenses. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 lets you select several AF point configurations: 23 point (whole frame), face detections, subject tracking, 5-point group or single AF point. Using touch LCD interface, it is very easy to move AF point where needed.

GM1 is one of the rare cameras which allow you to select AF point size.

Manual focus with kit lens is controlled via touch LCD (kit lens doesn’t have focus dial). It is not the best solution, but it gets the job done. The cameras gives you the option of selecting focus peaking and picture-in-picture focus magnification.

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4 thoughts on “Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 review

  1. Pingback: Christmas 2015 digital camera shopping guide | Camerahoarders.com

  2. Wow, thanks for the fast answer, I appreciate that!

    Okay I think that the GM1 will be my choice. I’ve seen that you also reviewed those lenses you speak of so I’ll consider the 15mm 1.7 and the 45mm 1.8 as additional extras for low light situations.

    Of course they push the price up high but as you will surely agree, when buying a camera with an interchangeable lens system, it would be a shame not to use it… ;-)

    Thanks and regards,
    Artur

  3. Hello Ivan,

    i’ve stumbled upon your review of the GM1 on youtube and wanted to check your website aswell to read the full review. Really nice website actually! :-)

    I’m seriously thinking about getting myself a GM1 but I am not sure whether (or how much) it outpasses the Sony RX100M2 (that would be my second option) in terms of low light shooting.

    I’m mostly interested in taking pictures during evening hours or even at night. What I’ve read so far is that generally the bigger the sensor, the better low light images and less noise you can expect from the camera. Would you confirm that?

    I also thought about getting a APS-C camera like the Fuji X-M1 but I really love the compact size of the GM1 (I have quite small hands haha) and that’s why it currently stands on top of my rankings.

    Thanks for any support and cheers,
    Artur

    • With the kit lens on GM1 (slow aperture F/3.5-5.6) you have no business shooting in the dark. RX100M2 has F/1.8-4.9 – quite good at the wide end, but slow again on the tele so pretty much forget about portraits or using zoom at all in low light. Now, if you get yourself a proper prime lens for GM1 like 15/1.7, 20/1.7 (walkaround use) or olympus 45/1.8 (for portraits or more subject isolation) GM1 is way above what RX100M2 can deliver both in low light shooting and subject separation (shallow DOF). And it still has bigger sensor (yes, bigger sensor really is better in low light).

      It’s not only low light capability you need to think about, it’s also low light auto focus and in this regard GM1 is once again better in my opionion, it has really snappy auto focus. Also it has touch screen so you can easily change AF point anywhere in the frame just by touching it (RX100M2 needs to be changed by multiple presses on the buttons) so this is one more thing to be considered.

      Alltogether, I would go for GM1 with 15mm 1.7 and olympus 45/1.8 lenses. Yes, it is more expensive with these two lenses but photography is not a cheap hobby. :)

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