I had the opportunity to get a Panasonic GX1 for one week. As I flew to Las vegas for the CES 2012, I seized the opportunity to spend 2 days in Valley Of Fire and Red Rock Canyon National Parks to test the latest Panasonic Lumix mirrorless camera. To save you time, here are the 26 points I noticed when testing the GX1 : here is the Panasonic GX1 and G X 14-42mm lens bullet review followed by the review sample images.
Panasonic GX1 review : body, handling, UI
- Eventhough you will find other mirrorless cameras that are much lighter, with only 275 grams, the Lumix GX1 definitely is a lightweight and compact camera, yet, with a DSLR grade image quality. Look at how much smaller it is compared to the Canon G1 X.
- Its handling makes sense as UI is customizable with one Fn button (physical) and three touch-screen activated Fn buttons that can be assigned to various settings like i-Contrast, ISO… The pretty prominent handgrip and overall UI design ends up to an efficient compromise between size/weight and user friendliness, especially for enthusiats amateur photographers, unlike the GF3 aimed towards non DSLR users.
- The 3″ / 460,000 touchscreen is bellow 2012 average standards : it is not bright enough, color reproduction is approximate and you can hardly see anything when using the GX1 under direct sunlight like it was the case at the Red Rock Canyon Park where I took the camera for this review. The GX1 has no built-in viewfinder. I missed it because the screen is not satisfying. With 2012 technology, that should not happen.
- I loved the pressure wheel that makes using the camera so easy. A good combination with lots of dedicated and customizable buttons as well as the touch-screen interface.
- iA button comes in handy when you have a tricky scene to capture and don’t want to digg into the GX1 settings : it will resuscitate iA full auto mode with intelligent scene detection. The iA buttons is lit when activated. Neat.
- 0.09s focus : yes, Panasonic advertised the GX1 can focus in just 0.09s. I did not measure it but let me confirm that the Lumix GX1 focuses with no delay, the focus is absolutely instantaneous. This lightspeed AF is impressive, so is the imperceptible shutter lag. Good job ! (I am using a Canon G1 X this week and let me tell you its autofocus is damn slow compared to the GX1 and all recently announced mirrorless cameras…)
- 4 fps burst rate : well, that is not impressive but can be enough for many photographers… For 14 fps, you can have the $7000 Canon EOS-1D X… or backlit CMOS compact camera like a Nikon Coolpix S9300 or Sony HX9 (and its expected successors).
- Hurra ! A built-in pop-up flash ! his basic feature lacks on too many mirorless cameras for a reason I ignore but I CAN NOT recommend any consumer camera deprived of integrated flash, even if the external flash is complimentary. With a tiny guide number of 7.6 at ISO 100 equivalent (the GX1 min. sensitivity is ISO 160), this pop-up flah is still very helpful here and there to get rid of shadows on a face or to help indoor.
- Battery life : the GX1 is small, so is its battery power (1010 mAh only). I could only shoot half a day at the Valley of Fire National Park. Next day, I turn the GX1 on and see the red battery gauge blinking… I was quite disapointed because I did not exepect that to happen and did not bring the battery charger. For travel photography, the GX1 will mean buying extra batteries, like in the early 2000’s… A DSLR is bigger, but can take around 500-800 images. The poor battery life of the GX1 is to take into account if you plan to let your DSLR down for a mirrorless camera.
- The GX1 offers Full HD video recording with iA mode. Its video mode is not as advanced as on the GH2 but matches all compact cameras.
Panasonic GX1 review : Lumix G X 14-42mm powerzoom lens
- A mirorless camera like this MFT should be used with a compact lens and the ultimate compact lens is this impressively small G X 14-42mm. It weights 95 grams.
- It is also the size of the 20mm F1.7 pancake lens. Not bad for a 3x lens that will feed a SLR size sensor.
- The powerzoom can be nice. I did not like it very much although the zoom control button is located on the right place and helps zooming slowly and smoothly when recording video.
- The powerzoom does not help battery life as it consumes power each time you turn the camera on.
- Smart : when you unlock the lens, it turns the camera on. Unfortunately, locking the lens does not turn it down.
- Decent image quality with regards its extreme compactness. Lacks of homogeneity on the field : center are pretty sharp but the image tends to smoothen around the edges of the image. A software like DxO Optics Pro and its non linear sharpening will be useful to enhance the corners.
Panasonic GX1 review : image quality
- We already know the Live MOS sensor (16-megapixel version) of the Panasonic GX1 as it is the one we find in the GF3 but here, its signal processing is more subtle and noise reduction more efficient without blurring too many details. It is the best mirorless camera image quality for stills we have ever seen.
- Yet… small sensor (4:3 compared to an APS-C), old design (2008 generation technology) => could be better : image is fine until ISO 800 but the noise reduction algorithm work is visible and damages the image quality. This image degradation is linear with ISO setting.
- Min. ISo setting of the GX1 is ISO 160. I wish it could be brought down to ISO 100.
- Dynamic range : 2.5EV less than the 16-megapixel CMOS sensor of the Sony NEX-5N (and Nikon D7000, Pentax K-5, etc.). Panasonic’s i-constrast is no as efficient as Nikon’s D-lighting. The limited GX1 sensor dynamic range is to blame for. I hope we’ll get a new generation of sensors in the Lumix G4, GH3 and GF4 expected next summer.
- The GX1 sensor makes no progresses in terms of dynamic range and color depth since the GF1…
- Image quality is 1EV better than Nikon 1 J1 and V1 and 1 EV inferior to the SOny NEX-5N / NEX-C3, yet, the best Micro 4:3 camera to date.
- Even if low-light is not its specialty, I have to admit I have been amazed by the accuracy of its white balance when shooting the CES sign (see bellow) in iA mode at night under various light sources with mixed artificial lights. Great job.
Panasonic GX1 review : MFT concept and lens offer
- To me, among all mirrorless cameras, the best image quality / compactness ratio is brought by MFT cameras and especially the GF3 or GX1. The GX1 brings a lot of UI refinements that are worth the extra money and the limited extra weight.
- Sony NEX cameras are smaller, offer higher image quality but their lens offer jas a great double handicap : unattractive lens range (till now) and way too big lenses. even Sony Pancakes are huge. Panasonic G X 14-42mm on a GX1 is the exact answer photographers where asking for when begging for image quality in a compact camera.
- During my GX1 review in Nevada Nat’l State Parks, I brought a lot of lenses. They all fit in one half of my consumer Lowepro camera bag. I brought : the 14-42mm X, 45-175mm X, the Leica 25mm f/1.4 fast prime lens, the 20 mm f/1.7 pancake lens and the wide-angle lens 7-14 mm (which I loved by the way). Everybody, camera included, was smaller than my Nikon D7000 with its AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm F2.8 DX… That alone pretty sums up the MFT concept attractiveness.
Panasonic GX1 review : to put it in a nutshell
Among all existing mirrorless cameras, Panasonic MFT range is the most attractive thanks to a smart and wide lens offer (paramount for a sytsem camera), with compact lenses. Among all MFT Panasonic Lumix or Olympus Pen cameras, the GX1 is the one I would definitely suggest to a friend as it is compact and light, yet offering a very decent handling and user interface with the best M4:3 image quality in spite of the lack of real progress in sensor technology. It has Full HD video recording, a touch-screen and a pop-up flash. All you would need… Unfortunately its battery life really sucks… so does its screen.
Panasonic Lumix GX1 review : sample images gallery