Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

For video, you can set encoder type (AVCHD or Motion JPEG MOV files), quality (60fps 720p at three different bit rate choices, and various lower resolution options), metering, four levels of Intelligent Exposure, and four levels of wind filtering. While AVCHD is a more efficient encoder than Motion JPEG and you can record up to the capacity of the card, the AVCHD MTS files need to be transcoded before you can post them online or send them around to friends. (You can find a complete description of the camera's features and operation by downloading a PDF manual.)

Comparison: interchangeable lens cameras Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Olympus E-P1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 12.1-megapixel Live MOS
17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm
Color depth n/a 12 bits n/a n/a
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 3,200 ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 100 - ISO 3,200 ISO 100 - ISO 3,200
Focal-length multiplier 2x 2x 2x 2x
Continuous shooting 3fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
3fps
n/a JPEG/10 raw
3fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
3fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
Viewfinder Optional Electronic Optional optical with 17mm lens Electronic Electronic
Autofocus 23-area contrast AF 11-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF
Metering 144 zone 324 zone 144 zone 144 zone
Shutter 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes
Flash Yes No Yes Yes
LCD 3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
230,000 dots
3-inch articulated
460,000 dots
3-inch articulated
460,000 dots
Image stabilization Optical Sensor shift Optical Optical
Video (max resolution at 30fps) 1,280x720 AVCHD Lite or Motion JPEG MOV 1,280x720 Motion JPEG AVI None 1,280x720 AVCHD Lite
Battery life (CIPA rating) 350 shots 300 shots 300 shots 300 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.9 x 3.3 x 1.8 4.9 x 3.3 x 1.8
Weight (ounces) 12.2 13.9 15.1 15.2
Mfr. price n/a $749.99 (body)
n/a
n/a
$899.95 (with 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 lens)
$799.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens)
$799.95 (with 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 lens) $1,499.95 (with 14-140mm f4.0-5.8 lens)
$899.95 (with 20mm f1.7 lens) $899.99 (with 17mm f2.8 lens and optical viewfinder) n/a
n/a

Comparison: enthusiast compact models Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Canon PowerShot G11 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 10-megapixel CCD 10.1-megapixel CCD
17.3mm x 13mm 1/1.7-inch 1/1.63-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 3,200 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200 ISO 80 - ISO 3,200
Focal-length multiplier 2x n/a n/a
Continuous shooting 3fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
1.1fps
n/a
2.5fps
4 JPEG/3 raw
Viewfinder Optional Electronic Optical None
Autofocus 23-area contrast AF Contrast AF Contrast AF
Metering 144 zone n/a n/a
Shutter 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes 15-1/4,000 sec; n/a 60-1/2,000 sec; n/a
LCD 3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
Video (max resolution at 30fps) 1,280x720 AVCHD Lite or Motion JPEG MOV 640x480 H.264 MOV 848x480 Motion JPEG MOV
Battery life (CIPA rating) 350 shots 420 shots 380 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.4 x 3.0 x 1.0 4.3 x 2.3 x 1.1
Weight (ounces) 12.2 14.5 9.1
Mfr. price $899.95
(with 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 lens or 20mm f1.7 lens)
$499.99
(integrated f2.8-4.5 28-140mm-equivalent lens)
$499.95
(integrated 24-60mm-equivalent f2.0-2.8 lens)

Comparison: Similarly priced dSLRs Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Canon EOS Rebel T1i Nikon D5000
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 15.1-megapixel CMOS 12.3-megapixel CCD
17.3mm x 13mm 22.3mm x 14.9mm 23.6mm x 15.8mm
Focal-length multiplier 2x 1.6x 1.5x
Color depth n/a 14 bits 12 bits
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 3,200 ISO 100 - ISO 3,200/ISO 12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 (expanded)/ISO 200 - ISO 3,200/ISO 6,400 (expanded)
Continuous shooting 3fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
3.4fps
170 JPEG/9 raw
4fps
9 raw/100 JPEG (medium/fine)
Viewfinder Optional Electronic Optical Optical
Autofocus 23-area contrast AF 9-area phase detect AF (contrast AF in Live View) 11-area phase detect AF (contrast AF in Live View)
Metering 144 zone 35 zone 420 pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II
Shutter 60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes 1/4000 sec. to 30 sec.; bulb 1/4000 sec. to 30 sec; bulb
LCD 3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
920,000 dots
2.7-inch articulated
230,000 dots
Video (max resolution at 30fps) 1280x720 AVCHD Lite or Motion JPEG MOV 1280x720 H.264 MOV No 30fps mode; 1280x720 24fps Motion JPEG AVI
Battery life (CIPA rating) 350 shots 400 shots 400 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4 5.0 x 4.1 x 3.1
Weight (ounces) 12.2 18.6 21.6
Mfr. price $899.95
(with 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 lens or 20mm f1.7 lens)
$799.99 (body est.)
$899.99 (with 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens)
$729.95 (body)
$849.99 (est. with 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens)


The GF1 performs similarly to the G1, and markedly better than the E-P1. Its autofocus system operates quickly, especially compared with the Live Mode AF of digital SLRs; unlike those models, it supports continuous AF during movie capture and is very responsive. It powers up and shoots in a zippy 0.8 second. In bright light, the camera snaps a photo in 0.5 second; in low-contrast light, it takes 0.6 second. It typically takes about 0.7 second to shoot two consecutive images, with just over half a second added for flash recycling time. While its 2.8 frames per second continuous-shooting rate is competitive for its class, the lack of an optical viewfinder makes keeping active subjects in frame the real burst shooting problem, not frame rate or AF tracking. The autofocus operates just a tad slower than I'd like during movie capture, but it's adequate.

Though it's not articulated like that of the G1 and GH1, the LCD is quite nice: bright, large, and viewable in bright sunlight. Panasonic CIPA rates the battery at about 350 shots, which is a bit low, but in practice that seems a conservative estimate. And the rating of more than 2.5 hours of video shooting (it depends upon the lens) is better than many camcorders.

The GF1 delivers photo quality on par or slightly better than the G1--it improves on the G1's exposure and color accuracy--and with entry-level dSLRs, and I'd rank them as two of Panasonic's best digital cameras to date in this respect. Depending upon subject matter and lighting, the GF1's ISO 1,600 photos look acceptable printed as large as 12x16; more generally, color noise appears in JPEGs at ISO 400, with detail smearing becoming a problem by ISO 800. However, overall color consistency remains good as you increase sensitivity. You can also generally get better noise performance by shooting raw, however, and adjusting the settings yourself.

My one complaint is that occasionally scene elements in depth-of-field limbo--not quite out of focus but not quite in--had a tendency to look oddly digital. Not crunchy or oversharpened, just...digital. Nonetheless, overall I was very pleased with the GF1's photos. I'm less enthused about the camera's movie quality. It's not bad at best quality, saturated and relatively sharp with no unusual artifacts, but the 720p video looks soft when scaled up for a large display or TV.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 is the first camera to truly deliver on the benefit of a mirrorless system: interchangeable lenses in a compact design without sacrificing features, speed, or photo quality at a competitive price. Its one drawback is the inherent inappropriateness of an LCD/EVF-based viewfinder system for shooting action. But if you aspire to something more sophisticated than a point-and-shoot and will be shooting subjects slower moving than toddling kids and running pets--and it's still better than the typical snapshot camera for that--I recommend the GF1.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
0.8 
0.9 
0.9 
0.6 
0.4 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1
1.8 
0.9 
0.9 
0.6 
0.4 

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Where to Buy See all prices

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 (with 14mm-45mm lens)

Part Number: DMC-GF1K-K Released: Sep 29, 2009
Low Price: $1,095.00 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Sep 29, 2009
  • Optical Zoom 3.2 x
  • Optical Sensor Type Live MOS
  • Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (MEGA O.I.S.)
  • Lens 28 - 90mm F/3.5
  • Optical Sensor Size 13.0 x 17.3mm