Were you wondering what Panasonic did to its GF series of interchangeable lens cameras after the GF1? Many photographers who were looking for a clear upgrade path from the GF1 were a little perplexed when the GF2 came out, adding a touchscreen and removing some of the easily accessible manual controls. The GF3, with its tiny frame, even further demonstrated that the only way for upgraders was up — to something like the G3.
Now, there's a clearer path. The GX1 should satisfy many current GF1 owners looking at upgrading their camera body. This is a new range within the G series of interchangeable lens cameras from Panasonic, incorporating full manual control in a body that looks a little bit like a souped-up GF1.
One of the first things you will notice about the physical design of the GX1 is the chunky hand-grip that sits on the metal body. It lends a particular authority to this camera that sets it apart from the smaller GF series of old; smaller and more dainty hands, though, may find it is rather overwhelming to grip onto. Adding to the professional look and feel is a level gauge, activated from within the menu system, which allows photographers to level shots with an on-screen indicator.
The sensor is the same 16-megapixel Live MOS version as seen in the G3, which means that image quality is relatively consistent between these two cameras, and the GX1 also comes with the same fast autofocus times as the G3. Shooting modes are similar to those found on any other Panasonic G series camera, including full PASM control from the mode dial, plus two customisable slots, creative filters and scene modes. The GX1 can also shoot in full automatic (Panasonic's intelligent auto mode), which is activated by pressing the iA button at the top of the camera.
A selection of the creative filters available on the GX1. Click through for more sample images taken on the GX1.
The interface can be as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. There are plenty of customisable options within the menus, and the touchscreen interface works in conjunction with the physical buttons on the side. A number of these buttons including the quick menu and function buttons are flush with the back panel — so much so that it's really hard to feel if you have pressed them properly.
Further inside the menu is a new AF mode called Flexible, which automatically adjusts the locked focus (when the shutter is half-pressed) when a subject moves. When this mode is activated, this reviewer found it a little counter-intuitive to use because so many other cameras use a half-press to lock focus in order to recompose. Still, no doubt some photographers will find this useful.
The hotshoe on top of the camera accepts the new live viewfinder (LVF2), which has a resolution of 1.44 million dots and a 100 per cent field of view. Unfortunately, the GX1 isn't compatible with previous generations of electronic viewfinders from Panasonic.
|Panasonic GX1||Sony NEX-5N||Olympus E-P3|
|16-megapixel Live MOS (Four Thirds size)||16.1-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS sensor (APS-C size)||12.3-megapixel Live MOS (Four Thirds size)|
|3-inch, 460,000-dot touchscreen LCD||3-inch, 921,600-dot touchscreen LCD||3-inch, 610,000-dot touchscreen OLED|
|Full HD video (1080i, 25fps, AVCHD)||Full HD video (1080p, 25fps, AVCHD)||Full HD video (1080i, 24fps, AVCHD)|
|23-point AF||25-point AF||35-point AF|
|Pop-up flash||Bundled external flash||Pop-up flash|
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The GX1 can take approximately eight full resolution RAW shots before stopping to process them. It can also achieve a continuous shooting rate of 20 frames per second when using the electronic shutter. Panasonic rates the battery at 310 shots.
The GX1 delivers very pleasing images on default settings, particularly when shooting with the intelligent automatic setting. Colours are nice and saturated without being unrealistic, skin tones look natural and automatic white balance hits the mark in most situations except very low light, where it tends towards the warmer end of the scale.
While the X version of the 14-42mm lens is svelte and ideal for video shooting, it does exhibit some flaws for stills photography. Most noticeable is the lack of corner sharpness and slight smudging of detail when viewing photos at full magnification. It's also designed rather oddly: we can see why Panasonic chose to put the zoom lever on the lens itself (there's also a way to zoom the lens using the touchscreen), but after giving the camera to several camera-savvy people who couldn't work out how to zoom the lens, it's a big enough issue to list as a fault. There's also a switch just underneath the zoom rocker that is used for adjusting focus, but it's too easy to knock accidentally and use as the zoom control thanks to its similar feel and placement.
As on the G3, the GX1 produces better RAW images than it does JPEGs, choosing to lose detail in JPEG shots when suppressing noise. A visual comparison of the difference in the GX1's RAW and JPEG rendering will be provided soon.
A 100 per cent crop (inset) of a photo taken on the GX1 using the X 14-42mm lens, ISO 160.
Video quality is very good, and the stereo microphones in particular do a great job of separating each channel. The GX1 also allows you to take still images while shooting, extracted as a 1920x1080 photo. The wind cut feature (activated in the video below) does cut a considerable amount of wind noise, but not all.
Exposure: 1/320, f/6.3, ISO 160
Exposure: 1/13, f/3.5, ISO 1600
Exposure: 1/80, f/5.6, ISO 320
Exposure: 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 160
Photographers looking for the next step in the Panasonic system will find the GX1 a worthy upgrade target, but with nothing to separate it markedly from its interchangeable lens competitors there is no compelling reason to choose this over the myriad of other options out there. We like the semi-professional feel thanks to a number of redesigned elements like the side grip and touch panel, but encourage you to investigate the design quirks of the X 14-42mm lens before buying.
The GX1 will be available for AU$899 as body only (in black), as a kit with the 14-42mm lens for AU$999 (in black) or as a kit with the X version of the 14-42mm lens for AU$1199 (in black or silver).