CNET First Look
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1A well-designed camera with an interface that creative photographers can customize to their liking, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 deserves serious consideration if you're looking for a modestly compact interchangeable-lens model.
Hi. I'm Lori Grunin, senior editor with CNET and this is the Panasonic Lumix DMC GX1. The Micro Four Thirds-based GXI is what the successor to the GF1 really should have been. It resurrects that camera's better shooting design, most notably with the return of the physical mode dial. Plus, it significantly improves on the performance of photo quality of both it's predecessors, the GF2 and GF3. In other respects, it's just a modest update of those models though which brings it up to currency. It incorporates the 16 megapixel sensor that's in the G3. Not more advanced sensor from the GH2 despite the resolution similarity and it also incorporates the current Light Speed autofocus architecture. Other additions to the camera are an electronic level and one-button autoexposure override. I really like the design of the GX1, though I do have a few quibbles. It's a little bigger than the rest of the field, but none of these cameras are sufficiently small with a lens attached to be considered significantly smaller than the others. It's got a nice-size grip and thumb rest, which makes it comfortable to hold and shoot single-handed, and it feels well constructed. The camera includes a flash that's similar to the GF3's, which you can hold to tilt it back in order to bounce the light. It's a nice touch, and the hot shoe doubles as a mount for an optional electronic viewfinder as many of these cameras have. Aside from that, the controls have a fairly typical layout. The mode dial includes the usual set of manual and semi-manual modes, plus two slots for four custom settings groups, scene modes, and Panasonic's rather uninspiring Creative Control special-effects modes. There's also an intelligent auto override button for quickly jumping in and out of auto mode, a Panasonic-specific implementation that I happen to like. As with its sibling cameras, the GX1 has a great hybrid interface, which can operate either via the extremely customizable touch screen or via the hard controls. With the new PZ lenses, you can also zoom via the touch screen, at two different fixed and one variable speed, and it provides a readout of the focal length, a level of precision that I like. My only complaint about the interface is that some of the buttons are just flush with the body and hard not only to feel, but to press. The silver buttons are also etched, rather than labeled, and it's nearly impossible to see the labels in dim light without tilting the camera toward a light source. My biggest design reservations though have nothing to do with the camera and more to do with the X series lens. I like the concept behind the powered lens, and that it automatically retracts when you power off and becomes quite compact. It's quick and quiet, with good stabilization, and optically seems about the same as its traditional 14-42mm counterpart. But the placement of the zoom and manual focus switches is really awkward, especially if you're shooting without the optional EVF; I always feel like I'm contorting my hand to operate the zoom when holding the LCD at eye level. Furthermore, using a switch for manual focus feels annoyingly imprecise compared to a manual focus ring. The feature set is solid, but there's nothing particularly exceptional beyond what competitors offer. The GX1 delivers some of Panasonic's best photo quality today but the issues with so so JPEG processing remain and its noise profile still can't match the NEX-5N. The video looks good and the 1080/30P MP4 option is a nice alternative to interlace AVCHD. Video is sharp and pleasingly saturated and the image stabilization in the lens does a fine job. But like most models of this class, it suffers from annoying rolling shutter. Although the GX1 lags behind an icon 1 J1 when it comes to single shot or burst performance, it and the GF3 lead the class for shot to shot speed which I tend to way a little more heavily as far long as a camera performs pretty well on its single shots. The GX1 may not have retro-tastic looks, but it's a well-designed, really good interchangeable-lens camera that's got a lot to offer advanced shooters, as long as you're not trying to capture sports. Definitely try out the power zoom lens before committing to that kit, though. I'm Lori Grunin and this is the Panasonic Lumix DMC GX1.