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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review
Compact system cameras have grown vastly popular. Though it may not be common to find photographers ditching their DSLR for a mirrorless camera, this type of camera has made a significant impact on amateur and enthusiast-level photographers. Panasonic, one of the oldest manufacturers of mirrorless compact cameras, recently unveiled the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1, which boasts of some pretty impressive features, such as full HD video recording, two lenses and a range of other features that will certainly pique your curiosity.
Mode dial located at the top
Design and Build Quality
Most brands that launch compact system cameras have adopted a retro style in a throwback to the cameras that were available in the 1960s. This camera is no different, owing to which it can easily be classified as one of the most stylish cameras to grace the market. Earlier, we reviewed the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 and that was a small camera in comparison to other Micro Four Thirds cameras. This model is not as compact, but it is not that large either. The design is aimed at those interested in purchasing a professional-looking, mirrorless camera. This model comes in two colour options: black with silver and red highlights, and silver with black and red highlights. The design for this model is a stark contrast to the Panasonic DMC-GF3 and the Nikon 1J1 cameras, as these had modern stylings.
The inclusion of a hand grip here is great as most other compact system cameras do not come with one, which may make it a risky affair, considering the price bracket it falls under. Besides the lens mount, the only other feature found at the front is the AF assist. This keeps the camera styling minimalistic and visually pleasing. The camera features a 3-inch touchscreen display at the back, besides which all the controls are found. The brand has added a variety of buttons for quickly accessing various key features, such as ISO and white balance, AF/ MF and a host of other options, making it very convenient to use and one does not even need to go into the menu.
The thumb grip at the rear complements the hand grip at the front, allowing one to easily handle the camera. Besides the buttons located here, Panasonic has also added controls at the top, which include a mode dial, a dedicated video recording button, a shutter release button, an intelligent auto button and a switch for powering it on or off. On the top, there is also the flash that is housed within the body of the camera. This can be deployed by using a switch found at the back. Since Panasonic has not added a viewfinder on the camera, they have added a hot shoe, allowing one to attach an external one. The exclusion of a viewfinder on this camera is a bit disappointing, as rival brand Nikon has added this feature on their V1, which is priced similarly.
Flash can be tilted upwards
Connectivity options for the camera are located on the side of the camera body. These include ports for a remote, a mini HDMI cable and a proprietary USB cable. Panasonic, like most compact camera manufacturers, has added an SD card slot in the battery bay. This is a common feature found on practically all compact cameras, but we wish that the brand had implemented it differently by locating it at the side, so one could easily swap the card without needing to power the camera off.
The overall build quality of the camera is excellent, and this is all attributed to the fact that it is made entirely out of metal. It is built really well and it appears like it can withstand a few accidental bumps and spills.
When it comes to the features of a mirrorless compact camera, most of the headlining attributes lie in the fact that it is a compact camera featuring larger sensors that aim to offer DSLR-like image quality. The case with the Panasonic GX1 is no different, and besides this, it offers other qualities such as a stylish design, Full HD video recording capabilities and a touchscreen interface.
Panasonic, one of the pioneers of Micro Four Thirds system cameras, has fitted this camera with a 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor. This type of sensor is a lot larger than those found on traditional compact cameras, which give a larger pixel size, resulting in better quality images. Traditional point-and-shoot compact cameras cram a lot of pixels into a smaller sensor, resulting in low image quality as compared to cameras with larger sensors.
The zoom lens can also be featured as part of the kit
The rear of the camera sports a 3-inch resistive touchscreen display with a resolution of 460,000 dots. The screen is bright and there is a lot of detail present. Another great thing about the screen is that it is responsive, allowing one to access the different options on the screen without any hassles. Though it may be an advantage that Panasonic has added a touchscreen on this camera, you don't really achieve much as the menu is more than sufficient for allowing one to gain complete access of the different controls. However, the touchscreen does come in really handy when you need to use the touch AF or Touch AFF (Flexible) for pinpoint focus. The camera offers 23-point contrast detect AF, which makes for shooting in various lighting conditions a breeze. Besides this, one can also opt for Manual focus, which can come in handy for advanced photographers.
Another highlighted feature of this camera is the quick burst mode where the camera can capture images at full resolution, 16MP at 4.2fps. This is a useful feature for getting precise shots, especially when using the camera for sports photography. If one is willing to compromise on the size of the image and capture shots at 4 MP, then they can get a burst mode of 20fps.
Video recording through this camera is done via the dedicated button located at the top. The ability to record videos in Full HD 1080p at 30fps is a great addition to this camera, and if you want a smoother flow to your videos, then the camera offers the ability to capture Full HD videos in AVCHD at 60fps.
The interface of the camera is not the easiest one found on compact system cameras, but it is very intuitive and is loaded with a ton of options allowing one to fine tune their images as per their liking. There is a slight learning curve that goes along with using this camera and those stepping up from a standard point-and-shoot camera may initially find this one a bit difficult to use. To aid consumers, Panasonic has added a dedicated iAuto button on the top for basic point-and-shoot photography. This can be great for quickly capturing images in virtually any lighting condition.
Connectivity options found at the side
Like most mirrorless system cameras, the GX1 can capture images in RAW as well as JPEG formats, and they can be stored on an SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards. This camera comes loaded with a ton of filters and scenes that assist one in shooting images easily without the need to tinker around with many settings.
The performance of the camera was tested based on a number of factors, which include handling, ease of use, image quality and video quality. To start off, this camera is not the lightest, weighing 279g and depending on the lens attached with it, it can get heavier. Paired with a 14-42 manual zoom lens, this camera got a lot heavier and we strongly advise using the neck strap for that added assurance. The hand grip at the front helps a lot, but it provides a grip only for the bottom two or maximum three fingers. Panasonic should have extended it a bit more, allowing one to grip the camera with all four fingers. Shooting with a single hand is possible, but we found ourselves using both hands most of the time, especially due to the fact that different settings changes were made depending on the shots.
While clicking images outdoors we observed that the screen does really well, and even while facing the harsh afternoon sun, the purple anomalies did not appear onscreen. We found this really great as there was a lot of detail observed, while previewing the images and videos on the screen. Images clicked outdoors had a lot of detail, and a thing we liked about the camera was that the colours across the image appeared accurate. There was hardly any colour fringing noticed as well. Indoor images shot well and skin tones appeared accurate. However, there was an amount of image grain in some shots that put us off a bit. However, the overall indoor performance of the camera is really good and it can be used in virtually any lighting. The camera automatically detects when we are clicking close up shots and the detail found in these macro shots are great.
ISO sensitivity test
ISO Sensitivity Test
This camera features an ISO ranging from 160 to 12,800. From the image above we can see that at ISO 160, there was no image noise, whatsoever. At ISO 1600, a little image noise started to creep in, but images shot with this setting can be used as well. The camera keeps the noise levels down significantly, right up to ISO 3200, but from ISO 6400, the noise can be easily made out. At ISO 12800, there was discolouration visible and loss of detail as well due to the amount of noise.
In our aperture priority test, using the 14-42mm lens, we observed that there was a lot of detail seen at F/ 22 and the same was visible at F/ 11, but to a slightly lesser extent. At F/ 3.5, there was a significant amount of depth of field seen.
Aperture priority test
Using the 14-42mm lens, we captured images at a 3x zoom. When the zoom lens was fully extended, we observed that there was no loss in image quality and there was no blurring. This amount of detail can be achieved easily by using the iAuto mode on the camera.
While capturing videos in Full HD 1080p, we observed that there was a lot of detail noticed and there were no transition issues while panning from a dark area to a bright one. The video played back well on the camera’s display as well as on the computer. There was no real cause for complaints while shooting videos from this camera. A neat feature here is the pop-up flash. Besides offering a lot of brightness, the flash can be tilted upwards, so the light does not hit the subject directly. Panasonic bundles a 1010mAh battery with the camera and the brand has rated it at approximately 300 shots. But the life of the battery also depends on how much video is recorded as well as the use of flash in photographs.
Hand grip featured at the front
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 is available in India at an MRP of Rs. 44,000. The camera does really well in terms of design, features and performance. When it comes to pricing, the camera is priced more or less on par with its rivals, such as the Nikon 1 V1. However, the latter does come equipped with a viewfinder, making it convenient for photographers to get that accurate composition. This is probably the only reason where the Nikon 1 V1 has an advantage over the GX1. In terms of image quality, both cameras stand tall and there is nothing to really differentiate between the two. In comparison with the GF3, the GX1 does slightly better because of the added features.
This camera is ideal for those who are already familiar with photography and want a smaller portable option, as opposed to their DSLR. If one does not already own a DSLR, then this would also be a great option, if they have the money to spend and an inclination to learn the art of photography by fiddling around with the different settings to get the perfect shot.