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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Panasonic G1

Panasonic Digital Cameras


Panasonic G1 Review

Review Date: Dec 22, 2008

Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur

Panasonic G1

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2008


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 is compact and light, with a molded and comfortable handgrip. It comes in three different colors: black, red and blue. My review model was blue and it heralds a new and welcomed age of more colorful system cameras. Interestingly, there is no traditional "silver" color. There are lots of shiny chrome, so if you were hoping for a all-black look, it ain't happening. The kit lens, on the other hand, is all black with muted silver letterings. There are lots of controls, which make the G1 very intuitive to use if you are an advanced DSLR user, and a bit overwhelming if you are coming from the point-and-shoot world.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 micro Four-Thirds Mount

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 micro Four-Thirds Mount

The first thing you notice when you remove the lens is the image sensor. Remember, the G1 does not need a mirror, so the sensor is exposed. The G1 has the Supersonic wave filter that removes dust off the sensor everytime the camera is turned on. The G1 uses a mechanical shutter, which means that it is not totally quiet, though it is quieter than DSLRs that has a mirror.

The little red circular lamp at top right is the AF Assist Lamp (and Self-timer indicator) with an effective range of about 1m - 3m with the 14-45mm lens attached. You should not use the lens hood if you intend to use the AF Assist Lamp since the lens hood (or large filter) will obscure the lamp. Note that your left hand may also inadvertently obscure the lamp.

The G1 is, by design, features, and positioning, solidly in the DSLR camp. Panasonic refers to it as a [micro] "system camera." Though it carries over many of the features that have made its consumer point-and-shoot cameras very popular, the G1 is definitely not a "pick me up and start shooting" digicam. Sure, it does feature the Intelligent Auto (iA) mode, but it is not a panacea on this camera. I am making this point because the forums are rife with complaints from beginners who have purchased the G1 and thought they could use it point-and-shoot just like the Panasonic ultra zoom models. You can, but to obtain the best results from the G1, it helps to understand what all the features are and how to use them for the best results.

Since the G1 is designed to work as closely as possible like a traditional DSLR, DSLR users will have absolutely no problem with all the controls and features. They work more or less as expected.

Startup time is less than 1 sec., i.e. near instant. Shot to shot time is about 1 sec. (I was able to take 10 pics in 10 sec.), and there is no practical shutter lag. Autofocus is fast and precise in good light.

The G1 uses the Secure Digital (SD) Card (including the large capacity SDHC cards).

Here's how the entry-level DSLRs measure up against one another, without lens attached and without battery and card:

Camera W
Pentax K200D 133.5 95 74 630
Sony A-200 130.8 98.5 71.3 532
Canon XSi/450D 128.8 97.5 61.9 475
Olympus E-520 DSLR 136 91.5 68 475
Nikon D60 126 94 64 475
Olympus E-420 129.5 91 53 380
Panasonic G1 124 83.6 45.2 385
Panasonic FZ28 (Ultra Zoom) 117.6 75.3 88.9
(incl. 18x optical zoom lens)

As you can see, the G1 is just a little smaller in size than the Olympus E-420. Just for fun, we have also thrown in a non-DSLR, the Panasonic FZ28, an 18x optical ultra zoom digital camera, for comparison.

- Colors: black, red or blue
- Looks: attractive and professional
- Good non-slip handgrip; shutter release button is nicely angled forward
- Controls on the top are nice, those on the back are almost all on the right side, tiny and crowded
- Carry using shoulder/neck strap
- Dimensions: 124 x 83.6 x 45.2 mm /
4.88 x 3.29 x 1.78 in.
- Weight: 385 g / 0.85 lbs (Body)
- Takes 1 rechargeable Li-ion battery DMW-BLB13PP 7.2V 1250mAh 9.0Wh (330 shots/charge)
- Startup and LCD turning on in less than 1 sec.
- Shot to shot time approx. 1 sec.
- No practical shutter lag

Included in the box is a rechargeable Li-ion battery that can take about 330 shots with LCD on (CIPA standard) on a fresh charge and a Battery Charger DMW-BLB13PP that will recharge a new battery in approx. 155 min.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Top View

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Top View

The top of the camera has, on the right side: the Shutter Release Button, the Front Dial just under the Shutter release button, the Q.MENU (Quick Menu) button, Film Mode button, Mode Dial, Drive mode lever, and Power ON/OFF switch (the last two at the base of the Mode Dial); on the left side are the Flash open lever and the Focus mode dial.

Image Stabilizer Mode1 and Mode 2

The Image Stabilization is optical, i.e. lens based. Since the G1 accepts interchangeable lenses, the optical image stabilization feature is found on the lens itself. Notice the MEGA O.I.S. switch on the left side of the lens. To use the optical Image Stabilizer, go into the MENU to select one of 3 possible modes: set it to MODE1, if you want to see the effect of image stabilization at all times; MODE2, for the most effective stabilization, which takes place just before the image is taken; and MODE3, for panning horizontally. Then switch image stabilization ON or OFF right on the lens itself.

Just like on a DSLR, the Front Dial is rotated using your index finger and allows you to change the aperture in Aperture-Priority mode, the shutter speed in Shutter-Priority mode and both in Manual mode (press the Front Dial in to toggle between shutter speed and aperture). In P mode, it serves two purposes: Program Shift and Exposure Compensation (press the Front Dial in to toggle between the two). It's all very intuitive, convenient and fast.

But be careful because the Front Dial is too easily pressed in inadvertently! My first day out with the camera returned many pictures that were either under- or over-exposed, courtesy of the Front Dial which was inadvertently switched to Exposure Compensation. It's Winter here and if you wear gloves, you may not even feel that you pressed the Front Dial. You can assign the LVF/LCD button to Exp. Compensation, though the Front Dial exp. comp. functionality still remains. Improvement suggestion: allow the Front Dial Exp. Comp. feature to be completely turned off.

There is a Quick Menu (Q.MENU) button right behind the Shutter release button. Press it and the Quick Menu is activated with the currently selected setting highlighted in yellow. Use the Front Dial to select the setting you want to change. In Normal Display mode, Q.MENU does not display a row of settings, but conveniently use the settings as they are arranged on screen. The setting turns yellow to indicate you selected it and a "drop down" submenu displays either below or above the setting. Use the Cursor Keys to make a choice, then press MENU/SET -- or just click the Front Dial -- to set your choice. It's quicker and easier than it reads, and very intuitive. You can also select to use the LVF/LCD as an INFO screen and use the Q.MENU and Front Dial to quickly chage settings.

In CUSTOM MENU, you can actually select the LVF/LCD Display Style: you can select the normal LCD monitor style where settings are superimposed on the image at top and bottom of the screen; or Viewfinder style, where the bottom settings are displayed on a solid black background (and you can turn the top settings off). For example, to simulate the traditional DSLR viewfinder and LCD displays, you can select the LVF to display only the bottom exposure settings on a black background and the LCD to display superimposed settings at top and bottom of the screen.

The Film Mode button gives you 12 predefined "film" modes:

  1. Standard
  2. Dynamic (higher saturation and contrast)
  3. Nature (bright red, green and blue)
  4. Smooth (lower contrast)
  5. Nostalgic (lower saturation and contrast)
  6. Vibrant (even higher saturation and contrast than Dynamic)
  7. Standard B&W
  8. Dynamic B&W (higher contrast)
  9. Smooth B&W (smooth gradation and rich skin texture)
  10. My Film 1 (original film)
  11. My Film 2 (original film B&W)
  12. Multi Film (on a single press of shutter button, 3 images are recorded with max. 3 film modes set in advance)

You can further refine the modes as to Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation (not available for the B&W modes) and Noise Reduction. Press DISPLAY to get a short description of what each of the film mode does.

The Mode Dial freely rotates 360° clockwise and anti-clockwise. It has 13 shooting modes on it: besides the PASM modes, there is Panasonic's Intelligent AUTO (iA) mode, CUSTom mode, My Color mode (adjust color, brightness, saturation), SCN (scene modes: Sunset, Party, Baby1, Baby2, Pet) and four Advanced (Night) Scene modes: Night Portrait (1 sec.), Night Scenery (60 sec.), Illuminations (high ISO) and Creative (similar as Night Scenery but aperture can be changed).

Burst Mode

There is a Drive Mode Lever around the base of the Mode Dial. Burst Mode is rated 3fps in High Speed mode and 2fps in Low Speed (though we measured slower 2.5fps and 1.6fps rates). It allows you to take up to 7 RAW (we obtained max. 5) or an unlimited number of JPEG images (depending on the space available on your memory card and with the burst speed slowing down as more images are captured). Besides Single and Burst, there is also Auto Bracket and Self-timer. The inclusion of Self-timer here means that it is conveniently possible to leave the camera on self-timer mode for a number of consecutive pictures. Beats having to set the self-timer mode for each picture.

The other lever around the base of the Mode Dial is the ON/OFF switch.

There is also a Focus Mode Dial with 3 options: AFS (Auto Focus Single), AFC (Auto Focus Continuous) and MF (Manual Focus). I enjoy using Focus tracking on the G1. Whether in AFS or AFC, all you have to do is point to the subject you want to track and half-press the shutter-release button to engage focus tracking. From then on, whether you move the camera or your subject moves, the camera keeps focus squarely locked on your subject. To disengage focus tracking, press the MENU/SET button and then you can select another subject to focus track. Very intuitively implemented.

The MF mode is the one major improvement suggestion I have for Panasonic. On the Lumix lens, the MF ring is not mechanically actuated as you would expect on a DSLR-level camera lens. Instead, it is fly-by-wire. If you have turned MF ASSIST ON in CUSTOM MENU, the screen is magnified 5x as soon as you start rotating the MF ring. If this level of magnification is not enough, you can rotate the Front Dial clockwise to increase the screen magnification up to 10x. (Rotate the Front Dial counter clockwise to return the magnification back to 5x.) I am not sure I like the idea of a fly-by-wire manual focus on a DSLR-level digital camera. Mind you, in good light, MF works very well. But in good light, AF also works fine so there is really no need to switch to MF. It is in low light, when the AF does not lock on a subject that is not contrasty enough (remember, the G1 uses Contrast-Detect AF instead of Phase-Detect AF), that you would then find the need to switch to MF. However, in low light, the image becomes grainy and even at 10x magnification, it is quite difficult to know when focus is achieved. In ten tries, I was able to only get Bamm-Bamm in sharp focus once, though I thought he was in focus all ten times. All of which cries out for an even higher resolution LCD (say, 925,000 dots) and perhaps ditching the fly-by-wire focusing and reverting back to true mechanically actuated MF.

When I saw the hanging strap eyelets, I worried that they would get in the way but should not have worried. They are small and I did not really feel or notice them in actual use.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 with built-in flash opened

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 with built-in flash opened

The pop-up flash is manually opened and will not automatically pop up when needed. Advanced photographers will welcome this implementation; beginners must remember to lift up the flash if they want to use it.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 with optional external flash

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 with optional external flash

You can also attach an optional external speedlight in the hot shoe. Currently there are three optional external speedlights: DMW-FL500, DMW-FL360 and DMW-FL220.

Other optional accessories include: ND Filter DMW-LND52, Circular Polarizing Filter DMW-LPL52, and cabled Remote Shutter DMW-RSL1.

You cannot record movies on the G1. Panasonic promises the next version (G2?) should be able to record movies.

You can also see the hinged plastic Terminal door which is rubber and unfortunately does not open up wide enough to allow unimpeded access to the HDMI and Digital/V. OUT (USB) sockets. Expect a struggle everytime you need to plug in the USB cable.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Back View

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Back View

FUNCTIONS ACCESSIBLE BY CONTROL BUTTONS (clockwise starting from the LVF/LCD button)
- LVF/LCD button toggles between the LVF and LCD monitor.
- Diopter adjustment dial on left side of LVF.
- Eye sensor on right side of the LVF. Automatically turns the LCD OFF and the LVF ON as you approach your eye to the LVF, and turns the LCD ON and the LVF OFF as you remove your eye from the LVF.
- Playback button. Use RIGHT and LEFT to scroll thru the pictures. Use Front Dial to enlarge by 2x, 4x, 8x and 16x.
- The AF/AE LOCK button can be customized in CUSTOM MENU to either lock AF only, lock AE only or lock both AF and AE when it is pressed, as well as whether you need to continually hold down the button or press to toggle.
- DISPLAY button. In Recording mode, press repeatedly to cycle thru Normal, No Display, LCD INFO, Off (this cycle depends on the LVF/LCD Display Style you've selected). In Playback, press repeatedly to cycle thru Normal, Detailed Info, Histogram, Highlight, No Display.

CURSOR buttons: UP (ISO), RIGHT (WB), DOWN (Fn), LEFT (AF mode).

MENU SET button in the middle calls up the Menu; use CURSOR buttons to navigate the Menu screens; press MENU SET again to accepts a screen choice.


DELETE button. In Playback mode. I've always loved the way the Delete function is implemented on Panasonic digital cameras. Press to invoke Delete Single / Delete Multi / Delete All on one convenient screen. No need to hunt into the MENU.


PREVIEW button. In Recording mode. Press this button to go into DOF Preview mode. To have an idea of the shutter speed effect, press the DISPLAY button while in Preview mode.

Also doubles as the Delete button in Playback mode.

- Exposure compensation is accessed by clicking the Front Dial and rotating it to dial in a value.
- Once set, the Exposure Compensation Indicator conveniently stays displayed on screen until it is reset to "0"
- Range: -3 EV to +3 EV (18 steps in 1/3 EV increments)
- The screen brightness will increase or decrease to reflect the value you use
- Note: the exposure compensation value selected is retained even when the camera is turned off. The problem is that when you turn it back on, exposure compensation is still set but does not display until you touch the Shutter Button to take a picture. It's easy not to notice it's on, so remember to reset to "0" after using it or the next time you turn the camera on, your shots may be over- or under-exposed. It is also easy to click the Front Dial and inadvertently dial in a value.
- PASM: 60 - 1/4,000 sec.
M: B (approx. 4 min.)

The LCD is fully articulated and you have almost total freedom of movement, allowing you to shoot from almost any angle you like. For those who like to take self-portraits, you'll be happy to know that the LCD can even face forward. Because the LCD is hinged to the left, there is no room for the traditional buttons placement down the left side. This means that the buttons are almost all on the right side of the camera, are small and your right thumb does all the work.

A note of caution for those coming from the point-and-shoot crowd. The G1 is supposed to be a DSLR-level camera, give image quality and performance like one and work like one. The fact that it does not have a mirror does not negate the fact that it is in all other aspects in the "DSLR" category. Sure, it carries over many of the features that have made Panasonic P&S cameras popular, but it is also trying to strike a healthy balance between those coming from P&S and those coming from the DSLR world.

One example is the viewfinder. On a typical DSLR using an optical viewfinder (OVF), the lens stays open at its largest aperture to allow the photographer to compose. There is a Preview button that, when pressed, will stop down the aperture to what the camera meters. So, let's say the camera meters an exposure of f8.0 at 1/60 sec. When you look into the optical viewfinder, you see as bright an image as the camera can give you, so the aperture is opened at its maximum, say f3.5. When you press the Preview button, the aperture closes to the metered f8.0 and the screen darkens to let you judge depth of field, etc.

This is how it works on the G1. The lens stays opened wide and the screen (LVF or LCD) stays as bright as possible to permit composition (here's the bonus of using a high resolution electronic viewfinder instead of an OVF).

Preview is possible by pressing the Preview button. Once you have pressed Preview, you can then adjust shutter speed and/or aperture to have continuous DOF Preview. While in Preview mode, you can also press the DISPLAY button to have an idea of how the shutter speed you have chosen will affect the final picture.

LCD & Menus

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 with articulated LCD

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 with articulated LCD

The back of the Panasonic G1 is dominated by the extra large 3.0-inch LCD screen. DSLRs are now starting to offer a Live View LCD but they are all basically very slow and ineffectual for regular shooting, thus relegating Live View to "Tripod mode" shooting. But the Panasonic G1 Live View works just like on a P&S digicam: it is bright, clear, and fast. In addition, a high resolution electronic LVF (Live View Finder) and an eye sensor allows you to switch seamlessly between the LVF and LCD.

The LCD is beautiful with high resolution (460,000 dots) and fast refresh rate for a smooth Live View. Because the G1 uses an electronic viewfinder (technically, it has 800 x 600 = 480,000 dots but each dot reflects a red, green and blue signal very quickly in succession, so Panasonic claims it as having 1,440,000 dots equivalent), it is possible to display a Live Histogram on both the LCD and the LVF, which is not possible on a DSLR using an OVF. But there is much more: you can actually move the histogram to anywhere on the screen! For me, bottom left seems to be a good spot. The LVF/LCD gains up in low-light situations.

The menu structure is divided into 5 tabs, and I found it a bit confusing at first what settings are found on which tab. There are 4 RECord, 5 CUSTOM MENU and 4 SETUP pages worth of menu settings with a high level of customization that will allow you to configure the G1 to work the way you like your camera to work.

REC 1 of 4

- Aspect Ratio
- Picture Size
- Quality
- Metering Mode
- Stabilizer

REC 2 of 4

- Flash
- Digital Red-Eye
- Flash Synchro
- Flash Adjustment
- Intelligent Exposure

REC 3 of 4

- Extended Optical Zoom
- Digital Zoom
- Burst Rate
- Auto Bracket
- Self-timer

REC 4 of 4

- Color Space
- Long Shutter Noise Reduction
- ISO Limit Set
- ISO Increments


- 4:3
- 3:2
- 16:9


- Large
- Medium
- Small


- Fine
- Standard
- RAW + Fine
- RAW + Standard


- Multiple (Pattern)
- Center-weighted
- Spot


- Mode 1 (Always ON)
- Mode 2 (When shutter is pressed)
- Mode 3 (for Panning)


- Auto
- Auto/Red-eye Reduction
- Forced Flash ON
- Forced Flash ON/Red-eye Reduction
- Slow sync.
- Slow sync./Red-eye Reduction


- 1st curtain
- 2nd curtain (to capture light source streaming behind subject)


- -2 to +2 EV in 1/3EV increments


- Off
- Low
- Standard
- High


- Off
- 2x
- 4x


- High
- Low


- Step (3 at 1/3EV, 3 at 2/3EV, 5 at 1/3EV, 5 at 2/3EV, 7 at 1/3EV, 7 at 2/3EV)
- Sequence (0/-/+, -/0/+)


- 10 sec.
- 10 sec. (3 shots at 2 sec, interval)
- 2 sec.


- Adobe RGB


- Limit the max. ISO you want to camera to use

- Off
- 200
- 400
- 800
- 1600


- 1/3EV (ISO 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, 2000, 2500, 3200)
- 1EV (ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)



- Custom Set Memory
- LVF Display Style
- LCD Display Style
- LCD Info. Display
- LVF/LCD Auto (turns Eye Sensor ON/OFF)


- Histogram (displays the Histogram)
- Guide Line (3x3, Exact Center, Position)
- AF/AE Lock
- AF/AE Lock Hold
- Preview Hold


- Pre AF
- Direct AF Area (move AF Area and chage its size)
- Focus Priority (whether to allow out of focus picture to be taken)
- AF Assist Lamp
- AF+MF (fine adjust focus manually)


- MF Assist (enlarge center of screen)
- Expo. Settings (allow the LVF/LCD button to toggle between Program Shift and Exposure Compensation)
- Dial Guide
- Menu Resume
- Pixel Refresh


- Shoot w/O Lens
- Language


- Register 3 settings as custom settings


- Viewfinder or LCD monitor style


- Viewfinder or LCD monitor style


- Blue, Red, Black color


- Off
- 3x3 horizontal and vertical lines
- Exact center
- Position guide lines for balanced composition


- AE
- AF


- Adjust focus even before shutter button is half pressed

- Off
- Q-AF
- C-AF


SETUP 1 of 4

- Clock Set
- World Time
- Fn Button Set
- Auto Review
- Highlight

SETUP 2 of 4

- Economy
- Monitor Brightness
- LCD Mode
- No. Reset
- Reset

SETUP 3 of 4

- Beep
- TV Aspect
- HDMI Mode
- VIERA Link
- Language

SETUP 4 of 4

- Version Dsiplay
- Scene Menu
- USB Mode
- Format






- Aspect Ratio
- Quality
- Metering Mode
- Intelligent Exposure
- Guide Line


- Off
- 1 sec.
- 3 sec.
- 5 sec.
- Hold


- Off
- 1 sec.
- 3 sec.
- 5 sec.


- Off
- 1 min.
- 2 min.
- 5 min.
- 10 min.


- Off
- 15 sec.
- 30 sec.



- Off
- A : Auto Power LCD
- * : Power LCD




- 16:9
- 4:3


- Auto
- 1080i
- 480p

- Note: you'll need to purchase an optiional cable




- Body Firmware
- Lens Firmware


- Select on connection
- PC
- PictBridge (PTP)



- Up to 5 menu items used recently can be memorized.
- This menu displays the menu items you use the most recently, allowing you to recall and reuse them easily.



- Slide Show
- Favorite
- Rotate
- Rotate Disp.
- DPOF Print


- Protect
- Resize
- Trimming
- Aspect Conversion

There is a very nice Battery/Card door and the battery has a latch to keep it from accidentally falling. You are able to change battery when the camera is on a tripod. Last, but not least, the tripod socket is metal and inline with the lens.

Even though it is the smallest DSLR-level camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 handles well. Those tired of lugging heavy DSLRs will want to consider this new compact and light "mirror-less system camera" which is well-crafted, well designed and meets most of the requirements of serious and advanced DSLR photographers. The main weight advantage is in the smaller and lighter lenses and, as Panasonic (and Olympus) adds more lenses to the micro Four Thirds system, photographers will find the Panasonic G1 to be an extremely attractive system camera.

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