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Panasonic G1 Review
Date: Dec 22, 2008
Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur
The Panasonic Lumix G1 is a Digital
Interchangeable Lens camera targeted to serious and advanced amateur photographers.
It has 12.1 megapixel resolution on a FourThirds (17.3 x 13.0 mm) Live MOS image sensor. It is positioned as a DSLR-level camera and accepts interchangeable lenses on a new micro FourThirds mount.
The Panasonic G1 has excellent image quality (including
excellent low-light performance) up to ISO 400
with plenty of details preserved (good detail up to ISO 1600) and good colors.
3.2x Optical Zoom
(28mm, 35mm equivalent)
(90mm, 35mm equivalent)
4.4x Optical Zoom
(90mm, 35mm equivalent)
(400mm, 35mm equivalent)
One of the advantage of a DSLR is the ability
to use interchangeable lenses suited for specific
jobs. The Panasonic G1 comes with a new optically image stabilized Lumix 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens as standard kit
lens, which provides a 28-90mm equivalent field
of view. A second optically image stabilized Lumix 45-200mm f/4-5.6 Lens is also available separately. In the above pictures, we show the coverage for
28mm, 45mm and then 400mm (35mm equivalent, for a total 14x optical zoom), spanning the two lenses currently available for the G1.
The Lumix 14-45mm (28-90mm, equiv.) lens has a max. aperture of f/3.5-5.6 and min. aperture of f/22.
The Lumix 45-200mm (90-400mm, equiv.) lens has a max. aperture of f/4-5.6 and min. aperture of f/22.
The Panasonic G1 has full exposure flexibility
with PASM modes, and Program Shift.
The camera also provides exposure compensation
(with Auto Bracketing) and Custom (Manual) White
Balance. A Histogram can be displayed in both
Live and Playback modes.
Shutter speed ranges from 1/4,000-60 sec. in
PASM, plus B (approx. 4 minutes) in Manual Mode.
|45mm, Program, Pattern,
1/2.5 sec., F5.6, ISO 400
The actual macro capability is a function of
the lens you use. The Lumix 14-45mm kit lens allows you to focus as
close as 30cm (12 in.). I reduce the AF Area size to the smallest possible [yes, you can vary the AF Area size] and position it on the eyes. AF locks precisely
and fast. This is not much "macro" so hopefully Panasonic (and Olympus) plans to introduce real macro capable lenses in the near future. You can use existing FourThirds lenses with an adapter. Other micro FourThirds lenses planned for the foreseeable future include a fast fixed 20mm (40mm equiv.) F1.7 lens, a super wide-angle 7-14mm (14-28mm equiv.) F4.0 lens, and a walk-around 14-140mm (28-280mm equiv.) F4.0-5.6 lens.
The AF Area can be manually moved to any of 66 x 49
"areas" [simply use the CURSOR
buttons to select an AF area] and the area size can be reduced or increased by simply rotating the Front Dial.
There are three metering modes: Multiple (Multi-Pattern),
Center Weighted and Spot.
As the above two pictures show, the auto white
balance (AWB) indoors under tungsten artificial
light tends toward the yellow. Fortunately, there is Manual WB and WB ADJUST
that are easy to set and provide excellent results.
As expected, AWB works well in natural light.
The Panasonic G1 has 5 ISO settings going from
ISO 100 to ISO 1600. Intelligent ISO provides
a further ISO 3200 but at reduced MP resolution.
crops above (area delimited by the white square)
demonstrate the noise at the available ISO Speeds.
At ISO 100 to 400, noise is under control. Noise starts
to be slightly visible at ISO 800 but is still very acceptable. Noise is quite apparent at ISO 1600 and up. Compared to some of the entry-level DSLRs that are quite good with low noise at high ISOs, the G1 lacks just slightly behind, but still does a very good job.
CA is under control in everyday shots and is
not much of a problem even in high contrast shots.
The corner delimited by the red square at top
right, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom left,
shows minimal purple fringing.
|14mm [28mm], Manual, Spot, 60
sec., F10, ISO 100
Manual WB, Self-timer 2 sec., Tripod Used
Noise Reduction ON
The Panasonic G1 allows the use of a long shutter
speed of up to 60 sec. in PASM modes, therefore
allowing very nice night photography. Generally, with image sensors, noise usually becomes more prominent
at slow shutter speeds. You can turn Noise Reduction ON in MENU - REC - LONG SHTR NR - ON; you'll
notice a longer processing time (approx. twice
as long) before the next picture can be taken.
To test this noise reduction algorithm, we decided
to take a low-light indoors shot. To obtain a
long exposure, I turn off all the lights in the room and turn on the light in a room across the hall.
I experiment a bit to obtain the optimum exposure,
eventually settling on 60 sec. at F10. Even
at this long shutter speed, the Panasonic G1's
noise reduction seems to be working great, producing
a nice smooth blurring effect of the background.
The Panasonic G1 allows you to save an image
in the RAW file format. I was able to take max. 5 RAW images in 2 sec. (@ 2.5fps) in Continuous Shooting High, and max. 5 RAW images in 3 sec. (@ 1.6fps) in Continuous Shooting Low. This is slower than the published 3fps and 2fps for Continuous Shooting High and Low, respectively. It takes about 3 sec.
to write a RAW image to memory card (I used a
regular 4GB SDHC SanDisk card). Note that these times do
not include the extra processing times you'll experience
if Noise Reduction kicks in. You can also select to save a RAW+JPEG (Fine or Standard).
I was able to take 19 JPEG Fine images in 7 sec. (@ 2.7fps) in Continuous Shooting High, and 53 JPEG images in 30 sec. (@ 1.8fps) in Continuous Shooting Low (seems like you can take an unlimited number of shots in Continuous Shooting Low; I stopped after 30 sec.). It takes about 0.2 sec.
to write 1 JPEG image to memory card (using the same
regular 4GB SDHC SanDisk card as above).
I set the camera to ISO 400, shutter speed 1/100 sec., Picture Size Large, and everything else pretty much turned off. Your performance times may vary depending on your camera settings.
At Picture Size = Large, a 12.1MP image is compressed
down to anywhere between 2MB and 6MB. A RAW
image occupies about 13.5MB.
We find the overall image quality of the Panasonic
Lumix DMC-G1 at ISO 100 to be excellent
with good details in the shadows and highlights.
Images up to ISO 400 are also low in noise. ISO 800 is usable. Noise is objectionable at higher
The pictures in the Panasonic G1 Photo Gallery
page provide a good sample of what the camera
is capable of. I have provided unprocessed samples
at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100
in Photoshop Elements) as well as the 4000x3000
pixels original size (click on the image for the
original version). Any of the 800x600 image that
is adjusted for levels and/or sharpened in Photoshop
has "_adjusted" appended to the file
name. Original images are never adjusted.
You can safely assume that most macro shots and
slow shutter speed shots required the use of a
I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels.
For those who have their monitor resolution set
to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit
and you should not have to scroll to see the whole
image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels
resolution, start the slide show and then scroll
to the right to position the image within your
screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using
Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode,
and the image should fill your screen nicely.
Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor
display back to normal mode.
To return to this page from the Photo Gallery,
click on the animated graphics of the camera.
Please open and download the original size version
only if you need to and only once
to your hard drive -- and save me some precious