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Panasonic G1 Review
Date: Dec 22, 2008
Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur
Thursday, November 20, 2008 - Here's what you should receive
in the box:
- Panasonic G1 with Body Cap
- Kit lens Lumix G Vario 14-45/F3.5-5.6 ASPH MEGA O.I.S. Ø52mm with Lens cap, Lens Rear Cap, Lens Storage Bag and Lens Hood
- No memory card included
- Shoulder Strap
- Interface Cables: A/V, USB
- Rechargeable Li-ion Battery DMW-BLB13PP 7.2V 1250mAh 9.0Wh
- Battery Charger/AC Adapter DE-A49 and Power Cords (flat and round plugs)
- English, French and Spanish Operating Manuals
- Software CD: Digital Camera (PHOTOfunSTUDIO -viewer-
2.1E, SILKYPIX Developer Studio 3.0, USB Driver 1.0)
- For the review, I also received the Lumix G Vario 45-200/F4-5.6 MEGA O.I.S. Ø52mm with Lens cap, Lens Rear Cap, Lens Storage Bag and Lens Hood
A friend once asked me just what is a DSLR and is it true that it gives much better image quality than a point-and-shoot compact digicam? My answer was, Yes it gives much better image quality and a DSLR is simply a more complicated digital camera with interchangeable lenses, a generally wonderful viewfinder and fast performance.
Notice, no mention of the mirror that permits the user to view the light coming through the lens. It is in fact that mirror that gave the "SLR" its name: "Single Lens Reflex." The "Single Lens" part was to differentiate the camera from "Twin Lens Reflex" camera that had one lens to record the picture and a second lens to view and compose the image. The "Reflex" part, of course, was to simply differentiate the camera from rangefinder cameras. The SLR's claim to fame back then was that the user could see exactly what came through the lens. The digital version of the SLR is the DSLR. But the mirror was not in itself a technological feature that made the SLR better; it was simply a necessity. But not anymore.
Fast forward to today and the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1. The G1 claims to be of the same caliber as other DSLRs. Purists take offense that some call it a "DSLR" because it lacks the mirror. How infantile! It matters not what you call it because the DSLR with the mirror and optical viewfinder is an endangered species. Laugh if you like, but it was only a few years ago that some claimed high and loud that digital would never replace film. How these voices have been silenced!
So, let us make it clear: the Panasonic G1 is a DSLR-level digital camera.
Just like a DSLR, it allows users to view exactly what comes through the lens. More, it allows them to view what falls on the sensor itself! And all this without the need of a clunky mirror. Mirror gone. Good riddance. Better still, it allows users to view that image through a high resolution electronic viewfinder or an extra large articulated LCD screen. In fact, the LVF beats the pants off the small dark optical viewfinder of many entry-level DSLRs.
As far as handling is concerned, the G1 did not require any special "idiosyncratic" adjustment as some new cameras force you to adjust to. I pretty much picked it up and started shooting with it as with any other DSLR. The one feature that tripped me at first was the Front Dial button that can toggle between Program Shift and Exposure Compensation with a click. Unaware that I had inadvertently toggled it to Exposure Compensation, I proceeded to shoot a number of pictures over- and under-exposed.
Usually with high resolution electronic viewfinders (the G1 LVF
has 480K dots), I have sometimes noticed that
my eyesight suffers a bit after using it for a
long time. I've not noticed any problem with the
The one feature that I would like changed on the G1 (or the kit lens for the G1, more precisely) is the manual focus. It is not real mechanical focus but fly-by-wire, which is to say that when you turn the MF ring on the lens, the camera electronically moves the lens elements. Though it works quite well in good light, it does not do the job very well in low light -- which is when you need to switch to manual focus anyway. A higher resolution LVF may solve this problem -- but, in my opinion, there is nothing that is as pleasant to use than a fast mechanically-actuated manual focus on a DSLR.
The PHOTOfunSTUDIO -viewer- allows you to transfer,
view and print, plus perform basic functions such
as resize, rotate, email, create a wallpaper,
convert format. There are a number of niggles. For example, you cannot install v2.1 on top of v1.1 but have to go to Control Panel and uninstall v1.1 first; you'd think that the installation software could have automatically done that. I was also not able to view a slide show: I selected my pictures, clicked on Start a Slide Show, the program "created" a slide show, going through ALL the pictures instead of only the ones I selected, then failed with an error message. Not impressed.
The user's manual (Operating Instructions) has a nice index but look up anything, turn to that page -- and it refers you to some other page. To its credit, it's fairly comprehensive and if you take the time to read it from cover to cover, you'll quickly discover all the wonderful features of the G1 -- and there are many.
In the final analysis (and overlooking the slight negatives mentioned), the Panasonic G1 is a resounding success as far as the first micro Four Thirds Digital Interchangeable Lens camera is concerned. Not only does it succeed in excellent image quality, very good performance and breadth of advanced features -- it does so in a package that is much smaller and lighter than its competitors. Its high ISO performace is very good up to ISO 800 and we can only expect that this will improve with each successive generation of the sensor. Its Contrast-Detect AF is almost at a par with Phase-Detect AF though I do not like the fly-by-wire manual focus at all on a DSLR-level digital camera (I don't mind it on a prosumer-level digicam). Because the G1 is a DSLR-level digital camera, it basically works like one, which can be a barrier for those coming from the Point-and-Shoot digicam world. But for those who are currently using a DSLR and hate the size and weight, the compactness of the G1 should provide the impetus necessary to visit their friendly camera retail store for a hands-on experience.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 provides a real alternative to the traditional entry-level DSLR. I love it and can't wait for Panasonic to build a whole system around it. After all, it is marketed as a "system camera."