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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Panasonic GF1


Panasonic GF1 Review

Review Date: Dec 24, 2009

Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur

Panasonic GF1

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2009 - Digital Interchangeable Lens
Photoxels Editor's Choice 2009 - Digital Interchangeable Lens


Monday, Nov 30, 2009 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 + Body Cap + Hot Shoe Cover
  • No memory card
  • Li-ion battery DMW-BLB13PP 7.2V, 1250mAh, 9.0Wh
  • Battery Charger/AC Adapter DE-A49C with Power Cable
  • USB Cable, Video Cable
  • Shoulder strap
  • Documentation: Operating Instructions
  • Software CDs: PHOTOfunSTUDIO 4.0 HD Edition, SILKYPIX Developer Studio 3.0 SE, USB Driver 1.0
  • Lumix G 20mm F/1.7 ASPH. Ø46mm lens + Lens Cap (No retaining string) + Rear Lens Cap + Storage Bag

The Panasonic GF1 has the clean, sleek and high tech look of a modern digital camera in its black body. Silver and shiny chrome details add to the professional look. The construction and finish are superb and the camera handles very well. The GF1 is about 50g lighter than its Olympus counterpart, the E-P1, and about the same size.

The complaints that most users have toward the E-P1 / E-P2 are solved on the GF1: the AF is lighting fast; there is a built-in flash; and the LCD is beautifully high resolution. There are some differences between the GF1 and the E-P1/ E-P2: the GF1 records mono sound but the E-P1 / E-P2 records stereo sound; both GF1 and E-P1/P2 records Movie at 1290 x 720, 30 fps, but the GF1 also records high definition in AVCHD; the E-P1/ E-P2 has built-in Sensor-shift IS but the GF1 relies on the lens having IS.

One thing that the E-P1 has, and the GF1 does not, is an electronic level. If you look at my photo gallery you will quickly and correctly conclude that I am horizontally-level challenged: I just can't keep the horizon level, even with the help of the frame grid. I miss the electronic level of the E-P1.

Like the E-P1, the shutter sound on the GF1 is especially satisfying and not too loud. I believe the shutter is mechanical so it means that you will not be able to turn the sound off.

The 20mm F1.7 pancake lens is a superb lens, extending only about 25.4mm (1.0 in.). The lens is threaded (46 mm). The manual focus ring is wide and silky smooth. Yes, it's fly-by-wire but it's the best implementation I've experienced so far, coming real close to a true mechanical manual focus ring. The lens cap is not tethered, so can be easily misplaced and/or lost. The 20mm pancake lens does not have image stabilization.

Panasonic GF1

The Panasonic GF1 accepts other micro FourThirds (mFT) lenses. In addition, more than 20 available Leica M/R lenses or 30 Four Thirds lenses can be used with the appropriate lens adaptor.

It is important to note that though the Panasonic GF1 will accept all Four Thirds lenses, it will autofocus only Four Thirds lenses that offer live view AF; in comparison, the Olympus E-P1 will autofocus all Four Thirds lenses.

The 3.0-in. LCD looks positively large on this camera. It has 460K-dot resolution, so gives a very clear image with fast refresh rate. In extreme low light, the LCD screen gains up superbly (even better than the LCD on my trusty Fujifilm F30).

The GF1 does not have a viewfinder. There is an external electronic Live Viewfinder that is usable with all lenses. At 202K dot resolution, it is not as high resolution as that offered on the Olympus E-P2 which comes standard with a very high resolution (1440K dot) external electronic viewfinder that is usable with all lenses.

Some photographers simply cannot do without an eye-level viewfinder. I rarely use a viewfinder (unless it can give me a clearer, bigger and better view than the LCD). Besides making the camera look as big as a compact DSLR, there are 2 practical problems with the external viewfinder DMW-LVF1, even though it tilts: 1) you can't comfortably shoot a low angle as you can with a tilting LCD, and 2) you can't use both the viewfinder and an external flash because the hot shoe is occupied by the viewfinder.

I find that the raised thumb rest interferes somewhat with the use of the Rear Dial, and I find myself choosing to use the Cursor Buttons instead.

There is a dedicated AF/MF button that allows you to jump quickly to manual focusing. The screen enlarges to 5x as soon as you rotate the manual focus ring. Use the Rear Dial (or Cursor Buttons) to switch to a 10x magnification. The GF1 does not have built-in sensor-shift image stabilization and the 20mm pancake lens is not optically stabilized, so it helps to have a steady hand when using fly-by-wire manual focus.

One thing I really like, and that indicates the professional nature of the Gf1, is that the whole range of shutter speeds is available in the PASM modes, so taking pictures in all lighting conditions, including in low light, is a breeze.

PHOTOfunSTUDIO 4.0 HD Edition

For North America, Panasonic includes PHOTOfunSTUDIO 4.0 HD Edition and SILKYPIX Developer Studio 3.0 SE. Installation of PHOTOfunSTUDIO 4.0 HD Edition is straightforward but does not offer to remove a previous version (I have to do manually via the Windows Control Panel). It also installs EPSON EasyPrintModule (whatever that is) even though I do not have an EPSON printer and did not ask it to do so.

PHOTOfunSTUDIO is not the right image editing software to be bundled with a professional-grade digital camera and does not do justice to the Panasonic GF1. The user interface needs a serious upgrade: it dates back to the 80's, with distracting flashing arrows, low quality thumbnails, and annoying confirmation pop ups everytime you click a button. On first use, it did not recognize existing folders and the app kept dying on me. It was not until I copied a picture from camera to PC did it stabilize and work as intended. All this does not however affect its operation and it pretty much does all the basic stuff you need it to: transfer ("copy") images from your camera to computer, and simple editing: Brightness & Contrast, Hue & Saturation, Sharpness, Sepia, Negative, Grey Scale, Red Eye Remove[al], Auto Enhancement.

The Instruction Manual is adequate with an index that allows you to find information fast.

Improvement suggestions:

  • AF Area with Spot AF metering.
  • Articulated LCD (just up and down is enough).

GF1 vs. E-P1 vs. E-P2

  GF1 E-P1 E-P2
Effective MP 12.1 12.3 12.3
I.S. Depends on lens Built-in Sensor-shift Built-in Sensor-shift
External Viewfinder EVF 220K-dot, optional $197 Optical for pancake lens only, optional $92 EVF 1440k-dot, included
Built-in Flash Fill-in n/a n/a
AF Speed 0.25 sec. 1 sec. 1 sec.
LCD 3.0-in. 460k-dot 3.0-in. 230k-dot 3.0-in. 230k-dot
Movie HD in AVCHD Lite, 1280x720 @ 30fps 1280x720 @ 30fps 1280x720 @ 30fps
Sound mono Stereo Stereo
JPEG Quality very good to ISO 400 very good to ISO 800 very good to ISO 800
Size 119.0 x 71.0 x 36.3 mm / 4.69 x 2.80 x 1.43 in. 120.5 x 70 x 35 mm /
4.74 x 2.75 x 1.37 in.
120.5 x 70 x 35 mm / 4.74 x 2.75 x 1.37 in.
Weight 285g / 10.05 oz 335g / 11.8 oz 335g / 11.8 oz
with pancake kit lens US $899.95 / CAD $1,899.99 / UK £1,299.99 US $899.99 / CAD $999.99 / € 949.00 US $1099.99 / CAD $1199.99 (*)
with 3x zoom kit lens US $899.95 / CAD $1,899.99 / UK £1,299.99 US $799.99 / CAD $899.99 / € 749.00 US $1099.99 / CAD $1099.99 (*)

(*) Note that the E-P2 prices include the external EVF.

The Panasonic GF1, billed as a "mirrorless DSLR," shows that it is now possible to get DSLR image quality and performance without the size, weight and complexity of one. Anything you can do with an entry-level or even enthusiast level DSLR, you can pretty much do with the GF1. We are seeing the future of digital cameras and it is very good.

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