The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 is one of the most compact lens-interchangeable camera´s on the market. Released in 2009 the GF1 features all the must haves from a regular point and shoot with the speed and finesse of a DSLR camera. And you can switch lenses as well.
Throughout recent years ever since the first point and shoot digital camera was released image quality has always struggled compared to film and digital SLR cameras. There’s has been some attempts of fitting the larger DSLR sensor in a smaller body lastly with the Sigma DP1 and Sigma DP2. Both great camera with stunning image quality but both werent´ the fastest on the block and both did not feature the option to mount another lens. Fast forwarding to 2008 and 09 both Olympus and Panasonic announced that they were investing heavily into their new Micro 4/3´s format. 4/3 meaning the aspect ratio of the sensor.
And so we have the GF1. Versus the closest competitor the Pen 1/2 the GF1 is less stylish camera. Its anonymous exterior will surely apply to many photographers and less average consumers. Unlike the Pen 1/2 the camera looks similar to another camera in Panasonic’s lineup namely the LX4 but still indistinguishable from its smaller brother.
The backside have all the controls you´ll ever need. Notice the wheel position perfect for your right thumb. Besides the AF-MF switch button there´s a handy exposure and focus lock which sits so you´ll have no problem keeping it pressed during your shoot. Just below the flash shoe sits a dedicated port for a electronic viewfinder. As the camera is mirror lens the only finder you´ll have from get go, is the crisp 3 inch screen with a relatively high resolution.
The screen updates at a healthy 60 frames per second making it quite useful even in action. Surely its not a replacement for a true prism finder but for a screen its really good.
On the upper left is the button for the popup flash. Around the “circle” of buttons are the quick buttons for ISO, focus options, light meter and a programmable user select button.
Pretty much every button is where you want it to be.
One of the first things you´ll notice is the superb build quality. For such a compact camera it feels like a tank. Much studier and heftier than the Sigma DP series. Although it´s quite a light camera it weighs more than the previous mentioned. For any who´s use to carry a DSLR it will feel light and handy.
The included neckstrap is decent but nothing more. I wish they included a wide one.
The memory card and battery is stored in the same compartment furthers away from the tripod mount as possible and using a smaller camera plate will allow the user to change memory card without moving the plate.
Another thing worth mentioning is the flash shoe.
Panasonic sells a hi-res viewfinder that fits in the shoe and in a socket behind the camera giving it a more photographer type of feel and less of a point and shoot experience. But be aware the viewfinder is an expensive accessory.
One of the most important thing in any camera is the lens. I was fortunate enough to borrow the excellent and I really to mean excellent Panasonic 20mm F1.7 ASPH flat as a pancake lens. It will probably make you wonder how on earth it is able to capture so very fine detail even wide open at F1.7.
There´s a small amount of vignetting at F1.7 which disapears stopping sligthly down. The lens becomes a hint sharper stopping down aswell, but will essentially deliver all the sharpness you could hope for wide open.
The lens isn´t a fast focusing lens so I didn´t have to opportunity to enjoy the otherwise very quick contrast detection focus on the GF1. The 20mm F1.7 ASPH is a mediocre lens when it comes to focus speed.
The filter thread is just 46mm which means cheaper filters. – Great!
The video quality is of a very high standard. Using the effective AVCHD Lite format the small camera shines. Using a big aperture lens like the 20mm F1.7 makes video a joy especially considering how easy it is to get a butter smooth bokeh. Sure you´ll have to get closer at 20mm than using a 800mm lens but either way the quality is more than satisfying. Worth mentioning is that it could benefit from some sharpening in contrast to the photos that shows a very sharp output. I wish I had more time using the video as I wish I had some longer lenses as well.
Using my usual sharpening photoshop action is almost too much. The above shot has been edited in photoshop with curves and color. The dynamic range is great and so is the noise or the lack off. – The colors are per standard somehow muted but it´s a minor thing easily tweak able in pretty much any photo editor.
Downloadable sample (right click and choose save as..)
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 is a great camera and future platform. The buzz these days are in fact the mirror less lens interchangeable camera and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 really shines. I know for a fact many professional landscape photographers choose this very camera as a backup due to its stunning output and easy to use ability. The camera does everything you want with SLR speed.
I think we could very well be looking at a platform that will essentially push the prices on point and shoot and DSLR cameras downward while pushing the technology of today. I wish Panasonic included the viewfinder but you can´t have it all.
Therefore the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 is a camera you can develop your skills with.