Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-G1 is the first camera to be based on the Micro Four Thirds standard. Micro Four Thirds was jointly developed by Olympus and Panasonic to target those who want the flexibility and quality of camera with a large sensor and interchangeable lenses, but who’ve been put-off by the size and weight of traditional DSLRs along with their perception of difficult operation.
Micro Four Thirds addresses this by taking the sensor size of the existing Four Thirds DSLR standard, but dispensing with the traditional SLR mirror and optical viewfinder to allow a much shorter lens to sensor distance; this in turn enables smaller and lighter cameras to be built, which are also quieter in operation. Micro Four Thirds employs a new lens mount, but can accommodate existing Four Thirds lenses with an adapter.
Micro Four Thirds was announced in August 2008, and one month later Panasonic unveiled the first model to use the new standard plus two new zoom lenses. The Lumix DMC-G1 reviewed here features a newly developed 12.1 Megapixel Live MOS sensor, 3in flip-out screen, highly detailed electronic viewfinder and a number of technologies inherited from the latest compacts to improve ease of use. It’s also available in black, red and blue.
The Lumix G1 is certainly small, measuring just 124x84x45mm for the body alone – this makes it comfortably smaller than most DSLRs, and slightly smaller still than the Olympus E-420, which at the time of writing was the World’s smallest.
By removing the mirror and optical viewfinder of a traditional DSLR, the Lumix G1 becomes a 100% Live View system with electronic composition and contrast-based autofocus. This has understandably caused some concern because contrast-based AF systems (especially on DSLRs) have always been much slower than traditional phase-change systems, while electronic viewfinders have rarely been a match for much-loved optical SLR viewfinders.
But Panasonic has addressed both issues with the Lumix G1 by fitting an incredibly detailed and large electronic viewfinder using technology inherited from its professional range of video cameras, and accelerated the contrast-based AF to rival or even beat the speed of traditional phase-change systems.
Ease of use is guaranteed by Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto mode, while full manual control and advanced features like seven-frame exposure bracketing are available when you want to get more hands-on.
So with a DSLR-sized sensor, interchangeable lenses, a compact body, and simple operation, the Lumix G1 fulfils Panasonic’s pitch in theory, but how does it perform in practice? In our Panasonic Lumix G1 full review we’ll take a detailed look at the technology behind Micro Four Thirds, what makes it unique in today’s market, and crucially how the handling and image quality compares with traditional DSLRs. So read-on to discover if the Lumix G1 succeeds in combining the best of today’s DSLRs and compacts, or whether it fails as a compromise between the two. As always you can see a demonstration of its highlights in our Panasonic Lumix G1 video tour – in glorious High Definition!
We tested a final production Lumix G1 running the latest 1.1 firmware released in early February 2009. Following our practice of testing cameras with their default settings and best quality JPEG options, the G1 was set to Program mode with Large Fine JPEG quality (4:3 aspect ratio), Auto White Balance, Multiple Metering, and the Standard Film Mode (the default setting for contrast, saturation and sharpening). Image Stabilisation was enabled for all handheld images and disabled for all tripod-based tests.
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