Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

Intro

Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GF1 is a compact camera with a DSLR-sized sensor and removeable lenses. Announced in September 2009, it’s the third Lumix G model from Panasonic, following the G1 and GH1, with all three based on the recent Micro Four Thirds standard.

Micro Four Thirds was jointly developed by Olympus and Panasonic to target people 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. Micro Four Thirds employs a new lens mount, but can accommodate existing Four Thirds lenses and a variety of others with optional adapters.

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The new Lumix GF1 departs from the mini-DSLR-styling of the earlier G1 and GH1, instead adopting a relatively compact form factor. Like the Olympus E-P1 before it, the GF1 therefore delivers the combination of large sensor, interchangeable lenses and portability which enthusiasts have been requesting for years. It may still be fairly chunky compared to a typical compact, but is considerably smaller and lighter than a DSLR, especially when fitted with a thin pancake prime lens, like Panasonic’s 20mm f1.7 model.

There’s no room for an optical or electronic viewfinder in the standard package, so composition is exclusively using a 3in / 460k screen. Panasonic does offer an optional electronic viewfinder accessory though which mounts on the flash hotshoe and connects to a port just below.

In terms of resolution, the GF1 is equipped with the same 12.1 Megapixel Live MOS sensor as the earlier G1, although unlike that model, the GF1 also boasts HD video recording capabilities in the 720p format. Like other recent Panasonic models with HD video, the GF1 also gives you the choice of encoding this in Motion JPEG for easier editing or AVCHD for longer recording times. You’re also able to adjust the aperture in the movie mode, allowing you to achieve shallow depth-of-field effects if desired.

Completing the GF1’s specifications are a wealth of shooting modes from Intelligent Auto with face detection to full manual control, and an HDMI port which also allows slideshows to be remote controlled when connected to a compatible Panasonic TV set. The Lumix GF1 is also available in black, red, silver or white.

Like the Olympus E-P1 before it, interest in the Lumix GF1 has reached fever-pitch in some circles, and it’s not surprising when you consider both models finally deliver what enthusiasts have been requesting for years: a compact with uncompromised high sensitivity performance and the flexibility of different lenses. So the big question is whether it delivers the goods in practice.

In our full review of the Panasonic Lumix GF1 we tested it alongside the Olympus E-P1 and Canon’s PowerShot G11 to see how the two latest Micro Four Thirds models and a traditional enthusiast’s compact measure-up. We’ve also directly compared the image quality between all three models in real-life environments to see which is the top performer for both detail and noise levels – and the result may not be as clear-cut as you thought.

So if you’re in the market for a top-end compact either as a partner for a DSLR or even a replacement, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to discover whether the Panasonic Lumix GF1 is the compact you’ve been waiting for.

Testing notes

We tested a final production Lumix GF1 running firmware versions 1.0 for both the body and G VARIO 20mm f1.7 lens. Following our convention of using default factory and best quality JPEG settings to test cameras unless otherwise stated, the GF1 was set Large Fine quality, Auto White Balance, Multiple Metering and with the Standard Film Mode (the default setting for contrast, saturation and sharpening).

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