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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Review

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Review

My review of the Panasonic Lumix GF1 finds a DIL camera that's smaller than most DSLR cameras, but retains strong versatility.

Panasonic

The Bottom Line

During my recent review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 DIL camera, I found a lot of things to like. The Lumix GF1's mirror-less design makes it smaller than DSLR models, its image quality is outstanding, it has a large and sharp LCD, and it offers a lot of versatility for intermediate users.

However, the GF1 does have enough minor drawbacks to make it rank just a notch below some entry-level DSLR cameras, including a very awkward placement of the popup flash.

Still, the GF1 is so much fun to use that it can overcome those drawbacks. If you're looking for a fun, small, DIL camera, the GF1 is a great option.

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Pros

  • Mirror-less DIL GF1 offers an interesting look versus DSLR cameras
  • Image quality is very good
  • Manual focus "zoom" feature works extremely well
  • Camera construction is very sturdy
  • Offers both USB and HDMI output

Cons

  • Camera seems a little expensive
  • Learning to find all of the GF1's features will take some time
  • Placement of popup flash is very awkward
  • No optical viewfinder

Description

  • Resolution: 12.11 megapixels
  • Optical zoom: N/A, uses interchangeable lenses
  • LCD: 3.0-inch, 460,000 pixels
  • Maximum image size: 4000 x 3000 pixels
  • Battery: Rechargeable Li-ion
  • Dimensions: 2.8 x 4.69 x 1.43 inches
  • Weight: 10.05 ounces (no battery, no memory card)
  • Image sensor: 4/3 type MOS
  • Movie modes: AVCHD Lite and motion JPEG

Guide Review - Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Review

Image Quality

The GF1's image quality is outstanding most of the time, as the colors were realistic and images were sharp. You can shoot at a variety of ratios (including 4:3, 16:9, 1:1, and 3:2) and a variety of resolutions.

One major disappointment with the GF1 is in the built-in flash unit, which is off center (more on that design issue later) and which seems to cause some washed out photos on occasion. The GF1 does have a hot shoe to add an external flash, but using the external flash negates the advantage of having a small digital interchangeable lens (DIL) camera, like the GF1.

When you use the manual focus with the 20mm lens, I really liked the "zoom" feature which magnifies the subject on the LCD, allowing you to precisely focus. (The GF1 unit I reviewed shipped with a 20mm lens.)

Performance

The GF1 has many special effect features, such as "black and white" and "nostalgic." You also can choose from some different color configurations, such as "retro" or "pure."

You can shoot AVCHD Lite video, and the GF1 includes an HDMI connector along with USB, which is nice.

The LCD is very sharp, but it sometimes can be a little tough to see in direct sunlight because of screen glare. Panasonic did include the ability to increase the brightness of the LCD. The GF1 does not include an optical viewfinder, which is different from most DSLRs and DILs.

Design

The GF1 technically isn't a DSLR camera, as it uses a mirror-less design. Instead, call it a DIL camera or an EVIL camera. The Samsung NX10 is another mirror-less DIL camera.

It's impossible to look at the Lumix GF1 and not compare it to the Olympus PEN E-P1 and E-P2. The Panasonic and Olympus cameras are similar in size and style, and all of them use Micro Four Thirds types of interchangeable lenses and mirror-less designs. I like the design, but it won't appeal to everyone.

The GF1's menu structure is extensive, and you can save commonly used menu items to a "personal menu" for easy access. Several abbreviations are used with the GF1's menus, and you'll want to spend some time with the user guide to learn all of the features. Fortunately, Panasonic does include a printed user guide with the GF1, something that fewer manufacturers are doing, instead choosing to provide the user guide on a CD.

Finally, back to the design of the flash. With the placement of the flash, it's difficult to hold the camera comfortably with your left hand when using the flash. There just isn't anyplace comfortable to place your fingers. The popup flash unit is the biggest problem with the GF1.

Panasonic has created a fun camera with the GF1. With a price tag of around $900, though, you'll want to be able to take advantage of the DIL's features to justify that cost. If you're looking only for top-end photography features, more traditional types of DSLRs will be a better choice, but the GF1 -- much like the Olympus PEN models -- has a cool look, is fun to use, and offers the advantage of the DIL's smaller size.

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