Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Review

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I knew the Panasonic Lumix GM1 is a small camera, but it’s not until I have the camera right in front of me, then I finally realise how small it really is! I had a Panasonic Lumix GF1, which everyone was amazed by how small it was when it was released. But this latest micro four thirds mirrorless camera is not any bigger than most of the compact cameras I’ve used recently and with the new 12-32mm kit lens, it’s a truly pocketable camera. I can fit the GM1 into my jacket pocket easily.

Tiny cameras usually come with a cheap, nasty and plasticky build quality. Luckily this is not the case of the Panasonic GM1. The GM1 has a magnesium alloy body. It is solid and really well made camera. It’s good to see Panasonic didn’t put an equal sign between small and cheap when designing the GM1.

The GM1 comes in a few different colours, My review unit is a silver/orange one. Personally I’m not a big fan of this colour combo and don’t really like the orange leather pattern sticker on the body. I would much prefer the more classic silver/black two tone design. The camera has a pretty simple and clean design. There are only a few buttons and dials on the camera and a large LCD screen takes up most of the space on the back on the camera. The camera’s simple and elegant design with the fantastic build quality give the GM1 top score in aesthetics.

But does this minimalist design make the GM1 unfriendly to use? Well it’s fair to say it doesn’t allow you to change settings as quick as a GX7. But it shouldn’t be neither and the camera’s user interface is quite nicely designed and easy to use. Having said that, I do wish if Panasonic could add a dedicated rear dial for changing the shutter/aperture setting.

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Unfortunately being a small camera with no extruded grip, holding the GM1 with one hand never feels secure or comfortable to me. At least Panasonic has created an optional hand grip for those of you want to improve the grip. But the optional grip kind of ruined the camera’s simple and beautiful design.

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Panasonic DMC-GM1 + LUMIX G VARIO 12-32/F3.5-5.6 – f/20 1/13s ISO 200

To make all the components fit inside the camera, Panasonic has created a new smaller shutter module for the GM1.

The bad news is the fastest shutter speed for the mechanical shutter is only 1/500 second. The good news is, the electronic shutter will handle any faster shutter speed and allows you to capture photo at maximum shutter speed of 1/16000 sec. Just remember you should avoid panning when shooting with the electronic shutter, otherwise your photo may have some bad shear distortion.

 

It’s quite often camera manufacturer said they can’t fit a built-in camera flash because there is not enough room.  Surprisingly, the tiny GM1 has an internal flash built-in!  The little internal flash pops up from it’s hidden compartment. While it’s not a really powerful flash, you can even tilt it up if you want to bounce the flash off the ceiling. That’s a very handy design and I want to see it on more cameras, even DSLRs.

 

 

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Panasonic DMC-GM1 + LUMIX G VARIO 12-32/F3.5-5.6 – f/20 1/8s ISO 200

 

How’s the image quality? The GM1 shares the same 16MP sensor and processor as the Panasonic GX7, so not surprisingly I found the image from this tiny camera just as good as it’s bigger brother. Colours, dynamic range, high ISO performance are all excellent. I was mostly using the new 12-32mm zoom lens during the review period. With this compact kit lens, the image quality is reasonable good, and definitely better than any camera of this size. But as mentioned in my GX7 review, you definitely need a good quality lens to bring out the potential of this sensor. Mounting a large lens onto a ultra compact body is really a silly idea. Lucky there are quite a few micro four thirds pancake lens that are small and deliver excellent image quality. Panasonic will also release a Leica Summilux-branded 15mm f/1.7 lens in 2014 which is designed to match the GM1.

 

Conclusions:

The GM1 is really an impressive camera. It’s not just the tiny size, it’s also the build quality, amount of features Panasonic managed to squeeze in and the relatively good user interface.

While there are a few things the Panasonic GM1 could improve, like a slightly better grip for example, there is simply no other camera of this size that can deliver the same image quality and match it’s build quality.

 

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