Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

    leadpic_GF1

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    Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

      In summary

      A compact, rangefinder-styled Micro Four Thirds System camera that accepts interchangeable lenses.In the GF1, Panasonic has challenged Olympus with a similar, rangefinder-like model that tackles some of the deficiencies of the E-P1 and exploits the not insignificant potential of the Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) sensor format. In addition, by providing HD video recording - using the AVCHD Lite format offered in the company's digicams, the GF1 also confronts the main criticism levelled at the G1: the lack of video capture. . . [more]

      Full review

      leadpic_GF1

      In the GF1, Panasonic has challenged Olympus with a similar, rangefinder-like model that tackles some of the deficiencies of the E-P1 and exploits the not insignificant potential of the Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) sensor format. In addition, by providing HD video recording - using the AVCHD Lite format offered in the company's digicams, the GF1 also confronts the main criticism levelled at the G1: the lack of video capture.

      With the GF1, Panasonic is targeting two types of photographers. The first are stepping up from an advanced digicam but don't want the large size of a digital SLR. The second group will be existing DSLR users. Both want DSLR image quality with greater portability. Significantly, both must face a premium price tag for these benefits (an entry-level DSLR with two lenses can be had for approximately $500 less).

      Although in its press release, Panasonic claims the GF1 offers ‘the ease of use of a compact camera', we would be wary about recommending it to novice users. Getting the most out of this camera requires the user to have an adequate knowledge of PASM shooting modes - plus preparedness to shoot and edit raw files. Digicam users who won't move past the full auto mode and won't tackle raw file conversion will not be able to realise the full potential of this fascinating camera.

      When it comes to image quality, the difference in size between the APS-C and M4/3 sensors is nothing like as great as that between M4/3 and digicam sensors. By way of comparison, Panasonic's FZ35's imager chip is almost one ninth of the size of the GF1's sensor - yet both cameras offer 12.1-megapixel effective resolution.

      Consequently, each photosite on the GF1's imager has roughly nine times the light-capturing power of each photosite on the FZ35's imager. This difference is significant in the camera's dynamic range for still and video recordings and also for minimising the effect of image noise at high ISO settings and for long exposures.

      Despite looking quite different from its predecessors, many aspects of the new camera carry over from its more SLR-like G-series ‘cousins'. The GF1 uses the same sensor as the pioneering G1 and has the same Venus Engine HD image processor as the GH1. It also has the same, 3.0-inch Intelligent LCD as the other G-series models, although it's fixed to the back panel, instead of adjustable. But it boasts the same wide viewing angle and 460,000-dot resolution.

      Although the GF1 doesn't offer Full HD (1920 x 1080) video recording - or stereo soundtracks - its 1280 x 720 video clips look good enough on widescreen HD TV sets to satisfy most potential users. Panasonic has added some new functions to increase the overall appeal of the new model, many applicable to both still and video capture. However, most involve high levels of automation, which may not please serious enthusiasts. (Details can be found in the Controls section below.)

      The three G-series cameras - as well as their competitor, the Olympus Pen E-P1 - are all interchangeable-lens cameras and, although support for this new format is somewhat scanty at present, the availability of adaptors makes the camera bodies usable with a surprising range of lenses. But more on that topic later in this review; first we'll take a closer look at the GF1.

      Body and Ergonomics
      Stylistically, the Panasonic GF1 and Olympus Pen E-P1 sing from the same song sheet. Both models resemble the rangefinder 35mm cameras that were popular from the 1950s through to the 1980s. But the boxy rectangular bodies have been brought into the digital age with refinements to suit today's photographers.

      The control layout on the GF1 is similar to the Lumix LX3, which we reviewed in September, 2008. The front panel is sparsely populated, with only the lens mount, grip bar and self-timer/AF-assist lamp - plus a lens release button distinguishing the GF1 from its sibling. When you remove the body cap to fit a lens, the sensor is clearly visible in the cavity.
      It's protected by a SSWF (SuperSonic Wave Filter) system, which was developed by Olympus. This system vibrates the low-pass filter in front of the sensor vertically at approximately 50,000 times per second to shake off particles that may have settled. They're collected in a sticky trap below the sensor.

      GF1k_front_no-lens

      Front view of the Panasonic DMC-GF1 without a lens, showing the large sensor chip and metal lens mounting plate. (Source: Panasonic.)
      The rear panel also has a similar layout to the LX3, although the buttons on the GF1 have black covers and there's a dedicated play button (instead of a record/play slider). The GF1 also has a socket for attaching the optional EVF hidden beneath a slide-on cover that protects the hot-shoe mount. The pop-up flash button is also located on the rear panel instead of the top as on the LX3.

      GF1-back

      Rear view of the GF1, showing the large LCD monitor and main control interface. (Source: Panasonic.)

      On the top panel, most controls can be found to the right of the hot-shoe. They include a prominent mode dial which sits on top of the drive mode lever. This lever has four settings covering single frame, high and low speed advance and self-timer. Unfortunately, it's a bit too easy to change drive settings inadvertently when you're adjusting shooting modes, which is a pity as the rest of the control interface is well designed.

      GF1_top

      Top view of the GF1, showing the prominent mode dial, drive lever, shutter button and motion picture button. (Source: Panasonic.)

      The flash hot-shoe comes with a slide-on cover, which is removed when an external flash unit or the optional EVF is attached. Right of the mode dial are a large, metal-covered shutter button with an Off/On slider behind it. The motion picture button, which starts and stops view recording sits between the shutter button and the strap eyelet.

      GF1k_slant_flashup

      Front view of the Panasonic DMC-GF1 with the pop-up flash raised and the 20mm 'pancake' prime lens fitted. (Source: Panasonic.)

      A metal-lined tripod socket is located on the base panel on the lens axis and slightly forward of the middle of the panel. Also on the base panel is the shared battery/card compartment. The GF1 uses the same 7.2V/1250mAh battery as the G1 and GH1 and accepts SD and SDHC memory cards. The battery takes less than three hours to charge.

      Battery life is around 380 shots/charge (CIPA standard) when the 20mm f/1.7mm lens is fitted or 350 shots/charge with the 14-45mm zoom lens. Fitting the viewfinder increases power efficiency to a maximum of approximately 430 shots/charge.

      Controls
      The control suite on the GF1 is essentially the same as Panasonic's other G-series cameras and many menu and button functions replicate those found in the company's Advanced digicams, like the FZ35. Panasonic has long been a leading designer of straightforward, easy-to-use menus and control interfaces so this carry-over to the GF1 is welcome.

      GF1-menu-1

      Page one of the shooting menu on the GF1 showing the easily-read layout.

      The Film Mode settings, which let users change to colour, tone and contrast of the image to simulate different film types, carry over from the GH1, although selection is via the camera menu rather than a dedicated button. However, the same nine settings are provided, with six options (including the default ‘Standard' plus Dynamic, Nature, Smooth, Nostalgic and Vibrant) for colour and three (Standard, Dynamic and smooth) for B&W pictures.

      GF1-menu-Film-mode

      Adjustments provided within the film mode settings.

      You can adjust contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise-reduction processing for each Film Mode and save the adjustments in memory. Two additional ‘My Film' settings are provided for registering the new settings. There's also a Multi Film setting that lets you take three shots with different Film Mode settings for each. White balance adjustment is disabled when this mode is used.

      The preview functions introduced on the G1 and GH1 carry over to the GF1, despite its different body design. Pressing the Preview button (which also handles the delete function in playback mode) closes down the lens diaphragm to provide a depth-of-field preview before the shot is taken. Pressing the Display button captures a preview image (which isn't saved) to let users check the effects of the shutter speed setting.

      Further confirmation of camera settings is provided in the A, S and M shooting modes. When you rotate the rear dial in these modes, a linear display appears on the monitor (or viewfinder) showing lens aperture and shutter speed settings. The relationship between the settings shifts as the dial settings are changed, providing an intuitive guide for both experienced and novice photographers. The illustrations below show this function in each mode.

      GF1_A-mode-display

      The on-screen aperture and shutter speed display in the Aperture-priority AE mode.

      GF1_S-mode-display

      The display in the Shutter-priority AE mode.

      GF1_M-mode-display

      The display in the Manual shooting mode.

      The same display also appears when Program shift is used in the Program AE mode. This function is accessed by half-pressing the shutter button and rotating the rear dial. In this mode, pressing in the rear dial switches between Program shift and exposure compensation, providing a wide range of exposure adjustments.

      The number of functions on the mode dial has been pared back since the GH1 by moving the scene settings (portrait, landscape, sport, close-up and night portrait) into the SCN sub-menu. At the same time, Panasonic has increased the Custom memory modes from one to two. Otherwise, the mode dial has the same iAuto, P, A, S and M settings plus a Movie mode and My Colour mode containing a palette of in-camera effects.

      The Movie mode on the GF1 differs from the GH1 in being based on Program AE, whereas in the GH1, users could choose from the P, A, S and M modes. In contrast, the My Colour mode has been dramatically expanded to provide eight new pre-sets: Expressive, Retro, Pure, Elegant, Sepia, Monochrome, Dynamic Art and Silhouette in addition to the Custom setting provided in the GH1. Only the Custom mode is adjustable, providing colour, brightness and saturation tweaking.

      GF1_MC_modes

      Some of the new My Colour modes provided in the GF1.

      The Scene sub-menu in the GF1 contains a brand-new Peripheral Defocus setting, which is designed to blur backgrounds to the subject appears prominent. A cursor on the screen is moved with the arrow pad buttons to the area where sharp focus is required. Other settings in this menu include: Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Architecture, Sports, Flower, Food, Object (for close-ups of small objects), Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Illuminations, Baby (two modes provided), Pet, Party and Sunset.

      GF1-scene-modes

      Scene mode options.

      The fast, contrast-based autofocusing system provided on the GH1 carries over into the GF1 with two selectable modes: single and continuous AF plus a manual focus setting. Photographers can also choose from four focusing patterns: 1-area, 23-area, AF tracking and face detection.

      Panasonic's face detection technology, which was originally developed for the Lumix digicams, carries over into the GF1 with recent refinements like face recognition. You can register names and birthdays for up to six people in the camera's memory and the camera will subsequently prioritise focus on these people when group portraits are taken. Face detection clicks in automatically in the Portrait shooting modes.

      In manual focus mode, a neat focus assist function magnifies part of the displayed image to make focusing easier. You can zoom in up to 10x magnification by turning the focusing ring on the lens.

      Comparisons
      The GF1 is 35% smaller and 26% lighter than the G1 and roughly 50 grams lighter than the Olympus Pen E-P1, thanks to an aluminium body and die-cast aluminium chassis, which combine to give it a robust look and feel. The Pen E-P1 has only a couple of advantages over the GF1. Chief among them are image stabilisation built into the camera body (whereas the GF1 relies on MEGA OIS in the lenses) and dual dials for adjusting camera settings (the GF1 has only one).

      The Olympus camera also offers full AF compatibility with all Four Thirds System and MFT lenses, while the GF1will only provide AF functionality with Four Thirds System lenses that support Live View AF. The E-P1 can also record video with stereo soundtracks.

      However, the GF1 boasts the same fast autofocusing system as the G1 (which is noticeably faster than the E-P1) and provides a far wider range of image sizes and aspect ratios to choose from. Its LCD monitor also has significantly higher resolution and it comes with a built-in flash.

      Otherwise, there's not much to choose between the two models until you come to their price tags - where the Panasonic GF1 costs $250 more. A table comparing key features of the Panasonic GF1 and Olympus Pen E-P1 is provided below.

      Panasonic GF1

      Olympus E-P1

      Sensor

      18.0 x 13.5 mm Live MOS sensor with 13.1 million photosites (12.1 megapixels effective), RGB Primary colour filter array

      17.3 x 13.0mm Live MOS sensor with 13.1 million photosites (12.3 megapixels effective), RGB Primary colour filter array

      Image sizes (aspect ratios)

      4:3 aspect ratio

      4000 x 3000
      2816 x 2112
      2048 x 1536

      4032 x 3024
      3200 x 2400
      2560 x 1920
      1600 x 1200
      1280 x 960
      1024 x 768
      640 x 480

      3:2 aspect ratio

      4000 x 2672
      2816 x 1880
      2048 x 1360

      16:9 aspect ratio

      4000 x 2248
      2816 x 1584
      1920 x 1080

      1:1 aspect ratio

      2992 x 2992
      2112 x 2112 1504 x 1504

      Image Stabilisation

      Lens-based

      Body-integrated

      Control Dials

      One (dual function, rotate/press)

      Separate main and sub dials

      Shutter speeds

      60 to 1/4000 second plus Bulb (max. 4 minutes); flash synch at 1/160 second

      60 to 1/4000 second plus Bulb (max.30 minutes); flash synch at 1/30-1/180 second

      AF system

      Contrast detection AF

      Imager Contrast Detection system

      Autofocus compatibility

      Full functionality only with Micro Four Thirds lenses and Four Thirds System lenses that support Live View AF

      All Micro Four Thirds and Four Thirds lenses

      Metering

      144-zone multi-pattern sensing system with Intelligent Multiple, Spot and Centre-Weighted modes

      18 x 18 multi-zone metering with iESP, centre-weighted average and spot metering selectable plus spot with highlight/shadow bias

      Screen

      Fixed 3.0-inch TFT LCD with 460,000 dots

      3-inch HyperCrystal III LCD with 230,000 dots

      Viewfinder

      Optional VLF1

      Optional external finder only

      Built-in flash

      Built-in GN 6.0 flash

      No

      Sensitivity

      ISO 100-3200

      ISO 100-6400

      Max. burst speed

      3 fps; Max. 7 RAW frames

      Approx. 3 frames/sec. Max 10 RAW frames

      Video mode

      AVCHD Lite : 1280 x 720, 25/30 fps (output at 50 or 60 fps)
      Motion JPEG: 1280 x 720,
      848 x 480, 640 x 480,
      320 x 240, all at 30fps

      Motion JPEG: 1280 x 720, 640 x 480, both at 30 fps

      Audio

      Monaural

      PCM 16-bit stereo

      Power supply

      Rechargeable Li-ion (380 shots/charge

      BLS-1 Li-ion battery (approx. 300 shots/charge)

      Dimensions

      119 x 71 x 36.3 mm

      126 x 70 x 36.4 mm

      Weight (body only)

      Approx. 285 g

      Approx 335 g

      Kit lens options

      Lumix 20mm f/1.7 G ASPH
      Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH

      M ZUIKO 17mm f/2.8
      M ZUIKO 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6

      RRP (with lens)

      $1649

      $1399

      Sensor and Image Processing
      The sensor in the GF1 is the same 12.1-megapixel Live MOS chip as used in the G1 - and also the Olympus Pen E-P1. Produced by Panasonic, it delivers high-resolution images that are 4000 pixels wide, which is large enough for a top-quality A3 or A3+ print. Having the same sensor as the G1 means it offers the same image size settings - and also three aspect ratios. Raw file capture is possible at them all and at all image size settings. Typical image sizes are shown in the table below.

      Aspect ratio

      Image Size

      Resolution

      Fine

      Standard

      4:3

      RAW

      4000 x 3000

      15.5MB

      L

      4000 x 3000

      7.3MB

      3.6MB

      RAW+JPEG

      4000 x 3000

      23.3MB

      19.7MB

      M

      2816 x 2112

      4.0MB

      2.0MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2816 x 2112

      19.7MB

      17.7MB

      S

      2048 x 1536

      1.7MB

      0.87MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2048 x 1536

      17.1MB

      16.5MB

      3:2

      RAW

      4000 x 2672

      14.6MB

      L

      4000 x 2672

      7.0MB

      3.5MB

      RAW+JPEG

      4000 x 2672

      22.3MB

      18.3MB

      M

      2816 x 1880

      4.0MB

      2.0MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2816 x 1880

      19.0MB

      16.5MB

      S

      2048 x 1360

      1.5MB

      0.8MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2048 x 1360

      16.0MB

      15.5MB

      16:9

      RAW

      4000 x 2248

      13.5MB

      L

      4000 x 2248

      6.8MB

      3.4MB

      RAW+JPEG

      4000 x 2248

      20.5MB

      17.1MB

      M

      2816 x 1584

      3.9MB

      2.0MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2816 x 1584

      17.7MB

      15.5MB

      S

      1920 x 1080

      1.1MB

      0.6MB

      RAW+JPEG

      1920 x 1080

      14.6MB

      14.2MB

      1:1

      RAW

      2992 x 2992

      12.2MB

      L

      2992 x 2992

      5.4MB

      2.7MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2992 x 2992

      17.7MB

      15.1MB

      M

      2112 x 2112

      2.4MB

      1.2MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2112 x 2112

      14.6MB

      13.5MB

      S

      1504 x 1504

      1.2MB

      0.6MB

      RAW+JPEG

      1504 x 1504

      13.5MB

      12.8MB

      The GF1 provides two video recording modes: AVCHD Lite and Motion-JPEG. In the former, you have three ‘quality' options, based on bit rate (the faster the bit rate, the higher the quality). All are recorded with a frame rate of 60 fps.

      With the latter, you have four resolution and two aspect ratio choices: 1280 x 720 and 848 x 480 pixels at 16:9 and 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 pixels at 4:3. Frame rates for all are 30 fps. When shooting video, up to 2GB of video can be recorded continuously, regardless of which format and frame rate is selected. Typical recording times on a 2GB capacity card are shown in the table below.

      Video format

      Aspect ratio

      Picture Mode

      Picture size
      (pixels)

      Frame Rate

      Bit rate

      Recording time/2GB card

      AVCHD Lite

      16:9

      SH

      1280 x 720

      60 fps

      17 Mbps

      15 minutes

      H

      1280 x 720

      13 Mbps

      20 minutes

      L

      1280 x 720

      9 Mbps

      29 minutes

      Motion JPEG

      HD

      1280 x 720

      30 fps

      n.a.

      8 minutes 20 seconds

      WVGA

      848 x 480

      n.a.

      21 minutes 20 seconds

      4:3

      VGA

      640 x 480

      n.a.

      22 minutes 10 seconds

      QVGA

      320 x 240

      n.a.

      64 minutes 00 seconds

      The Optional Viewfinder
      The DMW-LVF1E optional finder is something of a compromise, compared with the EVFs on the G1 and GH1. It clips onto the GF1's hot shoe, plugging into a socket on the camera's rear panel. Providing 202,000-dot resolution and covering 100% field of view it has a 17.5mm eyepoint and offers +/- 4 dpt dioptre adjustment.

      Unfortunately, not only is it smaller than the built-in finders on the G1 and GH1, its display is small and cramped and the magnification of approximately 0.52x is significantly lower than the 0.7x enlargement provided by the G1's EVF. However, it allows you to shoot with the camera at eye level and it's better than nothing when shooting in bright outdoor lighting. It's also usable with all lenses and aspect ratio settings. Furthermore, like the EVFs in the G1 and GH1, it displays the same information as you'd see on the LCD monitor. It's also as fast and responsive as the main screen.

      A handy button on the finder toggles between the EVF and the main monitor. The head of the finder can also be tilted up through 90 degrees, a handy feature for shooting low-angle subjects like flowers that are close to the ground. Although the refresh rate for the EVF was adequate in bright lighting, the display became uneven in low light levels, even with the fast 20mm f/1.7 lens.

      In contrast, the main monitor was usable in all but the brightest conditions and its high resolution and relatively fast refresh rate made it preferable to the viewfinder in most situations.

      Additional Lenses
      The GF1 will be sold in two kits; one with the camera body plus the Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH zoom lens and the other with the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 G ASPH ‘pancake-style' prime lens. Both lenses were provided for this review and separate reviews will be posted for each lens.

      Additional Panasonic AF lenses include the Leica-branded D Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH, D Vario-Elmar 14-50mm f/3.8-5.6 ASPH. Mega OIS, D Vario-Elmar 14-150mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. Mega OIS and the Leica DG Macro Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 Macro.

      The GF1 will also accept Olympus MFT lenses and standard Four Thirds system lenses can be used with an optional adapter - although some will only support manual focusing. Novoflex has recently announced a new series of lens adapters to mount older analog and digital lenses onto the MFT camera bodies. Details can be obtained from local distributor, Mainline Photographics (www.mainlinephoto.com.au).

      Playback and Software
      Playback settings for still pictures are essentially the same as in the GH1 and include the option to play all images, only still images, only motion images, or images tagged as ‘Favourites'. When choosing to play only motion images, AVCHD and Motion JPEG videos can be played separately. The standard play/pause, stop and fast or frame-by-frame forward and rewind controls are provided.
      If you've recorded still images and video clips on the same memory card, you can play them back as a ‘slideshow' with seamless transitions between stills and video. If you haven't added sound bites to still pictures, background music can be added to slideshows, with a choice of Natural, Slow, Swing or Urban themes. The recorded soundtrack takes precedence over added music when video clips are played, while an Off setting switches off the background music for still images.

      The Category Play setting lets you play only images taken in certain Scene modes; for example the Portrait category covers shots taken in the Portrait, Soft Skin, Night Portrait and Baby modes. You can add text comments to images in the Title Edit and Text Stamp functions - but only with Small (2048 x 1536 pixels or less) image files. Shooting and travel dates can also be superimposed on selected JPEG images.

      Other playback functions include in-camera cropping and resizing, aspect conversion and rotation. DPOF tagging for automated printing is also supported and selected images can be tagged for protection against accidental deletion when memory cards are formatted. Short sound bites can be added to JPEG images via the Audio dub setting and you can clear and replace all information relating to face recognition in selected image files.
      Owners of Panasonic's Viera TV sets can playback recorded images and videos by inserting the camera's memory card in the Image Viewer slot on the TV set or DIGA Blu-ray Disc Player. They can also use the set's remote control to operate the GH1 for playback.

      The software disk contains PhotoFun Studio, which is used for acquiring, managing and editing still images. It's only compatible with Windows XP and Vista operating systems. Ichikawa Soft Laboratory's Silkypix Developer Studio is provided in Windows and Mac versions for editing raw files from the GH1. Also on the disk are QuickTime and a USB driver, both for Windows. We've already covered these applications in Photo Review's review of the Lumix DMC-LX3.

      Performance
      Overall performance for shooting both stills and video clips was as we expected on the basis of our tests on the Lumix DMC-GH1. In adequate lighting, the contrast-based AF system was fast and generally accurate for shooting stills but AF lag became noticeable after dusk, although focusing was generally fast enough in normal indoor lighting. Metering was accurate under most conditions, particularly with the multi-pattern mode.

      The sensor in the GF1 showed a slightly wider dynamic range than we found in our review of the GH1. Nevertheless, highlight clipping was common in JPEG images taken in bright and contrasty conditions. Interestingly, raw files from the test camera appeared to record a much wider dynamic range and it was possible to extract highlight detail from files converted with the latest version (v. 5.5) of Adobe's Camera Raw (ACR) plug-in for Photoshop, which was released during our tests. An example is reproduced below.

      GF1_P1000364_DR

      An outdoor shot of a subject with a wide dynamic range. 20mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/11.

      GF1_P1000364-enlarged

      A crop from a converted raw file, showing detail in highlights that would have been lost in most of the cameras we've reviewed.

      Imatest showed JPEG resolution to be slightly below expectations for a 12-megapixel camera at ISO 100. Raw files converted with the supplied Silkypix Developer Studio 3.0 SE software without any tweaking provided similar results to the JPEGs. However, raw files converted in ACR 5.5 with no additional tweaking, produced images with a resolution that was slightly above expectations for the GH1's sensor resolution. The graph below shows the results of our tests based on JPEG and raw files, the latter converted into TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).

      GF1_Res-vs-FL-graph

      Image noise was negligible at ISO settings up to 800 but was very obvious by ISO 3200, where colour noise combined with pattern noise to reduce image quality. Interestingly, the banding we found in ISO 3200 shots taken with the GH1 was not evident in test shots from the GF1. Resolution also remained relatively high throughout the test camera's ISO range as shown in the graph below, which plots Imatest results for JPEG and raw files at each ISO setting.

      GF1_Res-vs-ISO-graph

      Flash performance was generally very good and the built-in flash provided even illumination of an average-sized room throughout the camera's ISO range. Flash exposures were also well balanced for close-ups in which the flash provided the main illumination.
      Auto white balance performance was similar to the GH1. The test camera failed to eliminate the colour cast of either incandescent lighting or fluorescent lighting, while the Tungsten pre-set over-corrected slightly. No preset is provided for fluorescent lighting. Fortunately, manual measurement produced neutral colours under both types of lighting. With adequate scope for in-camera tweaking, this issue is largely irrelevant for serious photographers.
      Our video tests were recorded on an 8GB SanDisk Extreme III Class 6 SDHC card. In the AVCHD Lite mode, video recorded with the review camera looked as good as the clips we shot with the GH1. However, as with the GH1, autofocusing was slow, particularly when shooting in anything less than brilliant sunshine. The AF system also had similar problems tracking fast-moving subjects - and for the same reason (explained in the GH1 review).
      In the Motion JPEG mode, the picture quality of clips taken with the HD mode was marginally lower (but also quite acceptable) and less jerky than the AVCHD clips. Artefacts became increasingly visible at lower resolution settings in this mode and VGA clips were pretty ordinary. Sound quality was generally good for both video modes, although not quite up to the standard of the stereo soundtracks we obtained with the GH1.

      We conducted our timing tests with the same card as we used for our video tests, in order to assess optimal performance levels. It took less than one second to power-up the camera for shooting and the same time to power-down after we switched it off. We measured a consistent average capture lag of 0.2 seconds, which reverted to instantaneous capture with pre-focusing.

      For single-frame capture, it took 3.1 seconds, on average, to process each image file, regardless of whether it was in JPEG or raw format or a combination of both. Using flash added only fractions of a second to image processing times.
      In high-speed burst mode, the camera recorded eight Large/Fine JPEGS in 2.2 seconds. It took 5.5 seconds to process this burst. Six raw files were recorded in 1.7 seconds, while when RAW+JPEG (Large) was selected, five images could be recorded in 1.6 seconds before capture rates slowed. It took 18 seconds to process both bursts containing raw files.
      Swapping to low-speed burst mode not only slowed capture rates; it also reduced the number of files that could be recorded in a burst to three Large/Fine JPEGS or two raw files. In both cases, frame rates averaged 2.7 frames/second. Processing appeared to be on-the-fly in both burst modes as it took an average of 3.2 seconds to process and store images, regardless of which mode or file format was used.
      Conclusion
      Although it's pricey for the package, regardless of which kit lens you choose, Panasonic's GF1 is pleasing to use and a good example of the kind of camera serious enthusiasts would like as a more portable alternative to a DSLR kit. It provides many of the benefits of a DSLR: interchangeable lens options, a relatively large sensor, raw file capture and a full suite of user-adjustable controls. All these factors provide reasons for nominating the GF1 as an Editor's Choice in both the Advanced and Four Thirds System categories.

      It's great to see all these features offered in a camera that, while not exactly shirt-pocketable, is small enough to fit into a jacket pocket (although you'll need a fairly capacious one if you opt for the zoom lens kit). Shooting video with this camera is also as easy as with one of Panasonic's digicams because the ergonomics and controls are so similar. The camera design and ergonomics are also more video-friendly than shooting with a DSLR-style camera.

      However, potential buyers should note that even though Panasonic has packed in lots of automated functions for point-and-shoot users, the full capabilities of this camera can only be realised with raw file capture - and only by users who are prepared to edit images in Adobe's Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. The high price tag of the camera plus lens can be justified by the performance achievable through these means - but not if you plan to stick with the bundled software.

      Buy this camera if:
      - You want a compact, interchangeable-lens camera that fits into a jacket pocket.
      - You'd like the ability to shoot both still pictures and HD video clips.
      - You want a Live View system similar to those on most digicams.
      - You'd like most of the controls and functions offered in serious DSLR cameras - including manual focusing and zooming.
      - You're interested in shooting raw files and are prepared to edit them in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.
      - You require high resolution and low noise levels at ISO settings up to 800.

      Don't buy this camera if:
      - You require noise-free images at high ISO settings above 800.
      - You require high burst speeds and buffer capacity plus fast cycle times.
      - You want body-integrated image stabilisation that works with all lenses. (Like Canon and Nikon, Panasonic opts for lens-based stabilisation.)
      - You want a wide range of accessories to build your system. (You'll have to wait a while for the MFT system to grow.)

      IMATEST GRAPHS
      JPEG images

      GF1_P1000185_colorerror_JPG
      GF1_P1000185_colors_JPG
      GF1_P1000185_YBL73_ca_JPG
      GF1_P1000185_YAR37_cpp_JPG

       

      GF1_P1000185_YBL73_cpp_JPG

      Raw images converted in Adobe Camera Raw 5.5

      GF1_P1000185_colorerror_RAW
      GF1_P1000185_colors_RAW
      GF1_P1000185_YBL73_ca_RAW
      GF1_P1000185_YAR37_cpp_RAW
      GF1_P1000185_YBL73_cpp_RAW

      SAMPLE IMAGES

      GF1_P1000469_AWB_tung

      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

      GF1_P1000472_AWB_fluoro

      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

      GF1_P1000205_night-ISO100

      Long exposure at ISO 100; 20mm focal length, 15 seconds at f/2.

      GF1_P1000209_night-ISO1600

      Long exposure at ISO 1600; 20mm focal length, 15 seconds at f/11.

      GF1_P1000210_night_ISO3200

      Long exposure at ISO 3200; 20mm focal length, 15 seconds at f/14.

      GF1_P1000217_flash_ISO100

      Flash exposure at ISO 100; 20mm focal length, 1/30 second at f/1.7; 1:1 aspect ratio.

      GF1_P1000223_flash_ISO1600

      Flash exposure at ISO 1600; 20mm focal length, 1/30 second at f/5.6; 1:1 aspect ratio..

      GF1_P1000377-interiorPH

      Available-light exposure; 20mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/25 second at f/5; 3:2 aspect ratio.

      GF1_P1000307_f1.7

      Close-up; 20mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/800 second at f/1.7.

      GF1_P1000346

      Close-up; 20mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/80 second at f/5.6.

      GF1_P1000227_skin-tones

      Skin tones; 20mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/30 seconds at f/1.7.

      GF1_P1000314

      Scenery; 20mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/5.6.

      Additional image samples are posted in the reviews of the Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH zoom lens and the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 G ASPH ‘pancake' prime lens.

       

      Specifications

      leadpic_GF1

      Image sensor: 18.0 x 13.5 mm Live MOS sensor with 13.1 million photosites (12.1 megapixels effective)
      A/D processing: 12-bit
      Lens mount: Four Thirds System
      Focal length crop factor: 2x
      Image formats: Stills - JPEG (Fine/Standard), RAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies - AVCHD Lite, QuickTime/Motion JPEG
      Image Sizes: Stills - 4:3 aspect ratio: 4000 x 3000, 2816 x 2112, 2048 x 1536; 3:2 aspect ratio: 4000 x 2672, 2816 x 1880, 2048 x 1360, 16:9 aspect ratio: 4000 x 2248, 2816 x 1584, 1920 x 1080, 1:1 aspect ratio: 2992 x 2992, 2112 x 2112, 1504 x 1504; Movies - 1280 x 720, 50p (sensor output is 25 fps), SH: 17 Mbps, H: 13 Mbps, L: 9 Mbps; QVGA (320 x 240), VGA (640 x 480), WVGA (848 x 480) and HD (1280 x 720), all at 30 fps
      Image Stabilisation: MEGA O.I.S. Lens-based only
      Dust removal: SSWF (vibration-based)
      Shutter speed range: 60 to 1/4000 sec. plus Bulb (up to approx. 4 minutes)
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 3EV in 1/3EV steps
      Exposure bracketing: +/- 2EV in 1/3 to 2/3 EV steps across 3, 5 or 7 frames
      Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay
      Focus system: 23-area Contrast AF with Face Detection (AF/AE) and AF tracking; AF-assist lamp provided
      Focus modes: Single and continuous AF plus manual focusing; multi-sensor and single sensor AF; face detection, AF tracking; Quick AF/continuous AF
      Exposure metering: 144-zone multi-pattern sensing system with Intelligent Multiple, Spot and Centre-Weighted modes
      Shooting modes: P. A/S/M (menu selectable), Intelligent Auto, SCN, My Colour Mode (Expressive, Retro, Pure, Elegant, Monochrome, Dynamic Art, Silhouette, Custom), Motion Picture Program, Custom 1, Custom 2; digital zoom up to 4x
      Picture Style/Control settings: Black & White, Adjustable (contrast, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction +/- 3 levels), Natural, Standard, Vivid; Film mode (Standard, Dynamic, Nature, Smooth, Nostalgic, Vibrant)
      Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
      Custom functions: 2 Custom memory banks
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600, ISO 3200; Intelligent ISO (Live View Mode)
      White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, White Set 1,2, Colour temperature setting, Flash
      Flash: Built-in plus hot shoe; Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync., Forced On/Off, Forced On/Red-eye Reduction; range
      Flash exposure adjustment: Yes
      Sequence shooting: 3 or 2 frames/second; Max 6 raw files; unlimited JPEGs with Class 6 card
      Storage Media: SD/SDHC memory cards
      Viewfinder: External OVF (Optional); 202,000-dot resolution, 100% field of view; Approx. 1.04x/0.52x magnification with 50mm lens at infinity; 17.5mm eyepoint, +/- 4 dpt dioptre adjustment
      LCD monitor: 3.0-inch TFT LCD with 460,000 dots; 100% field of view coverage
      Live View modes: Full Time Live View
      Video Capture: Yes
      Playback functions: Single, 12, 30-thumbnail display, Calendar display, Zoomed playback (16x max.), image rotation (except for RAW), Slide show (duration is adjustable, also manual controllable), Playback of favourite pictures, Resizing (selectable number of pixels), Trimming, Protection, Aspect conversion, DPOF print setting, text stamp, audio dubbing
      Interface terminals: USB 2.0 High Speed, Mini HDMI, video out (PAL/NTSC), terminal for DMW-RSL1 optional remote control
      Power supply: ID Secured Lithium-ion Battery (7.2V, 1250mAh); CIPA rated for 380 shots/charge
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 119.0 x 71.0 x 36.3 mm (body only)
      Weight: 285 grams (body only)

       

      Retailers

       

      CamBuy

       

      www.cambuy.com.au
      Digital cameras, lenses and accessories with 100% genuine Australian manufacturer's warranties.
      Ph: (02) 9029 2219

      Camera House

       

      CH_Logo120

      www.camerahouse.com.au
      Ph: 133 686
      The largest speciality photographic retail chain in Australia.

      Camera Pro

       

      www.camerapro.net.au
      CameraPro Pty Ltd
      Suite 607, 180 Queen St, Brisbane 4000
      Tel: 07 3333 2900
      Australian owned and run company based in Brisbane.

      Camerasdirect

       

      CamerasDirect133

      www.camerasdirect.com.au
      Retailer of digital camera equipment and more.
      Secure online shopping and delivery across Australia.
      Ph: 1300 727 056

      Camerastore.com.au

      Camerastore.com.au
      Ph: 1800 155 067

      Camera-Warehouse

       

      camera-warehouse120

      www.camera-warehouse.com.au
      Comprehensive range of digital cameras and accessories online (www.camera-warehouse.com.au) and an online print service (www.royalexpress.com.au).

      Digital Camera Warehouse

       

      www.digitalcamerawarehouse.com.au
      174 Canterbury Road 367 High Street
      Canterbury Northcote
      NSW 2193 VIC 3070
      Ph: 1300 365 220

      Electronics Warehouse

       

      www.electronicswarehouse.com.au
      1300 801 885
      Australian retailer of Vapex rechargeable batteries offering factory direct prices and fast, free shipping Australia wide.

      Greg Smith's Photo Accessories

       

      www.dvdreamtime.com.au
      1800 50 80 82
      Big range of photographic accessories, Australia-wide shipping.

      Paxtons

       

      www.paxtons.com.au
      285 George St
      Sydney NSW 2000
      Ph: (02) 9299 2999

      Photographic Equipment & Supplies - Retail & Repairs. Click here for list of stores.

      Ted's Cameras

       

      Teds-Logo120

      www.teds.com.au

      1800 186 895
      Big range of cameras and photographic products with stores in most states and online.

      Rating

       

      PR-EdChoice-web-100

      RRP: $1649 (with lens)

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 9.0
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Image quality: JPEG - 8.5; Raw (converted in ACR 5.5) - 9.5
      • Video quality: AVCHD Lite - 9.0; Motion JPEG - 8.5
      • OVERALL: 9.0

      BUY