Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1
Following our ‘First Look’ at Panasonic’s new GX1 a month or so ago, we have now received an ‘early’ production unit for a complete review. Equipped with the 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor introduced in the G3, it’s the company’s most feature-rich and photographer-friendly model to date. The mode dial makes a welcome return and there are four customisable function buttons; two on the camera body and two on the touch-screen.
Angled front view of the GX1 in silver, with the H-PS14042 lens fitted and the pop-up flash raised. (Source: Panasonic.)
A hot shoe on the top panel lets users add the optional DMW-LVF2 Live View Finder or an accessory flashgun. And the GX1 is compatible with the latest power zoom X lenses. One kit option on offer bundles the Lumix G X Vario Power Zoom 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH./POWER O.I.S lens with the camera body. Our review of the camera, an early production unit, was conducted with this lens.
The GX1 carries the same RRP as the G3, which has the same sensor but includes a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and adjustable monitor. The G3’s flash is also more powerful but its body is 64 grams heavier as a result of these difference. Otherwise, the controls provided by both cameras are virtually the same.
Checking out overseas websites we found local prices for this camera in all its configurations are between $100 and $200 higher than the listed prices for the same equipment in the USA. British prices (in pounds) are closer to the Australian prices but also somewhat lower.
Build and Ergonomics
The new camera’s body is reminiscent of the original GF1 and based upon a boxy chassis made from high quality resins. The machine-tooled dials and laser etched characters on the camera body are designed for smooth operation and many years of reliability.
There’s a generous grip on the front panel that is comfortable to hold, thanks to a resilient black elastomer cladding. The rest of the front panel is low-gloss black or silver-grey, depending on which colour you choose.
The lens mount takes up roughly half of the front panel, which is otherwise sparsely populated. Aside from the grip, only a recessed LED that doubles as a self-timer/AF-assist lamp and the lens release button interrupt the smooth exterior surface.
Most of the interesting features are provided on the top panel, where the mode dial holds pride of place between the shutter button and flash hot shoe. Eight shooting modes are available: P, A, S and M plus two Custom memory modes (C1 and C2) and a Creative Control setting.
The latter accesses eight effects: Expressive, Retro, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, High Dynamic, Toy Camera and Miniature. Unlike most cameras, the GX1 provides a wide range of user-adjustable controls in these modes, enabling users to fine-tune exposure levels and tones. Most settings can also be used for movie recordings.
The top panel of the GX1 with no lens and the pop-up flash retracted. (Source: Panasonic.)
An iAuto button is provided behind the Movie button for snapshooters who can’t manage manual adjustments. In this mode, the camera automatically engages AF Tracking, Face Recognition, Intelligent D-Range control, Intelligent Scene Selector and Intelligent ISO Control. The new camera also includes an iA Plus mode that enables users to adjust the defocusing area, exposure compensation and white balance in scenes where slight manual adjustment may produce a better picture.
The hot-shoe accepts the optional FL220, FL360 and FL500 add-on flash guns as well as Panasonic’s optional DMW-LVF2 Live View Finder. The finder boasts a resolution of 1,440,000 dots and provides100% field-of-view coverage and a magnification of 1.4x (0.7x in 35mm format). It can be tilted for high or low-angle shooting.
Left of the hot-shoe is a pop-up flash, which springs forward and has a GN of 7.6 (metres/ISO 160). Eight flash modes are supported: Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync., Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction and Forced Off. Users can choose between first- and second-curtain synchronisation and flash output is adjustable across +/- two EV in 1/3EV steps.
The rear panel of the GX1 showing the connection for the optional DMW-LVF2 Live View Finder. (Source: Panasonic.)
The rear panel has a fairly conventional layout that is dominated by a 3-inch touch-panel TFT LCD, which has a 3:2 aspect ratio and a resolution of 460,000 dots. Without the optional EVF, this screen is used for composing shots in Live View mode. Touch-screen operations are based on previous models.
To aid shot composition with live viewing, Panasonic provides three guide line patterns in the set-up menu, dividing the screen into 3 x 3 rectangles, 8 triangles or a pair of cross lines that can be adjusted via the touch screen. A built-in ‘Level Gauge’ detects the horizontal and vertical angles of view and camera tilt and displays this on-screen as shown in the illustrations below.
A blinking highlight alert for indicating over-exposure is also available. Auto image rotation ensures shots taken in portrait aspect will be automatically displayed vertically during capture and playback.
Above the monitor screen is a button for raising the flash. To its right is the connection port for the optional DMW-LVF2 Live View Finder. The playback button and one of the camera’s four programmable Fn (function) buttons sit further to the right, with the rear control dial just above the thumb rest in the rear panel’s top right hand corner.
This dial operates as it does in the G3, covering the same functions as the Menu/Set button (see below). Rotating the dial to the left or right allows users to select various functions. Pressing it in determines which function is selected.
A second Fn button is located just above the arrow pad, next to the display button. Two additional ‘soft’ Fn buttons can be accessed via the touch-screen. Users can select from up to 25 functions to assign to any button. In addition, up to four custom setting patterns can be saved in the camera.
The arrow pad is quite conventional, with the vertical buttons accessing the ISO and drive settings, while the horizontal buttons open the autofocus and white balance sub-menus. The central Menu/Set button lets you into the main menu and locks in selected settings.
Below the arrow pad are two buttons. On the left is the Q.Menu button which displays the Quick Menu on the screen, allowing users to adjust supported settings by touch. This button doubles as a Delete/Back button. Beside it is an AF/MF button for switching between auto and manual focusing.
The battery and memory card share a compartment in the camera’s base plate. A metal-lined tripod socket is also found here, located in line with the lens axis. Interface ports for the remote controller, HDMI and AV-out/USB connections lie beneath a cover on the right hand side panel.
Like its G-Micro System siblings, the GX1 features the effective supersonic wave filter dust reduction system pioneered by Olympus. The new camera is also compatible with the UHS-I standard for SDXC/SDHC memory cards and can take advantage of high-speed data transmission at up to 90MB/s. Better energy management improves the capacity of the DMW-BLD10 battery pack by up to 11% over the DMC-G3.
Sensor and Image Processing
The 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor in the GX1 is the same as in the G3 and is covered in our review of that camera. It’s coupled to the Venus Engine VI FHD CPU, which boasts three processor cores, enabling full resolution (16 megapixels) continuous shooting at four frames/second with the camera’s mechanical shutter.
The sensitivity range in the GX1 is the same as the G3, extending from ISO 160 to ISO 6400. High speed burst shooting at 20 fps with electronic shutter is also selectable, although only at the S image size, which is 2272 pixels wide for 4:3 and 3:2 aspects, 1920 pixels with 16:9 shots and 1712 pixels for 1:1 aspect ratio images. Typical image sizes are shown in the table below.
|Aspect ratio||Image Size||Resolution||Fine||Standard|
|4:3||RAW||4592 x 3448||20.5MB|
|L||4592 x 3448||9.5MB||4.7MB|
|RAW+JPEG||4592 x 3448||32MB||25.6MB|
|M||3232 x 2424||5.0MB||2.5MB|
|RAW+JPEG||3232 x 2424||25.6MB||23.3MB|
|S||2272 x 1704||2.9MB||1.5MB|
|RAW+JPEG||2272 x 1704||24.4MB||22.3MB|
|3:2||RAW||4576 x 3056||19.9MB|
|L||4576 x 3056||8.5MB||4.2MB|
|RAW+JPEG||4576 x 3056||22.3MB||18.3MB|
|M||3232 x 2160||4.7MB||2.3MB|
|RAW+JPEG||3232 x 2160||19.0MB||16.5MB|
|S||2272 x 1520||2.8MB||1.4MB|
|RAW+JPEG||2272 x 1520||16.0MB||15.5MB|
|16:9||RAW||4576 x 2576||18.3MB|
|L||4576 x 2576||7.4MB||3.7MB|
|RAW+JPEG||4576 x 2576||20.5MB||17.1MB|
|M||3232 x 1824||4.3MB||2.1MB|
|RAW+JPEG||3232 x 1824||17.7MB||15.5MB|
|S||1920 x 1080||1.1MB||0.6MB|
|RAW+JPEG||1920 x 1080||14.6MB||14.2MB|
|1:1||RAW||3424 x 3424||16.5MB|
|L||3424 x 3424||6.9MB||3.4MB|
|RAW+JPEG||3424 x 3424||17.7MB||15.1MB|
|M||2416 x 2416||3.7MB||1.9MB|
|RAW+JPEG||2416 x 2416||14.6MB||13.5MB|
|S||1712 x 1712||2.2MB||1.1MB|
|RAW+JPEG||1712 x 1712||13.5MB||12.8MB|
Video recording formats are similar to the G3 with two video recording modes: AVCHD and Motion-JPEG. However, the number of settings is reduced with the removal of the WCGA setting for Motion JPEG recording.
You can’t adjust lens aperture or shutter speed settings while recording movies; in fact most functions default to iA (Intelligent Auto) or iA Plus which enables features such as the Optical Image Stabiliser, AF Tracking, Face Detection, Intelligent D-Range Control and Intelligent Scene Selector. Our guess is that the widest apertures will be favoured for video in low and medium light levels, with stopping down only taking place in very bright conditions.
The maximum clip length for AVCHD movies in FSH mode with the 14-42mm kit lens is listed at approximately 70 minutes. Recording options for the GX1’s movie mode are shown in the table below.
|Video format||Aspect ratio||Picture Mode||Picture size
|Frame Rate||Bit rate|
|AVCHD||16:9||FSH||1920 x 1080||50i (sensor output is 25p)||17 Mbps|
|SH||1280 x 720||50p (sensor output is 25p)||17 Mbps|
|Motion JPEG||FHD||1920 x 1080||25 fps (output at 30 fps)||20 Mbps|
|4:3||HD||1280 x 720||10 Mbps|
|VGA||640 x 480||4 Mbps|
By default, soundtracks are recorded in stereo and Dolby Digital Stereo Creator is built into the camera to ensure high audio quality. Holding down the movie button delays the start of audio recording by half a second.
A wind cut filter is also available to subdue interference from background wind. Users can record a snapshot while shooting a video clip by pressing the shutter button. The Picture Mode in the Motion picture menu lets you choose between movie and still picture priorities.
Selecting the former locks the still image size at S (2M) and the aspect ratio is fixed at 16:9. Up to 30 shots can be recorded with a movie clip in this mode. Simultaneous recording is blocked for VGA and QVGA movie settings.
When picture priorities is selected, the still images are recorded with the set picture size and quality and up to eight shots/clip can be recorded. The screen goes dark while the still shot is captured and audio recording pauses briefly during this time.
The touch-panel controls are essentially the same as in other recent G-Micro series cameras but take in the additional ‘soft’ Fn buttons. Basic settings include touch focusing and touch shutter, which focuses the lens and triggers the shutter when the screen is touched.
Touch focusing also enables users to simply touch the LCD to focus and lock on the subject and then follow it with AF Tracking. Other touch focusing features include 1-area AF in Face Detection, Multi-area AF, Pinpoint AF, and Movable MF Assist.
The touch zoom control lets you zoom with one of the power-zoom lenses by sliding your finger along a bar on the right hand side of the monitor. Two zoom speeds are available, indicated by arrow icons. A single arrow represents slow zooming while double arrows are for fast zooming. This control is easiest to use when the camera is tripod mounted; the lens lever is preferable when the camera is hand-held.
The touch zoom control. (Source: Panasonic.)
One of the most significant new additions in the GX1 is the AF Flexible (AFF) focus mode, which automatically switches between single and tracking AF according to subject movement. In this mode, when the subject is still, the focus will lock but as soon as the subject starts moving, the focus will re-adjust automatically until the subject stops moving. This mode will be handy for photographing sports action or wildlife and also for family snapshooters when capturing shots of active children.
Another useful addition is One Push AE, which enables users to adjust exposure with a single press of the Function button if the image is over- or under-exposed. This setting will be handy when shooting outdoors with an open aperture (for blurring backgrounds) or indoors using a fast shutter speed.
The Contrast AF system in the GX1 has been designed to provide superior performance at wide lens apertures and is roughly one third faster than most Phase Difference AF systems. Light Speed AF technology in the new camera reduces the detection time for focusing to around 0.09/second and boasts a drive speed of 120 fps, giving an accuracy and speed that rivals many DSLRs.
The Creative Control settings in the GX1 are an extension of those offered in the G3, with the addition of new Miniature Effect, Low Key and Toy Effect modes to the basic Expressive, Retro, High Key, Sepia and High Dynamic settings of the G3. ‘Photo Style’ adjustments allow fine-tuning of contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction for the Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery and Portrait presets. A Custom mode allows manual control of colour effects in these settings.
Playback and Software
Playback modes are similar to those in other G-Micro system cameras and include single-image playback, index display of 12 or 30 thumbnails, Calendar display, Zoomed playback (up to 16x), Slideshow (duration & effect is selectable) and Category or Favourite displays. Playback mode also supports playback of video clips and 3D images (the latter requiring a 3D TV set).
Editing functions available in playback mode include Title Edit, Text Stamp, Video Divide, Resize, Cropping, Aspect Conversion, Rotate, Rotate Display, Print set, Protect and Face Recognition Edit. Image protection can be applied to single or multiple frames and single or multiple images in bursts of shots. Image deletion can be applied to single or multiple frames, all images on a card or all images except those tagged as Favourites.
Images can be tagged as Favourites or for automated DPOF printing. With the latter function, print size, layout and date setting can be specified.
The software bundle supplied with the GX1 includes PHOTOfunSTUDIO 7.0 HD Edition for easy organisation of photos and videos, SILKYPIX Developer Studio 3.1 SE for RAW file development and a 30-day trial of LoiLoScope for editing videos.
Our tests of the GX1 were carried out with the recently-released G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Power OIS lens, which is reviewed separately. Most of the controls required by serious photographers were quick and easy to access.
Images straight out of the camera were a little soft and benefited from unsharp masking as part of the editing process. Interestingly, this problem was confined to still shots as video clips were generally sharp.
Autofocusing was fast and accurate, even when zooming while shooting video clips and the focus tracking kept most subjects sharp while the camera was panned. Focusing in low light levels was competent, provided the subject contained enough contrast. However, we had to resort to manual focusing for low-contrast subjects after dark.
Metering was as accurate as the Panasonic G3 we tested recently and the GX1’s dynamic range appeared to be similar. The High Dynamic mode in the Creative Control settings proved useful in situations where the subject brightness range exceeded the sensor’s capabilities, as shown in the illustrations below.
Our Imatest tests provided similar results to those from the G3. Raw files were well up to expectations for a 16-megapixel camera; JPEGs were slightly below expectations. resolution held up very well with both file types across the camera’s sensitivity range, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below.
Long exposures taken in dim lighting showed little visible noise right up to ISO 1600, even without noise reduction processing. Stepping up to ISO 3200 revealed slight granularity in test shots.
By ISO 6400, both colour and pattern noise were evident and shots were slightly soft. Both problems increased at ISO 12800. Switching on noise reduction processing tended to reduce image sharpness further at these settings.
Flash exposures were evenly balanced throughout the camera’s ISO range. Colour reproduction was reasonably faithful at settings up to ISO 1600. From ISO 3200 the influence of ambient lighting could be seen and by ISO 6400 images had become a little soft. Digital zoom shots were also slightly soft; more so at the 4x magnification than at 2x.
White balance performance was slightly better than the G3’s, although the auto setting failed to eliminate the warm cast from incandescent lighting. The fluorescent setting produced close-to-neutral colours with fluorescent lights so the lack of a pre-set wasn’t an issue.
Traces of pink remained with the tungsten pre-set but manual measurement eliminated colour casts under both types of lighting. The camera provides plenty of scope for fine-tuning colour rendition via the touch screen.
Video quality was generally very good at all resolution settings in both movie formats, yielding clips that were sharp and clear. Zooming and focusing were very quiet and had minimal impact on movie soundtracks. The wind filter suppressed but didn’t totally eliminate wind noise.
Our timing tests were carried out with a 32GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC U1 card, which was also used for all video recordings. The review camera powered up in just under a second. Shot-to-shot times averaged 0.65 seconds without flash and 2.3 seconds with.
We measured a consistent capture lag of 0.1 seconds with all file formats, regardless of whether shots were pre-focused. Image processing times were faster than the G3, with the review camera taking 1.6 seconds for each JPEG, 1.9 seconds for each RW2.RAW file and 2.5 seconds for RAW+JPEG pairs.
In the SH (super-high speed) burst mode the review camera recorded 26 JPEG frames at 2272 x 1704 pixels in 1.1 seconds. It took 12.7 seconds to process this burst. Using the high-speed mode for high-resolution bursts we were able to record 10 JPEG frames in 2.0 seconds. It took 4.4 seconds to process this burst.
Swapping to RW2.RAW files the capture rate in the high-speed mode remained constant at 5 fps but the processing time for the burst extended to 16.9 seconds. The buffer memory had filled after eight RAW+JPEG pairs, which were recorded within 1.7 seconds. Processing time for this burst was 20.1 seconds.
Buy this camera if:
– You’re looking for a portable mirrorless camera with a full range of user-adjustable controls and solid imaging performance.
– You’re interested in shooting raw files and/or candid and street photography (the touch screen is a bonus for the latter).
– You want to shoot Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) video with good audio quality.
– You want fast and accurate autofocusing for stills and video recordings.
Don’t buy this camera if:
– You plan to leave the camera on full-auto for all shots.
– You only shoot JPEG images.
Image sensor: 17.3 x 13.0 mm Live MOS Sensor with 16.68 million photosites (16.0 megapixels effective)
Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds mount
Focal length crop factor: 2x
Digital zoom: 2x or 4x; Max. 2x Extra optical zoom for stills, 4.8x for movies
Image formats: Stills – RW2.RAW, JPEG (Exif 2.3), RAW+JPEG (Fine/Standard); Movies – AVCHD / MP4; 3D – MPO (when attaching 3D lens)
Image Sizes: Stills – 4:3 aspect: 4592 x 3448, 3232 x 2424, 2272 x 1704; 3:2 aspect: 4576 x 3056, 3232 x 2160, 2272 x 1520; 16:9 aspect: 4576 x 2576, 3232 x 1824, 1920 x 1080; 1:1 aspect: 3424 x 3424, 2416 x 2416, 1712 x 1712; with 3D lens – 1824 x 1368, 1824 x 1216, 1824 x 1024, 1712 x 1712; Movies – AVCHD: [Full HD] 1920ø—1080, 50i (sensor output is 25p) (FSH:17Mbps, FH:13Mbps), [HD] 1280 x 720, 50p (sensor output is 25p) (SH:17Mbps, H:13Mbps); MP4: [Full HD] 1920 x 1080, 25fps (sensor output is 25p) (Approx.20Mbps); [HD] 1280 x 720, 25fps (sensor output is 25p) (Approx.10Mbps), [VGA] 640×480, 25fps (sensor output is 25p) (Approx.4Mbps)
Image Stabilisation: Lens-based
Dust removal: Supersonic wave filter
Shutter speed range: 60 to 1/4000 second plus Bulb (Manual mode only); 1/25 to 1/16000 sec for movies
Exposure Compensation: +/- 5 EV in 1/3 EV steps
Exposure bracketing: 3,5,7 frames in 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV Step, +/-3 EV
Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay plus 10 sec, 3 images
Focus system: ‘Light Speed’ Contrast AF system with AFS, AFC, AFF (flexible), MF; AF detection range EV0-18 (ISO 100 equivalent); AF-assist lamp provided
Focus modes: Face detection, AF Tracking, 23-area-focusing, 1-area-focusing , Pinpoint
Touch (1-area-focusing in Face detection, AF Tracking, Multi-area-focusing, 1-area-focusing, Pinpoint)
Exposure metering: 144-zone multi-pattern sensing system with Intelligent Multiple, Centre Weighted, Spot modes; range EV0-18 (f/2.0 lens, ISO 100 equivalent)
Shooting modes: Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual; Scene (Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Architecture, Sports, Peripheral Defocus, Flower, Food, Objects, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Illuminations, Baby 1/2, Pet, Party, Sunset), Custom 1, Custom 2, Creative Control
Picture Style/Control settings: Expressive, Retro, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, High Dynamic, Toy Effect, Miniature Effect
Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
Custom functions: 25 functions programmable into four Function memory banks
ISO range: Auto, Intelligent , ISO 160, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400 (adjustable in 1/3 EV steps)
White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Flash, White Set 1, 2, Colour temperature setting (Touch operation is possible); Blue/amber and magenta/green adjustments
Flash: TTL Built-in pop-up Flash, GN 7.6 equivalent (ISO 160/m); Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync., Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off modes
Flash exposure adjustment: +/- 2EV in 1/3 EV steps
Sequence shooting: Max. 4.2 fps at 16M with mechanical shutter for up to 9 RAW, unlimited JPEG; Max, 3 fps with Live View; Max. 20 fps at 4M with electronic shutter
Storage Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards
Viewfinder: Optional Live View EVF with 90 degree tilt, 1,440,000 dots, 100% FOV, 1.4x magnification; -4.0 to +4.0 dioptre adjustment
LCD monitor: 3.0-inch, TFT LCD with Touch panel with 3:2 aspect ratio and 460,000 dots
Playback functions: Normal playback, 30-thumbnail display, 12-thumbnail display, Calendar display, Zoomed playback (16x Max.), Slideshow (duration & effect is selectable), Playback Mode (Normal/Picture/Video/3D Play/Category/Favourite), Title Edit, Text Stamp, Video Divide, Resize, Cropping, Aspect Conversion, Rotate, Rotate Display, Favourite, Print set, Protect, Face Recognition Edit; Protect/ Erase (single or multi); direct print (PictBridge)
Interface terminals: USO 2.0, HDMI (Type C Mini), AV-out (PAL/NTSC), Mic. terminal, remote controller, VIERA Link
Power supply: DMW-BLD10 ID-Security Li-ion Battery Pack (7.2 V, 1010 mAh); CIPA rated for approx. 310 shots/charge with H-PS14042 lens
Dimensions (wxhxd): 116.3 x 67.8 x 39.4 mm (body only)
Weight: 272 grams (body only); 413 grams with battery, card and H-PS14042 lens
RRP: $899 (body only); $1199 (as reviewed with Lumix G X Vario Power Zoom 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH./POWER O.I.S lens)
Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 9.0
- Ease of use: 9.0
- Autofocusing: 8.8
- Image quality JPEG: 8.5
- Image quality RAW: 9.0
- Video quality: 9.0