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Panasonic GF1 review

An intriguing compact/SLR hybrid, complete with gorgeous lens

Our Verdict

For

  • Good low light performance
  • Fantastic 20mm lens
  • Impressive RAW output
  • Quality metering and autofocus
  • HD movies with stereo sound

Against

  • Lacks in-camera stabilisation
  • Lacklustre pop-up flash
  • Live view drains battery faster
  • Limited choice of lenses
  • Pricey optional viewfinder

Asking photographers to fork out nearly £800 for a compact/SLR hybrid may seem a high-stakes gamble in our tough economic times.

After all, the same money will buy you a quality enthusiast D-SLR such as the Nikon D90 or Canon EOS 50D, or a very nice lens or tripod.

So what's Panasonic's game plan? The idea behind the Lumix GF1 is to appeal to well-heeled compact fans looking for a nice upgrade that's still cheaper than a Leica, or SLR users seeking a more convenient back-up camera.

Panasonic's also gambling on the sheer likeability of the Lumix GF1, particularly if, like our review sample, it comes with the wonderful 20mm pancake lens.

With a maximum aperture of f/1.7, this fast, bright lens will be revelation to anyone who's only used cheaper, slower glass… We described the Lumix GF1 as a hybrid, but a more accurate description is mirrorless interchangeable lens camera – so it comes with a choice of lenses.

This is possible because it's based on the Micro Four Thirds system. In essence, this technology enables smaller and lighter camera bodies and lenses by simplifying the convoluted optical path required by a conventional SLR.

gf1

Instead, it incorporates an electronic viewfinder displaying live view (a real time representation of what the camera 'sees'). As such, the Lumix DMC-GF1 is a simplified version of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, but lacks the high-end viewfinder and articulated screen.

As for its rivals, the Lumix DMC-GF1 is going up against the charmingly retro Olympus Pen EP-1 (the new model, the Pen EP-2, was announced on November 5th.)

gf1

Panasonic must be cursing Olympus, as the new Pen addresses most of its predecessor's failings, namely sluggish AF, lack of built-in flash and lack of electronic viewfinder – the same weaknesses that the Lumix DMC-GF1 is designed to take advantage of.

Panasonic is also facing a tough fight from the new Canon G11, a powerful, high-ISO muscle compact, hampered only by its bulk and conservative megapixel count.

gf1

The GF1 is by no means a cheap camera, but it depends on your choice of lens. Buy it with the gorgeous 20mm f/1.7 lens, and the best price we could find was £712; opt for the inferior (but more flexible) 14-45mm zoom lens, and the price falls to £589.

So a budget choice it ain't, particularly when you also have to pay extra to get the slot-in optional viewfinder.

Tech Specs

Product TypeMirrorless Camera
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Maximum Video Resolution1280 x 720
Effective Camera Resolution12.1 Megapixel
USBYes
Wide AngleNo
PictBridgeYes
Product FamilyLumix G
ColourSilver
Digital Zoom4x
Brand NamePanasonic
FeaturesFace Detection, Live View, External Flash Shoe, Aperture Priority
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsQuickTime Motion JPEG
Viewfinder TypeNo
Weight (Approximate)285 g
Maximum Image Resolution4000 x 3000
Maximum Frame Rate60 fps
Number of Batteries Supported1
Battery Built-inNo
Battery RechargeableYes
Battery IncludedYes
Display Screen TypeLCD
Image Sensor TypeLive MOS
Total Camera Resolution13.1 Megapixel
HDMIYes
Camera AssemblyBody Only
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedSecure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card
Height71 mm
Width119 mm
Depth36.3 mm
Autofocus Points23
Product SeriesG
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW
Flash ModesFlash OFF, Flash ON, Red-eye Reduction, Auto Flash
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerPanasonic
Product ModelDMC-GF1
Product NameLumix DMC-GF1 Mirrorless Camera
Product LineLumix
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberDMCGF1EBS
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.panasonic.co.uk
Marketing Information

By using the Micro Four Thirds System standard and developing a camera body that eliminates the mirror box and optical viewfinder unit, the DMC-GF1 was able to achieve the world's smallest, lightest body as a system camera with a built-in flash. It also features classical, but new artistic flat design. This new-generation system camera features Full-Time Live View, high-speed Contrast AF, HD movie recording, and more. It is small enough to take anywhere, yet sophisticated enough to take you as far into photography and movies as you want to go.

Battery Life380 Shot
Package Contents
  • Lumix DMC-GF1 Mirrorless Camera
  • Battery Charger
  • AC Adapter
  • Battery Pack
  • Body Cap
  • AV Cable
  • USB Connection Cable
  • AC Cable
  • Shoulder Strap
  • CD-ROM
Display Resolution460000 Pixel
Limited Warranty1 Year
Built-in DevicesSpeaker, Microphone