Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 review
Lumix G compact system cameras (CSCs) have an impressive track record in our reviews, but it's mostly been for all-round dependable quality rather than alluring or groundbreaking features. The Panasonic GX7 gave us a taste of something different with its luxurious appearance and feature-packed specs, but it's the GM1 that looks set to really shake things up.
This camera really is tiny. It measures 58mm from its LCD screen to its lens cap, and weighs 279g. That's 2g less than the Sony RX100 II, and a full 236g less than the GX7. It's not quite as slim as the RX100 II, which is 39mm deep. However, considering that the GM1's sensor is significantly larger, and that it has an interchangeable lens mount, the petite design is a phenomenal achievement. Crucially, this is the first CSC with a zoom lens that will fit in most trouser pockets.
It's partly down to the new kit lens, which weighs 70g and extends just 24mm from the lens mount. We were impressed with how small the GX7's kit lens is, and that one is over twice as long. The 2.7x zoom is a little smaller than usual, with a 24-64mm (equivalent) range. However, it's great to see that Panasonic hasn't skimped on including optical stabilisation. It's also nice to have a 24mm wide-angle setting – most kit lenses have a 28mm (equivalent) minimum focal length. The lens must be extended before use, but we're glad that it's a conventional mechanical zoom action, which we find more natural and responsive to use than a motorised zoom. There's no focus ring, so manual focus adjustments are made on the camera.
The GM1 body couldn't conceivably be any smaller. The lens mount covers the entire height of the camera and the 3in touchscreen virtually fills the back, save for a smattering of buttons and a rear wheel. The small controls are a tad fiddly – they'd be tricky to use while wearing gloves. However, the elegant touchscreen interface keeps things moving along nicely. Pressing the Q.Menu button turns on-screen icons into virtual buttons, and there are five additional customisable on-screen functions. Our only grumble is that the Q.Menu button becomes an image delete button during playback. When we pressed it while the previous shot was still being displayed on the screen, it offered to delete that shot rather than reveal the quick-access menu.
Amazingly, Panasonic has still found room for a pop-up flash and mode dial on top. There's even a switch for single autofocus, continuous autofocus and manual focus settings. We suspect most people would rather have a dial for drive mode or exposure compensation, but it's welcome nonetheless.
There's no compromise on style, with a leather-effect finish and metal buttons wrapped around a magnesium alloy body. The all-black model we tested looks seriously smart, but we like the look of the silver-and-black and silver-and-tan finishes even more. There's the same set of Wi-Fi features that impressed us so much in other recent Lumix G cameras, with wireless transfers and comprehensive remote control via iOS and Android apps. There's no NFC for touch-and-go pairing, but it really isn't much of a chore to connect by pressing buttons.
The available options and shooting modes are largely identical to the GX7, with 22 creative filters, HDR shooting, time-lapse photography and a fun stop-motion animation mode. The only notable absentee is panorama shooting. The video mode offers automatic or manual control, immaculate picture quality, 24p, 25p and 50i Full HD capture and responsive touchscreen-controlled autofocus.
PANASONIC GM1 PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY
It's extremely quick to take photos, capturing its first shot within a second of switching on, focusing in around 200ms and capturing a shot every half a second for both JPEGs and RAW. Continuous shooting was at 4.8fps with fixed focus, and managed an impressive 4.2fps with continuous autofocus. We noticed an overheating warning symbol appear on the screen during our performance tests, but we had been giving the camera an unusually hard work out.
There are a few inevitable casualties for the sake of miniaturisation. Battery life stands at 230 shots, and additional batteries aren't cheap at £50. There's no hotshoe, which means no option to add a flashgun or viewfinder, and the screen isn't articulated.
The camera is slightly shorter than most Micro Four Thirds lenses. The kit lens fits perfectly with its 55mm diameter, but other compatible lenses are wider. That means the camera doesn't sit flat on a surface, and it restricts access to the tripod thread. Help comes in the form of an optional tripod adapter (part code DMW-TA1), but £35 is an awful lot to pay for such a simple accessory.
Panasonic also sells an optional handgrip for the GM1 (part code DMW-HGR1, £89), which comprises a chunky metal base plate and a vertical metal bar to grip onto. This avoids lenses protruding below the bottom of the camera, but it doesn't get around the tripod problem as there's no tripod thread on the handgrip. However, there are two Panasonic lenses that are coming soon and are specifically designed for the GM1 – a 15mm f/1.7 and a 35-100mm. We're hoping that these will use slimmer barrels to match the GM1, but as of November 2013, Panasonic wasn't able to confirm..
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