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Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 review

Ben Pitt
30 Jan 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
474
inc VAT
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Specifications

17.3x13mm 12.1-megapixel sensor, 3.2x zoom (28-90mm equivalent), 580g

The G1 is the most unusual and exciting digital camera we've seen for a while.

It's made from a mixture of SLR and compact camera technology, and promises the quality of an SLR without the bulk. As such, it could be the ideal camera for discerning photographers on the go.

It uses a new interchangeable lens system called Micro Four Thirds. These lenses are a little smaller than equivalent SLR lenses, but the most significant size reduction is in the camera body. The G1 lacks an SLR's optical viewfinder and associated optics and, as a result, isn't much bigger than an ultra-zoom camera such as Panasonic's FZ28. However, the 17.3x13mm sensor is four times the size of the FZ28's, which has a huge impact on image quality. The sensors in most entry-level SLR cameras are 30 per cent bigger again, but the G1's is still in SLR rather than compact territory.

For such a groundbreaking camera the G1 is remarkably mature and sophisticated. The electronic viewfinder has a 1.4-megapixel resolution; way beyond anything we've seen before. Its focusing lens ring and controllable momentary digital zoom made accurate manual focusing easy. The 3in widescreen LCD screen has a 460,000-pixel resolution and is hinged for shooting at tricky angles. The camera automatically switches to the viewfinder when it's raised to the eye. The layout of the controls is more ultra-zoom than SLR, but it's quick to use and has exhaustive options. An HDMI output is included for high-definition slideshows on a TV but, surprisingly, the G1 can't capture video.

The best news is that its performance and image quality really are up to SLR standards. It powered up and captured a photo in well under a second, and autofocus was incredibly quick. The Single drive mode ran at 0.9 seconds between shots without the flash and 1.1 seconds with. Continuous JPEG shooting was at 2.8fps until the card was full, while continuous RAW shooting slowed to 0.7fps after six shots.

The kit lens and 12-megapixel sensor captured plenty of detail, although the default sharpness setting favoured smoothness over biting detail. The dynamic range was greater than on any compact camera, and the G1 was in a different league for image noise. If you regularly shoot in low-light, though, an SLR's larger sensor will come in handy. High-ISO images were a little noisier than those from Canon's EOS 1000D but far smoother and more detailed than any compact's. Its automatic white balance surpassed that of any SLR we've seen, compensating fully for light sources such as light bulbs. Automatic exposures were unerringly excellent, too, helped by highly effective face detection, something that's either clumsy on SLR cameras or completely absent.

We're not totally convinced that the G1 is the perfect camera for discerning photographers to carry everywhere. It's as fast and as pleasant to use as an SLR and, against our expectations, we didn't mind not having an optical viewfinder. However, while the G1 and kit lens is an impressive 27mm shallower than Canon's 1000D kit, it's only 5mm narrower and 70g lighter - yet costs £160 more.

Two things need to happen before we can recommend the G1 unreservedly. Its price must come down a little so that it's less of a jump up from entry-level SLRs, and the choice of lenses needs to expand. The former is fairly likely and the latter is inevitable. A 45-200mm lens (90-400mm as 35mm equivalent) is already available and a 14-140mm (28-280mm equivalent) is in the pipeline. This lens would turn the G1 into a stunning ultra-zoom camera, but would make the supplied 14-45mm kit lens redundant, so it may be worth waiting until it's available. Meanwhile, online rumours of a video-capable version of the G1 are another possible reason to hold off. However, it's such a delightful camera, both in use and in the pictures it takes, that it's going to take some serious self-control not to rush out and buy one now.

Basic Specifications

Rating****
CCD effective megapixels12.1 megapixels
CCD size17.3x13mm
Viewfinderelectronic, 1.44 megapixels
LCD screen size3.0in
LCD screen resolution460,000 pixels
Optical zoom3.2x
Zoom 35mm equivalent28-90mm
Image stabilisationoptical, lens based
Maximum image resolution4,000x3,000
Maximum movie resolutionN/A
Movie frame rate at max qualityN/A
File formatsJPEG, RAW

Physical

Memory slotSDHC
Mermory suppliednone
Battery type7.2V 1250mAh Li-ion
Battery Life (tested)330 shots
ConnectivityUSB, composite video, HDMI, remote
Body materialplastic
AccessoriesUSB and AV cables, lens hood, neck strap, soft lens case
Weight580g
Size84x124x124mm

Buying Information

Price£474
Supplierhttp://www.simplyelectronics.net
Detailswww.panasonic.co.uk

Camera Controls

Exposure modesprogram, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed60 to 1/4,000 seconds
Aperture rangef/3.5 to f/22
ISO range (at full resolution)100 to 3200
Exposure compensation+/-3 EV
White balanceauto, 6 presets, manual
Additional image controlscontrast, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction, colour space, dynamic range
Manual focusYes
Closest macro focus30cm
Auto-focus modesmulti, centre, spot, tracking, face detect
Metering modesmulti, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flashauto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modessingle, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket

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