Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1- Review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review
October 2013, Carl Garrard
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review
The GX1 made waves not too long ago and after a bit of time with one I can see why. This little GX1 is really growing on me. It's not the most comfortable camera to use one handed, but I'm learning to live with it and get around its shortcomings in handling. What I like about this camera is that it's small and completely pocketable with a 17mm pancake on it.  I can use every ISO setting in raw confidently, and it has accurate and blazing fast auto focus. It's controls are adequate, and so is its menu system. Neither blow me away but it doesn't get in my way when shooting stills either. If you want a more detailed review, read on.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review- Immediate Impressions

First I'll get any suspense right out of the way, this is the first m4/3 Pana I've liked as well in terms of total feature set, image quality, and it's externals all combined. The G5 was good, but it had banding in its files. Ugh. It's got a feature set that is far more extensive than my needs dictate, but Pana has done a good job at keeping the extras out of my way for still shooting. It's shutter has a nice crisp release and following wind up, but is quiet. It's flash is bounceable indoors for low ceilings which makes it 100% more useful than a fixed position flash (pop up or regular). It's battery life is more than adequate and surprised me. Likely I'd charge it overnight then take it out for a full day's shooting pretty confidently- albeit with a very watchful eye- this is not a big battery. Overall a nice first impression.  Search Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Best Price

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review- Handling and Such

Although its grip is disappointing to me, its adequate. The way Pana designed it, it feels a bit like a wet fish for one handed shooting, lazy in the hand and pulling down its weight on the opposite end. A good grip should be comfortable for all day one handed shooting with little to no effort. When gripped, one or two fingers should be able to pull the camera upright and tight into the palm with the slightest pressure, and keep it there without causing fatigue to the muscles in the palm. The GX1 does not.

This grip takes a learning curve for your hand to be comfortable, and will still fatigue the hand more than I like after you've figured out the optimal hold. That said, it's not horrible to hold at all, but it could be much much better. I find that it shines best when I'm doing low angle or odd angle shooting and just using my fingertips instead of trying to palm the camera in a traditional shooting hold. In this respect, its great!

I really only use the touchscreen to look through images quickly, and occasionally get out of a menu or mode with a quick touch. So this screen is more than adequate for my needs. It's not as good as the Canon SL1's screen, by far, but is still at a very high level and advanced for its day. It's quick menu system is so/so, being too fiddly for my needs and not quick enough. The main menu system is clean and organized and well identified- just as I like them.

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This camera body may lack image stabilization but I don't care. Sometimes I prefer not having it simply because the lack of it ensures that I use proper photographic technique and, I don't hear a sensor mechanism moving or sloshing around inside while I'm shooting. This camera is a whole level better than the GF1, and although I'm pretty hard on the grip, it's much better than the GF1's ever was. It's IQ blows it away and overall the camera is just faster and more impressive than the GF1- without losing much at all to its predecessor.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review- Technical Specifications

Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera
Recording Media
SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card (Compatible with UHS-I standard SDHC / SDXC Memory Cards)
Image Sensor Size
17.3 x 13.0 mm (in 4:3 aspect ratio)
Lens Mount
Micro Four Thirds mount
Live MOS Sensor
Total Pixels
16.68 Megapixels
Camera Effective Pixels
16.0 Megapixels
Color Filter
Primary color filter
Dust Reduction System
Supersonic wave filter
Recording File Format
Still Image:

JPEG (DCF, Exif 2.3), RAW
MPO (When attaching 3D lens in Micro Four Thirds System standard)
Motion Image:

AVCHD (Audio format: Dolby Digital 2ch) / MP4 (Audio format AAC 2ch)
Aspect Ratio
4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1
Image Quality
RAW, RAW+Fine, RAW+Standard, Fine, Standard
MPO+Fine, MPO+Standard (When attaching 3D lens in Micro Four Thirds System standard)
Color Space
sRGB, Adobe RGB
File Size (Pixels)
Still Image
[4:3] 4,592 x 3,448 (L) [16M], 3,232 x 2,424 (M) [8M], 2,272 x 1,704 (S) [4M], 1,824 x 1,368 (When attaching 3D lens in Micro Four Thirds System standard)
[3:2] 4,576 x 3,056 (L) [14M], 3,232 x 2,160 (M) [7M], 2,272 x 1,520 (S) [3.5M], 1,824 x 1,216 (When attaching 3D lens in Micro Four Thirds System standard)
[16:9] 4,576 x 2,576 (L) [11.5M], 3,232 x 1,824(M) [6M], 1,920 x 1,080 (S) [2M], 1,824 x 1,024 (When attaching 3D lens in Micro Four Thirds System standard)
[1:1] 3,424 x 3,424 (L) [11.5M], 2,416 x 2,416 (M) [6M], 1,712 x 1,712 (S) [3M], 1,712 x 1,712 (When attaching 3D lens in Micro Four Thirds System standard)
Motion Image
[Full HD] 1,920 x 1,080, 30fps (sensor output is 30p) (Approx. 20Mbps)
[HD] 1,280 x 720, 30fps (sensor output is 30p) (Approx. 10Mbps)
[VGA] 640 x 480, 30fps (sensor output is 30p) (Approx. 4Mbps)
[Full HD] 1,920 x 1,080, 25fps (sensor output is 25p) (Approx. 20Mbps)
[HD] 1,280 x 720, 25fps (sensor output is 25p) (Approx. 10Mbps)
[VGA] 640 x 480, 25fps (sensor output is 25p) (Approx. 4Mbps)
[Full HD] 1,920 x 1,080, 60i (sensor output is 30p) (FSH: 17 Mbps)
[HD] 1,280 x 720, 60p (sensor output is 30p) (SH: 17 Mbps)
[Full HD] 1,920 x 1,080, 50i (sensor output is 25p) (FSH: 17 Mbps)
[HD] 1,280 x 720, 50p (sensor output is 25p) (SH: 17 Mbps)
Continuous Recordable Time (Motion Image)*
AVCHD with picture quality set to [FSH]: Approx. 130 min with H-FS014042 / Approx. 140 min with H-PS14042 / Approx. 150 min with H-H014
Actual Recordable Time
(Motion Image)*
AVCHD with picture quality set to [FSH]: Approx. 65 min with H-FS014042 / Approx. 70 min with H-PS14042 / Approx. 75 min with H-H014
Contrast AF system
Focus Mode
AFS (Single) / AFF (Flexible) / AFC (Continuous) / MF
AF Mode
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)
AF Detective Range
EV 0 - 18 (ISO100 equivalent)
AF Assist Lamp
AF Lock
Set the Fn button in custom menu to AF/AE lock or shutter button halfway pressed in AFS mode
Quick AF, Continuous AF (during motion image recording), AF+MF, Touch shutter, Touch MF Assist
Light Metering System
144-zone multi-pattern sensing system
Light Metering Mode
Intelligent Multiple / Center Weighted / Spot
Metering Range
EV 0 - 18 (F2.0 lens, ISO100 equivalent)
Exposure Mode
Program AE / Aperture Priority AE / Shutter Priority AE / Manual
ISO Sensitivity
(Standard Output Sensitivity)
Auto / Intelligent ISO / 160 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200 / 6400 / 12800 (Changeable to 1/3 EV step)
Exposure Compensation
1/3 EV Step, ±5 EV
AE Lock
Set the Fn button in custom menu to AF/AE lock
AE Bracket
3, 5, 7 frames, in 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV Step, ±3 EV
White Balance
Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Incandescent / Flash / White Set 1, 2 / Color temperature setting
White Balance Adjustment
Blue/amber bias, Magenta/green bias
Color Temperature Setting
2,500 K - 10,000 K in 100 K
White Balance Bracket
3 exposures in blue/amber axis or in magenta/green axis
Focal-plane shutter
Shutter Speed
Still Images: 1/4,000 - 60 and Bulb (up to approx. 120 seconds)
Motion Image: 1/16,000 - 1/30 (NTSC), 1/16,000 - 1/25 (PAL)
Self Timer
10 sec, 3 images / 2 sec / 10 sec
Remote Control
Remote control with bulb function by DMW-RSL1 (Optional)
Still Image SCN Mode
Portrait / Soft Skin / Scenery / Architecture / Sports / Peripheral Defocus / Flower / Food / Objects / Night Portrait / Night Scenery / Illuminations / Baby 1, 2 / Pet / Party / Sunset
Video SCN Mode
Portrait / Soft Skin / Scenery / Architecture / Sports / Flower / Food / Objects / Low-light / Party / Sunset
(Activated by selecting Still Image SCN mode then pressing Video Button. Still Image SCN modes without corresponding Video SCN mode is recorded in mode suitable for the recording situation.)
Creative Control
(Still image & Motion image) Expressive / Retro / High Key / Low Key / Sepia / High Dynamic / Toy Effect / Miniature Effect
Burst Speed
SH: 20 frames/sec, H: 4.2 frames/sec (When AFS mode), M: 3 frames/sec (with Live View), L: 2 frames/sec (with Live View)
Number of Recordable Images
9 images (when there are RAW files with the particular speed)
Unlimited consecutive shooting (when there are no RAW files)
(depending on memory card size, battery power, picture size, and compression)
TTL Built-in-Flash, GN6.0 equivalent (ISO100 · m), GN7.6 equivalent (ISO160 · m), Built-in Pop-up
Flash Mode
Auto, Auto / Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On / Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync., Slow Sync. / Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off
Synchronization Speed
Less than 1/160 second
Flash Output Adjustment
1/3 EV Step, ± 2 EV
Flash Synchronization
1st Curtain Sync., 2nd Curtain Sync.
Hot Shoe
TTL Auto with FL220 / FL360 / FL500 (Optional)
TFT LCD with Touch panel
Monitor Size
3.0 inch (7.5 cm) / 3:2 Aspect / Wide-viewing angle
460,000 dots
Field of View
Approx. 100%
Monitor Adjustment
Brightness (7 levels), Contrast and Saturation (7 levels), Red tint (7 levels), Blue tint (7 levels)
Live View Functions
Guide Lines (3 patterns)
Real-time Histogram
Additional Zoom Operation
Touch Zoom (when use power zoom lenses*)
*H-PS14042 lens and H-PS45175 lens
Digital Zoom
2x, 4x
Still image: Max. 2x (Not effective with L size recording. Magnification ratio depends on the recording pixels and aspect ratio.)
Motion image: Max. 4.8x (Magnification ratio depends on the recording quality and aspect ratio.)
Yes (Built-in 3 shaft accelerometer sensor)
Fn1, Fn2, Fn3*, Fn4*
*Fn3 and Fn4 are Touch icons on LCD monitor.
One Push AE / Preview / Level Gauge / Focus Area Set / Photo Style / Aspect Ratio / Picture Size / Quality / Metering Mode / Flash / Flash Adjust. / I. Resolution / I. Dynamic / EX. Tele Conv. / Digital Zoom / Stabilizer / Sensitivity / White Balance / AF Mode / Drive Mode / Motion Pic. Set / Picture Mode / Histogram / Guide Line / Rec Area
C1, C2-1/2/3
Yes (Registering personal menu settings)
Playback Mode
Normal playback, 30-thumbnail display, 12-thumbnail display, Calendar display, Zoomed playback (Max. 16x), Slideshow (duration & effect is selectable), Playback Mode (Normal / Picture / Video / 3D Play / Category / Favorite), Title Edit, Text Stamp, Video Divide, Resize, Cropping, Aspect Conversion, Rotate, Rotate Display, Favorite, Print Set, Protect, Face Recognition Edit
Single / Multi, Single in Burst Group / Multi in Burst Group, Cancel
Single / Multi / All / Except Favorite
Direct Print
PictBridge compatible (Print size, Layout and Date settings are selectable)
USB 2.0 High Speed
mini HDMI TypeC
Video: Auto / 1080i / 720p / 480p (576p in PAL system)
Audio: Linear PCM
Audio Video Output
Monaural Type, NTSC / PAL, NTSC only for North America
* Check the website of the Panasonic sales company in your country or region for details on the products that are available in your market.
Remote socket
Stereo, Wind-cut: Off / Auto
Microphone level adjustable: Lv1 / Lv2 / Lv3 / Lv4
OSD Language
English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Russian, Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified), Dutch, Thai, Korean, Turkish, Portuguese, Arabic, Persian, Japanese, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Vietnamese
* Check the website of Panasonic sales company in your country / region or ask customer support for details of the OSD language available on the products sold in your country / region.
Li-ion Battery Pack (7.2V, 1,010mAh) (Included)
Battery Charger
Battery Life (CIPA Standard**)
Approx. 300 images with H-FS014042
Approx. 310 images with H-PS14042
Approx. 340 images with H-H014
Dimensions (W x H x D)
116.3 x 67.8 x 39.4 mm / 4.58 x 2.67 x 1.55 inch (excluding protrusions)
Approx. 318g / 11.22 oz (SD card, Battery, Body)
Approx. 272g / 9.59 oz (Body only)
Approx. 373g / 13.16 oz (SD card, Battery, H-H014 lens included

Approx. 413g / 14.59 oz (SD card, Battery, H-PS14042 lens included)
Approx. 483g / 17.04 oz (SD card, Battery, H-FS014042 lens included)
Operating Temperature
0 °C to 40 °C (32 °F to 104 °F)
Operating Humidity
10%RH to 80%RH

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review- Image Quality

I love the GX1's Raw image quality to death for a camera of this size. Or maybe it's because I'm so used to Panasonic's sensors banding in the past, that I'm biased with this one. I've used many cameras with more impressive image quality but few this size that match it. Base ISO (160) is impressively clean and great for 20x30" prints without flinching, and 24"x36" prints would definitely be considered even for gallery exhibition.

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It's dynamic range could be better, but for a camera of this size and my expectation of it, I'm not complaining at all. Just takes a little careful management of the highlights, and that's no issue if you have even decent photography skills/habits. Check out the ISO 160 shot below, no NR done standard ACR sharpening.
Noise is present at 1600 and above, but its a very fine grain structure that surprisingly holds up extremely well even to quite a bit of noise reduction in ACR. This is especially true when using the luminescence NR slider- which isn't common. Check out the 3200 ISO shot on the street below, and this is about 1/2 stop underexposed (more like an ISO 5000 shot).

3200 ISO, both NR sliders set to 25
100% Crop from above

Color noise gets pretty intrusive at 3200 and above (but not awful), yet it's gone with the ACR chroma slider set to 20 without any left over color patching in shadow areas as shown above. Nice. I love the IQ in this camera. For its size the GX1 holds a clear second place to the Sony RX1's files, only bested in the lower ISO category (1600 and under) for dynamic range. See 3200 shot above with no NR below.

3200 ISO no NR at all

3200 ISO 100% crop no NR

ISO 12,800 - Purposely underexposed (more like 25,600iso) processed in ACR- no banding friends!

100% crop of 12,800 ISO in shadows, I can't believe it (no banding!)

The Raw image quality though really does impress me. Since I bought my first LC1, Panasonic has failed to impress me with its image quality since (the Leica VLUX-1 wasn't bad, but I don't count that one here). All ISO settings are not only useable, but pretty impressive. The lack of banding (finally) in this Panasonic camera means I don't worry about grain or anything else. I can just concentrate on getting the shutter speed I need and post process later. This is huge, Panasonic has finally made a sensor I like.I don't ask for much in a sensor honestly, but color bleeding and banding are unacceptable to me.

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ISO 3,200 through a window, good details, minimal post processing from Raw

ISO 160 (base ISO)- Even more detail, nice tonal transitions and color

Jpegs on the other hand are decent but not impressive. Some minor color shifts are present with the AWB setting unless you manually adjust your white balance, and too much NR at times keeps me from loving the detail retention. But hey, at least they are useable! Very few of the cameras I've reviewed recently have had Jpegs with enough detail retention that I'd consider them useable for fine quality prints (Sony RX100 II for example). The GX1 squeaks by, but only by a hair. Noise reduction could easily be turned completely off with this sensor and how it performs, its that good- but Pana were too afraid to have an off switch on it. Foolish says I, always include an NR off option for enthusiast level cameras.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review- Conclusion
Here's a camera that was introduced in 2011 for about $699.00 body only that now sits at about $200-300 used/new today in the USA. It's widely available and has the second best sensor that I've reviewed from Panasonic to date (Currently working with the GX7 too). For me, it's the first sensor that I've tested that Panasonic designed that didn't exhibit banding or color tearing (which ruins images), and there's none at any ISO value that I find problematic. Well done, a good package for a good price (these days at least).

I like to shoot a lot of low light images and don't mind grain/noise in them so long as there aren't destructive traits in the files. So I'm pretty giddy that Panasonic has impressed me here (finally?). Overall this camera has IQ that surpasses my EPL2 by quite a stretch, and is definitely a worthy successor to that camera in just about every way, almost every way. I just wish the grip from the EPL2 was on the GX1, and that the GX1 had the EPL2's super control panel- then it would be much nearer to perfect. Maybe the GX7 will be that camera, since I've now spent a weekend with one (Was that a hook? Yep.) As is I don't see myself parting with the GX1 anytime soon. Highly Recommended for its class!

As usual, be safe and happy shooting.

-Carl Garrard

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review Pros

  • Small Size
  • Nicely Built
  • Handsome Design
  • Good to Very Good External Controls
  • Nice LCD Screen
  • Best Raw Image Quality From Any Panasonic I've Tested In ACR To Date
  • Shutter Cycle Is Pleasing (and quiet)
  • Useable ISO's At ALL Stops
  • No Banding or Color Tearing (at all ISO's)
  • Flash Pulls Back For Effective Low Ceiling Bounce
  • Customizable Buttons and Rear Dial
  • AF Assist Lamp
  • Organized Main Menu
  • HDMI Port (standard type, not ultra mini)
  • Super Fast AF- Impressive!
  • Centered Tripod Mount
  • Decent Battery Life

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review- Cons
  • Strap Lug Cuts Into Hand (Seriously Considered Grinding It Off)
  • Grip Not As Comfortable As I Hoped (See above as well)
  • Jpeg Engine Has Too Much Noise Reduction/Artefacts Even At Lowest Setting
  • Fiddly Display Choices And Options (Just give me a histo and simultaneous ROT grid!)
  • Quick Menu Needs Overhaul, Not Quick Enough


  1. Very interesting insights on the sensor. How does it compare with the sony sensor in the em5/gh3/epm2/epl5 in your opinion?

  2. For most circumstances its' pretty equal in terms of detail and noise, till you get to about 6400 ISO and above. Also there's an obvious benefit of headroom in the raw files on the sony sensor you just don't get with the GX1, but, how often you actually need it- is another disussion.

  3. How is your GX7 review coming? What are your thoughts on the sensor compared to the GX1?

  4. After seeing the jpegs from my E-PL5, I found the jpegs from my 'new' GX1 a bit underwhelming. Since the Silkypix RAW developer tied me up in knots, I decided (for the first time in my life) to download the DNG developer, which I then used to generate TIFFs to be subsequently processed in ViewNX2 -> PS7 or vice versa [ I use crude tools, don't I ? :) ] Now at last I think I'm getting a bit closer to the kind of images I get from E-PL5 RAW files, but it's still very much a work in progress.
    I was regretting having bought the GX1 and was seriously thinking of selling it, despite its myriad plus points, but then I found your article. It is very encouraging and I thank you sincerely for posting it.