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Performance

The GF1's performance was always going to be judged by two measures; the typical mid-range SLRs it competes with on price and the Olympus E-P1, its only direct competitor. And whilst it can't quite keep up with most modern SLRs, it's really not far off (and is sufficiently close for most typical users of this kind of camera). Compared to the E-P1, however, the GF1 feels fast and responsive, particularly when it comes to focus speed, the E-P1's well-documented Achilles Heel.

Unsurprisingly the performance is very similar to the G1, which is no bad thing; not quite as fast as an SLR, but a lot faster than 99% of them when used in live view mode... and a lot snappier than pretty much every compact camera on the market.

Timings & File Sizes

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 4000 x 3000 JPEG Fine (approx. 5,400 KB per image).

The media used for these tests was:

  • 8 GB SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/s SDHC card
Action
Details
Time, secs
(8 GB SanDisk)
Power Off to On *1   0.6
Power Off to Shot   1.2
Shot to shot time (JPEG) Manual Focus 0.5
Shot to shot time (JPEG) *2 AF-S 0.7
Shot to shot time (RAW) *2 AF-S 0.8
Power On to Off   1.7

*1 This is the time from turning the switch to the 'On' position to the status display appearing on the LCD monitor (as soon as you would be able to verify camera settings).
*2 Single AF point, focus distance for this test was 0.5m - obviously exact timings will depend on the time taken to focus.

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/500 sec, F4), ISO 100.

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate, this was always 3.2 fps in raw mode and 3.0 fps in JPEG (+/- 0.05 fps)
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held down after burst (buffer full)
  • Write complete - How long after the last shot before the card write indicator stops blinking

Burst of JPEG Large/SHQ images

Timing
8 GB SanDisk
Frame rate 3.0 fps
Number of frames Unlimited
Buffer full rate n/a
Write complete ~1.5 sec

Burst of RAW images

Timing
8 GB SanDisk
Frame rate 3.2 fps
Number of frames 5
Buffer full rate ~0.6 fps
Write complete ~12 sec

The GF1 comfortably achieved the quoted 3.0 frames per second shooting speed that the manufacturer asserts.

USB transfer speed

To test the GF1's USB speed we transferred approximately 500 MB of images (mixed RAW and JPEG) from a SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/s SDHC card (the same card used in the other tests).

Method
Transfer rate
Panasonic GF1 USB 2.0 (Storage) 9.1 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme III in USB 2.0 reader 16.8 MB/sec

Autofocus speed / accuracy

I'm not going to go into too much detail here about the GF1's autofocus performance, as it is basically exactly the same as the G1 and GH1 before it (there are very slight differences, but you won't notice them). Panasonic developed an entirely new contrast detect autofocus system for the G series, and it works incredibly well. Not only is is faster than any CD-AF system we've ever used, it's easily as good as the autofocus on most entry-level digital SLRs (which use an inherently faster system). On average it takes around 0.25 seconds to focus with the 14-45mm zoom (compare this to the Olympus E-P1, which can take up to four times longer). A clever pre-AF system tries to find focus before you even press the button as soon as it feels the camera steadying (as it would when you start to compose a shot), reducing the time it takes when you do actually try to take a picture.

We found no systematic focus errors (though as always if you let the camera choose the focus point it will occasionally focus on the wrong thing) - we took about 3000 shots during the production of this review, and of the handful that were out of focus, only a tiny proportion could be put down to camera (as opposed to operator) error.

The 20mm lens is fractionally slower than the zoom (it averages nearer to 0.3 seconds), but still feels fast compared to the Olympus E-P1 with its 17mm pancake and we found it fast enough for all but the most demanding subjects (in my case an uncooperative 3 year old portrait sitter).

Continuous focus with the kit zoom is pretty good, particularly for a contrast detect AF system, but don't expect it to keep up with sports action like a good SLR can (hardly the target market for this kind of camera), and the excellent focus tracking system (which keeps the focus point locked on your subject as it moves around the frame) is highly responsive.

Note: for a fuller investigation of the relative focus speeds of the Olympus and Panasonic Micro Four Thirds systems please check out the report at the bottom of this page. We are currently in the process of re-testing the E-P1 with the recently released firmware (our preliminary findings are that the new firmware makes little difference to the focus speed). When we've finished these tests (including GF1 comparisons with a variety of lenses) we'll add them to this review too.

Battery life

The GF1 uses the same 7.2V, 1250 mAh battery as the other 'G' cameras in the range. According to the specs, the battery should be good for around 350-380 shots (according to the standard CIPA testing methodology which doesn't necessarily reflect real-world figures but does allow comparisons between cameras), which is roughly the same as you'd get from most DSLRs in live view mode (and - being a bigger battery - is a little better than the Olympus E-P1). Of course, as with all these things, your mileage may vary.

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