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Raw

Supplied software

The DMC-GF1 is supplied with a Software CD containing:

  • PHOTOfunStudio Viewer 3.1 HD Edition (Windows) - A photo browser / editor with some basic workflow functionality (also includes a tray icon automatic import tool). While PHOTOfunStudio Viewer was able to view GF1 RAW files it couldn't convert them to JPEG and wasn't able to display all exposure information (clearly didn't fully support the GF1). This latest version of the software also offers some HD video editing.
      
  • SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.0 SE (Windows / Mac OS X) - SilkyPix is a RAW conversion application developed by Ichikawa Soft Laboratory which is probably better known in Japan. SilkyPix provides a wide range of advanced RAW conversion options including adjustable noise reduction, lens aberration correction and rotation / perspective correction.

As with other Lumix models the GF1 ships with a special (fully featured) edition of SILKYPIX, a rather quirky, though surprisingly well-featured, raw development application for Windows and Mac. The (on-screen) manual is very comprehensive, but doesn't really explain the features very well, and first-time users may find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options on offer. This isn't helped by the slightly dodgy translations and the plethora of sliders with names that don't really indicate what they actually do. But there is lots here to get stuck into, and the default settings produce perfectly acceptable results.

But after some experimentation and adapting you'll discover that the SILKYPIX can produce far superior results - and can be fine-tuned to produce output that suits your own needs / tastes. In fact there's easily as much tweaking on offer than you get with Adobe Camera Raw, and compared to what you get with most cameras it's hard to complain.

You can save parameter sets (for some reason you put them in the 'cloakroom', but hey ho) once you've found out what works for you, which combined with batch processing and extensive output options (TIFF or JPEG), takes some of the grind out of the business of developing large numbers of raw files.

SILKYPIX has a comprehensive feature set, though the lack of any meaningful documentation (and occasionally incomprehensible menu options) mean it can take a while to really feel comfortable and to find your way around. It's not all hard work; drop down menus allow you to quickly choose presets for basic parameters (exposure, white balance, sharpness, tone, color and so on); a great starting place if you're new to the business of raw conversion.
The Color Mode menu offers presets that mimic different films (apparently 'Memory color 1 and 2' are designed to produce color that more closely matches how you remember the scene. Now that is clever). Dig a little deeper, beyond the presets, and SILKYPIX offers almost limitless tweaking opportunities, certainly enough to satisfy even the most advanced user. In fact you can easily end up spending way too long trying the different sliders.

RAW conversion

As is normal in our digital SLR reviews we like to compare the supplied RAW conversion software, any optional manufacturer RAW conversion software and some third party RAW converter. In the case of the Panasonic GF1 we used the supplied SilkyPix Developer Studi0 3.0 as well as Adobe Camera RAW 5.5. We've also included examples developed using DCRaw (via Graphic Converter on the Mac) for the sharpness detail section.

  • JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
  • SPDS - SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.0
  • ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 5.5
  • DCR - Graphic Converter v6.4 using DCRaw 8.93

Color reproduction

Place your mouse over the label below the image to see the color from a GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart produced using each RAW converter. Typically we are used to seeing almost no difference between in-camera JPEG and the supplied RAW converter as it is normally intended to exactly duplicate the color response of the camera. However the SilkyPix software was not developed by Panasonic and clearly has a completely different color map, this means that RAW images converted through SilkyPix will immediately have a different 'look' to them than the out-of-camera JPEGs. Interestingly ACR's output is much closer.

Panasonic DMC-GF1 Compare to:  
      
      
      
      
StandardDynamicNatureSmooth
NostalgicVibrantB&W DynamicB&W Smooth
B&W StandardadobeRGB

Sharpness and Detail

Two things you can immediately see from looking at these images; at the default settings Silkypix actually produces fractionally less detailed color output than the camera's own JPEG engine (this is undoubtedly down to a combination of sharpening and noise reduction), and if you want the maximum resolution, use Adobe Camera Raw. From a color point of view there's not a huge difference (and of course with the raw files you can tweak to your heart's content anyway).

SILKYPIX RAW ->JPEG (Default settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
Adobe ACR 5.5 RAW ->JPEG (Default settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
DCR RAW ->JPEG (Default settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
JPEG out of camera, High quality setting (all settings default)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop

Resolution

These crops demonstrate that there is some more high contrast detail available raw files than can be obtained from JPEG. Although a lot of this detail could be described as 'false' (produced beyond Nyquist), generally speaking this is still useful as it improves the appearance of 'texture'. ACR and DCRaw squeeze a tiny bit more out of the RAW file than SilkyPix but all three converters show some artefacting and some moiré, something you don't see in the JPEGs (though these do look a little over-sharpened).

JPEG from camera SilkyPix Developer Studio (RAW)
Adobe Camera RAW 5.5 (RAW) DCRaw (RAW)

Real word advantages

Although the GF1's out of camera JPEGs are pretty good - certainly good enough for use at normal viewing magnifications (on screen or in modest prints). Switching to raw and converting using Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), however, brings real benefits in areas where fine texture (captured by the sensor thanks to its light AA filter) is lost in the JPEG processing - especially for larger prints or when cropping. From foliage to feathers and fur, ACR converted raw files are crisper and more detailed, and because they can be sharpened with a smaller radius, they look cleaner when viewed up close too.

Even if you don't care about the pixel-level quality, the ability to non-destructively fine tune white balance and color (neither of which the GF1 excels at) make shooting raw a sensible option for the serious photographer.

JPEG from Camera
(default sharpening)
ACR conversion
(Photoshop USM: 400/0.3/0)

RAW files for download

Here we provide RAW files, both from the review and the sample shots we take, to allow you to apply your own workflow techniques and see whether your experiences match ours.

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