Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review
Panasonic's Lumix DMC-GX1 is the company's latest addition to its G-series lineup. And although the camera bears the '1' appendage in its model name, it is clear from even a cursory glance that with the GX1, Panasonic has provided the long-awaited spiritual successor to the highly regarded Lumix DMC-GF1. Of perhaps even greater significance, the move to introduce a separate GX product line (as opposed to releasing the camera as a 'GF4') would seem to suggest a long-term commitment by the camera maker to meet the demands of enthusiasts who embraced the GF1.
Launched back in 2009, the GF1 was, ironically, Panasonic's attempt to court compact-camera owners looking to upgrade, with what was then billed as, 'the world's smallest, lightest interchangeable lens camera'. Instead, the GF1's high quality Raw output and classic rangefinder aesthetic gained a strong and passionate following in the enthusiast market. DSLR owners looking for a second 'go-anywhere' camera with high image quality embraced the camera's comprehensive external controls and its relatively compact Micro Four Thirds lens offerings.
It is precisely these users who have been disappointed twice over with the Lumix DMC-GF2 and Lumix DMC-GF3 releases. These cameras departed from the GF1's retro styling and button-driven operation. Instead, they favored ever-smaller form factors, and design cues that pointed unambiguously to users who may be turned off by an overly complex (and expensive) camera, including increasing reliance on touchscreen controls. With the GX1 Panasonic is aiming squarely at more advanced users for whom the GF1 struck a pleasing balance between size and operability.
Of course, the competition for these users has grown much stiffer today, and Panasonic recognizes that if it wants to expand the camera's appeal, the GX1 must offer advantages not only to the GF series but to a crowded market that includes strong APS-C sensor competition from both Sony and Samsung. To this end, the GX1 employs the same 16MP sensor we first saw in the Lumix DMC-G3, although with image processing adjustments that allow for a top ISO of 12,800.
A brand new viewfinder, the DMW-LVF2 has been introduced alongside the GX1. With a higher magnification and resolution, the LVF2 is a noticeable improvement over its predecessor, the LVF1. Crucially though, a new spec and connector makes the LVF2 incompatible with any GF models; neither is it possible to fit the LVF1 on the GX1. Faster communication between the camera and lenses helps the GX1 focus even faster than the 120Hz sensor readout allowed in the preceding G3 and GF3 models, with Panasonic claiming a 10% improvement.
Panasonic's well-regarded touchscreen interface has also gotten some new tricks, with a level gauge and clever Touch Tab icon that allows you to hide, reveal (and of course activate) a small panel of menu options directly on-screen. Another very welcome feature is the inclusion of an orientation sensor that automatically rotates vertical images even when captured with non-OIS lenses.
The GX1 is being made available in both black and silver bodies. Unlike previous GF models, none of the GX1's kit options includes a fixed focal length lens. Instead, the kit lens options are limited to just two; the Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH Power OIS zoom lens and the more conventional (and less expensive) Lumix G Vario 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS lens.
By creating a separate product line for the GX, Panasonic has made clear distinctions in its G-series offerings. The GF line is positioned as entry point for compact-camera upgraders. The GH2 is designed for users who shoot a lot of video and the G3 is aimed for (primarily) still shooters who desire a built-in EVF and articulated LCD. The GX1 then is rather sensibly positioned as an enthusiast offering for those who want the highest image quality from a Micro Four Thirds camera, in a form factor that comfortably accommodates a range of zoom lenses and does not skimp on external controls.
Panasonic GX1 specification highlights
- 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor
- ISO 160-12,800
- Orientation sensor (providing information with non-OIS lenses)
- 3.0", 460k dot LCD
- Full AVCHD 1080/60i video (from 30fps sensor output)
- Continuous shooting up to 20fps (at reduced resolution)
- Electronic level gauge
- Four available Fn buttons (two onscreen)
Differences between the GX1 and the GF1
- Higher resolution sensor (16MP vs 12MP)
- Touchscreen interface
- Much-improved screen coatings for better visibility in bright light
- Faster AF acquisition times
- Top ISO of 12,800 (vs 3200)
- Continuous full resolution shooting at 4fps (vs 3fps)
- Higher burst depth in Raw mode (11 vs 5)
- AVCHD 1080/60i video (vs 720p AVCHD Lite format)
- Built-in stereo microphones
- Electronic level gauge
- Two additional Fn buttons
- No drive mode lever
Compared to the Samsung NX200
What's not evident in the images above is just how much more heft the GX1 has in comparison to the NX200. With a solid metal body construction that weighs in at nearly 320g without a lens, the GX1 feels in hand rather substantial, in a way that calls to mind not only the GF1, but classic film camera bodies.
Compared to the Sony NEX-7
Although the GX1 has slightly smaller dimensions in both width and depth, it's worth remembering that that Sony has managed to pack a built-in EVF, articulating LCD and of course an APS-C sensor into the NEX-7. The GX1's more conventional control point layout stands in sharp contrast to the sleek, hewn-from-a block-of-granite design of the NEX-7. Both cameras offer a sure, firm grip, although users with larger hands may find one-handed shooting slightly less comfortable with the lower profile handgrip of the GX1.