The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 carries forward the form factor and styling that garnered the GF1 such a strong following among enthusiasts. Going against the current trend of sleek, minimal styling and gently sloped edges, the GX1's rectangular shape, prominent mode dial and abundance of control points are clearly designed to appeal to users who place a priority on manual control over contemporary styling.
External similarities aside, the GX1 is much more than just a refresh of the GF1. It comes as no surprise that it builds on many of the advances Panasonic has incorporated into recent models, most notably the well-regarded touchscreen interface first seen in the GF2. Autofocus can be achieved simply by touching anywhere along the LCD with the added ability to adjust the size of the focus point on the fly. A customizeable Q.Menu gives easy onscreen access to as many as 15 camera settings. Touch Tab is a brand new feature that provides an onscreen dock for up to five control and display functions that can be expanded or hidden with a single touch.
While previous advances in Panasonic's touchscreen interface were accompanied by the elimination of external control points, the GX1 offers a very compelling balance between external and onscreen camera control. You can operate the GX1 with minimal touchscreen operation or, if you prefer, can setup the Q.Menu and two onscreen Fn buttons to reduce or eliminate the use of most hard buttons. While users opting to employ both methods of control will reap the most in terms of efficiency, it is refreshing to see such an equitably presented set of options.
Compared to the DMC-GF1
As the images below attest, there is precious little in the way of size, form factor and styling to separate the GX1 from its spiritual predecessor, the GF1. Indeed, when resting the two side-by-side in our office, it's not been uncommon for us to inadvertently pick up the wrong camera.
Perhaps the largest and certainly most noticeable design change is the GX's1 more pronounced, textured rubber handgrip offers a more secure hold of the camera. Some control points have been rearranged, but a GF1 user would feel right at home.
The GX1 is measurably, though inconsequentially smaller than the GF1 in width, height and depth. The flash on the GX1 extends roughly six millimeters lower than that of the GF1. And while the GX1's flash may appear more powerful, with a higher guide number (7.6m vs 6m) at base ISO, this is purely because the GX1 has a higher base ISO sensitivity of 160 compared to the GF1's ISO 100.
In this rear view it becomes apparent just how little button and dial placement have changed. What has been updated is the touchscreen LCD with Touch AF and a much-improved screen coating that offers increased visibility in bright sunlight. The GX1's EVF connector socket is wider to accommodate the new, optional LVF2 viewfinder, which is obviously not compatible with the GF1.
The GX1 deploys a stereo mic just forward of the hotshoe. It also replaces the iAuto mode dial setting with a button. The loss of a movie mode dial setting, however, takes with it the ability to easily frame a video in 16:9 format before recording; the best you can do is assign the 'Rec. Area' option to a Fn button. The GX1 will honor exposure compensation and the WB setting when recording video as well the currently selected Photo Style. The drive mode selector found on the GF1 is moved to the rear of the camera as one of the cardinal points on the 4-way controller.
Compared to the DMC-GF3
Users waiting for a GF1-style update found little in the GF3 that would make for a sensible upgrade, with the latter's paucity of on-body controls and reliance on the touchscreen for most of its operation. At a glance, it is easy to see that these cameras are intended for two distinctly different audiences. The GF3's gently sloping curves and compact camera-like appearance contrast sharply with the austere, utilitarian styling of the GX1.
The GX1 is significantly larger than the GF3 in both height and width. While the GF3 is designed to appeal to users upgrading from a compact camera, the GX1 puts forth a rangefinder aesthetic that much more likely resonates with the enthusiast consumer, whose notion of camera size is likely based on the use of a DSLR.
The abundance of control points available on the GX1 sits in stark contrast to the GF3 which virtually demands use of the camera's touchscreen interface for all but the most basic of camera controls.
The GX1 offers a mode dial, stereo microphone, hotshoe and a built-in flash positioned to reduce the occurrence of red eye, as well as shadows caused by the barrel of longer lenses.
Compared to the DMC-G3
It is fair to summarize the GX1 as a GF1 body with the internal specs of a G3. Virtually all of the features that were new in the G3 have worked their way into the GX1, not least the 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor. The GX1 does introduce a few new tricks of its own, such as an ISO of 12,800 and an onscreen level gauge.
While the two cameras have distinct differences in both style and handling, they share many of the same internal specifications. Virtually all of the G3's extra bulk comes from a built-in EVF; an optional accessory on the GX1.
As this top-down view makes clear, the GX1 takes up significantly less space in a camera bag, though it is certainly not pocketable with the non-collapsible kit zoom.
Pair the GX1 with the 14-42 power zoom kit lens and this combination has a shallower depth than the body of the G3, due mainly to the latter's overhanging viewfinder.