Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Review
Body & Design
The GM1 uses the same Micro Four Thirds mount as its bigger siblings, but its 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens is designed with a smaller diameter to better fit the camera. A separate grip accessory is sold for the GM1, with a plate that's secured to the bottom of the camera via the tripod mount. The camera body itself has a leather-like finish and doesn't feel slippery in the hand, but the accessory adds a textured aluminum protrusion.
The GM1 also houses a new shutter mechanism. The shutter itself uses a stepping motor rather than a spring-loaded design, resulting in a significantly smaller unit. The camera's sensor initiates image capture with an electronic first curtain. Using a stepping motor limits maximum mechanical shutter speed to 1/500 sec - after that it's all electronic shutter up to a maximum shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec (yes, that's three zeros).
|The GM1's newly-designed shutter mechanism on the right is powered by a small stepping motor, compared to a more traditional mechanism from the GX7 (on the left).|
Lumix G Vario 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH Mega O.I.S. Lens
The GM1 tends to come with a lens designed specifically for it (though all Micro Four Thirds lenses will work): the collapsible 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 zoom. It uses 3 aspherical elements and one ED lens with a 7-blade diaphragm. It measures 24mm long with a brushed aluminum-style finish, but it is in fact plastic. It uses a retractable design without the locking switch that Olympus' 14-42mm kit zooms use. Simply twisting the barrel will extend the front portion of the lens and engage it - twisting back the other way retracts the lens. The effect is similar to the lens unlock-to-zoom design of Fujifilm's X10 and X20 compacts.
It's a small lens, even compared to the kit zooms included with other Micro Four Thirds cameras, but the GM1 is so small that it still dominates the camera body. The 12-32mm is of approximately equal depth to the GM1 with the front portion retracted. Fully extended, it's almost twice the depth of the camera itself. It's hard to imagine using the GM1 with a zoom that's much larger than the kit; thankfully, the MFT system boasts a number of pocketable primes that will make more sense with the camera's ergonomics.
|The 12-32mm zoom has no focus ring - manual focus is instead achieved using the touch screen. In magnified view with manual focus enabled, a virtual switch appears vertically on the right side of the screen. Focus is adjusted to nearer and farther away by touching the icons on the switch. With each adjustment, the 'switch' jumps back into the center position.|
There's no nice way to put it: using the touch screen to operate manual focus is not a pleasant experience. Focus peaking does help achieve accuracy, but it's a real pain to get there. There's very little reason for anyone to be manually focusing the kit lens anyway, so it's not really a sticking point for us.
In addition to the 12-32mm, Panasonic says it expects to have a premium 15mm (30mm equivalent) F1.7 Leica Summilux lens available sometime next year, designed specifically to match the slim dimensions of the GM1.
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