Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Review
There's very little that's brand new to the GM1 that hasn't appeared in one of its G-series predecessors. Its sensor and much of its feature set first appeared in the GX7. As such, portions of that in-depth review have been borrowed here where applicable.
So what features do you lose if you opt for the GM1 over the GX7? Here's a quick rundown of the differences:
• Tilting 3.0-inch LCD with 1040k dots
• Fixed 3.0-inch LCD with 1040k dots
|Stabilization||• In-body Image Stabilization||• In-lens O.I.S.|
|Connectivity||• Wi-Fi with NFC||• Wi-Fi (no NFC)|
|Maximum shutter speed||• Max. shutter speed 1/8000 sec (mechanical or electronic shutter)||• Max. shutter speed 1/16,000 sec (electronic shutter) 1/500 sec (mechanical shutter)|
|Burst mode Raw file maximum||• Burst image max. with Raw 15 images||• Burst image max. with Raw 7 images|
|Built-in flash||• Flash Guide Number 5.0 (ISO 100)||• Flash Guide Number 4.0 (ISO 100)|
|Flash sync speed||• Flash Sync speed 1/320 sec||• Flash Sync speed 1/50 sec|
|Customizable controls|| • 9 customizable Fn buttons
(4 physical, 5 virtual)
| • 6 customizable Fn buttons
(1 physical, 5 virtual)
|Battery life||• Battery capacity 350 shots with kit lens||• Battery capacity 230 with kit lens|
|HD video resolution||• 1080 60p, 1080 60i max. video resolutions||• 1080 30p, 1080 60i max. video resolutions|
|Additional features||• Tone curve adjust, In-camera panorama mode||---|
There's no question that the GX7 and its peers like the Olympus Pen E-P5 and Sony NEX-6 are designed for more serious shooting than the GM1. The lack of viewfinder, lower battery capacity, and reduced flash sync speed may be deal-breakers for some. However, a lot of core features are intact in the GM1, starting with that 16MP Four Thirds sensor. A few 'softer' features are available too, including time lapse and stop motion modes.
As with the GX7, the GM1 offers a truly impressive silent mode, turning off all camera beeps, AF lamp and enabling the electronic shutter. It's remarkably quiet, and with the electronic shutter on the Super High continuous shooting mode skyrockets up to 40 fps (at 3.8 megapixels, JPEG only).
The same limitations apply as with the GX7 - flash is unavailable, and under artificial light certain shutter speeds will create a banding pattern across the image. Using the top of the electronic shutter's range at 1/16,000 sec can also produce some distortion when photographing fast-moving objects.
|At 1/16,000 shutter speed the electronic shutter creates the rolling shutter effect seen to the right. The round tire and wheel cover look slightly skewed.|
The GM1 offers focus peaking for still and video shooting. When your subject is in-focus, it will be outlined by a color that 'glimmers'. You can use this tool to make very precise adjustments to the focus distance.
|Blue lines outline the subjects that are in focus. There are two levels of sensitivity to choose from, aptly named low and high. You can also select the color of the outline: blue, yellow, or green.|
The GM1 offers HDR shooting, a common feature in compacts and mirrorless cameras. It captures multiple frames of varying exposure to capture highlight and shadow detail, and combines them to create a single image with a wide dynamic range. There are four 'levels' of HDR to choose from: Auto, 1EV, 2EV, or 3EV. The larger the interval, the more pronounced the effect. You can also choose whether or not the camera tries to align the three images. In the GM1, as with the GX7, this is a JPEG-only affair, and HDR modes can't be accessed from any Raw shooting mode.
Stop Motion / Time Lapse
Not a core feature but potentially a fun one is the GM1's Stop Motion mode. It will capture a series of images and automatically generate a movie file of a Nightmare Before Christmas-type style. With the camera on a tripod, the GM1 will take as many pictures as you'd like, and the camera will put them together into a video for you. The original stills are saved, as well. The camera can 'auto shoot' at set intervals (you'd better be quick) or you can take them at your own pace. An overlay of the previous shot helps you see exactly what's moved.
When you've finished taking pictures it's time to save the results as an MP4 video. You can choose resolutions of up to 1080/30p, with frame rates ranging from 3 - 30 fps. Obviously, the quality of the animation depends on your skill, but here's a quick example (directed and animated by Jeff Keller):
|Stop Motion, 18 shots, 1920 x 1080, 6 fps, MP4 format|
The GM1 will do a similar trick in Time Lapse mode, assembling a series of photos taken at regular intervals into a video file. The obvious setback here is the GM1's short battery life (230 shots according to standard tests but often shorter, in reality) - a time lapse of any significant length will require external power. Panasonic's time lapse interface goes the extra step of providing a handy reminder on the setup screen when the time lapse will be complete.
The GM1 also inherits the Clear Retouch feature we saw in the GX7. It's still somewhat frustrating to use, and produces inconsistent results. Results vary from passable to downright bad. With a subject isolated on a contrasting background, it does alright, but introduce other elements or a busy background and you may end up with less-than-ideal results.
Furthermore, the feature is only available for use with images recorded in JPEG-only shooting and can't be used with JPEGs shot in Raw+ mode. Assuming it worked perfectly, it might be useful for quick in-camera edits prior to transferring a photo to a smartphone via Wi-Fi, but if you're a Raw+ shooter as we tend to be this won't be an option anyway.
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