Panasonic Lumix G1 Review
When you consider the incredible flexibility offered by digital capture (unencumbered by the physical need to put the film behind the lens and to advance it frame by frame) it's perhaps surprising that the digital interchangeable lens camera has remained so firmly rooted in a basic design that hasn't changed since the 1950's. The single lens reflex does its job very well, but building a camera around a mirror box seriously ties the designer's hands - not only in the physical size and shape of the body, but in the lenses too (the distance to the sensor means retrofocus designs are needed to overcome the distance from the sensor to the flange).
The reasons for this seemingly dogmatic attachment to the single lens reflex are fairly obvious; the main players in the market have a vested interest in maintaining compatibility with legacy lenses and offering as seamless a transition from film to digital as possible for their millions of existing users. Besides, it's a lot easier to design a body that works in the same way SLRs always did than to launch an entirely new lens system.
There have also been some technological barriers to deal with; the lack of digital displays good enough to produce an electronic viewfinder that can even get close to a good mirror and prism, and the fact that current phase-detect autofocus systems won't work without a mirror being the two most commonly cited.
It is perhaps unsurprising then, that the first company to challenge the SLR hegemony is Panasonic, a manufacturer with no legacy film SLR system to support and a share of the digital SLR market so small that it's relatively easy to simply drop it and move on. We strongly suspect that the L10 will be the end of Panasonic's brief foray into the standard Four Thirds System and that - for all the joint development statements - it was Panasonic, not Olympus that was the driving force behind the introduction of Micro Four Thirds.
And so we have a new system with a new lens mount and this, the G1; the world's first electronic viewfinder interchangeable lens camera. From the outside it looks for all the world like a conventional SLR (albeit a very small one) - we're told that the design (complete with faux prism 'hump') is deliberately conservative; Panasonic's research has shown that its target market (particularly in Japan) still prefers a camera that looks like a camera is supposed to, and wasn't going to risk falling at the first hurdle by producing something too radical.
On the inside of course it is indeed radically different to every SLR on the market; the mirror and pentaprism/pentamirror viewfinder is gone, replaced by a live view-only system using either the newly-developed high resolution electronic viewfinder or the large articulated rear screen (which, interestingly, has a 3:2 aspect ratio - not the 4:3 ratio of the sensor).
Panasonic's stated reasons for introducing Micro Four Thirds are simple; to produce smaller cameras that act more like compact DSCs whilst offering the quality and versatility of a DSLR - and in doing so to convert some of the millions of compact camera buyers who - according to research - are put off digital SLRs by the bulk, complexity and lack of user-friendliness. And our initial tests would suggest that they have solved at least one of the technological problems mentioned earlier (the contrast-detect autofocus is easily as fast as any other entry-level DSLR). The viewfinder is also very impressive and significantly better than any viewfinder we've seen on a digital stills camera before.
The Micro Four Thirds standard - and the Panasonic G1 - represents the first complete break with legacy SLR technology going back well over half a century, and as such represents an important moment in digital photography's short history. It would be fair to describe it as the first truly 'all digital' interchangeable lens camera, and I think it would also be fair to say it finally delivers on the promise made for the Four Thirds system when it was first introduced back in 2002 (to quote from the original press release 'The major benefit of Four Thirds System is that it will allow the design of dedicated, high-performance digital camera lens systems that are more compact than their 35 mm film SLR camera lens counterparts').
It's worth remembering that this 'mini SLR' thing has been tried before; in the mid to late 1990's Canon, Nikon and Minolta all launched compact SLR systems based around the new APS film format, and all failed to make any impact at all. Of course a lot of that was down to timing (digital was already starting to reshape the entire landscape of the photo industry), but crucially these systems also offered little beyond a size reduction (and a far more limited choice of films) to differentiate them from their 35mm counterparts.
Where the G1 - and Micro Four Thirds - has the edge is that there has never been a wider gap between the image quality offered by compact cameras and SLRs. By offering a camera that works and handles like a compact (Panasonic FZ users will feel right at home) but produces output a lot more like an SLR, Micro Four Thirds has carved out a potentially lucrative niche for itself in a market crying out for innovation. It may seem like a relatively low-key product to herald a minor revolution in the digital SLR market, but have no doubt, the G1 is one of the most interesting products we've had under this roof for quite some time. Let's see how it performs in our in-depth review.
Micro Four Thirds
Olympus and Panasonic announced the new, mirrorless format / lens mount based on (and compatible with) Four Thirds in August 2008. The Micro Four Thirds system uses the same sensor size (18 x 13.5 mm) but allows slimmer cameras by removing the mirror box and optical viewfinder. The new format has three key technical differences: (1) roughly half the flange back distance (distance from mount to the sensor), (2) a smaller diameter lens mount (6 mm smaller) and (3) two additional contact points for lens-to-body communication (now 11 points). Removing the mirror mechanism allows this shorter flange back distance, meaning lenses for the new mount can be considerably smaller than current Four Thirds designs. The format will require framing to be carried out using Live View on either the LCD monitor or an EVF. Existing Four Thirds lenses can be used on Micro Four Thirds cameras using an adapter.
Micro Four Thirds is an extension of the Four Thirds standard that Olympus, Leica and Panasonic have used for their recent DSLRs. An adaptor ring is available, allowing existing Four Thirds lenses to be mounted. Auto Focus only functions on lenses compatible with contrast-detect AF, which limits choice. Click here for an up-to-date list of compatible lenses on the Panasonic website.
Although details are still a little sketchy, Panasonic has released a lens roadmap for Micro Four Thirds (expect something similar from Olympus at some point soon):
- 18 Photographic tests (Noise)
- 19 Photographic tests (Noise)
- 20 Photographic tests (DR)
- 21 Photographic tests
- 22 Compared to
- 23 Compared to (JPEG)
- 24 Compared to (JPEG)
- 25 Compared to (JPEG)
- 26 Compared to (JPEG)
- 27 Compared to (JPEG)
- 28 Compared to (RAW)
- 29 Compared to (RAW)
- 30 Compared to (RAW)
- 31 Compared to (Higher ISO)
- 32 Compared to (Resolution)
- 33 Conclusion
- 34 Samples
Jan 19, 2009
Sep 12, 2008
Jan 18, 2012
Jan 12, 2012
German media reports that the founders of the company behind the Panono 360-degree ball camera have filed for bankruptcy at a court in Berlin. Read more
With a claimed 800 new custom parts, Microsoft's updated Surface Pro comes with the latest Kaby Lake processors, better battery life, a new hinge, plus the Surface Pen is updated as well. Read more
DW Photo is attempting to resurrect the Hy6 medium format camera, though the legal tangles of its development may stop it being branded Rolleiflex.
The Kodak EKTRA, the company's 'camera first' smartphone, is now available to purchase in the United States. Read more
Apple and Nokia have settled their years-old patent dispute. Apple will make an undisclosed payment to Nokia and sign a licensing agreement related to digital health products with the Finnish company.
David Gibson, one of Britain's best known street shooters, shares all.
Photographers from the SKYGLOW project travelled 150k miles and took 3 million photos in increasingly rare locations: those without light pollution.
The world's fastest 200mm was produced for 16 years. In that time, only 8000 were made.
Photokina, the biennial photo industry trade show in Cologne, Germany, has announced that it will become an annual event beginning in 2018, and expand its focus to additional areas of imaging technology. Read more
No mic socket? No problem. In this video, Daniel Peters at Photo Gear News shows you how to make a lapel microphone using just a smartphone and a pair of earbuds.
How does the iPhone 7 Plus stack up against the Arri Alexa cinema camera? Watch this short video to find out.
Canon Australia's video series "The Lab" is designed to make photographers experiment and think outside the box. In the latest video a group of photographers create images based on their sense of taste.
The GH5 is expected to get a firmware update this summer to support 400Mbps internal recording. NewsShooter explores what memory cards you'll need to make it work.
Microsoft's new Surface Pro offers Intel's latest processor generation and improved battery life.
Riding a mountain bike downhill is dangerous enough in daylight, but potentially lethal at night. Which is where drones come in.
Rumors abound that Canon (and maybe Nikon) may produce a mirrorless camera based using their existing DSLR mount. Does this guarantee immediate great lens choice or a perpetually second-rate experience? Read more
According to rumors, the next camera from Nest will be able to capture 4K video, though that resolution will be only used for 'virtual' pan and tilt functions.
Boundary's Prima 'fully modular' backpack is expandable to 30L and has a removable camera case and tablet sleeve. Early Kickstarter backers can get one for $189.
Stanley Greene captured 'brutally honest' photographs in the war zones of the Middle East, Chechnya and Georgia. He was also one of the few African-American photographers working internationally.
Owners of Leica M cameras that suffer from peeling CCDs will be able to claim a free repair in the future so long as the camera was purchased within five years of the fault becoming apparent, the company has announced. Read more
The Carl Zeiss Jena BIOTAR 75mm F1.5 Red T lens is very rare and priced accordingly. It can be yours today for the low, low price of $15,000.
The MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has developed a drone that does not require any human control for recording tracking shots. Read more
In this terrifying video, Iraqi journalist Ammar Alwaely narrowly misses a sniper's bullet, which takes out his chest-mounted GoPro. Warning: strong language. Watch the video
A new report expects action camera growth to increase about 15% by 2021, with Ultra HD cameras driving demand. Read more
Profiles for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom have been released for Irix's ultra-wide 11mm and 15mm primes. Like all profiles, these correct for distortion and vignetting.
An upcoming firmware update from DJI will cripple its drones unless they are 'activated' on the company's website. Live streaming will be turned off and flight radius/altitude will be limited.
Brent from ShareGrid rounds up the 10 most common products filmmakers are renting from one another for productions; chances are good you own one or more of them.
DaVinci Resolve is making strong moves to compete with Premiere and Final Cut Pro, including affordable control panels for colorists. According to Premium Beat, they're really good.
If you are not planning to fly your drone commercially you are not required to register it with the FAA anymore. This decision was handed down by a federal court in Washington, D.C.
Whether you're syncing a flash, wondering why banding is appearing in your image or getting strange images from your camera's silent shutter mode, the way your shutter works has a role to play. Here's what happens when you press the shutter button. Read more