Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review
Panasonic has been including video capability in its Micro Four Thirds lineup since the introduction of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 back in 2009. The mirrorless design of the G-series cameras makes them particularly suited to movie shooting since unlike DSLRs, the sensor is unimpaired by a mirror in the light-path, and is used full-time for image composition and focussing.
The GX1 has a video capture rate of 30fps and can be set to capture video in AVCHD format. It also offers the ability to record in MP4 format, rather than the Motion JPEG option in previous G-series models. In AVCHD mode, when set to its highest quality setting (FSH), the GX1 offers 60i (interlaced) HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 pixels. In SH mode, 60p (progressive) video is captured at 1280 x 720 pixels. MP4 video can be captured in a choice of either 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720 or 640 x 480 pixel resolution.
The GX1 has stereo microphones located in front of its hot shoe and a small monoaural speaker located on the camera's left body plate for video playback.
FSH: 1920 x 1080, (60i*, 17 Mbps)
SH: 1280 x 720, (60p*, 17 Mbps)
1920 x 1080, 30fps
1280 x 720, 30fps
640 x 480, 30fps
* Sensor output = 30fps
|Audio||Dolby Digital Stereo, wind-cut feature|
|Format||AVCHD / MP4|
|File size||Max 17 MB/sec. (1080i AVCHD)|
|Max file size per clip||4 GB for MP4, card capacity for AVCHD|
|Running time||Up to 29 minutes, 59 seconds for MP4, up to capacity of card for AVCHD (Limited to 29 minutes on models sold in Europe).|
Handling in video mode
Capturing video on the GX1 is no more complicated than pressing the dedicated motion picture button on the top of the camera. Yet the lack of a separate movie mode does have some limitations. While you can capture video in any of the 'Photo Styles' or 'Creative Control' modes, your selection is shared between both still image and motion picture modes. This means you cannot, for example, configure a Monochrome Photo Style for still images while simultaneously designating a color mode for video.
Live view, by default is set to the 4:3 still image format. The lack of a selectable movie mode means that you will not actually see a 16:9 format live view until after you have pressed the movie record button, making precise framing difficult at the start of a video. You can manually switch live view to a 16:9 format via the Q. Menu, but then encounter the same issue should you want to capture a still image when live view is set for a video format.
The GX1 allows you to shoot still images while recording uninterrupted video. The camera's stereo microphones will pick up faint, but audible clicks of the shutter button being pressed. And the resulting JPEG-only images are captured in a 16:9 format and at a reduced size (2 MP).
As we've seen with previous G-series cameras (excluding the video-oriented GH2), exposure control options when shooting video are rather limited. User-defined ISO settings are overridden by the camera. In PASM modes both shutter speed and aperture are set by the camera, with no correlation between the values that appear on the screen before you start recording and those actually used during the recording. Existing exposure compensation, white balance, focus and metering values are honored when shooting video, but cannot be altered during the recording.
|This screen shows video capture with key shooting information overlaid and grid lines enabled.||In iA+ mode, the 'defocus' slider allows you to change aperture during the video and the camera honors existing exposure compensation values.|
Interestingly, the only method of manual aperture control is found by activating the automated intelligent Auto (iA) mode. By dragging a 'defocus' slider while filming, you can control the depth of field beyond your area of focus. Should you enable iAuto, however, you give up more extensive white balance and Photo Style options. It should also be noted that while the exposure compensation range for still images is +/-5 stops EV, the act of recording video automatically reduces this range to +/- 3 stops EV.
During video recording you can focus manually or use continuous AF so that the camera will automatically lock focus on a subject within the AF area. As with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 and GF3, the GX1 is capable of rack focus during videos. This feature allows you to choose a specific area on which to set focus simply by touching the screen. The camera will then shift focus from its current location to the one you have just designated.
You can change the amount of information shown on the screen during video capture by pressing the DISP. button. The GX1 has a fixed rear LCD, making the optional LVF-2 electronic viewfinder the only remedy for eliminating glare on bright sunny days.
Video image quality
The GX1 produces videos which, like the camera's still images, exhibit reasonably accurate white balance and show the effect of metering that errs if anything on the conservative side, placing high priority on avoiding highlight clipping, at the expense of a slightly darker scene exposure. The AF system can be a bit slow to acquire focus initially and we've generally found it quicker to set focus via the touchscreen before pressing the record button. The camera's AF is set to continuous focus by default and we do find a noticeable amount of focus hunt when panning the camera across a scene with objects at different distances.
Audio recording, while certainly acceptable tends to be a bit muddy with the close proximity of the GX1's stereo microphones perhaps responsible for less separation between channels than we've heard from competitors like the Nikon 1 V1 and the Sony NEX-7. The camera's wind-cut filter, although offering no options other than Auto and Off, does a passable job of minimizing wind noise in semi-exposed outdoor settings.
Panasonic's optical image stabilization system can be set to counter movement in all directions or just vertical shifts when you are panning the camera. The effect of stabilization is quite noticeable in hand-held video, producing much steadier results than when it is disabled.
Video samplesThese videos are representative of our day-to-day shooting experiences with the GX1. Video performance is essentially the same as we found in our G3 review video samples.
Sample Video 1This video clip of a tennis rally highlights the GX1's lack of direct manual control over shutter speed. While the camera does a fine job of metering for a pleasing exposure under indoor lighting, the relatively slow shutter speed means that the tennis ball - as well as players' arms and rackets during strokes - succumbs to motion blur. This can be most easily seen when you advance the clip frame by frame. Typically a shutter speed of 1/500 is required to freeze this type of action and the GX1 has chosen a value that is significantly slower.
|1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 12 sec. 28.46 MB Click here to download original .MTS file|
Sample video 2
|1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 29 sec. 64.83 MB Click here to download original .MTS file|
Sample video 3
|1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 15 sec. 34.83 MB Click here to download original .MTS file|
Sample video 4
|1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 16 sec. 38.22 MB Click here to download original .MTS file|