Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 Review
On February 26th 2006, in a packed press conference on the first day of PMA 2006 Panasonic revealed their first digital SLR, the DMC-L1. The DMC-L1 represents another first, it's the first non-Olympus Four Thirds digital SLR which has to be good news for the system which has up until now been an Olympus only affair. When it was announced many noted the resemblance to the E-330, this is no coincidence as the DMC-L1 shares its optical subsystem (lens mount, mirror box, viewfinder, auto focus and exposure sensors) with the Olympus E-330.
The L1 features the same 7.5 megapixel 'LiveMOS' sensor used in the E-330 (which we now know is manufactured by Panasonic), this provides the camera with TTL live view capability in a similar manner to the E-330. Unlike the E-330 however the DMC-L1 does not have a secondary Live View CCD and so provides only one Live View mode, this is known as 'B mode' on the E-330 and utilizes the main image sensor. The downside to this is that although the DMC-L1 provides auto focus in Live View it requires the mirror to be lowered and raised again during focusing.
Firmware ver 2.0 (March 2007)
As most of the first half of this review was written before Panasonic issued firmware 2.0 (here) hence it's worth noting the following improvements included:
- Added a multiple exposure function.
- Added panning mode [MODE3] to the optical image stabilizer.
- Added a low-angle viewing mode that makes it easier to view the LCD display when the camera is held below eye level.
- Added feature that simplifies setting the aperture when using a lens without an aperture ring.
- Added two manual white balance settings to GUI. GUI design uses navigational cursor to easily select, and set, white balance (WB) to change the color temperature, or set the ISO sensitivity or flash. Time restriction for making changes was removed.
- Added "HOLD" option to Auto Review time, enabling continuous viewing.
- Added feature to allow zoomed playback of photos. It's now possible to move back to the preceding images or forward to the next images while the image is still zoomed.
- Added [AUTO] for the ISO sensitivity in the aperture-priority AE mode [A] and shutter speed-priority AE mode [S].
- Added GUI option to easily check the firmware version.
Panasonic DMC-L1 vs. Olympus E-330 Live View modes compared
DMC-L1 Live View
E-330 A Mode
(full-time live view)
E-330 B Mode
(macro live view)
|Method||Using 'Live MOS' sensor with mirror up and shutter open||Using small CCD sensor in viewfinder chamber||Using 'Live MOS' sensor with mirror up and shutter open|
|Auto focus||Yes, but screen frozen, mirror down during AF||Yes||Yes, with firmware 1.2 (same method as L1)|
|Metering||Normal (main sensor)||Normal *1||Not indicated *2|
|Viewfinder||Unavailable (mirror up)||Available||Unavailable (mirror up)|
|Shutter release||Delayed approx. 1 sec *3||Normal||Delayed approx. 1 sec *3|
|Extra display modes||Thirds grid, 6x6 grid||Passport modes||Golden section, Grid, Scale|
|Live view magnify||Yes in MF; 4x or 10x||No||Yes, 10x|
|Depth of field||Accurate||Not representative||Accurate|
|White balance||Applied to live view||Not applied to live view||Not applied to live view|
|Exposure comp.||Applied to live view||Not applied to live view||Not applied to live view|
|*1||The user manual does note that the most accurate metering is only available in this mode with the eyepiece shutter closed (because of stray light entering view the viewfinder).|
|*2||The metering sensor is in the viewfinder chamber and so exposure is only measured when the shutter release is half-pressed.|
|*3||Because the mirror has to come down and the shutter close before the exposure can be taken (also for metering, see *2).|
Compared to the Olympus E-330 feature and specification differences
The design and price point hint that the DMC-L1 is aimed at a different target market than the Olympus E-330, however there's no doubting that because of the shared components these two cameras will always be compared. Hence the table below which outlines the feature and specification differences between them.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1
|Image sizes|| 3136 x 2352
2560 x 1920
2048 x 1536
| 3136 x 2352
2560 x 1920
1600 x 1200
1280 x 960
1024 x 768
640 x 480
|JPEG compression||• Three level
|| Four levels
One customizable (4 settings)
|Aspect ratio||• 4:3
|Metering||• 49-zone in viewfinder mode
• 256-zone in live view mode
|Metering modes||• Digital ESP
• Center-Weighted Average
|• Digital ESP
• Center-Weighted Average
• Highlight based spot
• Shadow based spot
|ISO sensitivities||• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600
|• Auto (ISO 100 - 400)
• ISO 100
• ISO 125
• ISO 160
• ISO 200
• ISO 250
• ISO 320
• ISO 400
• ISO 500 *
• ISO 640 *
• ISO 800 *
• ISO 1000 *
• ISO 1250 *
• ISO 1600 *
* With ISO Boost set to On
|Shutter speed||Shutter speed dial on top of camera||Via main command dial|
|Exposure steps||1/3 EV||1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV|
|Exposure comp.||• -2.0 to +2.0 EV
• 1/3 EV steps
|• -5.0 to +5.0 EV
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps
|Noise reduction||Selectable -2 to +2 strength||• New High ISO noise filter
• Optionally enabled
|Focus modes||• S-AF
• S-AF & MF
• S-AF & MF
• C-AF & MF
|White balance||• Auto
• Custom 1
• Custom 2
• Kelvin temp (2500 - 10000 K)
• Fluorescent 1
• Fluorescent 2
• Fluorescent 3
• Kelvin temp (2000 - 14000 K)
|WB bracketing||No||• 3 frames
• 5, 10 or 15 mired steps
|WB fine tuning||No||Yes|
|Continuous||• 3.0 / 2.0 fps
• RAW: 6 frames
• JPEG: Unlimited with fast card
|• 3.0 fps
• RAW: 4 frames
• JPEG: 15 frames max
|Self timer||• 10 sec
• 2 sec
|• 12 sec
• 2 sec
|Param presets||7 preset 'film' modes
2 user modes
|5 preset modes|
• Contrast (5 levels)
|• Color mode (3 settings)
• Saturation (5 levels)
• Contrast (5 levels)
• Sharpness (5 levels)
• Monochrome (5 colors, 4 filter)
• Graduation (3 settings)
|B&W Mode||Selectable film types||Selectable filters|
|AF assist||Dedicated lamp||Must pop-up flash manually|
|Flash||• Manual pop-up
• 2 position (straight ahead / bounce)
|• Manual pop-up|
|Scene modes||None||20 modes|
|Info. display||• Two levels||• Two levels
• Color selectable
|Record review||• Single image
• Single image with magnification
|Any of the seven play display modes|
|Play display modes||• No overlaid information
• Basic overlay
• More detailed overlay with histogram
|• No overlaid information
• Basic overlay
• More detailed overlay
• Thumbnail, AF point, 4 way histogram
• Large histogram overlay
• Blinking highlights
• Blinking shadows
|Play magnify||Up to 16x||Up to 14x|
|Play index||9, 25 frames, Calendar||4, 9, 16, 25 frames, Calendar|
|Play marking||No||Yes, batch erase and copy|
|Red-eye fix||No||Yes, play mode 'Edit'|
|Storage||• SD card (Secure Digital)
• Supports SDHC cards (2 GB+)
|• Compact Flash
• xD-Picture Card
|LCD monitor||• 2.5" TFT LCD monitor
• 207,000 pixels
|• 2.5" TFT LCD monitor
• 215,250 pixels
• Wide viewing angle
• Flip-out and up
|TTL live view||Yes, one mode||Yes, two modes|
|Dimensions||146 x 86 x 64 mm (5.7 x 3.4 x 2.5 in)||140 x 87 x 72 mm (5.5 x 3.4 x 2.8 in)|
|Weight||• No battery: 530 g (1.2 lb)
• With battery: 606 g (1.4 lb)
|• No battery: 539 g (1.2 lb)
• With battery: 617 g (1.4 lb)
What the DMC-L1 shares with the Olympus E-330
As mentioned above the DMC-L1 shares its lens mount, mirror box, auto focus and auto exposure sensors with the Olympus E-330. In addition of course they both share the same Panasonic sensor. Unlike the E-330 however the DMC-L1 does not have an additional small live view CCD on the top of the viewfinder chamber (you can just make out where it should be below), so only has one live view mode. Disappointingly this means that in normal viewfinder mode you're actually looking through a half-mirror with a dimmer view for no actual gain.
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