Compared to... Canon EOS 500D

The GF1 (and Olympus's E-P1) represent a totally new digital camera category, promising the quality of an SLR combined with something approximating the convenience and portability of a compact. To put the first part of that statement to the test let's have a look at how well the GF1 compares to one of the best 'full size' DSLRs on the market, the Canon EOS 500D. To be honest we could've chosen any similarly-specified SLR for this comparison (they're all in roughly the same ballpark when it comes to image quality); the key thing we're looking for here is how much of a compromise - if any - the new format demands.

Studio scene comparison (JPEG)

This is our standard studio scene comparison shot taken from exactly the same tripod position. Lighting: daylight simulation, >98% CRI. Crops are 100%. Ambient temperature was approximately 22°C (~72°F).

Panasonic GF1 vs. Canon EOS 500D

Camera settings:

  • Panasonic DMC-GF1: Olympus 50 mm F2 Macro lens (@F6.3), Aperture Priority, ISO 100
    JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Default Parameters (Standard), Self-Timer
  • Canon EOS 500D: Canon 50 mm F1.4 lens (@F8), Aperture Priority, ISO 100
    JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Default Parameters (Standard), Self-Timer
Panasonic DMC-GF1
Canon EOS 500D
6.6 MB JPEG (4000 x 3000)
5.6 MB JPEG (4032 x 3024)

Once again the differences are subtle and are mostly down to the different approaches to image processing, demosaicing, noise reduction and, to a lesser extent, sharpening. Once again Panasonic is let down slightly at a pixel level by its in-camera JPEG processing, with visible moiré and a loss of fine detail in the diagonals on the third crop down. The Canon's output is cleaner and smoother, though you can see the effect of Canon's default noise reduction on the subtle texture and detail in the shadow areas.

Ultimately you'll be hard-pushed to see the difference (color aside) in a print or viewed at a normal size, and if you've been at all worried that a camera like the GF1 can't compete with a 'full size' DSLR then you can stop now - certainly at lower ISO settings there's simply not enough difference to worry about.