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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1: Mirrorless camera in a compact body

Published on Apr 21, 2014 3:43 AM
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1

Some argue that mirrorless cameras are not really compact when compared with DSLR cameras. Panasonic decided to prove these people wrong with its Lumix DMC-GM1.

The GM1's body is slightly shorter than a playing card and only 3cm thick minus the lens. When the 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, which was used for this review, was attached to it, the whole thing weighed a mere 274g or just slightly heavier than two Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphones.

Yet, the durable magnesium alloy body ensures that its build is neither flimsy nor plasticky.

But it does lack a contoured grip and there is only a band of artificial leather on its front, which has room for only two fingers, with the ring finger and pinky holding up the base. There is an optional handgrip which consists of a metal base and a vertical metal bar.

Surprisingly, the GM1 does not feel nose heavy with some bigger Micro Four Thirds lenses, such as the Olympus 40-150mm lens.

There is no built-in electronic viewfinder nor a hot shoe to attach one. So you have to use the fixed 3-inch touchscreen display to compose your pictures.

All essential dials and buttons are squeezed into the space available. On top sits a Mode dial, a Function button and a lever for quick changes of focusing modes.

At the back are plenty of dials and buttons. The menu button is in the centre of a clickable control dial, but separate from it. There is also a dedicated video button.

For such a compact camera, the GM1 handles quite well. Powering it up takes only 1.1sec. Shutting it down takes around 1.7sec. Using an SD card with a writing speed rated at 25MB per second, it took seven RAW images in 1.1sec before it ran out of buffer.

Almost instantaneous in bright light, autofocusing, or AF, can take 3sec or even longer to lock on to a focus in dim conditions. During video recording, the AF secures a sharp focus in less than 2sec when the camera pans to a new scene.

For a camera so petite, the images shot with the kit lens are impressively sharp with great tonal range and details. Colour reproduction is accurate in most lighting conditions.

Image noise performance is outstanding. Noise artefacts start to appear only at ISO 3,200. At ISO 6,400, there is detail loss. I would not recommend any higher ISO settings.

Full high-definition videos shot are clear, with minimal ambient or wind audio.

Battery life, though, is below par compared with most mirrorless cameras. It manages 220 still images on a full charge - about 100 fewer than its competitors.

  • Panasonic's Lumix DMC-GM1 is the compact mirrorless camera consumers are yearning for because of its affordable price tag, small size, great handling and sharp images. Just remember to buy an extra battery pack.

Background story

TECH SPECS

Price: $999 (with 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens)

Image sensor: 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds CMOS sensor

Display: 3-inch fixed touchscreen with 1,036,000 dots

Shooting speed: Up to five frames per second

Weight: 204g (body with battery and memory card)


RATING

Features: 4/5

Design: 4/5

Performance: 4/5

Value for money: 4/5

Battery life: 2/5

Overall: 4/5