Boasting a 16-millon-pixel-sensor, interchangeable lenses and Wi-Fi in a palm-sized body, is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 the perfect balance between image quality and pocketability? Read the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 review...
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 – at a glance
- 16-million-pixel, micro four thirds Live MOS sensor
- Ultra compact and lightweight (98.5×54.9×30.4mm), weighing 204g
- Max shutter speed 1/16,000sec
- Price £629 with 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 – Introduction
When you hold the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 in the palm of your hand, you realise what a remarkable feat of electronic engineering it really is. To all intents and purposes, the new micro four thirds system camera is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 in a lighter and much smaller body. In fact, the body is so tiny that Panasonic has boasted that in width and height it is around the same size as a playing card. This makes the camera about the same size as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100, but with the option to change the lens sitting in front of the 16-million-pixel, micro four thirds-sized Live MOS sensor.
The pocketable GM1 is designed for those who like to carry a high-quality camera around every day, with Panasonic identifying its target market as 20-to-44-year-old city dwellers with full-time jobs, who like to keep up-to-date with current technology and trends. Panasonic’s profiling sees these users as wanting a camera to photograph their travels, family, friends and events – basically, it is as much a lifestyle accessory as it is a camera. However, the camera is a long way from being just a gimmick or gadget, and it offers much for the enthusiast and professional photographer.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 – Features
The GM1 has a 16-million-pixel sensor with no anti-aliasing filter, and a maximum sensitivity of ISO 25,600. The processor is the same as that found in the GX7, which helps the camera drive and focus the lens with a 240fps refresh rate. This affords the GM1 an extremely fast AF acquisition speed of just 0.06secs, although obviously only when shooting with certain compatible lenses under certain lighting conditions. Still, this is a very impressive speed.
At a shooting rate of 4fps it is possible to use continuous AF tracking, and in single-shot mode the shooting rate can be increased to 5fps. Even more impressive is the maximum shutter speed of 1/16,000sec, which is achieved via a virtual electronic shutter. Slower speeds use an electronic shutter to start the exposure, but end it with a traditional mechanical shutter. The electronic shutter is also used in silent mode, which switches off all the camera’s ‘beeps’. A new type of shutter has been used to make this possible, but more on this in Build and handling.
Despite its size, the GM1 has a 3in, 1.036-million-dot touchscreen, with focus peaking to aid manual focus. The screen can also be used for the clear retouch mode that allows small imperfections to be removed from images by touching them on the camera’s screen, much like using the Healing Brush in Photoshop. Wi-Fi connectivity is built into the camera, allowing image viewing and remote shooting from a smartphone or tablet via the Panasonic app for Android or iOS. However, Near Field Communication (NFC) hasn’t been included, as it simply couldn’t be fitted in to the small body of the camera.
The specification of the GM1 is impressive, given its size and £629 price. The AF appears to be as fast in the GM1 as it is in the GX7, and the rear screen is bright and clear. Overall, there is little not to like, although I have no doubt there will be a few who bemoan the lack of a hotshoe for the use of a flash or even an electronic viewfinder. Given the target market for the GM1, I doubt these two features will be widely missed.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 – Build and handling
By far the biggest selling point of the GM1 will be the size of its body. The engineers at Panasonic have worked hard to make the body as small as possible, but without compromising on any of the features or functionality that we have come to expect from the micro four thirds G-series cameras.
The body is made from magnesium alloy, so it is as strong as it is stylish. The components around the sensor have been reduced by 30%, while the frame around the sensor is 40% smaller. Even more impressive is the fact that the shutter unit has been reduced by 80%. This reduction has been achieved by replacing the conventional mechanical shutter with a single sprung shutter activated by a small stepping motor. This is why the first ‘shutter curtain’ is now electronic, before the exposure is ended with the mechanical shutter.
The main circuit board is also 30% smaller, and rather than being the entire width of the camera it forms a ‘U’ shape around the lens mount and sensor, making full use of the area inside the camera body. It is extremely impressive how few compromises have been made.
The button layout is simple and straightforward. Given the size of the camera and screen, it is perhaps no surprise that there are few direct control or function buttons on the body, but there are enough to allow the quick change of settings, particularly when combining these with the touchscreen. I did find that the shutter button was a little small, but it is still usable. As a replacement, I would consider adding a ProDot stick-on shutter button from Custom SLR (www.customslr.com/products/prodot) to make it a little more tactile. The rear buttons are all of a reasonable size, and it feels a lot like using a compact camera. Those wanting a little more purchase on the camera, which can be a little awkward to hold at some angles, will no doubt benefit from the optional handgrip accessory that is attached via the tripod screw mount.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 – Lenses
Accompanying the new GM1 is the Lumix Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Asph kit lens. This is the equivalent of a 24-64mm lens on a full-frame camera, and it has a collapsing design to make it as small as possible when not in use. It is the ideal everyday lens for the camera, although a Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 Asph wideangle is planned for release, along with an unspecified 35-100mm lens. These optics are designed to be smaller than the standard micro four thirds lenses, although they will be compatible with all micro four thirds cameras. All existing lenses can be used with the GM1.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 – First impressions
There have been a number of exciting camera releases recently, and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 continues that trend. With much of the recent hype concentrating on the Sony Alpha 7 models, the GM1 is an interesting proposition. It may not have a full-frame sensor or an EVF, but it is less than half the price of the Sony cameras and is substantially smaller. There are few high-quality cameras that a photographer can keep on their person at all times, and the GM1 is a welcome addition to the list.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 is due to arrive in the UK from the middle to end of November, price £629 with 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.
To see more images of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 visit the new equipment gallery