Panasonic introduces the premium compact-style Lumix DMC-GX1, its fourth current compact system camera in the range that packs the same number of pixels as its larger siblings
Build and Handling
Although the Lumix DMC-GX1 is small, it is by no means lightweight because it features an aluminium chassis. Whereas the GF3 is lightweight with a plastic build, the GX1 is weighty and solid.
Like the GF1 before it, the GX1 has a retro rangefinder style that is sure to be popular with enthusiasts. Certainly, when the viewfinder is added, the GX1 feels like a ‘proper’ camera. Panasonic has refined the faux leather handgrip to a curved line, and I found my middle finger rested naturally along this contour for a secure grip.
Some of the buttons, namely the four-way pad and function button, feel a little cheap as the surface wears away with regular use, but otherwise each control is solid and tactile.
What is key to the operation of the camera is the level of customisation available. Not only are there two function buttons on the rear, but a further two can also be found via the touchscreen menu. Controls such as digital gauge and one-push auto exposure can be assigned to these buttons, and there is a quick menu for the main functions. There are 25 of these in all, and virtually any control can be assigned to a button.
Shooting modes on the main top plate dial include PASM controls, two custom settings, creative control and scene modes. Intelligent auto (iA) is activated directly via a button on top of the body. When using this mode a blue light encircles the iA button, which is a useful reminder because this mode overrides whatever shooting mode is currently set on the top dial.
Intelligent auto seems fairly reliable and makes for a good option in pressurised situations that require a fast response, but I suspect many people interested in this camera will make most use of the semi-manual exposure modes.
The new 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ‘X’ Power Zoom lens used during this test extends on start up, and collapses to the size of a regular pancake lens when not in use. This suits the dimensions of the camera perfectly. The lens has two controls on its barrel: one for focus and one for electronic zoom.
I found the latter a bit too high up the lens for a natural and comfortable control, and would like to see the placement of the switches swapped. For size and handling alone, the ‘X’ lens is a great option.
Although there is an option in the menu, image stabilisation is only available when a compatible lens with optical stabilisation (OIS) is attached.
Once the user is familiar with the camera and knows what controls are used most often, the GX1 is speedy, easy and a pleasure to use, thanks to the balance between touch control and customisable buttons.