DR KOH

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Panasonic DMC-GM1 Review

Introduction

I was contacted by Panasonic Malaysia personal in early Jan 2014, to ask about reviewing their latest micro 4/3rd camera, the Panasonic DMC-GM1 with the world smallest zoom lens 12-32mm. I told them I would be keen to review it, if they can arrange to have the unit loan to me during Chinese New Year (30th Jan till 5th Feb, during my holiday back to my home town). It would be a perfect timing for me to test the camera out as a family man (which is where the camera is targeting at).

Panasonic representative delivered the camera to me on 27th Jan 2014 (Monday), and immediately I am already impressed with the weight and responsiveness of the unit. Besides the GM1 and 12-32mm lens, I also received a Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F/1.7 ASPH (46mm filter size) and ​Panasonic DMW-HGR1 Grip with it.

  • Panasonic DMC-GM1 Digital Camera
  • Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm F/3.5-5.6​ ASPH MEGA OIS (37mm filter size)
  • Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F/1.7 ASPH (46mm filter size)
  • ​Panasonic DMW-HGR1 Grip

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At the same time, I also have the chance to play with the newly announced Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH Power OIS Lens for a few minutes…and WOW…what a lens! I will review the lens in more detail if I can get a loan unit from Panasonic Malaysia later.

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Below is the test shot of the 42.5mm F/1.2 lens which really shows its sharpness and bokeh power. Lovely!

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100% cropped shot (click to view in full)

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Back to the Panasonic GM1. It is not exactly compact for my Jean’s pocket (GM1 + 12-32m lens), though with a little squeeze, I can still slot it is. Taking out require a bit of force though, and most of the time the lens cap will get drop off. However, it is perfectly fine for my wife’s handbag, and no…she doesn’t complaint. No way I dare to put my Nikon D4 body into my wife’s handbag… :p

Chinese New Year Journey

My journey back to Miri starts from my flight from Senai (Johor) airport. With the compact GM1, I can take it in and out easily from my camera bag (I brought along a Nikon D4 as well just in case I am not satisfied with the performance of the GM1 during my CNY holiday). Fun shots at the airport, first few shots are satisfying.

I purposely created the silhouette effect as you can only get one exposed properly, either OUTSIDE or INSIDE the building.

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The famous and delicous Famous Amos! My kids love it!

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Food Photography with 12-32mm MEGA OIS lens

My family and I have a Chinese New Year dinner at Merits hotel in Miri, so I have the chance to snap some nice buffet food there.

Panasonic 12-32mm lens is quipped with MEGA OIS, so it is good for low shutter speed, and without mirror bounce (as in DSLR), one can shoot at much slower shutter speed than DSLR. As a DSLR user myself, I find this extremely handy and important.

GM1 + 12-32mm lens (17mm, 1/30s, F/4, ISO3200)

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100% crop (click to view full)

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Another shot GM1 + 12-32mm lens (17mm, 1/30s, F/4, ISO3200)

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100% crop (click to view full)

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Last shot of food GM1 + 12-32mm lens (17mm, 1/30s, F/4, ISO3200)

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100% crop (click to view full)

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At ISO3200, noise is obvious but still acceptable. I use AUTO ISO setting the camera all the time, so letting the camera chose what is the best ISO to produce sharp (high speed) photo at low light. There is no colour shift at ISO3200, which is impressive in my opinion.

Auto White Balance is set, and colour reproduction is also accurate as per the actual scene.

Flash Photography?

I don’t like to use flash in my photo, as I find it often producing harsh and fake effect, making our subjects unnatural. However, it is good to know that Panasonic GM1 has a built in flash, which can be activated manually by sliding the button behind the camera to POP UP the flash.

Below are shots taken with flash ON and without flash.

Flash ON

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No Flash

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The above shot seems a little under exposed, but still it is much more natural as compared to the flash shot.

With a little bit of editing, the photo becomes great!

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In some cases, you will NOT want to use flash, and let the motion and natural lighting draw the scene! It doesn’t have to be sharp always.

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Underexposed?

Talking about under exposed shot, yes, I do find the GM1 to some times gives under exposed photo. See an example below.  A SUNNY 16 day… (1/640s, F/11, ISO200).

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The photo is under exposed by 1 stop, and below should be the correctly exposed shot.

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Another nature shot…which should have been brighter.

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However, this is no big deal, as the shots from GM1 actually give big room for one to play around on the computer if he/she wanted to adjust the exposure / brightness later.

Comments on Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm F/3.5-5.6​ ASPH MEGA OIS (37mm filter size)

This is a very versatile lens on the GM1. Very compact when stored, which is the selling point of this lens and which is why Panasonic bundled it with the GM1.

Below is how the lens looks like when stored.

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When using this lens, you need to first extend it out to 12mm, before you can take any photo on the GM1. The GM1 will give you a warning that the lens needs to be “unlocked” first before use, if it detected that the lens is in the “stored” position.

Below is how the lens looks like at normal 12mm position.

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In 135 format, it is 24-64mm, which is the most widely use range for general shooting. Some will find it a bit too short at 64mm, but for me is is OK. I am used to short focal length lenses.

One thing I wished to have on this lens is the larger aperture. F/3.5-5.6 is a bit too dark for my taste, and often the shots created are having deep DOF. This is perfectly fine for family usage, as you will want most of your subjects to be in focus.

The lens has great resolving power. Good details and high contrast. But for close up artistic shots, sometimes you wish for more BOKEH.

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100% crop (click image for full view)

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Overall, I think it is still a good kit lens bundled with GM1, and it is good that Panasonic has room for improvement for better kit lens in future (F/2.8 constant aperture please).

Testing out Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F/1.7 ASPH (46mm filter size)

Below is a shot of Blood Pigeon Discus fish in my aquarium, using the 20mm F/1.7 lens. (1/125s, F/1.7, ISO640). The lens gives very nice bokeh as compared to the 12-32mm zoom, and still retain very nice and sharp details when zoomed in. Another good thing about the lens is that you can focus at very close distance, so creating a wide angle close up shot, which is what I love to do. (move closer to your subject, to have a closer touch…)

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As the original file size is quite big, so here I shown a 100% cropped version of it (click to view full).

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Another shot (1/125s, F/1.7, ISO640). Discus strain is Red Melon.

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100% crop (click to view full)

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Action SHOTS? BURST MODE?
No, I don’t take action shots…but I did tried out the BURST MODE in the camera. Seems quite good.
Burst Mode
Continuous till 12 shots (3fps), then 4 shots at slower speed, and another 4 shots at even slower speed, before the camera goes to 1fps (writing and shooting concurrently).​

​The reason I am testing the burst mode is because I do find the camera to be a little slow in previewing the taken photo on the LCD, so normally what I did is take a series of shots (just press the shutter button several times), then only preview it on the LCD.

Optional Accessory, ​Panasonic DMW-HGR1 Grip

This is NOT a must have item, but since Panasonic gave me one during the review, so I just have it hook to the camera all the time. It does help grabbing the camera more firmly, but not much for me (as I have large palm). With the grip attached, you can’t access to the battery or memory card. You will need to remove the grip if you want to open the battery compartment (where the memory card is situated as well) at the bottom of the camera.

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(The blue tint is due to lighting. The grip is in black in whole)

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The grip is full metal construction, so is solid.

Summary

First of all, this is NOT a comprehensive technical review of Panasonic GM1. I did not go into every features of the camera and test out their functionality. It is NOT the purpose of this review anyhow.

This review is mainly from an user experience using the GM1 as a family camera for daily use or special events or holiday occasion.

Now…my feeling of the camera…

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Praises

Solid built. It feels good in the hand, and I am impressed with the quality of it. It is definitely not the cheap P&S feel.

Touch screen LCD. I especially like the touch screen LCD at the back of the camera, very handy when reviewing photos, as you can just slide it left or right (like what you did with your iPad or smartphone). Use two fingers to enlarge or zoom out.

12-32mm lens is very compact when stored. However, it can be a little annoying as every time when you want to use it, you will have to turn it to 12mm first, from the lock down position. MEGA OIS in the lens is nice.

Accurate colour reproduction. I am quite happy with the WB of the lens so far.

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Low noise at high ISO. Using auto ISO, I have no problem with the camera at even ISO3200. Impressive performance as compared to my previous Nikon D200, but of course not as good as my current D4.

Rooms for Improvement

Photo Preview is a bit slow. I wish it can be shown instantly on the LCD after every shot, not waiting half to one second then only shown.

I do find many of the shots taken by the GM1 under exposed by 1/3 to 1/2 stop. It is of no big deal, as it can be easily corrected in computer. However, for those who like to share photo directly without editing, this can be something to take note of, so that one can dial in +0.5 exposure when taking shot. Yes, this feature is available in the camera.

Battery power of the camera can be better. I didn’t count exactly, but estimated of around 450 shots before the battery runs flat. That is 99% shots without flash. So, make sure you have a spare if you brought the camera for holiday trip oversea (which you have access to power supply at hotel at night), and make sure you charge the battery at night before the next day shooting.

Last word…

RECOMMENDED 🙂

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