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The GF1 has been discontinued for some time now, but it was one of the first mirrorless cameras that felt like an actual product rather than a proof-of-concept. It was smaller than a DSLR, offered great image quality, was pretty comfortable to handle, and above all, was blessed with a control scheme geared for hands-on users. Enthusiasts loved it.

Then Panasonic turned the GF line toward the mass market. The latest model looks and handles more like a point-and-shoot than a system camera. For a while, there was no obvious upgrade for GF1 fans.

But Panasonic wants to make it right, and has offered up the GX1. It's the spitting image of the GF1, stuffed with updated components, including the great 16-megapixel sensor used in last year's G3.

While it's built from familiar elements that have worked in the past, the mirrorless segment gets more competitive every month. Is the GX1 really the update that enthusiasts have been looking for, or was it just cobbled together to appease a few vocal fans? Read on to see how it stacks up.

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Contents of the GX1 Power Zoom kit.

• Panasonic Lumix GX1 digital camera • Lumix G X Vario 14-42mm/f/3.5-5.6 power zoom lens • rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (DMW-BLD10PP) • battery charger (DE-A93) • USB cable • shoulder strap • body cap • lens cap • lens rear cap • hot shoe cover • basic owner's manual • CD-ROM The GX1 is available in a few kit configurations. Panasonic have put most of their marketing oomph behind the 14-42mm X Power Zoom lens kit, the same setup they sent to us for testing. It's a clever compromise between a pancake prime lens, and a bulky but versatile standard zoom lens. Strapped to the GX1, it's small enough to fit into a loose coat pocket or handbag when it's powered down. It's a bit thicker than a true pancake, like Panny's 14mm f/2.5 lens, but much thinner than any standard zoom on the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) roster, including the collapsible 14-42mm Olympus lens. Powered on, its depth doubles, but stays pretty consistent throughout the focal range. The newsworthy bit here is that the power zoom lens has a tilter on the lens barrel to control zoom, rather than a manual twist-barrel mechanism (same deal with manual focus—a tilter instead of a lens ring). It's the first time we've seen an interchangeable lens quite like this on _any_ system (though Pentax did a vaguely similar design back in the film era). Using a tilter to zoom doesn't feel as natural as a twist-barrel, but it does allow for a much smaller, pocketable profile without giving up the focal range. If you can't live without the manual zoom, the GX1 is also available with a standard 14-42mm zoom lens. It's too thick for any pocket, but this configuration is much cheaper at $799 than the power zoom kit at $949 (the body goes for $699). With Panasonic's emphasis on portability, we're surprised that there's no pancake kit available. The GX1 is a Micro Four Thirds-format camera, and accepts all MFT lenses. The system has come a long way in just a few years, featuring a healthy selection of lenses from bright, wide-angle primes to far-reaching superzooms, and a growing stable of specialty glass. Panasonic and Olympus each make a few great first-party MFT lenses, and some reputable third parties are getting in on the action. The options aren't as rich or diverse as those available to DSLRs, but it's by far the deepest roster of any mirrorless system. Anyone with lots of legacy glass sitting around will be happy to know that the Micro Four Thirds mount is the most versatile mount out there. Adapters are available for just about any type of lens.
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The GX1 has a Micro Four Thirds mount.

The GX1 is built around a 16-megapixel, 4/3-inch Live MOS sensor. It's very similar to the sensor used in last year's G3, but not quite the same; the GX1 has a slightly higher effective pixel count, and it is capable of an extra ISO stop (up to 12800). Convergence areas of different sensor sizes compared The 4/3-inch sensor is smaller than the APS-C chips used in most DSLRs and several other mirrorless systems, including the Sony NEX series. A smaller sensor usually means worse noise performance and a harder time achieving a shallow depth-of-field effect, but it does facilitate smaller camera bodies and more compact lenses. The GX1 does not have a built-in viewfinder, which keeps its profile relatively small. Panasonic sells a few electronic viewfinders (the LVF1 and LVF2) that fit into the hot-shoe for anyone who can't live without an eye-level finder. The GX1 sports a 3-inch, 460,000-pixel touchscreen LCD. For general shooting it gets the job done, and is visible in all but direct sunlight. It's sharp enough to judge focus in conjunction with the MF assist magnification, but just barely. Brightness, contrast/saturation, red tint, and blur tint can all be adjusted in the menu system. The touchscreen is pretty responsive. It feels like Panasonic has made it more sensitive than the screen on last year's GF3 (though we haven't used that camera in a few months). Only a few functions are tied to the touch interface, like tap-to-focus, so it's a smart system. We'd be singing a different tune if we had to use the touchscreen to navigate the entire menu system. But as it stands now, this LCD is ample. As with the majority of consumer-grade cameras these days, the GX1 has a mini-HDMI port and a USB port. It also has a remote-control port. All three of them are concealed behind a plastic door on the side of the body. There's also an opening in the battery door to accommodate a DC coupler. The GX1 is a well-built camera, with a solid heft and sturdy in-hand feel. But it isn't weather-sealed, let alone shockproof, waterproof, or anything along those lines. Handle with care. The GX1 shows very good overall image quality. Sharpness is respectable, even with the X Power Zoom lens. Color is flat-out excellent. Noise is very strong for a Four Thirds sensor. Video is even decent. While it doesn't quite keep up with APS-C cameras, like the Sony NEX-5N or Samsung NX200, it's great for a Micro Four Thirds camera, edging out the G3 in most categories. The GX1 has decent overall sharpness with the 14-42mm X Power Zoom kit lens. We measured an average of 1267 MTF50s (measurements of sharpness) across all focal lengths, apertures, and areas of our test chart. At its absolute sharpest—the middle of the frame at the widest, brightest setting (14mm, f/3.5 in this case)—we measured almost 2000 MTF50s, which is a great result. The softest result—a middling 650 MTF50s—also came at the wide angle, but at the narrowest aperture (f/22), midway between the edge and center of the chart. We usually see the opposite pattern with kit lenses—the larger apertures have the fastest falloff at the edges—but that wasn't the case here. For chuckles, we also tested sharpness with a regular Olympus 14-42mm kit lens that we had sitting around the labs. When Panasonic announced the X Power Zoom lens, forum trolls speculated that it would be horribly soft compared to typical Micro Four Thirds lenses. The Olympus lens was notably sharper, with an average of 1336 MTF50s across all of our tests, and generally shows less falloff at more of the lens settings. That said, its worst scores are softer than the GX1 ever gets—fewer than 600 MTF50s at the horizontal midway point of the chart, at the tightest setting on the lens (42mm, f/22). With all that in mind, the GX1's sensor provides plenty of detail, even through a kit lens made for convenience, not performance. As we expected, it's about as sharp as its chunkier sibling, the G3—built with a very similar sensor. It's not far behind the Sony NEX-5N, either. But the Olympus PEN E-P3 and Samsung NX200 can both take significantly sharper images across the board. [More on how we test sharpness.](/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#resolution)
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The GX1 does not have in-body image stabilization, but the X Power Zoom kit lens does. When it's turned on, shots are 51 percent sharper than they are with IS turned off. The GX1 earned excellent color results. This is an area where Panasonic typically excels, and the GX1 is no exception. Standard mode proved to be the most accurate, and we measured a minimum color error of 2.59 (anything under 3.0 is great) with a near-perfect saturation level of 100.6 percent. Reds and greens are very accurate. Pure yellow is fairly flat, while most shades of blue are deeper than ideal levels. [More on how we test color.](/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#color) *NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.* Compared to the rest of the mid-priced, mirrorless system cameras in this comparison group, the GX1 has one of the best color scores. Its basically even with the two other Micro Four Thirds models in the group, and significantly more accurate than either APS-C sensor cameras, though none of them earned a truly bad score. Most of the color modes that we tested (everything except Monochrome) turned in excellent accuracy results. Natural mode came in a very close second place, with a 2.71 minimum color error and 96 percent saturation. It reproduces blues more faithfully than Standard mode, though its yellows are more flat. Portrait scored right behind Natural, with more accurate yellows but more vivid reds. Even the two most heavy-handed color modes, Scenery and Vivid, are fairly accurate, though they exaggerate greens and blues. On the whole, the GX1 has one of the more accurate white balance systems in the class. #### Automatic White Balance () Auto white balance is a hit or miss affair. It performs very well in daylight and respectably under fluorescent light, but can't correct the pale yellow cast of incandescent lights. This is a pretty common issue with auto white balance systems, and the GX1's score doesn't really concern us. #### Custom White Balance () The custom white balance system is great. Compared to AWB, daylight isn't much more accurate, but there was hardly any room for it to improve. It corrects extremely well for fluorescent and incandescent lighting. The GX1 outranks all of the cameras in this comparison group except for the Samsung NX200, which posted a remarkable score. But compared to the other cameras, the GX1 really stands out because of how accurate its custom white balance system can be. White balance modes include Auto White Balance, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Flash, two custom modes, and a direct Kelvin entry. All of the modes (even AWB) are adjustable. Like most Panasonic G-series cameras, the GX1 has five levels of noise reduction available, ranging from -2 to +2 and including the default setting of 0, adjustable in the Photo Style menus. Panasonic has told us in the past that even the lowest NR setting still applies some noise reduction, though not very much. Since Micro Four Thirds sensors are smaller than the APS-C sensors found in most DSLRs, as well as the Sony and Samsung mirrorless shooters considered here, we generally expect to see more noise from Panasonic and Olympus system cameras. The GX1 falls into that pattern, but all things considered, it performs very well for a camera with a relatively small sensor. [More on how we test noise.](/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#noise)
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At the minimum NR setting, shots remain nicely detailed up through ISO 1600. There's a significant dropoff at ISO 3200, though the photos are arguably still usable for online sharing and small prints. ISO 6400 looks pretty rough, and while ISO 12800 could look worse, it's probably best to avoid that setting in all but a pinch.
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The GX1's ISO range stretches from ISO 160 to 12800, all of which are available at full resolution. The user can hand-select these settings (either in full stops or 1/3 stops—adjustable under the ISO Increments setting in the Rec menu) or leave it up to the camera's Auto or Intelligent ISO (I.ISO) modes. The GX1 didn't earn as impressive a score as we had expected it to. It manages a D-range of about 5.3 stops at the base ISO setting. It remains consistent up through ISO 400, and then starts to fall off about 1 stop at each ISO setting from 800 through ISO 6400. [More on how we test dynamic range.](/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#dynamicrange) These results surprised us because last year's G3 earned a strong D-range score (about 6.4 stops at base ISO), and it's built with pretty much the same sensor as the GX1. We thought about re-testing the GX1, but the test results are valid. After looking at all of the data we think we have a pretty good explanation for why the GX1 captured less of the dynamic range in our test. According to our noise tests, the G3 applies more noise reduction than the GX1, across all NR settings at all ISO levels (in JPEG mode—we're not considering RAW here). The difference is barely measurable at the top three NR settings, so in terms of the cameras' overall noise scores, this barely amounts to any difference at all. But at the lowest NR setting (-2), the discrepancy is the most pronounced, and it's the only setting we consider in our D-range test (for several reasons, but basically because more noise scrubbed from a picture means a greater D-range is visible, even if details are lost in the process). Basically, we think it comes down to the fact that because the GX1 is aimed more squarely toward enthusiast shooters than the G3, Panasonic tweaked the JPEG engine so that it applied less noise reduction—hands-on shooters tend to prefer that look. We don't think that this is a hardware issue; if we shot RAW (straight from the sensor) photos, the results would probably be very similar. Compared to the rest of the pack, the GX1 finishes well behind the two cameras with APS-C sensors (predictably), but beat out the E-P3. Like most Panasonic G-series cameras, the GX1 has five levels of noise reduction available, ranging from -2 to +2 and including the default setting of 0, adjustable in the Photo Style menus. Panasonic has told us in the past that even the lowest NR setting still applies some noise reduction, though not very much. Since Micro Four Thirds sensors are smaller than the APS-C sensors found in most DSLRs, as well as the Sony and Samsung mirrorless shooters considered here, we generally expect to see more noise from Panasonic and Olympus system cameras. The GX1 falls into that pattern, but all things considered, it performs very well for a camera with a relatively small sensor. [More on how we test noise.](/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#noise) The GX1's ISO range stretches from ISO 160 to 12800, all of which are available at full resolution. The user can hand-select these settings (either in full stops or 1/3 stops—adjustable under the ISO Increments setting in the Rec menu) or leave it up to the camera's Auto or Intelligent ISO (I.ISO) modes. The chief complaint about mirrorless systems for the first few years of their existence was the sluggish autofocus. But contrast AF systems have come a long way recently, and the GX1 is almost as fast as any camera with a mirror in decent lighting, thanks to Panasonic's so-called Light Speed AF. It slows down and loses accuracy in dim lighting, but we have very few complaints. Low-light sensitivity was another weak point. We reached the minimum acceptable threshold at an unimpressive 35 lux—barely enough to earn any points at all in this test. We found very little chromatic aberration in our GX1 test photos. At the edges of some shots at the minimum aperture, we noticed a hint of blue/green fringing, but it's barely there. The GX1 even outperformed the Panasonic G3, which had a great score to begin with. Distortion is very well controlled. At 14mm, we measured 0.98% barrel distortion, which is noticeable but not extreme. It pincushioned out to a minute 0.19% at the middle focal length, and a bit further to 0.55% at the telephoto setting. The GX1 earned a respectable score in our motion test, thanks in large part to its 1080/60p resolution. We spotted some trailing and a bit of stuttering on the train in our test scene, and some artifacting in the spinning color wheels. [More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.](/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#videomotion) The results are slightly better than what we measured in last year's Panasonic G3 (which is still a current model), and handily beat the Olympus PEN E-P3. The Sony NEX-5N is far and away the best performer in the class, and the Samsung NX200 is no slouch either.

Despite the 1080/60p resolution, the GX1's video sharpness isn't great. We measured a maximum of 500 horizontal lw/ph and 450 vertical lw/ph in our bright-light sharpness test, well behind all of the cameras in the comparison group except for the G3. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

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The low-light sharpness score was especially bad, resolving just 200 horizontal lw/ph and 175 vertical lw/ph in motion. At a standstill, the picture is actually pretty sharp, so at least there's that.

Low-light sensitivity was another weak point. We reached the minimum acceptable threshold at an unimpressive 35 lux—barely enough to earn any points at all in this test.

The GX1's user interface and level of control are excellent. It's a camera built for hands-on users, so it'll probably feel a bit intimidating to novice and casual photographers, but the Intelligent Auto modes (including the augmented iAuto+ setting) are effective for quick, easy shooting. It's a fairly speedy camera, too, managing a 4.1fps burst rate and snappy autofocus. AF systems in mirrorless system cameras have really matured over the past six months or so, and the GX1 is nearly as quick (though not always as accurate) as DSLRs with mirrors. The weak point is the handling. It's not bad for a camera that's shaped like a brick, and with a small enough lens (like the X Power Zoom lens that comes in some kits), it will fit into a coat pocket, which is excellent. But it doesn't compare to handling a camera with a full-sized grip.

The GX1 is built for photographers who have at least some experience with manual exposure control, but a decent auto mode can always come in handy. Panasonic included their usual Intelligent Auto (iAuto) system, as well as an augmented iAuto+ mode.

There's a dedicated iAuto button (labeled iA) on the top panel, tucked in near the shutter and video buttons. When it's activated, it glows blue. We've seen this setup on a few other recent G-series cameras, like the GF3.

It's a smart setup. We'd sometimes use it as a sanity check or backup while we were shooting around in aperture priority mode, for example; if we weren't totally satisfied with our manual shots, we could just quickly switch to iAuto, grab a few shots, then quickly switch back to aperture priority without looking up or losing our previous settings.

Auto operation is generally reliable and easy, though the difference between iAuto and iAuto+ is a bit convoluted. When the iA button is activated, users can dive into the main menu to switch between iAuto and iAuto+, which isn't very intuitive. For an automatic mode, regular iAuto includes a reasonable amount of control—photo size, full-color or monochrome, and drive mode, to name the big ones.

iAuto+ opens up control over ISO and color modes, as well as white balance, exposure compensation, and aperture. The latter three are controlled by touch-based simplified sliders. White balance, for example, is represented as a blur or red tint slider; exposure comp works like a brightness mode; and aperture is a depth-of-field adjustment (or Defocus Control, as Panasonic calls it).

We suppose that iAuto+ could help beginners learn a few things about photography, but this isn't a beginner's camera anyway. For more experienced shooters, it's just a convoluted version of a program AE mode (which the GX1 also has). iAuto+ certainly doesn't hurt, but it feels unnecessary. That said, it doesn't take away from the convenience of having a dedicated auto-mode button, which we think is great.

The control scheme on the GX1 is excellent, especially well-suited to hands-on shooters. Almost a dozen external, direct-access keys are available, either as preset buttons or assignable function keys. It also has both a mode dial and jog dial, as well as dedicated iAuto and movie mode buttons. The thick, physical on/off toggle is a classy, classic touch, too. The touchscreen is a positive addition, adding an extra, intuitive layer of control (especially the two extra assignable Fn buttons, housed in the Touch Tab) without forcing any clunky menu interactions.

About two dozen preset scene modes and picture effects come loaded onto the GX1. The effects, called Creative Control, are a relatively new feature for Panasonic cameras. There are fewer scene presets here than there tend to be on Panasonic point-and-shoots. It's also missing an in-camera high-dynamic range (HDR) mode (though the bracket shooting mode is quite good) and any kind of sweep panorama or panorama-assist feature.

Navigating through the GX1 is generally a pleasure. There are enough direct-access keys on the body that many users shouldn't have to spend too much time futzing around in the menu system. If they need to, the quick menu houses the most commonly adjusted options that don't have their own hotkeys. It's pretty intuitive, and doesn't leave live view mode.

There's also an on-screen Touch Tab, home to two virtual Fn3 and Fn4 buttons and a few other features depending on the shooting mode. It works like the notifications tab on some smartphones—it pops on or off of the screen with a finger swipe.

The full menu is a tiered system, with tabs for record, motion picture, custom settings, setup, and playback, as well as a sixth tab that can pop up depending on the mode (scene presets, Creative Control, iAuto, and so on). As a fairly serious camera, some of the GX1's menus are pretty deep, but that's a good thing.

The GX1 ships with a basic owner's manual, about 50 pages thick. It describes most of the camera's basic functions, but doesn't go in-depth with the more advanced settings. When you spend $950 on a camera kit, we think it's reasonable to expect a full manual, and Panasonic doesn't deliver. The full users manual is available as a PDF on an accompanying CD-ROM, or for download, but that's a chintzy way to cut costs.

The GX1 handles well for a camera shaped like a brick. The medium-sized, rubberized grip on the front and small thumb rest on the back provide enough leverage to shoot with one hand. But it's a heavy camera, and without the full-sized grip of a DSLR or larger system camera (like the G3), it's hard to hold for too long. It's much more comfortable and natural to handle the GX1 with two hands.

Handling Photo 1

One-handed operation of the GX1 is fine, though it's on the heavy side.

That said, the GX1's smaller body makes it much easier to tote around than the G3 or any DSLR. It's way too big for any pants pocket, but with the X Power Zoom lens (or any MFT pancake lens) attached, it's actually small enough to fit in a loose coat pocket. It's most comfortable to carry on your shoulder or around your neck, just like a larger camera, but the GX1 is notably lighter than most of the big boys, so it isn't as much of a strain over the course of a long day.

The button layout is great, but the four keys around the directional pad are flush with the chassis and don't provide much of a tactile response. No-look operation was a little bit tougher than it should've been because of that design.

Handling Photo 2

The control scheme on the GX1 is excellent, especially well-suited to hands-on shooters. Almost a dozen external, direct-access keys are available, either as preset buttons or assignable function keys. It also has both a mode dial and jog dial, as well as dedicated iAuto and movie mode buttons. The thick, physical on/off toggle is a classy, classic touch, too. The touchscreen is a positive addition, adding an extra, intuitive layer of control (especially the two extra assignable Fn buttons, housed in the Touch Tab) without forcing any clunky menu interactions.

Buttons Photo 1

Highlights include a jog dial, 2 Fn buttons, and plenty of direct-access keys.

External control isn't quite as deep as we usually see on DSLRs, but that's a function of the GX1's size. It's on the good side of average, compared to other blocky, coat pocket-ready cameras like the Fuji X10 or X100, or even the Canon G1 X, to name a few.

Buttons Photo 2

The GX1 includes dedicated iAuto and video buttons.

The GX1 sports a 3-inch, 460,000-pixel touchscreen LCD. For general shooting it gets the job done, and is visible in all but direct sunlight. It's sharp enough to judge focus in conjunction with the MF assist magnification, but just barely. Brightness, contrast/saturation, red tint, and blur tint can all be adjusted in the menu system.

The touchscreen is pretty responsive. It feels like Panasonic has made it more sensitive than the screen on last year's GF3 (though we haven't used that camera in a few months). Only a few functions are tied to the touch interface, like tap-to-focus, so it's a smart system. We'd be singing a different tune if we had to use the touchscreen to navigate the entire menu system. But as it stands now, this LCD is ample.

The GX1 does not have a built-in viewfinder, which keeps its profile relatively small. Panasonic sells a few electronic viewfinders (the LVF1 and LVF2) that fit into the hot-shoe for anyone who can't live without an eye-level finder.

The GX1 does not have in-body image stabilization, but the X Power Zoom kit lens does. When it's turned on, shots are 51 percent sharper than they are with IS turned off.

The GX1 offers a pretty standard mix of automatic, manual, and preset shooting modes. Intelligent Auto (iAuto) and iAuto+ are designed for no-fuss, easy shooting, though iAuto+ allows for a bit more hands-on control than regular iAuto. We go into greater depth in our Ease of Use section.

By our count, 17 presets are available, including Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Architecture, Sports, Peripheral Defocus, Flower, Food, Objects, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Illuminations, Baby 1, Baby 2, Pet, Party, and Sunset. There are also 8 Creative Control effects and filters available, including Expressive, Retro, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, High Dynamic, Toy Effect, and Miniature Effect. All of these are discussed in more detail in our Ease of Use section.

As a system camera, a full set of PASM manual modes are available: Program AE, Aperture-Priority AE, Shutter-Priority AE, and Manual Exposure. Two customizable modes are included as well.

And no camera these days would be complete without a high-definition movie mode. The GX1 shoots at 1080/60p in the AVCHD Progressive (aka 2.0) format, which is as high-res as any consumer camera gets these days. It also offers 720p, VGA, and sub-VGA modes.

Aperture and shutter speed are controlled with the jog dial (depending on the shooting mode). In Program AE mode, the jog dial adjusts the shutter and aperture together to maintain the correct exposure (though the shifting can affect the depth-of-field). In Aperture-Priority and Shutter-Priority modes, the dial controls aperture and priority, respectively. In any of those three modes, pressing the jog dial toggles the control over to EV comp, so the user can adjust the exposure (brightness) of the shot.

In Manual Exposure mode, pressing the jog dial toggles between aperture and shutter control—EV comp is not adjustable in this shooting mode.

Other manual controls include flash exposure compensation (to +/- 2 EV in stops of 1/3) and flash synchro-speed control.

The chief complaint about mirrorless systems for the first few years of their existence was the sluggish autofocus. But contrast AF systems have come a long way recently, and the GX1 is almost as fast as any camera with a mirror in decent lighting, thanks to Panasonic's so-called Light Speed AF. It slows down and loses accuracy in dim lighting, but we have very few complaints.

The GX1 tops out at 16 megapixels in a standard 4:3 aspect ratio. A dozen photo sizes are available overall: large, medium, and small sizes in 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, and 1:1 aspect ratios.

RAW and RAW+JPEG capture are supported (though as we'd expect, they slow down performance). There are two JPEG compression settings available: Fine and Standard.

Going beyond the normal set of manual controls, the GX1 offers a lot of very specific controls for fine-tuning images even further. Here are the niche-interest controls, not covered elsewhere in the review

Contrast

Contrast is adjustable in 5 steps, within each color mode (-2 to +2, including 0). That is, if you adjust the contrast to +2 in Standard color mode, it'll remain at 0 in Natural color mode.

Sharpness

Sharpness is also adjustable in 5 steps, also within each color mode.

I.Dynamic

This setting, found within the Rec menu and also known as "intelligent dynamic range control," automatically corrects for contrast and exposure . We deactivated it for our testing purposes, though it may have been turned on for some of our sample photos.

I.Resolution

According to the GX1 user's manual, Intelligent Resolution "records pictures with more defined outlines and sense of clarity." We take that to mean it bumps up the contrast and increases edge sharpening. We left this setting unused for our testing. It can be found in the Rec menu.

Long Shutter NR

This option applies a specialized noise-reduction algorithm for long exposure shots. It's found in the Rec menu.

Shading Comp.

This setting will boost the brightness in images with dark corners. It's located in the Rec menu.

The GX1 has an above-average set of drive modes, including burst shooting, a self-timer, and a versatile exposure bracketing system.

Four burst modes are available. The H (high) setting can churn out about 4.1 full-resolution frames per second according to our tests, but the LCD does not display a live view at this speed. We could grab about two-dozen shots before the buffer completely clogged up.

The M (medium) and L (low) settings are slower, but both offer live view. There's also an SH (super-high) setting, which can crank out 20fps for 2 seconds,

The GX1's 4.1 fps top speed is respectable for a mirrorless system camera. It's faster than either of its main Micro Four Thirds brethren, the Panasonic G3 and Olympus PEN E-P3, though it's notably slower than the Samsung NX200 or Sony NEX-5N. More speed certainly doesn't hurt, and it's never a bad thing. But 4.1fps is a suitable amount for most situations, even shooting sports.

The timer offers standard 2 second and 10 second settings, plus a 10 second, 3-shot interval setting. The timer is not customizable.

The chief complaint about mirrorless systems for the first few years of their existence was the sluggish autofocus. But contrast AF systems have come a long way recently, and the GX1 is almost as fast as any camera with a mirror in decent lighting, thanks to Panasonic's so-called Light Speed AF. It slows down and loses accuracy in dim lighting, but we have very few complaints.

Most of the features have been covered elsewhere in the review, though the on-screen level is a helpful tool that didn't fall under other categories.

About two dozen preset scene modes and picture effects come loaded onto the GX1. The effects, called Creative Control, are a relatively new feature for Panasonic cameras. There are fewer scene presets here than there tend to be on Panasonic point-and-shoots. It's also missing an in-camera high-dynamic range (HDR) mode (though the bracket shooting mode is quite good) and any kind of sweep panorama or panorama-assist feature.

On-Screen Level Guide

One of the most helpful upgrades over previous G-series cameras is the GX1's on-screen level guide—not really hardware, though it's powered by an accelerometer. By default, it's assigned to the virtual Fn3 button. Using a simple line system, it indicates the X-Y orientation as well as the pitch. It can be turned on or off at the user's preference.

The GX1's highest-quality recording option is AVCHD Progressive (aka 2.0), which captures video at a whopping 1080/60p. The quality is excellent, though the files are huge, and very cumbersome to edit. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

There's a dedicated video record button on the top of the camera—the only control designated solely to movie mode.

Auto Controls

Intelligent Auto (iAuto) and iAuto+ can both be used for filming movies, as can all of the scene presets and Creative Control effects.

Zoom

Optical zoom is available in video mode using the X Power Zoom kit lens (any manual-zoom lens will obviously support optical zoom during video). It extends slower than it does during still shooting, probably to limit the sound of the motor bleeding into the microphone.

Focus

Manual focus is supported during filming, and autofocus is pleasantly responsive to changes in the frame.

Exposure Controls

Exposure, shutter, white balance, and aperture can all be set prior to starting a clip, but once the camera is rolling, the settings are locked in place.

A stereo microphone sits in front of the hot shoe. The placement isn't great—if there are any accessories in the show, they'll cover the mic openings. Audio can be controlled, with five volume settings. There are no microphone or headphone hookups.

The GX1 is a fine camera through and through. Image quality is arguably the best that we've seen from the Micro Four Thirds format—it's a toss-up with last year's G3, which is built around very similar components, but we give the edge to the new kid. It's good to see the classic design and sturdy, pocket-ready body (at least when it's paired with a small lens) back in the G-series lineup after a few years. Even better, the GF1's excellent control scheme has returned as well, augmented with a slick, subtle touch interface. And that Power Zoom lens—we were skeptical, but it's really a decent lens with a great design.

But after shooting around with the GX1 for a few weeks, and running it through all of our lab tests, the total package feels incomplete. On paper, it's the camera that tons of Panasonic fans have been clamoring for, which is probably why it seems like Panasonic was just playing catch-up with Olympus and Sony.

Looking at the hard numbers from our lab tests, the GX1 is the second-best rangerfinder-style Micro Four Thirds (MFT) camera, behind the Olympus PEN E-P3. That also means that it's only the fourth-best rangefinder-style mirrorless system camera for under $1,000, behind the E-P3, the Sony Alpha NEX-5N, and the Samsung NX200. That takes some of the wind out of its sails.

Even so, these four mid-range, mid-sized mirrorless system cameras are pretty evenly matched, and we can find a perfectly good reason to justify buying any one of them; they're all worth a look.

We'll break it down this way: The Sony NEX-5N and Samsung NX200 are both built around larger APS-C sensors, so they both offer better image quality—but they'll never fit into your pocket, because the lenses are too big. The E-P3 has an excellent build, complete with an OLED screen, and with some of the smaller MFT lenses, it's also pocketable. But it doesn't quite match the image quality of the GX1, which has a great interface and is still small enough to carry around in a coat pocket. And if you're a GF1 owner who's been waiting for an update, you'll love the GX1.

Of course, we would've loved for Panasonic to have pushed the boundaries a little more, to show us another big step forward in the Micro Four Thirds format, the way that they did with the G3 last year. They played it safe instead, and that's perfectly fine—we get a very capable, well-built camera anyway—but it doesn't help the GX1 stand out in this crowded corner of the genre.

Meet the tester

Liam F McCabe

Liam F McCabe

Managing Editor, News & Features

@liamfmccabe

Liam manages features and news coverage for Reviewed.com. Formerly the editor of the DigitalAdvisor network, he's covered cameras, TVs, personal electronics, and (recently) appliances. He's a native Bostonian and has played in metal bands you've never heard of.

See all of Liam F McCabe's reviews

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