Cameras

Panasonic Lumix G1 Digital Camera Review

The first camera in the new Micro Four Thirds format is just starting to ship, and we have a full review

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Physical Tour

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As the first outing for a new camera format, the Lumix G1 looks a whole lot like all the other interchangeable-lens cameras you've seen, only shrunken down a bit. The camera is available in three colors (black is a color, right?), including  red and blue. Panasonic's marketing department chose not to give the hues they use Lands End-style descriptive names, but they're certainly more in the 'Dusky' or 'Autumn' family than 'Psychedelic' or 'Funky.' These are conservative shades, which men and women alike who yearn for a little style in their digital gear can carry without fear of ostracism. That said, Panasonic must see us as a fairly buttoned-up crew, since they sent us a black camera for review. We shot with the kit lens, the 14-45mm, f/3.5-5.6 with optical stabilization shown in the photos here.

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Front(7.75)

The grip on the left is on the narrow side and doesn't stick out very far from the camera body, but that does leave plenty of room to curl your fingers between the grip and the lens barrel. For this large-handed reviewer, and even his petite-pawed wife, this narrow grip meant holding fingers at an angle and resting the grip against the sides of our fingers instead of the flat front -- holding it flat left our index fingers far from the shutter button. It took a little getting used to, but wasn't insurmountable. There is a prominent indentation at the top of the grip for resting your index finger securely. Good thing, too, since right above this indentation is a control dial which can make major changes to your photo settings if pressed accidentally. As for the metal racing stripe running vertically along the grip, it's purely for decoration.

The lens mount is positioned off-center, closer to the right side of the camera. The white LUMIX brand name adorns the low-slung viewfinder hump, with the G1 camera name printed in silver to its left. The lens release button is positioned on the right side of the lens mount, with the dual-purpose auto focus assist lamp/self-timer indicator above it.

 

 

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The camera format may be new, but the look is classic SLR.

Back (8.50)

The most prominent feature of the camera back is the 3-inch LCD which rotates out by as much as 180 degrees and pivots up to 270 degrees vertically. It can be used for shooting flat against the camera back or extended outward, and can also be rotated so the screen faces the camera back for protection while traveling. Above the screen is an electronic viewfinder with a nicely cushioned rubber eyecup. Diopter adjustment is handled with a wheel mounted on the left side of the eyecup. Within the eyecup depression is a sensor that detects whether you're holding the camera to your eye and swaps the picture from the LCD to the viewfinder accordingly. Alternatively, there a button labeled LVF/LCD to make the switch manually. (Incidentally 'LVF' stands for Live View Finder, which we never would have known without reading the manual).

To the right of the viewfinder are two buttons, one for Playback mode (marked with the green VCR-style Play icon), the other for AE/AF Lock. The top right corner is reserved for a sculptured thumb rest, curved outward at the top right, which serves as a very useful pivot point when moving the camera around.

Beside the screen is a four-way controller with the MENU/SET button in the middle. The button rosette, from the top and proceeding clockwise, includes controls for ISO, white balance, Fn (a programmable function button) and auto focus mode. Above the four-way is a button marked DISPLAY which toggles different on-screen views. Below it is a multifunction button, used to trigger depth of field preview during recording and file deletion during playback.

Related content

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The back screen twists and turns to nearly any angle.

Left Side* (5.25) *The left side of the camera is home to a solidly built neck strap attachment and two separate doors. Behind Door Number One, the small one near the top, is the jack used to connect an optional DMW-RSL1 remote control. Door Number Two conceals a proprietary USB/Video Out connector and a mini HDMI port for viewing photos on a high-def TV. Both doors are nicely designed: they close securely but open easily with the flick of a fingernail.

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The port door covers snap tightly closed.

Right Side*(7.50)*

The right side of the camera has a neck strap connector at the top, and at the bottom a door that slides back and pops out to reveal the SD/SDHC card slot. The small rectangular patch to its right opens to provide access for an optional DC adapter cord.

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*Push the SD card door back

and it springs open.

*

Top*(7.25)*

The top is festooned wth buttons and dials, all easy to access and clearly labeled. The knob at the top left has three positions: AFS (auto focus single), AFC (auto focus continuous) and MF (manual focus). Beside it, on the side of the viewfinder hump, is a switch that slides forward to release the pop-up flash, mounted in the center of the viewfinder, with a hot shoe perched between the raised flash unit arms.

The mode dial is the large knob to the right of the viewfinder. The lone red icon is labeled iA, for Intelligent Auto mode. Moving clockwise from iA we find the classic PASM family (Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual). Next is CUST, with access to three user-programmable sets of custom settings. The artist's palette icon provides access to My Color mode, with controls for color, brightness and saturation. SCN accesses four scene modes, while each of the next pictorial icons accesses a different group of advanced scene modes: Night Portrait, Close-Up, Sports, Scenery and Portrait.

The drive mode lever at the front right of the mode dial has four positions: single shot, burst mode, auto bracket and self-timer. At the lower right of the mode dial is the on/off switch, which clicks into place when pushed forward or back.

The silver shutter button is positioned over the handgrip on the front right. Behind it is the Quick Menu button, which provides access to frequently used settings. Below Quick Menu is the Film Mode button, which lets you choose from a variety of virtual film stocks (combinations of contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction settings).

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The camera may be small, but the controls aren't cramped.

Bottom* (6.75)*

The pop-open battery compartment on the left is protected by a secure sliding latch. The battery within is held in place with a spring clip.

A robust metal tripod socket is centered under the lens.

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The metal tripod socket should please serious photographers.

 

Color and Resolution

We were impressed overall with the imaging performance of the Lumix G1 in our battery of lab tests. The camera's color accuracy and resolution were both first-rate, conceding nothing to the traditional SLRs we used for comparison purposes. There are issues with image noise, and white balance performance was mediocre. Howeverlow light results were impressive, maintaining good color accuracy even as the room dimmed to single-candle lighting levels.

**Color **(11.47)

The Panasonic G1 includes a response to a problem we've dealt with for some time: the gulf between color accuracy and color attractiveness. For many consumers, a camera that accurately reflects the colors in real life is less desirable than one that boosts flesh tones to make them look healthier, delivers bluer-than-blue skies and autumn leaves straight from a a calendar page. For our purposes, on the other hand, we want to start out with a photo with colors as close to what we experienced as possible, and we'll add whatever level of boost we find desirable in software. The G1 accommodates both audiences by way of the Film Mode feature, offering a range of settings from Standard (the default, vanilla choice) through Dynamic, Nature,Smooth, Nostalgic and Vibrant. For our testing purposes, in pursuit of color accuracy, we used Standard mode to shoot a GretagMacbeth color chart under studio lighting, at all available ISOs, then analyzed the resulting images using Imatest software. Two charts produced by Imatest are particularly revealing. In the first, shown below, the color captured by the camera is shown in each outer rectangle. The small inner rectangle at the right shows the original color of the GretagMacbeth chart. And the larger inner rectangle shows the GretagMacbeth color adjusted to match the luminance of the photograph.

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*As shown here, the captured color values are mostly very close to the original chart colors.

*

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The G1 did exceptionally well in our color test. The squares on the top row, including the two at top left meant to indicate fleshtone reproduction accuracy, are particularly close, and there are few areas of significant deviation. This can be seen clearly in the next chart, which indicates color accuracy in a more schematic diagram. In this case, the colors captured by the camera are shown in the small circles, the original chart colors in the squares, and the length of the lines connecting the two reflects the difference between them: shorter lines, more accurate color.

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*The short lines in this chart reflect the G1's excellent color accuracy.

*

Here again, we see only very modest differences, mostly in slightly oversaturated green and orange. Overall the color saturation is less than 100%, which is fine: it's easy to kick it up if you choose using image editing software, but doesn't create an unnatural effect right out of the camera.

We're comparing the G1 against a selection of SLRs, three of which are very close to the Panasonic's $800 pricetag, and one (the Nikon D90) that's significantly more expensive, at $1000 for the body alone. Of course, the G1 isn't strictly speaking an SLR, since it lacks the traditional single-lens reflex mirror mechanics, but it has the same fundamental interchangeable-lens appeal, and targets the same audience.

As shown below, the G1 bested the competition in our color accuracy test, with only the Canon Rebel XSi coming close.




Panasonic Lumix G1 Color Scores


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Resolution (10.44)

The megapixel figure in a spec sheet is a poor indication of the actual image sharpness you'll see in a photo taken with a particular camera. The quality of the image sensor, not just the number of tiny photo receptors squeezed onto its surface, is vitally important, along with the way the sensor input is processed. Our resolution testing teases out the actual performance characteristics of a camera by shooting a standard resolution test chart under controlled lighting conditions, at several distances from the chart. We then analyze the resulting images using Imatest to determine sharpness as measured in line widths per picture height (lw/ph), a good indication of the point where you cross over from nice, crisp reproduction of tiny detail into a mushy grey mess.

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Actual-size snippet from a G1 shot of our resolution chart

The best resolution score for the G1 was 1923 lw/ph horizontally and 2010 lw/ph vertically, a very good outcome. This result was achieved with the kit lens at its widest-angle setting, but the resolution figures remained high across the 3x zoom range. Imatest indicates that through most lens settings the images are slightly undersharpened, which is fine: oversharpening can be a problem when it produces artificial jaggedness.

One deviation from our standard test procedure should be noted here. We ordinarily shoot our SLR resolution test with noise reduction turned off (we'll do the same with point-and-shoot cameras when possible, but this control is often lacking in point-and-shoots). In the case of the G1, the user can throttle noise reduction up and down by changing Film Mode settings, but it's impossible to turn it off completely. We shot in Standard mode with noise reduction at its minimum setting.

Resolution scores for the G1 stand up nicely to the competition. The difference between the Rebel XSi and the G1 might be visible in very large prints, or when blowing up a particularly small area of a shot to full-size, but overall the fluctuation here doesn't reflect a major performance variation.

 




Resolution Scores


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 **Dynamic Range** (7.53)

The ability to reproduce detail in both very dark and very light areas of a photograph is measured as a camera's dynamic range. While its importance isn't as obvious as color or resolution performance, it makes a huge difference in the way we react to photos. When the shadowed brickwork of a historic building maintains its texture along with the brightly lit facade, for example, the richness of a shot is dramatically enhanced, versus seeing flat planes of undifferentiated color.

To test dynamic range, we shoot a backlit chart, with squares ranging from pure white to total darkness, and use Imatest to assess the range of values the camera can capture.

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Here again, we would ordinarily turn off noise reduction altogether for testing purposes, but since the G1 won't allow this, we shot with both the default noise reduction setting and the lowest available setting. The difference wasn't significant in any case, with only a slight apparent increase in dynamic range with higher noise reduction.

The overall dynamic range score suffers because the peformance plummets after ISO 800, but in the ISO 100-800 range where you'll do nearly all of your shooting, the results are actually very impressive. And the overall score still holds up well versus the competition.




Dynamic Range Scores


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White Balance (5.66)

If you're reading a book in the shade or reading it under a fluorescent light, the page still looks white, even though the color of the light is actually very different. While our brains are very good at making this compensation when looking at something live, different shades of white in a photograph are still going to look wrong if the camera can't compensate for the light source discrepancy. That's where whitle balance comes in: it's the digital processing step that tries to recreate the colors our brains tell us we saw at the time the photo was taken. To accomplish this difficult task, most cameras provide two options. There is an automatic setting, where the camera analyzes the light and attempts to adjust accordingly. And there are manual presets, allowing you to tell the camera what kind of light you're shooting under and eliminate the automatic system's guesswork. We test both variations, shooting a standard color chart under a variety of lighting conditions and analyzing the results for color accuracy using Imatest.

Auto White Balance (7.19)

The examples below are based on the bottom line of the GretagMacbeth color chart, which consists of a white square on one side, black on the other, and a series of four neutral gray patches at different densities between. Imatest analyzes photos of the chart and produces these exaggerated images to highlight the deviation from the ideal, Note that these are exaggerated: you wouldn't see this level of inaccuracy in your actual photos.

As seen here, the G1's automatic white balance system did exceptionally well on one light source that's often a problem area: fluorescent light. Otherwise, the flash results are acceptable, but shooting under tungsten (i.e., incandescent light, like ordinary household bulbs) and in the shade caused an unpleasant color shift.

  • **Preset (4.12)
  • The G1 doesn't have a preset for fluorescent, which is unusual: many cameras we test have several fluorescent presets, reflecting the different types of fluorescent bulbs on the market. Then again, considering how well the automatic system handled fluorescent lighting, it's tough to complain. On the other hand, using the flash and shade presets actually resulted in worse scores than the automatic white balance system achieved. Only the tungsten illumination results, which were pretty bad using auto white balance, were improved by choosing the preset.

 

Overall the G1 white balance performance isn't awful, but it is certainly an area that could use improvement in Panasonic's next Micro Four Thirds model.




White Balance Scores


 

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Noise

**Noise

**Film photographers had to deal with grain, the tiny speckles caused by inconsistencies in film emulsions. Oddly enough, digital photographers face an effect with a different cause but a similar appearance. It's called image noise, the visual blips and speckles caused by random electrical signals. The amount of noise varies from camera to camera, due to the inherent qualities of the sensor and other electronics used and the success or failure of the built-in noise reduction software used to tame the beast. We test by shooting a well-lit color chart for the full range of ISO settings, at all noise reduction settings provided. For the G1 there are five levels, ranging from -2 (the lowest noise reduction effect, but still not off entirely) through +2, the most aggressive setting. Hence the attractive five-line colored chart you'll find below.

Noise – Manual ISO*(7.40)*

Image noise is a problem area for the G1. It starts fairly high at nearly 1% across the board, and rises rapidly, becoming a true eyesore if you shoot at the two highest ISO settings. On the plus side, the different levels of noise reduction perform well, producing roughly a 20% improvement from minimum to maximum noise reduction setting. Still, the overall results here are mediocre.

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The G1 earns a middle-of-the-pack score when evaluating image noise, with other cameras in the same price range offering significantly better performance.




Manual Noise Scores


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Auto Noise (4.09)

Our noise testing for cameras on the Automatic setting is more a challenge to a camera's digital brain than its sensor. When set to Auto mode, it's up to the camera to evaluate the lighting situation and choose an appropriate ISO setting. Since image noise rises as ISO sensitivity climbs, choosing a high ISO to shoot in our well-lit lab is a no-no, and a poor score is the result. In this case, though, the G1 chose to shoot at ISO 250, which is a reasonable setting. While the Nikon D90 and Olympus E-520 stumbled by choosing too high an ISO setting, the mediocre score for the G1 results from the camera's relatively poor underlying noise performance.




Auto Noise Scores


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**Low Light **(8.77)

The ability to take high-quality photos in available light, whether outdoors at night or indoors without flash, is a key differentiating point between current camera models. The megapixel wars may be over, but the flash-free photo fracas remains. And we found the Lumix G1 a worthy contender in this arena.

We test two different low-light scenarios. First, we light our standard color chart at four different levels, ranging from 60 lux (roughly what you'd find in a reasonably lit home) down to 5 lux, about what a single candle provides, shoot it at a consistent ISO 1600 and use Imatest to analyze both the color accuracy and image noise in the resulting photos. Shown below are thumbnails of the now-familiar Imatest output chart, contrasting what the camera captured in the outer rectangular bands with the original GretagMacbeth chart colors in the center.

Noise in these images is rather high, at nearly 2.5% at each lighting level, but the color accuracy was quite good for photos shot in dim environments, so overall the G1 scored well in our light level testing.

Next up is the long exposure test, analyzing image noise performance with extended shutter speeds (from 1 second out to 30 seconds). There are a few noteworthy findings here. One, while noise is fairly high at about 1.65% even at 1 second, it stayed nearly flat across the testing sequence. Second, while we used high ISO noise reduction in our other tests, here we compare performance with and without long exposure noise reduction, a separate camera setting. In this scenario, the camera's attempts to minimize noise actually worsened the problem, though only by an inconsequential amount. Long exposure noise reduction takes two exposures, one with the shutter open, a second with the shutter closed in an attempt to replicate the noise produced during the first exposure, and then mathematically subtract it. Considering the fact that most image noise is produced randomly, though, it's easy to see why this approach is generally ineffective.

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We combine the camera's performance on both of these low light tests to produce an overall score for the section. The G1 did very well here, essentially on a par with the Canon (known for its low-noise performance) and bettering both Nikons, including the far more expensive D90.




Low Light Scores


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Still Life

For every review we shoot two still life setups, one with our happy mannequin couple relaxing on the couch, the other with Rosie the Riveter and her miniature friends in a colorful tableau, at the full range of camera ISO settings. The lighting is fluorescent, the camera settings automatic. Clicking on the thumbnails below opens up full-size versions for your perusal (though with 12-megapixel files, the downloads can take a while). Use these images to judge the effect of escalating ISOs on image quality. Compare them with the images produced with other cameras we've reviewed. Print your favorites and trade them with your friends.

 

 

Speed and Timing

Speed/Timing

**Timing is not only the secret of comedy, it's also the difference between catching a fleeting moment in pictures and cursing your !@#$% camera for taking so long to respond. Hence, our extensive testing of camera responsiveness. We shot using a 4-gigabyte SanDisk Extreme II SDHC card, to eliminate any memory bottlenecks in fulfilling our need for speed. 
Startup to First Shot **(5.6)

Your camera's off, and President Obama just walked out of the Dairy Queen in front of you. Can you power up and click the shutter fast enough to catch this magic moment before he disappears into the waiting limo? You stand a chance with the G1, which took about a second and a half from turn-on to shutter click, though we have seen significantly faster performance from other cameras (the Nikon D60, for example, takes less than half a second to accomplish the same task).

Shot-to-Shot ***(2.70) **

*If you shoot sports, lightning-fast small fry or other action scenes, the burst-mode ability to fire off a string of shots in quick succession is extraordinarily useful. Panasonic says you can shoot three JPEGs a second at top speed. Our testing came in a bit short of that, at 2.7 frames per second: a respectable performance, about the same as the Nikon D60, but both the Canon XSi and Olympus E-520 hit 3.3 frames per second.

Shutter-Shot** (5.75)

The hesitation between the moment you press the shutter and the moment your photo is actually taken was far more of an issue with digital cameras a few years ago, but there is still a measurable performance difference from model to model. The G1 took a bit more than a third of a second from shutter to shot, and while that doesn't sound like much, it's the slowest performance among our comparison group.**

Processing** (6.21) A lot of data processing has to happen between the time you hit the shutter and the moment the image is safely stored on your memory card and you're free to shoot again. We measure the interval from pressing the shutter to seeing your new photo displayed on the camera LCD, which in this case averaged to about 1.3 seconds. That represents a reasonable, though not exceptional, performance.

Components

Viewfinder*(8.25)*

The electronic viewfinder provides very nearly 100% coverage, a rarity, with approximately 1.4x magnification. According to Panasonic, the company adapted technology used in its professional video products, resulting in a '1,440,00-dot-equivalent' resolution. It certainly provides a sharp and brilliant display, though it is subject to smearing as you pan the camera around, particularly indoors (the effect is still there in brighter light, but less noticeable). When we tried following fast-moving action using this display in low indoor light, we actually found it slightly nauseating.

The viewfinder is surrounded by a rubber eyecup that's nicely padded and very comfortable, with or without glasses. A sensor on the right side detects when you hold the camera to your eye and automatically switches between the viewfinder and LCD display in response. The diopter control, a wheel located  on the left side of the eyecup, allows ±4 [m-1] adjustment. We're not thrilled with the position of this control: accidentally brushing it with your thumb while holding the camera is easy to do, and it doesn't take much to rotate the dial.

Both the electronic viewfinder and the LCD screen can be set for two different shooting views. Viewfinder style recreates the look of a traditional SLR viewfinder, with a black border around the edges and shooting information overlaid on the bottom border. The LCD monitor style looks more like the typical compact camera display, with the scene you're shooting filling the frame and information superimposed over the image. Each of these views can then be toggled using the DISPLAY key to change the information density. For the viewfinder, this means shifting from a normal display offering just shooting mode, aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation to a full top-and-bottom detailed readout.

Also true for both the viewfinder and LCD screen, you can choose to superimpose a visual grid to help with precise alignment, via a Custom Menu selection. Three different grid patterns are available, including one with two intersecting lines that lets you move the crosshairs wherever you want them . Another optional part of the on-screen display for viewfinder or LCD is a live luminance histogram, which you can move around the screen to a convenient spot using the 4-way controller.

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Sensors beside the electronic viewfinder turn the LCD off

when you hold the camera to your eye.

LCD Screen(8.75)

The 3-inch widescreen LCD provides 420,000-pixel resolution, not as impressive as the 920,000-pixel screens on some high-end Canons and Nikon, but still a handsome display, with respectable sharpness and well saturated colors. Display accuracy is excellent: what you see is in fact what you get, not some cropped or expanded version of the on-screen image. And we like the pivoting possibilities provided by the articulated hinge on the left side of the screen. Leave the screen with its back to the camera body and it works like a typical camera display. Pull it away from the body and turn it toward you, though, and you have an easily movable display that flips away from the camera up to 180 degrees horizontally and rotates up to 270 degrees vertically. We found holding the camera body with the right hand and the screen with the left was a great way to explore a wide range of potentially intriguing angles on a scene, from a dog's eye view of the world to an overhead shot of a crowd. And unlike most LCDs, which are subject to scratches and smearing when thrown into your bag, the G1 screen can be rotated so the screen faces the camera body and only the plastic back is exposed to the elements.

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The hinged LCD screen allows shooting from a multitude of angles.


**
The display can be adjusted for both contrast and color saturation, each in seven-steps increments. There are also two mode settings for the LCD. When set to Auto Power, the camera adjusts screen brightness automatically based on the brightness of your surroundings. Set to Power LCD and the brightness jumps to torch-like intensity, a mode that holds it own even when shooting in bright sunlight (though screen glare continues to be an issue).

**

Flash (8.00)

The G1 offers both a built-in, pop-up flash and an industry-standard hot shoe for attaching an external flash unit. The built-in flash is triggered by sliding a small switch on the top left of the camera. Auto exposure modes won't take the initiative to pop the flash up automatically, a degree of manual control we vastly prefer. The flash pops up high above the camera body, helping to minimize potential red-eye problems.

Panasonic gives the flash range as 1.48 feet to 10.2 feet (45 cm to 3.1 m) when shooting with the kit 14-45mm lens at its widest setting and .99 feet to 6.23 feet (30 cm to 1.9 m) at maximum telephoto, with the camera set at ISO 100. The flash can sync with shutter speeds as fast as 1/4000 second, an unusually high speed and very welcome when using the flash to fill in shadows in an otherwise well-lit scene.

There are six available flash modes:

  • Auto

  • Auto with red-eye reduction

  • Forced flash

  • Forced flash with red-eye reduction

  • Slow sync (used for night photography, keeps the shutter open after the flash fires to capture both background and foreground)

  • Slow sync with red-eye reduction

  • Forced off

Flash intensity is adjustable, through the Recording Mode menu, within a ±2 EV range.

**

 

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The relatively high flash position helps minimize red-eye.

**

Lens Mount**(4.5)

One reason for the smaller size of the Micro Four Thirds format is a lens mount that's 6 centimeters narrower than a traditional SLR, which in turns mean more compact lenses.The new mount also adds two extra electrical contact pins beyond the Micro Four Thirds standard, which is supposed to support unspecified future enhancements.

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The Micro Four Thirds format uses smaller lenses than standard SLRs.

Compatibility with Four Thirds format lenses is a slightly complicated topic. There will be adapters to mount existing Four Thirds lenses on a Micro Four Thirds camera. And yes, as some of the product literature suggests, any Four Thirds lens should be compatible... to a point. Only a small subset of the total, though, support the contrast detection auto focus used by the G1 and future Micro Four Thirds cameras. The others will require manual focus, which is nobody's idea of a good time on a day-in, day-out basis. Bottom line: Micro Four Thirds buyers will not enjoy the breadth of available lenses available to those who stick with traditional digital SLRs.

In the meantime, only two lenses are available for the Lumix G, the 14-55mm kit lens and a 45-200mm telephoto, both with optical stabilization. The kit lens has a maximum f/3.5 aperture at its widest setting and f/5.6 at full telephoto, while the 45-200mm aperture range is f/4.0-5.6. The lens magnification factor -- the comparison between the physical dimensions of the lens on a digital camera and the equivalent lens on a 35mm camera -- is 1.5x for most SLRs, but in the Micro Four Thirds format the magnification factor is 2x, so the 14-45mm lens is equivalent to a 28-90mm lens on a 35mm camera. The 28mm setting makes shooting wide-angle photos, or squeezing all your friends into a group shot at relatively close range, more practical. However, the f3.5 maximum aperture is disappointing, since is means you'll have to shoot at a slower shutter speed and/or higher ISO setting than you would with a faster lens.

The Lumix G1 relies on image stabilization within the lens (like Canon and Nikon cameras), rather than in the camera itself (like Olympus and Sony). The image stabilization system can be set to one of three modes. Mode 1 is always when the camera is set to Record, Mode 2 turns on image stabilization only when the shutter button is pressed, and Mode 3 corrects only for up and down movements, for use when panning the camera horizontally. If you prefer to disable image stabilization entirely, flip the 'MEGA O.I.S.' switch on the lens barrel to Off.

In addition to the standard digital zoom function, which creates a magnified image mathematically and causes image quality deterioration, the G1 also offers what Panasonic calls 'Extended Optical Zoom [EZ].' This feature works when shooting at lower than full-resolution settings, by using only a subsection of pixels around the center of the sensor, enabling as much as a 4x additional zoom beyond the lens maximum, with no apparent image quality degradation, though at lower resolution..

Design / Layout

Model Design / Appearance*(8.00)*

When venturing into a brave new camera format, Panasonic chose a conservative design approach, building a camera body that looks pretty much like a traditional SLR seen through the wrong end of a telescope. It's worth noting that this isn't the only shape possible for a Micro Four Thirds camera: at the Photokina trade show in September, Olympus displayed a concept Micro Four Thirds camera that has the rectangular box shape of a typical point-and-shoot, albeit larger than any point-and-shoot on the market (see coverage here).

And while it may not make a revolutionary design statement, the Lumix G1 is certainly an attractive piece of hardware, with its little strip of vertical bling on the handgrip and a viewfinder hump that's shorter than a true SLR, for a more streamlined appearance. Still, it's size rather than shape that's going to attract attention here. Even when choosing a color scheme, the company kept its top button buttoned and shirt tails tucked in. Unlike most SLRs, you don't have the familiar Henry Ford Model T choice between black and black -- though if it's black you want, Panasonic is happy to oblige. In addition, there's a blue and a red model, both in very muted shades. Given an $800 price, hot pink might not fly off the retail shelves.... but then again, it just might.

Size / Portability (8.00)

Yes, the Lumix G1 is smaller than traditional SLRs... but how much smaller? Here's a Tale of the Tape comparison between the G1 and two of the more petite digital SLRs currently on the market.

A glance through these figures reveals an interesting fact: the G1 is indisputably smaller, but not by much. It's only fair to mention that the size of the camera body is only part of the story: Micro Four Thirds lenses are also appreciably smaller than their full-size SLR counterparts, due in part to a narrower diameter. But the portability gap between what's comes before and the new format introduction isn't a chasm, it's a divot. What's more, the shape of the camera pretty much wipes out whatever shlepability benefit you might derive from the new format. With the lens sticking out of the camera body as usual, you're not sticking the G1 in a pants pocket any time soon (unless parachute pants make a comeback, that is), or even a jacket pocket. It's going into a backpack or over your shoulder on a strap, same as a traditional SLR, albeit one at the lighter-weight end of the spectrum.

 

Handling Ability(8.00)

Beyond pondering portability, we were concerned about the comfort level of a shrunken SLR.  On that score we were pleasantly surprised. This reviewer has great big hands, paws that easily cradle the bulk of a prosumer SLR like the Nikon D700. Full credit to Panasonic, then, for designing a petite package that is nonetheless easy to hold comfortably and manipulate quickly.

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Despite it's small size, we found shooting with the G1 comfortable.

**Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size **(10.25)

The controls for the Lumix G1 are extensive, and generally can be accessed pretty quickly, but there's a significant level of complexity involved in mastering some of them. The mode dial on the top right side, for example, has 14 positions, many of which are identified only by icons that require a trip to the manual to decipher, even for experienced shooters.  On the plus side, all the buttons are large enough, and have enough space surrounding them, to make finding and pushing them simple, and they feel solid and responsive. This includes the shutter button, which has a very definite hold point between half-pressing the shutter to achieve focus and a full press to take a picture.

The control wheel mounted on the front of the handgrip is handy for zipping through photos during playback, moving quickly through menus and particularly for dialing in exposure compensation values, but the placement isn't perfect. The wheel has two axes of movement: it rotates and it can also be pushed in with a click, functioning like a button. In fact, that's the way you engage exposure compensation control, by clicking the wheel. And that's the problem: it's very easy to accidentally click that wheel with the side of your index finger while holding the smallish handgrip, and from that point on every movement of your hand can change the exposure comp setting. The first few days we shot with the camera this happened frequently and, even now, when we're used to its peculiarities, it's still an issue. This behavior can be changed through the custom menu, by moving the exposure compensation trigger function to the LVF/LCD button, but most users will undoubtedly stick with the default rather than ferret out this fairly obscure setting. whose function is unclear from the menu text, and overrides the button's original function.

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The Fn button can be set by the

user to one of five controls.

The bottom position on the four-way controller is programmable, with five options: Aspect Ratio, Image Quality, Metering Mode, I. Exposure and Guide Line display.

You can establish three custom control set-ups, including settings for AF / AE Lock mode, auto focus assist lamp, focus priority, noise reduction settings, auto review, and Fn button setting. These are created by setting up the camera the way you want it, then choosing CUST from the mode dial and saving the current configuration into one of three slots. Accessing your stored setup is as simple as returning the mode dial to CUST and choosing from the three stored settings.

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The dial icons provide access to groups of image presets.

Menu (6.75)

The main camera menu system, accessed by pressing the MENU/SET button and navigating using the four-way controller, isn't particularly attractive, but the text is clear and perfectly legible against a white and gray background. It would have been helpful to have on-screen text explaining what each menu choice actually accomplishes: the metering mode section, for example, has three icons with no labels, and picture size choices are L, M and S with no indication of actual image size in megapixels or dimensions.

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Some of these menus run on for several pages: the Custom Menu, for example, is five screens long, and the only way to get from the first to the last item is manually scrolling through all the entries in between. Yes, you can scoot through by turning the front control dial instead of pressing the four-way controller down, but it's still a chore.

The Quick Menu system is very useful, but tricky to grasp. You access the Quick Menu system by pressing the Q. MENU button right behind the shutter. What you get for your trouble, though, depends not only on whether you're in shooting or playback mode, but what kind of on-screen display you're using at the time. If you're shooting through the viewfinder or with the LCD screen showing Live View, Quick Menu brings up 13 different settings adjustments, arrayed across seven separate screens. There doesn't seem to be rhyme or reason to the way these choices are organized, and it takes a lot of hunting to find what you need: all in all, not a great improvement over using the regular menu system.

On the other hand, if you've toggled over to the full-screen LCD recording information screen (which appears on the LCD only, not in the electronic viewfinder), Quick Menu suddenly becomes easily navigable and a genuine timesaver. In the information display (shown below), most current settings are arrayed before you in an easy-to-read display. By pressing Q. MENU, these items become live, ready to be selected with a few presses on the four-way and adjusted using the four-way and/or the front control dial. Even here there are some peculiarities, most notably the inability to back out of a submenu without making a selection, but on balance we found this menu so useful that our standard shooting procedure while out in the field was leaving the full-screen Quick Menu live on the back of the camera and using the electronic viewfinder to compose and shoot (the eyecup sensor switches displays nearly instantaneously).

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Record Mode Menu

In this lengthy menu, we would have preferred to see the flash settings moved to the opening screen and the less frequently used aspect ratio and picture/ size / quality choices moved further down the list.

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** Custom Menu**

There is a lot of power to tweak camera behavior to suit you preferences here, though the likely G1 buyer, stepping up from a simple point-and-shoot camera, will no doubt find the choices bewildering, with their unclear labels and complete lack of explantory text.

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Setup Menu

Another lengthy menu, but at least these are settings that are changed only infrequently. Leaving the card format command at the very end of the line is inconvenient, though, since it's the choice from this menu that will probably used most often.

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Playback Mode Menu

Given the limited in-camera editing options, the Playback menu is a compact collection of choices.

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**My Menu

**Positioned between the Setup and Playback menus, My Menu automatically displays the five menu items you've used most recently. Useful, but it would have been even better if you could manually choose frequently used functions to appear permanently.

Ease of Use (6.75)

The ease of use question gets to a core concern about the G1. We wonder whether Panasonic has loaded the camera with an overabundance of tweaky features that may actually frustrate rather than stimulate users upgrading from a point-and-shoot to an interchangeable-lens camera. Yes, you can simply leave the camera on intelligent Auto mode and snap decent pictures. But moving beyond the most simplistic behavior presents you with a tangled web of options, and the user manual was clearly organized by someone who thinks like an engineer rather than an instructor. We would like to have seen a user-selectable choice between simple menus and full menus. An on-screen explanation of what each menu setting actually does would also have been useful: Nikon does this especially well in their latest cameras, but it's missing entirely here.

Modes

Auto Mode (9.25)

The G1 offers what it calls Intelligent Auto Mode, which attempts to use scene recognition to adjust camera settings for the shooting situation. The camera chooses from five potential scenarios -- portrait, scenery, close-up, night portrait and night scenery -- and adjusts exposure, ISO setting, face detection mode, auto focus mode, metering mode and backlight compensation accordingly. If none of these presets applies to the scene you're shooting, only the exposure settings are set automatically. In addition, setting the camera to Program AE mode leaves shutter and aperture control to the automated system, but allows manual adjustment of many other settings, including ISO. metering mode, flash, image stabilization, burst rate and flash intensity. Program shift is also available. Turning the front dial when the shutter is half-way pressed will shift aperture and shutter speed in tandem, maintaining the same overall exposure but allowing adjustment for depth of field or fast-action capture.

**Movie Mode ***(0.0)*

The Lumix G1 doesn't offer a movie mode, which came as a surprise. Implementing video recording on a Micro Four Thirds camera shouldn't be any more technically demanding than incorporating the feature in a point-and-shoot, and it would be tough to find a point-and-shoot without movie mode at this stage. Panasonic says their next Micro Four Thirds camera, due sometime next year, will include movie mode.

Drive / Burst Mode*(8.75)*

There are two burst mode speed settings, High at 3 frames per second and Low at 2 frames per second. In our lab tests, we found the G1 came up a bit shy of the mark at about 2.7 fps maximum. When shooting JPEGS there is no hard limit to the number of burst mode photos to be taken, constrainedonly the capacity of the memory card. When shooting RAW, the maximum number of consecutive frames is 7.

The self-timer can be set to 2 or 10 seconds. You can also have the camera shoot three photos sequentially after a 10-second delay, a convenient choice when you're running like a lunatic to get into a group picture and would like a few shots to choose from for your trouble.

**Playback Mode ***(4.75)*

Pressing the DISPLAY button during playback toggles between four screen layouts. The initial view has no information overlay at all, the second adds settings information including shooting mode, image size, flash status, aperture and shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO and white balance.

Playback zoom is available at five levels, from 2x to 16x, controlled by rotating the front dial right during playback. Rotate the dial toward the left and you bring up first a 12-photo thumbnail display, then a 30-photo version, and finally a calendar mode that lets you navigate based on when a photo was taken.

There is a barebones slide show utility. The only user-controlled setting is the playback duration for each slide, with no transition effects or musical accompaniment. The only additional feature here is the option to tag photos as Favorites, and then have the slide show include all photos on the memory card or only your Favorites.

Limited in-camera image editing utilities are provided, including the option to resize a photo, crop it, and convert 16:9 images to 3:2 or 4:3.  There's no provision for altering color, sharpness or other photo qualities within the camera, though, or even remove red-eye, and while serious photographers are going to use image editing software on a computer for those tasks, folks who print directly from their cameras or carry their memory cards to the photo counter for output will miss the option to give their pictures a good tweak before printing.

Custom Image Presets*(10.00)*

Scene modes are organized in six groups, each with a separate icon on the mode dial. We found this structure very effective after using the camera for just a day or two; much easier than thumbing through one complete list of all the modes with no apparent rhyme or reason, which is what we expect from your average point-and-shoot. Unlike most menu on this camera, the DISPLAY button brings up a useful text explanation of what each preset does.

 

 

In addition, My Color mode allows fine control of Color, Brightness and Saturation, in 11 steps, with results of each adjustment displayed on the screen.

Control Options

Manual Control Options

The G1 provides full manual exposure controls along with shutter-priority and aperture-priority shooting, and program mode with program-shift override. Manual focus is also available, as you'd expect on an interchangeable-lens camera.

Focus

Auto Focus (10.00)

What could have been the camera's downfall, based on experience with other Live View focus systems, turned out to be a decided strength. Contrast-based auto focus, which uses image sensor data to establish sharpness rather than the separate focusing sensor used in traditional SLRs, has always been too slow and unresponsive for practical handheld shooting on the SLRs that tried Live View auto focus. The G1, though, is the first interchangeable-lens camera we've seen that makes Live View auto focus practical in the wild. We chased small children and larger dogs, pivoted quickly from one part of a scene to another and from distant to close-up subjects, and found virtually no focus lag beyond what we'd expect in a traditional SLR.

A variety of auto focus modes are available. Face detection, as expected, locates the folks in your photo (up to 15 in all) and prioritizes keeping them in focus. Single area-auto focus locks in on the subject in the center of the screen, and auto focus tracking attempts to follow a single selected subject as it moves around the frame. The size of the single area can be adjusted, and its position moved around the screen. Finally there's 23-area-focusing, which superimposes a grid over most of the screen and looks for the most likely subject, even if it's off-center.

There are three focus mode choices available from a dial on the camera top: auto focus single, auto focus continuous and manual focus. There is also an effective auto focus assist lamp, located in a front corner. According to Panasonic, the auto focus assist lamp has a range of approximately 3.28 - 9.84 feet when using the 14-45mm kit lens at its widest setting.

*Manual Focus (9.50)

*The manual focus system works exceptionally well. Manual mode is selected directly from the camera, rather than the lens itself, via a mode knob on top of the camera. When you begin turning the focus ring near the front of the lens the Live View display instantly jumps to a full-screen magnified view. The magnification can be adjusted by turning the front control wheel, and the position of the magnified section is controlled using the four-way buttons. This automatic magnification can be switched off if you prefer full-frame focus, but we found the enhanced view, which start at about 5x and can be raised to 10x magnification, was both very accurate and very welcome.

**ISO ***(9.00)

*ISO values range from 100 to 3200. There are two automatic settings. The standard Auto mode adjusts the ISO based on light level alone, while the Intelligent ISO factors in on-screen movement too, allowing for faster shutter speeds and reducing the risk of blurry photos.

ISO values are set, by default, in full stop increments, though if you want finer control you can choose 1/3 EV steps, which doesn't change the ISO range, of course, but boosts the number of available steps to 16.

White Balance*(7.75)

*In addition to automatic white balance, the G1 provides presets for sunny, cloudy, shade, incandescent and flash light sources. Each of these presets can then be tweaked along the green-magenta and orange-blue axes using the four-way controller, though the procedure isn't entirely instinctive, Strangely, there is no preset for fluorescent lighting, an area that often merits more than one preset due to the variation in fluorescent lighting colors. In our lab test, though, we did note that the automatic white balance system handled fluorescent light exceptionally well.

There are two manual white balance slots available, so you can create a setting by shooting a neutral white or gray card under the lighting you'll be using and return to that stored setting later. And for particularly savvy shooters, there's also the option to manually set a white balance value in degrees Kelvin.

Three-shot white balance bracketing is available if you choose to use the fine-tuning option, but it isn't as flexible or easy to access as the implementation on other cameras that offer this bracketing capability.

Exposure (9.25)

In addittion to standard automatic and program exposure, full manual and shutter- and aperture-priority modes, the G1 includes Panasonic's iExposure (Intelligent Exposure) system, accessible via the Record menu, which adjusts contrast and ISO settings in high-contrast shots. It can be set to one of three levels, Low, Standard or High.

 

 

Exposure compensation spans ± 3 EV, in ten steps. Automatic exposure bracketing is also available, in user-defined increments.

Metering (7.25)

The metering system uses a 144-zone sensor. There are three available patterns. Multiple balances exposure across the entire screen, center-weighted favors the middle and spot concentrates on a small target at the center of the screen.

Shutter Speed (10.00)

The shutter speed range is extensive, from a fast 1/4000th second to an unusually lengthy 60-second exposure.  A Bulb setting, which holds the shutter open as long as the button is pressed (4 minute maximum) is also provided.

Aperture

Available apertures will, of course, vary depending on the lens mounted on the camera. The kit lens is a 14-45mm (28-90mm equivalent) optically stabilized zoom, with a maximum aperture of f/3.5 at its widest setting and f/5.6 at maximum telephoto. The minimum aperture value is f/22, which turned out to be a limiting factor when shooting long exposures: shots taken under low light were overexposing because the lens couldn't be stopped down enough.

Image Parameters

Picture Quality / Size Options (7.50)

The 17.3 x 13.0 mm Live MOS image sensor has a gross resolution of 13.1 megapixels, and an effective resolution of 12.1 megapixels. The G1 can shoot in three different aspect ratios. The highest resolution is available at the 4:3 ratio typical of digital cameras. The 3:2 ratio is wider and less deep, a holdover from the days of 35mm photography. Finally, you can shoot in the 16:9 aspect ratio used in high-definition TVs (there's an HDMI connector for displaying photos on your TV, and if you own certain Panasonic sets, you can even control the camera playback using the TV remote).

 

 

 

There are also five available image quality settings. Photos can be stored as JPEGs, at two compression settings. You can also shoot RAW+JPEG, using either JPEG compression setting. Finally, you can shoot RAW alone.

Picture Effects Mode (4.00)

In a quaint (and potentially confusing) nod to the past, the G1 offers a variety of 'film modes,' and even has a button with the FILM MODE label on top of the camera. Of course, there's no film involved. Apparently someone at a decision-making level at Panasonic is nostalgic for the days when you'd choose a different type of film based on the color style, contrast and grain you were after. If you were shooting slides and concerned with color accuracy, for example, you might choose Ektachrome, but if you were more interested in the those nice bright colors and the greens of summer that make you think all the world's a sunny day, you'd go with Kodachrome. To emulate this effect, the G1 provides eleven 'film' settings:

 

The G1 supports both the default sRGB color space, which is used in most consumer imaging, and Adobe RGB, which captures a wider gamut of colors and is used mainly in work destined for publication.

 

Connectivity / Extras

Connectivity

Software (3.50)

The G1 comes with two pieces of software, PHOTOfunSTUDIO (for Windows only) and SilkyPix (for Windows and Mac).The first is a pretty good image browser, with multiple views and a limited capability to tag files with meaningful labels. However, the image editing functions are lmiited to full-image changes rather than more delicate hand corrections (eliminating flaws or adjusting just a section of an image, for example), and the 'fun' part of the equation seems lacking, unless you find manipulating contrast and brightness particularly amusing.

SilkyPix, on the other hand, is a powerful RAW image editing tool, well worth owning if you shoot RAW files. The caveat here is that the terminology used for some program functions is non-standard at best, and at times it seems the online manual was converted to English by running it through Google Translate. Still, if you get past the program's quirks, the level of control and quality of output is excellent.

Jacks, ports, plugs (4.50)

Good news and bad news on the input-output front. The G1 includes a standard mini HDMI connector for outputting high-res images to your high-def TV. For USB and standard video conections, though, you'll need the proprietary cables that come with the camera, or the expensive and hard-to-find replacements you'll have to buy if you lose the originals. There's also a plug, under a separate door on the left side of the camera, for connecting an optional remote control.

 

Direct Print Options (4.00)

Photos can be printed directly from the G1, without a computer, when connected via USB to a PictBridge-compatible printer. The on-screen menu lets you choose which photos to print, the quantity of each, the paper size to be used, and whether or not the date should be imprinted on the photo. You can also choose how many photos should be printed on a page (1, 2 or 4), though the convenient option to print a sheet of thumbnail images, which many cameras offer, is not provided here.

DPOF (Direct Print Order Form) allows you to create a file on your memory card indicating which photos you want printed when you hand over the card at the photo counter of your local Walmart or other output provider. The G1 implementation is simple enough, and includes the ability to select several photos at a time by cursoring around a screen of thumbnail images.

Battery*(7.50)

*According to Panasonic, the 7.2V, 1250mAh rechargeable Lithium-ion battery should last for approximately 330 images, which sounds right based on our hands-on experience. Estimated time for a full charge is 155 minutes. The charger can also be used as a direct DC power source when paired with the optional DMW-DCC3 adapter.

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We found the G1 battery provided long-lasting relief from that powerless feeling..

 *Memory**(4.00)*

The G1 accepts readily available, competitively priced SD and SDHC memory cards.

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Swapping SD cards is fast and easy.

Other features (4.00)

*Shutter Speed Preview *– This is a genuinely interesting feature we've never seen before, though we can't swear it hasn't popped up somewhere in the past. Engage the shutter speed preview and you'll see a series of virtual stills on screen, demonstrating the degree of blur you'd get in a photo taken at the current shutter speed setting. It's a great interactive way to either confirm that you're shooting at a  fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action or, if you're aiming for a more dramatic effect, adjust for the degree of motion blur you prefer.

Dust Reduction System - The G1 incorporates a vibrating filter over the image sensor to remove errant flecks of dust. The system is triggered automatically every time the camera is turned on.

Overall Impressions

Value (5.00)

This is a tricky area when evaluating the Lumix G1. In most ways, Panasonic has delivered precisely what they promised with this model, and that's saying something for the first camera in a new format. On the other hand, $800 is a lot of money for a camera that by most measures performs on par with conventional SLRs, but certainly doesn't surpass them, and can't match the extensive array of lenses available in more established formats. Unless you're the kind of early adopter who's willing to pay a premium price for I-got-it-first bragging rights, we rate the G1 a middling value.

Comparisons

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**Canon Rebel XSi – **One of our favorite mid-level SLRs, The XSi with an 18-55mm lens lists for about the price as the G1 kit, and is available for roughly $150 less from discounter retailers. It delivers nearly the same resolution in a substantially larger camera, and while the XSi does offer Live View shooting, it's barely practical to use, particularly if your subjects have the nerve to move around. However, the Canon performance was either basically equal to or notably better than the the Panasonic in all our lab tests, notably when it comes to image noise and white balance,and is compatible with a wealth of lenses and accessories the G1 can't touch. 

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 **Nikon D60 – **The 10.2-megapixel D60 lists for $750 with an 18-55mm image stabilized lens, though of course you'll find it selling at a lower price at retail. It's a relatively compact camera as SLRs go, weighing in at just over a pound without lens, battery and so on, which makes it just slightly heavier than the G1, but the lack of a mirror mechanism gives the G1 a definite depth advantage: it's just 1.8 inches thick, versus 2.5 inches for the Nikon. Beyond portability, the G1 emerged from our lab tests with notably superior scores in color accuracy and dynamic range, though the D60 was much the better when it came to image noise, so we'd call it a wash. In this match-up, we like the Panasonic for its Live View performance and portability, the Nikon for its wide-ranging lens availability.

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Nikon D90**–**The 12.3-megapixel D90 is one of our favorite cameras of the year, albeit a pricey choice at $1000 plus a lens. Looking at the lab results, it's interesting to see that in a few categories, notably color accuracy and low light performance, the little G1 actually scored better than the D90. And there's certainly no question which one you'd rather lug from place to place. Given the available fundage, we'd still pick the Nikon, as you might imagine, for its extraordinary depth of photographic features and overall performance, but it's intriguing how well the Panasonic stands up on several image quality comparisons

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Olympus E-520** – **With a list price of $699.99 with a 14-42mm lens, the Olympus sells for significantly less than the new Panasonic. It's a 10-megapixel model that supports auto focus while shooting in Live View mode, though our reviewer found this capability was well hidden in a complex menu system. The Olympus is a 4:3 format camera with image stabilization built into the camera itself, while the Panasonic requires an image-stabilized lens to fight camera shake and has fewer available lenses. When it comes to performance testing, though, the G1 significantly outperformed the E-520 on every measure. 

**Who It’s For ***

Point-and-Shooters* – In many ways this camera is just right for the point-and-shooter looking for a more satisfying photo experience; the LCD-based shooting style feels familiar, but there's more control and faster performance than your typical compact camera. The option to use  interchangeable lenses is a bit limited by the current lineup, but there's a decent telephoto and hope for the future. Some of the controls may prove overly complicated and intimidating, though, with deep menus and options more suited to experienced SLR shooters.

Budget Consumers – You can take equivalent photos with a far less expensive, albeit bulkier,SLR, 

Gadget Freaks – For those who feel a twinge of hardware lust when a significant product category emerges from its cocoon, the G1 has undeniable appeal. 

Manual Control Freaks – While it can't hold a candle to the extraordinary depth of customization and control available in higher-end SLRs, the G1 provides exceptional depth for a relatively compact camera, including full manual and aperture-priority / shutter-priority shooting, the option to assign functions to a programmable button and do-it-yourself film modes that let you effectively store groups of image settings and access them quickly.

Pros / Serious Hobbyists – We can't see hardcore photographers moving over to Micro Four Thirds just yet, given the limited selection of lenses, the 2x lens format magnfication level (which cuts down on wide-angle options) and image quality that's very good compared to other cameras in the price range, but never threatens the scores posted by higher-end gear.

 

Conclusion

**

Conclusion**

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As the very first camera in a substantially new and different format, we're impressed with the Panasonic Lumix G1. The company has successfully conquered the nagging problem of delivering an effective Live View system in an interchangeable-lens camera, and done so in a design that's both compact and comfortable. Image quality results from the lab also earned our respect: not flawless certainly, particularly when it comes to image noise, but competitive with the traditional SLRs we benchmarked it against and, in several cases, superior.

We have three points of hesitation, though. The first is largely tied to the very new-ness of the format: there aren't a lot of Micro Four Thirds lenses available (in fact, only two so far), and while an adapter will allow mounting existing Four Thirds lenses to the camera, only a small number will allow auto focus. This is the perpetual early adopter's dilemma, of course, but it bears careful consideration when the ability to change lenses is a key product benefit.

Our second concern involves portability, another major promise of the new format. The Lumix G1 is smaller and lighter than the SLR competition, but not by a whole lot in many cases. And given the size and shape, the functional difference in the way you carry the camera from place to place and use it out in the field is not very substantial. The size isn't a problem -- we still found the G1 easy to handle -- but it's not a great benefit either.

Finally, we wonder if Panasonic didn't overcomplicate matters for a camera that's presumably designed for point-and-shooters looking to upgrade their photographic experience. There is a lot to like for this audience, but there are also a baffling array of choices staring them in the face, with a level of complexity that's inevitably going to be intimidating. The Film Mode notion is clever, for example, but it's also kind of obscure for someone who may never have shot with film and certainly isn't thinking about it now. What's more, it's not a capability buried in a menu for the cognoscenti to find: it has its own button on top of the camera. And Film Mode isn't the only way to tweak imaging performance: there's also My Color settings available on the mode dial, right next to the relatively newbie-friendly image preset selections. This pattern continues throughout the camera design: a generous selection of customization options that may well prove overly generous and put off the most likely G1 buyer.

Sample Photos

**Sample Photos

Click on any of the images below to view the full-sized origional image. However, please note that some of the images are extremely large (up to several megabytes) and could take a long time to download. **

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**You can browse photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix G1 on the following photo hosting sites.

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Specs / Ratings

**Specs Table

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