The Panasonic GM1 Is a Modern Mini-camera Classic That Is Sorely Missed

I have long lamented the discontinuation of the absolutely tiny Panasonic Lumix GM series of cameras, and imagine my surprise in 2022 to find out that I'm not alone. The camera has proven to be a cult favorite, and YouTuber and photographer Robin Wong breaks down why.

The premise of the Micro Four Thirds system was, at least at the start, small size and big performance. In the early days, there were some gems released for the system, and while it seems like Olympus and Panasonic lost their way on the size and weight part with cameras like the OM-D E-M1X, it's always refreshing to return to a camera like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1, a camera I've spent years and years with. Aside from my Canon and Nikon cameras that I've used for professional work, the GM1 is the camera that spends the most time in my hands.

The reasoning for this, as Wong points out, is the size. It's literally the size of a deck of cards, yet it packs what was, in 2013, the range-topping Micro Four Thirds sensor. Though it was only a 16-megapixel sensor, it's one that to this day still packs a decent amount of dynamic range and high-ISO performance. It's the same sensor (essentially) that's used in higher-end models such as the GH series of the time. Even three years later, my much higher-spec Panasonic G85 was rocking the same sensor, which is more than enough for casual and light-duty professional shooting. Case in point, it's a great street photographer's camera.

I shot this in London with my GM1 and an Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens, a great small combo for street photography that gets you a small enough package to carry all day and enough reach to not disturb a scene.

Robin Wong takes it through the streets of Malaysia to produce some lovely images as well.

The camera has a few drawbacks. The lack of a viewfinder is a big one, but it was rectified by the camera's follow-up, the GM5, in 2015, as Wong notes. In my experience, while Wong praises the speed of the autofocus, it's only so-so, but that could be because I've been spoiled lately by my Canon EOS R6. Battery life is terrible, which makes sense since the batteries are so small.

It does have some niceties, though, such as a pop-up flash that can bend back for a (rather lackluster) bounce and a touchscreen for easier autofocus control and access to more advanced features.

With Olympus out of the Micro Four Thirds game and Panasonic focusing on full-frame cameras, perhaps it will fall to the new stewards of the OM System, OM Digital, to figure out what the next direction is for Micro Four Thirds. I sure hope it's a throwback to these types of small, wonderful cameras. With prices of GM5 models hovering north of $500 on eBay, there's definitely a niche out there for it. A modern sensor in this size of body would be perfect.

Would you want to see a return of a GM-like camera for Micro Four Thirds? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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10 Comments
Ken Yee's picture

The gx1 with the pancake kit lens was good too

Wasim Ahmad's picture

The GM5 is even harder to find these days!

Thomas H's picture

I totally agree. As a city street or museum photography tool, such camera is irreplaceable.

Thomas H's picture

I see your point, ...to a point: The lens is fixed in the X-70. The Lumix has a m4/3 mount, you can attach any Lumix, Leica and Olympus lens.

Mal Shephard's picture

While I carry it with me a lot the one frustration I have is always having to reset the the date-time every time I replace the battey. Anyone know a fix for this?

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I thought I was just going crazy but mine, too.

Grey Noji's picture

Yes! I love small cameras. Fujifilm has been moving away from small gear recently, so I'm looking to switch, and just hold onto my X70. I wish Ricoh did flip up screens for waist shooting and travel selfies. If Panasonic can make a GM1 or even GX850 size camera with their S5II AF, I'm in. Give me a nice quality 12mm and 17mm to shoot with it, and Fuj can go.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Ironically, shortly after I wrote this article, Canon began their holiday sales and I replaced my setup with M-series cameras. Almost as small, better image quality and viewfinders. AF is better as well. But I will always have a soft spot for the GM1.