The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 is a fine camera, if unassuming. But that quality might make it something you’d really enjoy using -- it’s a certain stealthy quality. At the very least, you’ll want to give this one a second look.
The GX1 looks average from the get-go. But start shooting with it, and you’ll instantly notice Panasonic is not playing around.
The Good Stuff:
The GX1 isn’t the biggest or smallest camera in its class. It fits right between Sony’s NEX-7 and the slightly smaller NX1000/NX210 from Samsung. The micro-four-thirds mount means that, as with the Olympus, you can use a ton of various lenses from various manufacturers, but again, it’s not your ASP-C sensor, as with a lot of the other top mirrorless cameras today.
Still, the Panasonic is impressive in its own way. It feels extremely solid, as it’s an all metal body, has a dedicated ISO shortcut button, and even a built-in flash that pops up when you need it.
As with the Olympus, you can ‘feel’ the shutter really working when you take a photo. It’s satisfying to take a photo, let alone 20+ in burst mode. Autofocus works quite well when the available light is pretty good. It still doesn’t have phase detection AF, but with its contrast detection alone, the GX1 is an impressive performer -- certainly several steps up from a point-and-shoot, as the lens is quick to adjust to the correct setting once the body acquires focus. Again, however, because it’s still contrast detection, AF performance suffers quite a bit in low light. Nothing new there.
The LCD is also a touchscreen in this model that allows for a few slide-out menu options in a sidebar format. This is a nice concept, but read on for my take on that feature...
The Not-So-Good Stuff:
Touchscreens are a great idea, in my opinion....when they don’t take the place of functional buttons, but rather help support other features on the camera. And I give credit to Panasonic for not dropping the much needed dedicated buttons in place of the touchscreen functionality. However, in my use, the touchscreen just didn’t work well. I couldn’t get it to slide out ever time I wanted to. And getting it back in (sliding it away to the side of the screen) didn’t work flawlessly for me, either. Once it was open, the screen was responsive and let me select the setting I wanted, but it needs to better recognize when a certain gesture is trying to open the side menu.
Of course, while I’d give Panasonic an award for some of the best contrast AF out there, it’s still only that. Phase detection would be a huge step up for autofocus, especially in low light.
I had a the power zoom version of the kit lens on my tryout body, but I’m not sure I would go this route in the future. While operation is silent (that’s nice for video), it’s a little slow. As with any motorized zooming functions, you have to wait while the camera zooms in -- you can’t just manually snap the lens back and forth to your needs. So keep that in mind when you’re deciding which lens to get with this camera... The non-powerzoom version is a lot cheaper, too, bringing the camera's price back down to that of a higher-end point-and-shoot.
The micro-four-thirds leaves some lacking performance in low light, but improved processing lets you shoot at ISO 12,800 (6400 with pretty good results). Not entirely unlike the Olympus, though in a different class, it’s an impressive micro-four-thirds camera.
I really don’t have much more to add in terms of amazing or not-so-amazing features. When it comes down to it, I’m realizing that many of these cameras are on par with each other, with few far exceeding or completely falling flat on expectations. Tech is tech; and to some extent, we just are where we are. The GX1 does a fine job implementing the current tech with a slight edge in plain, old focusing. And that’s that.