Panasonic DMC G1 Review

I’ll just get straight to it – I have bought a Panasonic DMC-G1. Where I would like to differ from other reviews is for me to give an actual user overall and real world view and not an anally retentive super detailed review one can read in a million places.

WHAT I REQUIRED.
My main camera is the Fujifilm Finepix S5 Pro, a pro spec camera based on the Nikon D200 body. What appeals to me about the S5 is its great colour, skin tones and that huge dynamic range. Together with my usual lens the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 it comes in at quite a weight believe me. I mainly use the S5 for weddings and mountaineering. However, I came to a point where the sheer weight of the system dramatically slows me when I am struggling up Tryfan or Crib Coch, and to the point where I am so tired the motivation of taking the kit from the backpack diminishes to zero. On my last trip the S5 just stayed in the rucksac. Sad innit.

So that had me thinking of a solution, something light, portable, able to back up the S5 and with superb image quality, and RAW was a must. Enter the G1. There were a few alternatives, the Canon G10, the LX3 and a few of the Olympus cameras. After consideration of the specs what swayed me in my final decision was the excellent reviews on DPReview, DC Resource and Steve’s Digicams.

So, G1 ordered Monday from Warehouse Express and arrived the following day. Exciting stuff. I looked at the box for a few minutes in anticipation, there was a degree of trepidation “have I wasted my money” I thought to myself. At last I summoned the courage to open the box and a few breaths later the G1 body was in my hand. “WOW!” it’s so small and light. And the lens is cute and dinky. Mine was in a deep royal blue.

HANDLING: THE PHYSICS.
When they said a small DSLR they weren’t joking. The G1 is dwarfed by my S5 and 24-70mm f2.8 lens. It is so small. It is very light. The body plastic feels, well how can I describe it, kind of ‘furry’. Its quite a pleasant texture. It fits in the hand very well and as my hands are small with short fingers, it is quite comfortable. If you have huge gorilla like hands, then, I would say, you may find the G1 on the fiddly side. Overall the ergonomics, layout, handling and weight are very good. Even so, I do find the buttons just a little fiddly. A slight criticism. All the important controls are at your finger tips, no need really to delve into the menu system.

HANDLING: THE SOFTWARE.
I shoot mainly in RAW. Even on the S5 the RAW write-to-card speeds are quite slow – well, they are 35Mb each. I was very surprised at the RAW write speeds on the G1. The playback review speeds are impressive. Blindingly fast. I mean fast. Superb. The menu system is easy to use. Full Stop. When shooting RAW the G1 attains about 2fps with a depth of about 10 shots (although I have not done accurate tests on this aspect).

The LCD/EVF
Personally I hate using a camera at arms length. That’s years of using film cameras for you. I was a little concerned over using an EVF full time. But, it is good. Not a replacement for optical finders for sure. I quite like using the EVF and the amount of data it can display. Having a live histogram means you can make accurate exposure compensation BEFORE the shot instead of after. The EVF does darken when shooting into bright light, but even in moderate light there is enough data and sharpness for accurate composition. Manual focus also, is easy, fast and accurate.

THE RESULTS
Simply put – FANTASTIC. The resolution and levels of detail are excellent especially from RAW files. I process in Lightroom which is better and more flexible than the supplied Silkypix (which WILL suffice for the majority of users). Exposure is excellent and I would say better than my S5, the colours are very pleasing and quite neutral which is my preference anyway. Focussing is surprisingly fast, accurate and silent. The only criticism is the live view histogram is not accurate in comparison with the review histograms. A little care must be taken when exposing for the highlights. The live view histogram seems to ignore small spectacular highlights present in the review histograms and this can result, if you’re not careful, in highlight clipping. The dynamic range is no where near the S5 (then again, what is), but is standard for a camera of this type. No problems there either.

CONCLUSION
I totally echo the reviews on DPReview, DC Resource and Steve’s Digicams. The G1 is an excellent camera that will deliver fast excellent results in a very small and light footprint.

Some pictures to follow.

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