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Review Panasonic GM1 (m43)

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The Panasonic Lumix GM1 is the latest Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system camera from that brand. This camera got a lot of enthusiastic responses in the press and not only because the GM1 looks great.

On Imaging Resource the Panasonic GM1 was chosen Best Pocket Interchangeable Lens Camera or 2013, and on Dpreview, the GM1 was voted Best camera for social occasions. Thom Hogan nominated the GM1 for best entry mirrorless camera.

The Panasonic GM1 is built with a very compact body with changeable lens, on which to a large extent the control takes place via an attractive 3” touch screen with more than 1 million pixels. The camera has a 16 megapixel sensor – not unusual for MFT-bodies. We already know this sensor from the GX7.

DMC-GM1K

Design

We already wrote that the body is very compact. Especially very flat. The total thickness of the Panasonic GM1 is only 31 mm. The special shutter, with just one curtain, makes that possible. What’s remarkable is that, despite the touch screen controls, on top there’s another PSAM disc and AF switch. In the middle of the AF, there’s a Fn press button that in the default position connects to the built-in Wi-Fi. On the back, you'll find a mini four-way switch, a button for the display and one for the quick menu. The body itself (with leather look cover in brown as in the picture on the right, but also in traditional black as above) looks quite sleek. Although the housing is partly of light metal, the total weight remains very limited. The body (with battery and card) weighs 240 g. An element of that is that the battery is on the small side for a camera of this calibre in our opinion.

GM1

With only with photographic use, no video, the battery of our copy lasted less than two hundred shots. The battery and SD card are located behind the same door under the camera. The tripod mount sits neatly under the lens. There’s a great pull-out, built-in flash, that you can point up with your index finger to bounce the flash off the ceiling. It lights the image wall at 12 mm. It has a guide number of approximately 4, so you won’t get too far with it. The camera does not have a hot shoe or other connection. The GM1 has no built-in GPS. If you install the free Image App from Panasonic on your smart-phone, you can synchronize the time setting with the time setting of the camera of your phone. Then you can let the phone create a GPS log. If you then at a later stage make a Wi-Fi connection between the Panasonic GM1 and your smart-phone, the Panasonic GM1 will add the GPS locations to the pictures taken. We tried this, and it worked without any problems. You should of course make sure that the smart-phone meets the GPS requirements.

 The Shutter

 

The shutter works half-mechanically and half-electronically and has one mechanical curtain. The exposure is stopped electronically. This set-up is not new, and already appeared in the Nikon D40 SLR. In the case of the Panasonic GM1, this construction was chosen because of the shallow mounting depth. The (half) mechanical shutter has a shortest shutter speed of 1/500 sec. At faster shutter speeds, the camera switches over to a fully electronic shutter with a shortest exposure time of 1/40,000 second. At that speed, you can really freeze any object, but you'll almost always have to resort to high ISO's and their associated noise level.

It’s tempting to always to work with the electronic shutter, but it does have a few drawbacks: you cannot use the flash at all (it took quite some time before we noticed that, the manual doesn’t make that clear) and with fluorescent lighting you get ugly colored bands (pictured right). With the mechanical shutter you can use the flash, but only at shutter speeds of 1/50 second or longer.

 TL-buis-voor-web

With moving objects and an electronic shutter, you also have to put up with the rolling-shutter effect (distortion). In the picture right, you see moving trucks photographed at 1/500 second, on the left image with the mechanical shutter (back of the truck is straight, no distortion) and on the right image with the electronic shutter (truck tilts backwards). The trick when shooting moving subjects with the electronic shutter is to choose very short shutter speeds. As far as that goes, it’s smart of Panasonic to give the electronic shutter a shortest exposure time of 1/40,000.  rolling-shutter-voor-web

Controls

 

Because there is so little space for controls, all the buttons are tiny. This is no benefit to the ease of use. Hence, we managed, but couldn’t operate the settings disk on the back without disturbing of one of the four-way buttons. For this reason, the GM1 is equipped with a touch screen. With it, you can change part, but not all, of the settings. Sometimes when you're busy on the touch screen, you have to use at least one of mechanical buttons or go to the menu. The buttons on the touch screen itself  are in mini-format; for example, there are several additional Fn buttons on it, but you have to have fingers the size of a elf’s. Especially in the beginning, we found the controls complex and not intuitive. Fortunately, you can disable the touch screen completely and change to a more classic menu control. You then miss out on the undeniably convenient ability to choose the AF point (there are 23) on the screen, which lets you make a point bigger or smaller with your fingers.

The monitor on the back of the camera is not turnable or tiltable.

GM1screen

Don't be fooled by the small appearance of the Panasonic GM1. In terms of capabilities, the Panasonic GM1 is a mature camera. The camera is also equipped with many extras, including a large number of scene settings, extended HDR and bracket settings, interval photography, Wi-Fi and so on. The noise reduction you cannot switch on or off, and it’s therefore always on.

It’s remarkable that Panasonic has managed to include, despite the very compact dimensions, a built-in Flash. While it’s not a very powerful Flash, as a fill-flash on social occasions it’s sufficient.

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 Resolution and Image Quality

The Panasonic GM1 has a big ISO range, all the way up to 25,600. We characterize the two highest settings as “only for emergencies,” because of poor signal-to-noise ratio and color loss. At ISO settings up to and including 800 ISO noise there is, however, hardly noise and the images are good quality. Look at this Art Nouveau House: in the 100% partial magnification you can see every detail (used lens: Panasonic 12-32 mm). In JPEG there are clear signs of image editing, even at the highest quality. The camera can work in RAW, and for the conversion a Silkypix converter is included on CD.

mon-genie-voor-web

mon-genie-detail-voor-web

Autofocus

The camera uses contrast detection auto focus based on the sensor signal. Because it uses the sensor signal, rather than a separate AF-unit somewhere else in the camera as with SLRs, the Panasonic GM1 with bright lenses is never bothered by front focus or back focus. The Panasonic GM1 does not have, as on some competing models, any phase-detection AF-pixels. There is also no reason to include them, as we found that the AF of the GM1 works great: fast, totally silent and reasonably reliable under weak light conditions. In the dark, the AF of the Panasonic GM1 still works, although the AF needs more time to focus properly. Reading the specifications, you see how spectacularly good that actually is. The AF range of a high-end SLR (thousand euro or more) does not go beyond -1 or-2 eV.

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Dynamic Range Panasonic GM1

The Panasonic GM1 has the same sensor as the Panasonic GX7. And we see that in the measurement of the dynamic range. The total dynamic range of the Panasonic GM1 is 11 stops for a 200 ISO RAW file. If you want to make the dark areas much lighter without noise becoming visible, for example in HDR photography, then there remains a usable dynamic range of 6.35 stops. That is just as good as an SLR camera with an APS-C sensor; at ISO 200 we measured for the Panasonic GM1 half a stop higher dynamic range than we measured for the Canon 650D. At 6400 ISO, the usable dynamic ranges of these cameras are equal.

200ISORAWDynRange

1600iso

Noise

Move your mouse over the image above.

This night shot was made at 1600 ISO by the Panasonic GM1 with the hand steadied on a round bridge railing. The image stabilization of the Panasonic 12-32 mm managed to minimize the motion blur pretty well, because the shutter speed for this shot is 2 seconds. The partial enlargement at 100% magnification shows that 1600 ISO shots are little bothered by noise.

Compared to compact cameras that have a smaller sensor, the higher ISO settings of the Panasonic GM1 also more usable. On the right you see a night shot made at 25,600. In the partial enlargement, you can clearly see that detail is lost through noise reduction. We would try for the Panasonic GM1, as much as possible, to keep the ISO values below 1600.

 

Click on the image for a partial enlargement at 100%.

25600isosampleimage

Color Reproduction Panasonic GM1 Camera

The color reproduction in daylight for the Panasonic GM1 (Delta E94 = average 3.8 and a Delta C94 averaging 1.7) is very, very accurate. On this point, this camera gives nothing up to the best SLRs. Many photographers prefer more saturated colors, with some extra red. For this, choose the image style "vivid". The final score for color reproduction is brought down a bit by the automatic white balance in artificial light. There we found a relatively large color cast. On this point the Panasonic GM1 scored a bit lower than the Panasonic GX7, despite both cameras having the same sensor. If you manually adjust the white balance in difficult lighting conditions, or optimize the white balance in RAW files afterwards, then the color reproduction of the Panasonic GM1 is very, very good.

miniDaglichtRAW6400ISOGM1colorerror

miniTungsten colorerror

Color reproduction in daylight

Color reproduction in articial light

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The Competition: Panasonic GM1 versus Nikon 1 J3 and Sony RX100 II

There are quite a few small system cameras with high-quality lenses. We opted to compare with two models that come close to the GM1 in format: the Nikon 1 J3 and the Sony RX100 II.

The Nikon 1 has a smaller sensor than the GM1, yet the body is about the same size. The sensor has 14 megapixels. It has an electronic shutter that, as with the GM1, goes up to 1/16,000 second, but uses phase detection focus. Further, the specs are comparable and in terms of image quality there is also no big difference. The Nikon has, in contrast to the other two, no Wi-Fi. Another limitation is that the lens mount is proprietary, so you have fewer choices of optics than with a Micro Four Thirds.

With the Sony RX100 you have no choice at all, because it has a fixed lens, but a nice one: a Zeiss 10.4 – 37 mm f/1.8-f/4.9, or 28-100 mm, in KB equivalent. The Sony has a 13x9 mm sensor (larger than that of the Nikon) with 20 megapixels. It’s the only one in the comparison with a tilting LCD screen. There is a built in flash and an accessory shoe. If you’re looking for a camera with a 'normal' zoom range and don’t plan to change lenses, this is a good alternative, and cheaper too.

 
Reviews

 

 

 

 

Conclusion Panasonic GM1 Test

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See our list of tested cameras to compare the performance of this camera with other cameras.
Starter
Year:2013
Overall score:6.8
Resolution:6.5
Dynamic Range:7.1
Noise:7.5
Color:8.8
Whitebalance:6.0
Megapixels:16
Sensor:M43
Sensor magn.:0.70
fps:5
Weight (gram):70
MSRP NL (Euro):699

Advantages

Disadvantages

  • Compact and beautifully designed with the ability to change lenses
  • Part of an 'open' system, lenses from other brands are also usable
  • Good image quality: the same sensor as the GX7
  • Fastest shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec
  • Broad range of possibilities
  • Built-in flash
  • Incl. Wi-Fi, NFC which lets you easily share photos on social media, and GPS information can be synchronized with your smartphone
  • Controls are not always easy
  • Few and small buttons
  • Small battery
  • No accessory shoe
  • No GPS (but a smart synchronization ability with GPS on a smart-phone)
If you’re looking for a compact camera that has an interchangeable lens, you can hardly do better than the Panasonic GM1. The image quality is very good, it has almost everything, and the super-fast shutter speed with the electronic shutter is an attractive bonus. You have to invest some time in getting to know it, because the controls we found sometimes difficult and not intuitive. The battery is also too small, though that’s understandable in such a small camera. We recommend that you immediately buy a second battery for the Panasonic GM1. The Micro Four Thirds system has now become a fully accepted industry standard. You can choose from a wide range of lenses, also from other brands. And with this expansion of the Panasonic G series camera you have, among other things, the choice of a micro-43 camera for large hands (Panasonic GH3), a micro-43 camera with the ergonomics of a rangefinder camera (Panasonic GX7), and a micro-43 camera for small hands (Panasonic GM1).  
Jop Steenhof de Jong
Author: Jop Steenhof de Jong
Photography has been a hobby of mine for many years. For me, it's about the joy of creating. I like to find and share knowledge in depth topics again. After years of having fun with contributions made to the Dutch magazine "Camera Magazine", I test now with at least as much pleasure for CameraStuffReview.

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Comments (5)

  1. Naveed Akhtar

As we know and you mentioned in your review, it shares the same sensor as GX7, but still it's half a stop lower in Dynamic Range? What you think, why it is so? if there are any other factors on DR other than sensor?<br /><br />Thanks for sharing...

As we know and you mentioned in your review, it shares the same sensor as GX7, but still it's half a stop lower in Dynamic Range? What you think, why it is so? if there are any other factors on DR other than sensor?<br /><br />Thanks for sharing very useful review of this amazing little camera! Handheld image for 2 sec is a real eye opener!!

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  1. Ivo Freriks    Naveed Akhtar

Panasonic says it's the same sensor, but we don't know whether it's completely exact the same. DxO mark measures also the dynamic range for RAW files using a different method (we report systematic lower values). Just like us, they report a 0.5...

Panasonic says it's the same sensor, but we don't know whether it's completely exact the same. DxO mark measures also the dynamic range for RAW files using a different method (we report systematic lower values). Just like us, they report a 0.5 stop lower dynamic range for the GM1 (compared to the GX7) at the lowest ISO setting.<br /><br />The processor (and applied algorithms) in the camera influences the final image quality. I don't have an explanation.<br /><br />David Lee Roth, the former Van Halen singer, sang:<br />"God only knows, but he ain't talking".<br /><br />Regards,<br /><br />Ivo

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  1. Naveed Akhtar    Ivo Freriks

This is already a very good response Ivo and it make sense.<br /><br />Also thanks for sharing Lee Roth lyrics!!<br /><br />Cheers,<br /><br />Naveed

 
  1. Pier-Yves Menkhoff

The GMI is a real marvel.<br />Film Sample > https://vimeo.com/88589250<;br />Cheers.

 
  1. Ivo Freriks    Pier-Yves Menkhoff

Thanks for sharing this really nice video with us, Pier-Yves!<br /><br />Ivo

 

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