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Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Panasonic GF-1 some thoughts

I'm sure this will not interest most of you but...

Well I've had a week playing with the Panasonic GF-1.

I'd been wanting a quality compact camera for a while and when Olympus and Panasonic introduced the micro 4/3 format I was intrigued. You got the same sized sensor as Olympus use in their dSLR's without the mirror that adds bulk. The Olympus sensor is much bigger than any sensor used in a traditional compacts although smaller than the sensor used by Nikon and Canon in both their cropped cameras let alone the 35mm full frame sensor.

The first micro 4/3 camera the Panasonic G1 was essentially a small dSLR. I was perpelexed, yes it was smaller but I didn't see what it offered it was still a camera you had to carry over your shoulder.

Olympus then launched the EP-1 a camera that looked pocketable. It came in two kits either a zoom or a fixed prime lens. I was tempted but the lack of flash put me off (Olympus does offer a separate fllash unit and currently that is free when you buy a camera but the idea of micro 4/3rds is compact and there are times you don't want to carry anything else).

Then Panasonic launched the GF-1 also in two kits the typical standard zoom and a fast fixed lens prime.

The differences between the Olympus and the Panasonic came down to inbody stabilsation on the olympus whereas Panasonic uses stabilisation in the lenses. Although the later works better this is a plus to Olympus as Olympus lenses won't have stabilisation on panasonic bodies. The Panasonic has a built in flash - ok its not that brilliant but it works and its much better than nothing. the Panasonic has a better screen. Neither came with a view finder although you can buy one.

The Olympus has a very retro look the Panasonic looks like a bulked up version of their LX3 compact.

I could dismiss the Panasonic with zoom as this was not pocketable. The olympus zoom although clunky had a smart way of being more compact. So I had three choices but i didn't need it.... but I wanted it..... so......

For some reason I ended up buying a Panasonic GF-1 with the 20mm f1.7 (equiv to 28mm on my d300 and 40mm on a full frame sensor). I was convinced I had made a mistake I wanted a wider lens BUT....

I've now used it for a week and I can only say its lovely. It is not shirt pocket compact but fits comfortably in to a jacket pocket. It's solidly built and fits beautifully into my hand. There is a dedicated ISO button, auto white balance button, auto focus mode and a button to choose the "film type". It only has the one control dial (my Nikon dSLR's have two one each side of the grip) but it is easy to get used to.

I'll leave you to judge image quality - just check the blogs from 5th Dec to 12th Dec (all but the Robin were with the GF-1). I can only say I am really pleased, comparing to the shots with my dSLR is difficult the Panny is using a prime whereas my recent shots with a dSLR are with a big 80-400 or a travel lens (18-250), a bit like comparing Apples and Pears. I will say that comparing full size images on a PC screen the Nikon D300 does high ISO better, the Panasonic does a good job but the Nikon is cleaner.

Auto-focus is snappy. Not as quick as the D300 but that was no surprise it's quick enough and much faster than a compact. Focus is also pretty accurate.

The lens is lovely, an f1.7 aperture means that in dull spaces you don't have to push the ISO quite so high.

You get the usual scene modes and panasonic intelligent auto.

So far so good. There are one or two things that aren't perfect. In extreme contrasty situations I'm not sure metering is as good as it could be or maybe it's just the Dynamic Range. Intelligent Auto seems to pick larger apertures than I would expect it to, not a problem as I normally use manual BUT I Auto can still take good images.

Panasonic and Olympus are committed to the format and a number of lenses are on the way and its nice that you can mix and match. That said I have no intention in buying lots of lenses (ok maybe the olympus 9-18 if the price is right but even then I'm not so sure as I once was).

The GF-1 with 20 f1.7 does what I want, it slips into a jacket pocket or hip bag for in town, it offers a lightweight landscape camera for when I'm carrying a big birding lens and to be honest it's just plain fun.

I have a feeling it's going to get a lot of use next year!

1 comment:

Tricia said...

Really does sound just the ticket and certainly the pictures on your previous posts give excellent results. Most of the critical factors in taking good pictures seem to come out as on the plus side in your critique.

Keeping the ISO down in poor light has to be a bonus in my view too.

*goes off to made an addition to the Christmas list* ;)