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Judging from many of the emails I receive asking for advice about buying cameras, there are a lot of you out there who would like the controllability and image quality of a digital SLR, but don't want the bulk and weight of a big camera system. Up until now this has meant choosing either a high-end compact like the Panasonic LX3 or Canon G10, or a super-zoom bridge camera such as the Panasonic FZ28 or Nikon P80.

While these are all capable cameras, they don't really come close to the kind of image quality produced by a digital SLR, mostly because they all have small compact-camera sensors, so buyers have had to compromise image quality for portability. All of that could be about to change though, because Panasonic has launched a camera that fills the gap between high-end compact cameras and full-sized DSLRs. It's called the Lumix G1, and it's an entirely new kind of digital camera.

Existing digital SLRs are large and complex devices. Even nine years after the launch of the first "consumer" digital SLR the majority of them are still based on the design of previous 35mm film cameras. In most cases this is so that owners of film SLRs can still use their existing lenses and accessories, thus ensuring brand loyalty, but even the Olympus E-system, with its designed-for-digital smaller lens mount, still uses film SLR technology.

The optical layout inside an SLR camera hasn't changed much in 30 years. Light comes in via the lens and strikes the reflex mirror, where it is split into different paths for the viewfinder, autofocus sensor and exposure meter. When the shutter is triggered the reflex mirror flips up out of the way allowing light onto the film or sensor.

What Panasonic has done with the G1 is to re-think the insides of the camera. They've got rid of that bulky, heavy and noisy reflex mirror, and with it the optical viewfinder, and replaced it with a simple system like the insides of a digital compact, with an electronic viewfinder and live LCD monitor. However they've kept the large DSLR sensor; the G1 uses the same size Four Thirds sensor as the Olympus E-system and the L10 DSLR.

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January 17, 2009, 7:05 pm

The camera may be a (fine) first example of the micro four thirds, but what about the lenses?

I gathered that the number of Panasonic lenses currently available for the G1 is very limited. (just not to mention the dismal 5,6 max aperture at an eff FOV of 90 mm of the kit lens).

Lenses of other brands are possible via an adapter. Only...then comes into account the FOV crop factor of 2. So if you want to use a real wide angle like 20mm Eff FOV you need a 10 mm lens. The only 4/3 lens that comes to mind is the Olympus Zuiko 7-14 mm f/4,0. I don't know whether this fits on the G1 but I presume it will, (although maybe via an adapter with loss of some functionaly).

And the limited max aperture (5,6) of the kit lens ensure you to use rather quickly higher ISO's. And already on my screen can I see from your ISO shots a significant loss of detail at 400 ISO.

So, just combining everything I think that, although a major technical accomplishment, as a camera the G1 is very limited in its use, mainly through the lack of good high performance lenses and its crop factor of 2. That added with an in my eyes mediocre (compared with other mid range SLR's) ISO performance makes me wonder how you came to your high score of 9, recommended.



Cliff Smith

January 17, 2009, 7:50 pm

Before the howls of derisive laughter, I made a slight mistake in the voice-over for the video review. The G1 weighs 385g body-only, not 195g, which is the weight of the 14-45mm lens. My apologies for the confusion, I should have spotted that when I wrote the script.

Homer Wat

January 19, 2009, 3:40 pm

Just in budget mind or a shutterbag, I will not choose Leica nor Lunix. They are alway too expensive. But comparing to what I have paid and the outcome, they are always my favourite. People always complain that four third is too small and too noise. If I take this comparison with mid-format camera and 135 full frame, than we will get a even higher different. For most of consumer that will only view photo on screen or print to as big as A4 size, what G1 produce is excellent and good enough for day to day use. If I really need a big picture, I would rather switch back to 4x5 or larger film camera, which will garantee me to have a noise free picture that 135 or 120 format can compare.

With the reasonable price that Lumix offer, I take it. I am looking forward to wait for the Leica len adapters so that I can use M-lens also.


January 19, 2009, 9:17 pm

At 1600 ISO "the image quality is still very good", you say. I think you better should have said: "the image quality starts suffering from visible noise". Don't you agree. But overall I think this camera has a very pretty balance between portabilty and quality.

Yousuf Vadachia

January 20, 2009, 1:45 am

This camera does not seem to make sense. It is more expensive than a budget DSLR yet offers marginally worse image quality and much less flexibilty in terms of lens choices and accessories. The other thing that was a bit concerning is the bare sensor when the lens is taken off to change lenses. SLR's have the reflex mirror offering a primary barrier to dirt and grit whereas this does not. Most of the built in "self-cleaning" functions (just vibrating mechanisms really) do not do a great job so I don't think that this will help much on this camera. Puzzling product in Panasonic's range, I wonder who will buy one.


January 21, 2009, 2:43 pm

@ Yousuf: Well, I for one would already own this camera - IF it had video functionality. It handles wonderfully, and the articulate 3in screen alone is worth a large premium for me (I've been using Canon's Powershot S range till now and don't ever want to go back to fixed screen). It's also smaller than anything else out there. The exposed sensor might be a bit of a worry, but I guess one will just have to be more careful when changing lenses. Speaking of which, more of these will become available over time.


January 22, 2009, 4:09 pm

This was a good start. About time the whole concept of welding a new electronic technology to an old mechanical mirror-flip system (due mainly to economic concerns, no less) got challenged; and with an image quality that is quite competitive.

However: the price range is (at least for now) unrealistic, Panasonic did not go the ful Monty (no film mode?! on a ful-time live view camera?!), and the total lack of sensor protection is a major discouragement for those that are "kinda klutzy" (like me), as well as for those that are routinely in less-than-vanilla shooting conditions (dusty, gritty,camera-dangerous environments - also my case).

Guess I'll cool my heels a tad and see what Mark 2 will bring - and at what price.

Andrew Alan Cameron

January 24, 2009, 12:05 am

I was quite impressed at first but it doesn't encourage system building. My humble Sony R1 with all its (so called) faults takes a lot of beating and I'm afraid the G1 doesn't (beat it) and one US reviewer called it a 'Soccer Mom's camera'.I feel more enthusiastic about the Oly E30. I will only think seriously about changing any of my lenses or my cameras when a client complains...Cameras are a tool to do a job not some sort of strange cult icon to be discussed ad. nauseum. I'm getting rather sick of it, clients and agencies buy pics. on their quality and wouldn't know the difference between actuance and resolution if it bit them in the advertising budget. Yes I know that not everyone is a pro.photog. but surely it's 'horses for courses'... peer at 100% crops if you wish but how often do you need a 20"x30" print to view from 8" away? Please do not wish me wiped off the face of the earth, it's just my opinion however dated it may be.

Ian Porter

January 24, 2009, 12:16 am

Thanks for the review Cliff. I for one am extremely glad that I trusted your 10/10 review on the less-than-half-this-price, FZ28. The pictures are very nice but so are my amateur fumblings with the itsy bitsy teeny weeny FZ28's CCD, so at first sight this offering is way over priced for no extra quality, which no doubt explains your 7/10 for value. Thanks again!


January 25, 2009, 12:25 am

I find it amusing how many people can complain and moan about a camera (not only this one) without having first used it...I for one have for a long time now, used this website as a reliable guide for new gear. I for one have every faith in this reviewer that the G1 is a superb camera, a view shared by my other source DC Resource. Both rate the G1 glowingly so as an owner of the DMC-LX3 (one of the highest ever rated cameras on this site) I will be purchasing into this new micro 4/3 system. I have compared noise with the Sony DSLRs and the G1 is better equiped, only the Canon's are better from the examples I have seen, so I guess as always, its the Canon/Nikon officionado's that are doing the complaining, jealousy I guess as Canon, good as they are, are hardly known for their revolutionalry approach, safe and simple is their way......Well done Panasonic for designing somthing whilst not revolutionary, certainly different.........

John Shewsbury

February 4, 2009, 3:46 pm

I was thinking to buy the FZ28 soon but this Panasonic G1 is quite tempting anyway - the only big problem for me now is the price... At the moment I can afford the FZ28 so I guess I settle with that and maybe it's better if I wait till probably next year before I can own this Panasonic G1 - maybe by that time it will be cheaper and more lens will be available - maybe. Anyway I love those Lumix/Leica lens, I heard they're quite expensive but they also offer impressive performance. It seems Panasonic are aiming to conquer this "bridge camera" market as Canon and Nikon seems to focus more on their DSLR now.


February 10, 2009, 8:10 pm

@Andrew Alan Cameron: Don't worry, wiping our readers "off the face of the earth" is not something we're ever likely to do. We review hardware, not targets :) As to your opinion, it's well-considered and I agree with most of it, especially the concluding part. However, I must object to being classed as a 'Soccer Mom'!

@John Shewsbury: If you wait a little longer yet, there will (hopefully) be the G1 V.2 (maybe called G2?). Should be much the same except have video-recording functionality (which, as Clovis said, should have been included in the first place).


April 29, 2009, 1:00 am

This camera is not an SLR.


July 19, 2009, 7:59 pm

This camera appears to be the cheapest option for anyone wanting to move into HDR photography.

Steven Frankel

July 26, 2009, 10:23 pm

Does anyone know anything about the release date for Panasonic's f1.7 20mm pancake lens for the G-1/GH-1. Also, will it likely have anti-shake. Some bloggers have "assumed" it won't, but this doesn't make sense to me, even though it's small since it will be the ultimate small, high-quality, available-light combo when paired with the G-1. Also, does anyone know anything about the projected price or where it will appear first?

mick / LUMIX

August 12, 2009, 11:44 pm

Have owned the G1 for nearly 3 months now and more than pleased with it. Most of my photos are taken with low ISO, and the fine detail is superb. Unable to fault it really, but now my A4 printer is too small. I have cropped photos so that the printed part is greater than A3. Now, if only I could get an A3 printer soon !

Tom Boyer

August 16, 2009, 2:41 am

Some people are misunderstanding what the G1 is. It is not a high end digicam -- it is a direct challenge to the DSLR. It's a fantastic street shooter.

Check out the comparometer at imaging resource:

In ordinary light conditions, this camera's images will right up there with the best entry level DSLRs -- such as the Canon Rebel Xsi. Because the kit lens on the Lumix is excellent, and the Xsi's is crap, out of the box in many cases the G1's resolution will actually be finer than the Xsi's -- though that really only matters if you're blowing up pictures to large sizes.

Comparing the G1 to even very good digicams like the LX3 and the G10 is kind of pointless. The G1's sensor is so much larger it is just going to blow those cameras away for detail and range of color.

There are really only two places a traditional DSLR such as the Xsi will do better -- sports photography and low-light performance. The other big disadvantage of the G1 right now is limited lens availability.

But the strengths of this camera -- the live view capabilities, the powerful bracketing -- are things you may not appreciate till you see them up close.

All in all, this is a phenomenal camera to kick off the Micro Four Thirds world, and it will no doubt be followed by even more phenomenal cameras. I think within a couple of years a lot of people will be abandoning DSLRs for this format.


November 2, 2009, 5:06 pm

Unlike all other models of Lumix, G1 comes with inferior Lumix lens instead of high quality Leica lens. I think all the reviews should mention it boldly to make the consumers aware of the issue.

John Shewsbury

November 5, 2009, 7:55 am

Dear Cliff or anybody else who have tried this G1, with the bundled lens kit, what is the nearest distance possible for Macro shooting? With my Panasonic FZ28 for example, I can go as near as 4cm or about 2 inch to the subject and the lens can still focus and captured the image accordingly... I am more into Macro shooting but I heard the Macro lens for this Micro Four Thirds system is as expensive as the DSLR one in which I can't afford at the moment.

Gordon Wilson

December 8, 2009, 6:44 pm

I bought a G1 a month ago and it has revitalised my photography. It is much lighter than a SLR and the kit lenses are as good as you will ever need, providing no detectable bad effects. The lenses image stabilisation is great allowing good low light performance without flash paticularly useful in museums etc. Photos of otters taken at 400mm on a dull day (35mm equivalent) were very acceptable.

The camera has easy to use controls and the bracketing is superb. I particularly like the non fiddly on/off switch that is handy to save battery power. The intelligent auto feature is also a great bonus as it invariably sets an exposure that no amount of programme, aperture or manual setting can better. I have bought a Metz 58A flash to go with it with super results.

All this kit (camera, 2xlenses and flash) fits into a standard camcorder bag for easy transportation. Camera with lens is small enough to stuff inside a coat.

A very well thought out bit of high tech kit - Great.

Kevin 13

June 16, 2010, 7:48 pm

This camera is absolutely brilliant! I knew nothing about photography, so I thought it was time to buy something decent. After reading loads of reviews of different cameras, I plumped for the G1, and I have absolutely no regrets. It cost a total of £350 (With the £50 cash back offer from Panasonic), and I think it's worth every penny. Ok, it hasn't got a mirror...So what?!! And I'm sure there'll be more lenses etc as time goes on. I'll be buying the 200mm zoom asap!! 10/10.

Kevin 13

August 6, 2010, 4:18 pm

"Unlike all other models of Lumix, G1 comes with inferior Lumix lens instead of high quality Leica lens"

I have the G1 and I've found the lens to be of exceptional quality. I read loads of reviews of this camera and lens before I bought it, and every review stated that the 14-45mm kit lens was note-worthy both for its build quality and its performance!

They weren't wrong!

Kevin 13

August 6, 2010, 7:51 pm

Hi John, there is a Leica 45mm macro lens for this camera which apparently gives amazing results. Not sure of the price though...

Kevin 13

August 6, 2010, 7:55 pm

"Puzzling product in Panasonic's range, I wonder who will buy one?

I did. And it's absolutely brilliant! And I know of many more people who have one. I don't understand how anyone can say it has pure image quality - the resolution is astounding! Have you read this review??!!



August 24, 2010, 12:45 am

The price drop makes it sensible to compete with budget SLRs now.

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