Overall image quality is fantastic and certainly on a par with the G3, with the GX1 being able to produce images full of bright, vibrant colours, pleasing tonality and contrast, sharp edges and good levels of detail. Given that the two cameras share the sensor and image processor this probably shouldn’t come as such a shock.
As is common with many digital cameras these days, the GX1 allows you to choose from a set of predefined processing styles. In keeping with other recent Lumix G-series releases the GX1 offers a choice of: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait and Custom. We tended to favour the Standard setting as it offers a happy medium between the deliberately flat Natural setting and the highly saturated Vivid setting, and is the easiest to work with when shooting in Raw. That said, we also found ourselves switching over to Vivid on a number of occasions when the light was really flat and our subject required a bit of extra pop.
In addition to Picture Styles, the GX1 also features a good range of supplementary image-shaping technology, including Intelligent Resolution (which generates sharper edges and greater emphasis of fine detail) and Intelligent Dynamic (which creates the impression of an increased dynamic range for high-contrast scenes). On top of this the GX1 also offers Shading Compensation (which corrects vignetting by lightening the corners) and Long Shutter Noise Reduction (which lessens the effects of image noise). All of these certainly have their uses, and can be used quite effectively as a general safety net for overall image quality. That said, turning such functions up too high can also result in unnatural looking images, so some prudence is required.
Metering is taken care of via a 144-zone multi-pattern sensing system and proves consistently accurate, although we did notice an occasional tendency to slightly underexpose some images in tricky (high-contrast) lighting conditions. Of course, this is easily rectified via the ±5EV of exposure compensation that's provided. We encountered no such problems with Automatic White Balance setting, with the GX1 producing accurate colour reproduction in a variety of natural and artificial lighting conditions without any overly warm or cold hues creeping in.
Low-light and high sensitivity shooting is another area in which the GX1 does very well – at least when the camera is taken out of studio test conditions and used in real-life situations. If truth be told though, our ISO test results weren’t quite as good as we’d expected them to be. Shooting on a professional-grade tripod and using a combination of Aperture-priority, self-timer, manual focus and consistent studio lighting, images taken at ISO 160 and ISO 200 were as noise free as we’d expected, however we did begin to notice some image softening creep in as low as ISO 400, becoming more noticeable at ISO 800 and ISO 1600 – especially when viewed at 100%. At ISO 3200 image quality begins to drop off quite noticeably, with the highest settings of ISO 6400 and 12,800 very much for emergencies only.
The Panasonic Lumix GX1 is an excellent enthusiast-level compact system camera that offers plenty of flexibility and customisation options in a small and stylish package. On top of this, build quality is excellent and image quality rarely disappoints. Overall, it’s a camera we have no hesitation in heartily recommending. If the £750 asking price for the GX1 and Lumix 'X' 14-42mm powered zoom package reviewed here pushes the GX1 out of your price range then bear in mind that it can also be purchased with a standard 14-42mm kit zoom for around £200 less.