The GF1 is intended to offer photographers a real alternative to a digital SLR, so it also has to offer an SLR-like level of creative control. It has program auto, aperture and shutter priority and full manual exposure, with a range of shutter speeds from 1/4000th of a second to 60 seconds, with a B setting for longer exposures. The main creative tone control is the Film Mode, a series of pre-sets that can be set up in the menu and then selected via the quick menu. Each preset can be adjusted for contrast, sharpness, saturation and -unusually – noise reduction, with five adjustment steps for each parameter. The camera can record images in either SRGB or Adobe RGB colour spaces, and of course it has a Raw mode shooting uncompressed 14MB files.
The menu system is quite complex, with a comprehensive “Quick menu” that cycles through every bit of the extremely thorough monitor data display and lets you adjust every parameter. You can even select whether you want the screen to display remaining video time or number of still shots remaining. As well as this there is a big main menu system, including both a custom menu and a customisable My Menu. The Fn button can also be customised for rapid access to one particular feature. The default setting is the Film Mode adjustments.
The video mode is a bit limited compared to the GH1, but is certainly superior to the majority of other digital compacts. There is a red button on the top panel that starts filming instantly in automatic mode, but there is also a program auto mode for video recording that allows a certain amount of creative control, including film mode, AF mode, metering mode and more.
The range of lenses that are available for the G Micro system is currently quite limited, which might discourage some potential buyers, but the six lenses that are currently available are very good, and cover everything from wide angle to 400mm equivalent. The new f/1.7 20mm “pancake” lens (and yes I agree that’s a stupid name) is superb, with fantastic clarity and sharp corner-to-corner detail. I wasn’t able to get hold of a zoom lens in time for this review, but shooting with a prime lens is always fun, and it felt a lot like using one of my old 35mm SLRs with a fixed 50mm lens. Since I suspect that this is precisely the feeling Panasonic was aiming for with this lens and camera combination they’ve definitely succeeded.