Panasonic Lumix GM1 £470

27th Nov 2013 | 12:59

Panasonic Lumix GM1

The Panasonic GM1 boasts GX7 image quality in a tiny body.

TechRadar rating:

5 stars

Like:

Small size; Touchscreen; Inbuilt Wi-Fi; Digital Filters;

Dislike:

No viewfinder; No hotshoe; No manual control when using filters;

Introduction

Panasonic was first to launch a compact system camera all the way back in 2008, so it has a decently rich heritage on which to build its new releases.

The Panasonic GM1 starts a new line for the company, bringing the total up to five now. There's G, GF, GX, GH and now GM. The GM1, being the smallest, lightest and cheapest available is primarily aimed at beginner photographers, especially those who might be stepping up from a compact camera.

Ratings in depth
Design 5
Features 5
Performance 4.5
Useability 4.5
Value 4

Featuring a 16-million-pixel Four Thirds sensor, the same as that found in the excellent Panasonic GX7, the GM1 is compatible with the extensive range of Micro Four Thirds lenses that are available - the greatest number of proprietary optics available for any compact system camera.

As Olympus also uses the Micro Four Thirds mounts, all of their lenses are also compatible, as well those from thirdparty manufacturers such as Sigma and Tokina.

Alongside that sensor is a Venus processing engine, while the sensor is said to be capable of producing up to 10% better images at high sensitivity than the GX1.

Panasonic says that its engineers have downsized almost every component of the GM1 in order to produce a small body size; for instance, although the sensor itself is still a Micro Four Thirds device, the overall unit is 30% smaller. The flash unit has also been reduced by around 30%, while the shutter unit has had a reduction of 80%. Overall, the body size is 40% smaller than the GX7 with which it shares a sensor.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Keen to keep the overall system size down, Panasonic is also launching a new standard kit lens with a focal length of 12-32mm (24-64mm equivalent) which is also ultra compact, collapsing down even smaller when not in use. A new 15mm f/1.7 pancake lens has also been launched, while a 35-100mm 'GM' style lens (that is, small) will also be introduced next year.

Other interesting features include 1/16,000 shutter speed and silent shooting, thanks to its electronic shutter. It's also got built in Wi-Fi and HD video recording at 60i. Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to shoot remotely from a smartphone or tablet, as well as send photos across to a device or upload directly to services such as Facebook. Panasonic says that there is no NFC chip, as seen on the GF6 and G6 due to size restrictions.

The camera is capable of shooting in raw format and gives the user full manual control. There are also a number of automatic and scene modes, along with plenty of digital filters. Despite its incredibly small size, there is an inbuilt flash included.

The camera has a classic design, with a metal chassis. On the back of the camera is a three-inch, one-million-dot touchscreen, which is fixed. As you might expect, there is no viewfinder, and there is also no hotshoe or accessories port through which you could attach an external one. If you're looking for a camera which is relatively small but has the option to expand via accessories, the Panasonic GF6 would be a more appropriate option.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Panasonic says that it will be marketing the GM1 primarily as a compact camera, rather than an interchangeable lens camera, despite its ability to do so. It is smaller, even including the standard kit lens, than the Sony RX100 II, the current best seller in the premium compact camera market – it is this type of customer the company is targeting.

Aside from the Sony RX100 II, other compact system cameras that the GM1 is going up against are the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2, Sony NEX-3N and Panasonic's own GF6. All of which are significantly larger than the GM1.

Build quality and handling

The original point of the Micro Four Thirds design was that incredibly small cameras could be produced. Up until now, although we have seen some very small designs, none of them truly match the GM1, which almost needs to be seen to be believed. Coupled with the very small 12-32mm lens, this is a coat-pocketable device, if not yet a jeans-pocketable one.

Before you can use the camera, you'll need to first rotate the zoom ring of the 12-32mm lens. This means that it's not ready to shoot from switching on, but it does give the camera the advantage of collapsing down to a very small size. If you're carrying the camera outside a pocket, you can always leave the lens extended when not in use.

Although it has a touchscreen, there's still a satisfying number of dials and buttons on the body itself, especially when you consider its small size. On top of the camera is a dial for switching between the various exposure modes on offer, including aperture priority and shutter priority. There's also a dial for switching between different focusing modes: single, continuous and manual.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

There is no dedicated dial for altering aperture or shutter speed, but, depending on the mode you're shooting in, you can make changes to these settings via the scrolling dial on the back of the camera. It seems likely that a large majority of the people using this camera will use it in fully automatic mode, but it's great that full manual control is available for those who want to experiment further down the line.

These dials, combined with the black and silver design, give it a classic, retro feel that will surely be appreciated by many style-conscious photographers.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

On the back of the camera, the three-inch touchscreen is joined by the traditional four-way navigational pad, a menu button, a playback button, a movie record button and a trash button. You can control most elements of the camera via the touchscreen itself, but it's nice to have real buttons to use as well for those who prefer it, or those who'd rather use a combination of the touchscreen and buttons.

One slight downside of the camera's small size is that it can be quite easy for a thumb to stray into the touchscreen area, and therefore make the odd change to settings.

You can also use the touchscreen to set the autofocus point, and if you like, to fire off the shutter release. Both are very convenient features when you need them, and make the workflow of using the camera much quicker than those cameras without a touchscreen.

A quick menu is available for accessing commonly used settings, saving you having to dive into the full menu. The button marked with the trash icon is used to reach the quick menu when in shooting mode. From here, you can either use the touchscreen to move around the menu, or the four way navigational pad, or of course, a combination of both. Here you'll find parameters such as Photo Style, image ratio, flash and AF mode. It's possible to customise the Quick Menu if you have a particular setting you wish to access often.

There is also a customisable function button on top of the camera. By default this is set to access Wi-Fi functions, which seems like a sensible option. You can change it though, if you'd prefer something else. There are more 'virtual' function buttons, which can be accessed via the touchscreen, and these are also customisable.

Performance

We had pretty high hopes for the GM1, since it shares the same sensor as the GX7, which we know to be an excellent performer. It's interesting to see Panasonic really working to fill a niche gap in the market here as well, tackling the likes of the Sony RX100 II.

Happily, we have not been disappointed by what the GM1 is capable of producing. Images are full of detail, while colours are beautifully saturated without going over the top in the majority of conditions. Skin tones are also represented excellently.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

The GM1's multi-zone (multi-purpose) metering system does a great job to produce balanced images in the majority of conditions, although in scenes with high contrast or extreme lighting conditions, you may find you need to dial up or down the exposure compensation for better accuracy.

Similarly, the GM1's automatic white balance system does well to produce scenes with accurate colours. Under artificial lighting conditions, the tendency is for the camera to err towards warm tones, especially of course if you're shooting under yellow/orange toned lighting. You can choose a more specific white balance setting if it's proving to be particularly problematic though, or create your own custom setting if it's really struggling.

Shooting at high sensitivities reveals the GM1 is very capable in lower lighting conditions. Image smoothing is virtually non-existent at the lower end of the sensitivity scale, only starting to become noticeable from around ISO 800 or ISO 1600, depending on the lighting conditions. Images shot at ISO 3200 remain useable, with noise and smoothing only really visible when examining an image very closely at 100%. Generally, noise is kept to a minimum, while detail is retained well.

AF speed is one of the key selling points of both Panasonic and Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras. Once again, the GM1 delivers in that respect, with near-instant autofocusing. The speed drops slightly in low light, but not too badly, and generally focusing is very accurate, with very few examples of missed focus. Shot to shot time is also very good. Start up time is quick but, if you're using the kit lens, you will need to extend that before you can use it, so bear that in mind.

Speaking of the kit lens, the new 12-35mm optic is a good carry-around lens for everyday usage. It produces sharp images. By shooting at mid-range apertures, such as f/8, we can see that edge to edge sharpness is maintained pretty much right the way across the frame, which is good news. It's also possible to create shallow depth of field effects, despite the maximum aperture of the lens being f/3.5. Out of focus areas are rendered beautifully, with great bokeh effects.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Introducing a new compact kit lens is a smart move, as this keeps the overall system size down. We're excited to also use the new 15mm f/1.7 lens which is currently in development, as the maximum aperture of the new kit lens if f/3.5. You can of course attach other lenses from the Micro Four Thirds arsenal for even greater flexibility if you need it, but this is the kind of camera that Panasonic expects to be used with the kit lens for the majority of the time.

The GM1, like the other Lumix G cameras, comes with an impressive range of digital filters. It's still true that you can't retain full manual control while shooting with these filters, which is a shame, but we do think that the filters offered are the best on the market. We're particularly fond of Cross Process, Toy Camera and the several monochrome options, but of course that will be down to personal preference.

We continue to be impressed by the touchscreens on Lumix G cameras, and of course the GM1 is no different. Again, it's a smart move to include a touchscreen on such a device, since a good proportion of the target users will be coming from a smartphone background. The GM1's screen is very responsive and easy to use, making it great for setting autofocus points and even firing off the shutter release.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Panasonic Lumix GM1 we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 200 the GM1 achieves a score of 24.

See a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 200, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 400, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 800, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 1600, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 3200, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 6400, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 12800, score: 16 (Click here to see the fill resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 25600, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Raw

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 200, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 400, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 800, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 1600, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 3200, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 6400, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 12800, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Panasonic Lumix GM1

ISO 25600, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Noise and dynamic range

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Here we can see that the GM1 competes very closely with other compact system cameras in its category, especially of course the GX7, with which it shares a sensor. It beats the Olympus PEN E-PM2 at the lower end of the chart, being almost identical at higher sensitivities. Interestingly however, it is beaten from ISO 800 onwards by the Sony RX100 II, the compact camera which the GM1 is likely to be marketed against, and which has a much smaller (one-inch) sensor.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Panasonic Lumix GM1

The GM1 fares slightly less well for raw signal to noise ratio results. Although it's a consistent performer, putting in almost exactly the same performance as the GX7, it is beaten at every sensitivity by the Sony NEX 3N. From ISO 1600 onwards, it is again beaten by the RX100 II compact camera. At the lower end of the scale however (ISO 200-400), it beats the other cameras in the test.

JPEG dynamic range

Panasonic Lumix GM1

In terms of dynamic range, the GM1 is a much more solid performer, putting in a consistent performance across the sensitivities. At the lower end of the scale it closely matches the Olympus E-PM2, before taking over from around ISO 1600. It beats the other cameras on test apart from at the very lowest sensitivity (ISO 200), where the Sony RX100 II and Olympus PEN E-P3 are the winners.

Raw dynamic range

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Raw (after conversion to TIFF) performance is very good, beating all of the other cameras at almost every sensitivity. The Olympus PEN E-PM2 does fare slightly better than the GM1 at the very lowest sensitivities of ISO 200 and ISO 400, but they are almost identical at this point.

Sample images

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

The GM1 is capable of capturing lots of fine detail.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Colours are bright and punchy without being overly vibrant.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

The 12-32mm kit lens is a good performer, producing sharp shots with great colours, it's a great carry-around option, especially if you decide never to extend your lens collection.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Even in very low light and at high sensitivity, detail is retained impressively, check the ice and water droplets on the glass.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Automatic white balance generally does a good job of reproducing accurate colours, sometimes erring towards warm tones when faced with artificial lighting.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Generally the all-purpose metering system does a good job, but in area where there's a lot of contrast, it can struggle slightly. You can either dial in some exposure compensation, or correct in post-production. Shooting in raw format gives you lots of scope to do this.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Using the touchscreen to set the autofocus point is a great option when you're photographing a subject which moves around. Super fast autofocus is also useful.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Shooting in low light conditions produces useable images right up at the higher sensitivity levels, such as ISO 3200, especially if only sharing or printing the images at A4 or below.

Digital filters

The GM1 is equipped with a huge range of digital filters. They include the following:

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Photo styles

These can be used in semi-automatic and full manual exposure modes, giving you greater control over image settings.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

Click here to see the full resolution image.

Sensitivity images

JPEG

Panasonic 200

Full ISO 200 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

ISO 200 GM1

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 400

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 800

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

1600 Crop

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

3200 crop

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 6400

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 12800

ISO 12800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 25600 crop

ISO 25,600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

ISO 200 crop

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 400

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 800

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 1600

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 3200

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 6400

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 12800

ISO 12800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 25600

ISO 25600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Verdict

It's impressive that Panasonic has managed to compress its excellent technology into a body as remarkably small as this. When you consider that this camera is smaller than the Pentax Q range, which features a compact camera sized sensor, that feat seems even more remarkable. We can see this appealing to a wide range of people, who are after something which offers fantastic image quality without the bulk of something larger (even by Micro Four Thirds standards).

We'll also be interested to know what kind of knock on effect the GM1 has on sales of cameras such as the Sony RX100 II. With the package being smaller overall, but with the bonus flexibility of changing lenses and a larger sensor, we can see many people being swayed by the GM1.

We had high hopes from the GM1, being as it has the same sensor as the GX7, and we're happy to report that image quality appears to be very similar, which is excellent news.

There's lots of detail, while colours are bright and punchy. The camera performs very well in lower lighting conditions too. It's interesting to note that the Sony RX100 II actually outperforms the GM1 for signal to noise ratio in our labs tests though.

This camera is primarily being marketed against premium compact cameras, of which the Sony RX100 II is the key target, but it also includes cameras such as the Canon G16 too. The benefit of a camera like this is that it can accept different lenses if you do decide to expand your collection down the line. The downside is that the maximum aperture of the kit lens is f/3.5, compared with the Sony's f/1.8 for example. That said, with a much larger sensor, that shouldn't have too much effect on depth of field, but it may mean you need to shoot at higher sensitivities in darker conditions.

Generally though, the kit lens is a good all-round performer, and it's nice to see that Panasonic has introduced a new lens along with the small-bodied GM1 to make it a neat overall package.

We liked

Undoubtedly the best thing about this camera is its remarkably small size, which is most striking when you see the camera in real life. It's a (jacket) pocketable compact system camera that you can take anywhere, but unlike some of the other teeny tiny contenders, it doesn't skimp on image quality.

We disliked

There's not much to dislike about the GM1, aside from its small size can make some of the operation a little fiddly – especially if you have larger hands. However, that's something you soon get used to. Fans of NFC may be disappointed to see only Wi-Fi connectivity here.

Final verdict

Move over Nikon 1 and Pentax Q, Panasonic has made a fantastic small compact system camera but managed to include a large sensor that produces excellent images. This seems like what the Micro Four Thirds range was intended for, and makes a fantastic addition to the already venerable G series line-up.

It's interesting to see Panasonic marketing this camera squarely at the likes of the Sony RX100 II, which up until now has had fantastic success, while Panasonic's own premium compact (fixed lens) cameras have taken a bit of a backseat. Will all that change now? With a similar price point, it'll be interesting to see. Stay tuned.

Panasonic GM1 Micro Four Thirds camerascarousel-en-au camerascarousel-en-gb camerascarousel-en-us award5star
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