First Impressions - Panasonic GX1

Well the other day I bought myself a Panasonic GX1.  This is the first time I have owned a Micro four thirds camera.  First of all, why? you probably asking this, why bother?  Well I do a lot of street photography and travel photography.  Sometimes using a big professional camera can be a bit annoying as people look at you suspiciously or notice you before you take the picture.  As much as I try to blend in its hard, with a camera the size of a Nikon D3.  This was my main reason for buying the GX1 (also lugging around a massive camera can be very tiring). I have been interested in the Micro Four thirds system for some time, with the GF1 originally making me think.  I looked into it and I didn't really think the technology was at a point for me to consider it seriously (I must add, I have since seen some really good work taken on a GF1).

The recent advancement in the technology has made me reconsider and after reading up on all the specs and after a lot of thought I decided to take the plunge.  On paper the results should be similar, if not slightly better than the D90 I was using as a back up body.

The main stats for the GX1 is a 16mp sensor, ISO up to 12,800, Full HD video and obviously much more. I'm not all that interested in specs as I like to see real world results, but if you are interested here is the spec list.

Straight out of the box it felt tiny, but reassuringly made. It has a metal chassis, which makes it feel like it will take a bit of abuse.  The hand grip feels really nice and gives it a high end feel.  I bought it with the power zoom, which I am not too sure about yet, but it does make it quite a good size for the equivalent of a 28-84mm zoom.  The main downside is the f5.6 aperture, which will limits use in low light.

Out on the street the camera handled really well, with really fast focusing.  The feature that has really revolutionised my shooting with the D3 is the auto ISO function.  Basically I can set a maximum ISO and set a shutter speed, so when I am in Aperture priority, if i set the shutter speed at 1/60th the camera will adjust the ISO to maintain that shutter speed until it reaches the pre determined max ISO. Sounds complicated but it is simple and a really good feature.  The GX1 has a similar feature , you can set a maximum ISO, say ISO1000, and the camera will change it up and down to reach an exposure, however there is no way setting a minimum shutter speed, not that I have found anyway.  I am therefore not entirely sure what the auto ISO is doing.  In my first outing I found myself shooting one minute at 1/13th at ISO 160 and then shooting at 1/500th at ISO 1000.  Need more reading up on that one.

Looking at the early results, though, i am quite impressed. Even at ISO 1600, noise isn't an issue, especially once it is processed in Lightroom 4.  The power zoom has some odd characteristics and really benefit from a run through DxO optics, before processing.

As a tool for street and photojournalism work the GX1 seems perfectly capable, yes you wouldn't shoot high end advertising campaigns on it, but then thats not the point.  Its small, lightweight, fast focusing and produces good quality files up to ISO 1600.  I will be using it a lot more over the next few weeks so I will report back on any findings.

Here are a few sample images.

If you would like to get in touch or ask questions about the GX1 or anything else please email blog@darrenobrien.co.uk or leave a comment.