Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Review

 
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Panasonic G1 Performance


Timing and Performance

The Panasonic G1's timing performance is slightly slower than average for consumer SLRs, but still faster than typical all-in-one digicams.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

1.0 second

Time it takes to turn on and capture a shot.

Shutdown

1.6 seconds

How long it takes camera to turn off before you can remove the memory card.

Buffer clearing time
1 second after 20 large/fine JPEGs*
Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card.
1 second after 20 small/normal JPEGs*
9 seconds after 9 RAW files*
15 seconds after 5 RAW+JPEG files*
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/sec 8GB SDHC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Startup and shut-down times are a little slower than those for many SLRs, but the ~1 second startup time is short enough that it's not likely to cost you many important images.


Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

0.9 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to play

0.7 second

Time to display a large/fine file immediately after capture.

Display
recorded image

0.5 second

Time to display a large/fine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching is reasonably fast, except for Record to Play, which is a bit slower than average. (However, an improvement over the 0.9 second time we got with the prototype.)


Shutter Response (Lag Time)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Wide Angle
0.372 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (All AF timing done with Panasonic 14-45mm kit lens. This measurement done at 14mm.)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Telephoto
0.357 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (This measurement done at 45mm.)

Full Autofocus,
Multi-area AF mode,
Wide Angle
0.388 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (This measurement done at 14mm.)
Full Autofocus,
Multi-area AF mode,
Telephoto
0.372 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (This measurement done at 45mm.)

Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Wide Angle,
Flash enabled
0.624 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting, auto flash enabled. (This measurement done at 14mm.)

Prefocused

0.077 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

Continuous AF
0.368 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual Focus
0.105 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".

When we first heard about the Micro Four Thirds concept, with only contrast-detect autofocusing available, we were very concerned about how long the shutter lag might be. We're thus greatly relieved to see that, while the G1 may not be quite as fast as some competing consumer SLRs, it's still faster than most all-in-one digicams. Interestingly, while the full-AF shutter lag numbers we measured were notably slower than those of most SLRs, we found that the camera actually felt quite fast and responsive in-hand.

The production model of the Panasonic G1 that we tested showed full-autofocus shutter lag (with the subject at a fixed distance) that ranged from 0.357 to 0.388 second. Telephoto AF numbers improved somewhat over the prototype, which had ranged from 0.442 to 0.454 second, but the other numbers are essentially the same. Competing consumer-level SLRs are up to twice as fast as the G1 in this regard, but as noted, the camera really felt more responsive than the numbers would seem to indicate when we were shooting with it. The lag was about the same in continuous mode AF, at about 0.368 second, but without the large variation we saw in that mode with the prototype. When manually focused, the G1's lag time drops to only 0.105 second, very competitive with consumer SLRs. Likewise, its prefocused lag time of 0.077 is competitive, besting some SLRs in its general price range. Using the LCD monitor instead of the EVF had little impact on shutter lag numbers, but turning on the optical image stabilization in the lens slowed response times slightly.

All in all, decent shutter lag numbers, certainly competitive to consumer-level SLRs, when it comes to the in-hand experience.


Cycle Time (shot to shot)

Single Shot mode
Large/Fine JPEG

0.85 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 1 second to clear*.

Single Shot mode
Small Normal JPEG

0.85 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 1 second to clear*.

Single Shot mode
RAW

0.87 second

Time per shot, averaged over 9 shots, 9 seconds to clear*.

Single Shot mode
RAW + Large/Fine JPEG
0.83 second

Time per shot, averaged over 5 shots, 15 seconds to clear*.

Early shutter
penalty?

No

Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous mode
Large Fine JPEG

0.32 second (3.15 frames per second);
20+ frames total;
1.5 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots (buffer capacity was more than 20 shots).

Continuous mode
Small Normal JPEG

0.32 second (3.15 frames per second);
20+ frames total;
0.5 second to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots (buffer capacity was more than 20 shots).

Continuous mode
RAW

0.32 second (3.15 frames per second);
5 frames total;
7.5 secs to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 5 frames, then slows to an average of about 1.63s or 0.61 fps.

Continuous mode
RAW + Large Fine
JPEG

0.32 second (3.15 frames per second);
5 frames total;
3.5 secs to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 5 frames, then slows to 3.43s or 0.29 fps.

Buffer depth vs memory card speed
10 shots
Old SanDisk, non-speed rated
12 shots
Kingston 50x
12 shots
SanDisk Extreme III, non-speed rated
13 shots
Kingston Class 4
No Limit
Kingston 120x
No Limit
Panasonic Class 6
No Limit
SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/sec

Flash recycling

1.4 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/sec 8GB SDHC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Single-shot cycle times are an area where the Panasonic G1 also lags somewhat behind many competing consumer SLR models. Given that it can shoot at a very comfortable 3+ frames/second in continuous mode, we had hoped that the roughly 0.85 second cycle time in single-shot mode would have been something that would improve in final production firmware, however this does not seem to be the case. That said, one shot every 0.85 second isn't bad, it's just that it's more of a digicam level of performance rather than one befitting a camera intended to compete with SLRs.

As noted, though, the Panasonic G1's continuous shooting is very impressive, the camera seemingly able to capture large/fine JPEGs at a bit over three frames/second indefinitely, given a fast enough card. (Note, though, that card speed is very important for maximum performance: You need a 120x or Class 6 or faster card to be able to shoot indefinitely, otherwise you'll be limited to only 10-12 large/fine JPEGs in continuous mode.) RAW and RAW+JPEG captures occur at the same speed, the only difference being that the camera will slow down after 5 frames. It's interesting that the buffer depths seems to be the same for RAW vs RAW+JPEG, but the rate after the buffer is full is about twice as fast for RAW only. The flash also recycles very quickly, beating many consumer-grade SLRs in that specification. (We actually had a hard time believing the flash-recycle results, repeated them four or five times, making sure that the flash was really at maximum power output and that the times were real. They were.)


Download Speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

7,540 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Download speeds were very fast, quick enough that you probably won't feel the need for a separate card reader, even with large memory cards. (Note that this test was performed with a SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/sec SD card: Slower cards would likely show slower transfer times.)


Bottom line, the Panasonic G1 is a pretty responsive camera, well-suited to handling typical family shots as well as some faster sports action. It's not quite as quick on the draw as most SLRs, but is a big step up in performance from the average digicam. It looks to us like Panasonic has succeed admirably in their goal of creating a "bridge" camera for people moving up from digicams, but who want something smaller than even compact SLRs.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Good battery life, but below average compared to an SLR using an optical viewfinder.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
(CIPA standard - Using EVF)
350
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
(CIPA standard - Using LCD)
330
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
Playback Time - Using LCD
330 minutes

The Panasonic G1 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and charger. The rated 350 shots per charge is a bit below the capacity of typical SLRs, likely a consequence of the power drain for the electronic display. (When using the optical viewfinder on an SLR, there's very little power consumption except when the shutter fires or when you're in playback mode. The CIPA numbers for the Panasonic G1 are in line with SLRs operating in Live View mode.) We do recommend getting a second battery for your G1 if you plan any extended outings.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on a fully-charged rechargeable battery), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage
The Panasonic G1 accepts SD/SDHC memory cards, and does not ship with a card.

Image Capacity with
1GB Memory Card
Fine Normal RAW RAW
+
L/F JPG
4,000 x 3,000
Images
(Avg Size)
168
6.1 MB
330
3.1 MB
69
14.8 MB
62
16.5 MB
Approx.
Comp.
6:1 12:1 1.2:1 -
2,816 x 2,112
Images
(Avg Size)
334
3.1 MB
648
1.6 MB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
6:1 11:1 - -
2,048 x 1,536
Images
(Avg Size)
662
1.6 MB
1197
855 KB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
6:1 11:1 - -

We strongly recommend buying a large capacity SD/SDHC memory card at least a 2GB card, preferably a 4GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings, or when shooting RAW files. (Check the shopping link above, cards are really cheap these days, so no reason to skimp.)

 

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