Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Review
Panasonic G1 Flash
The Panasonic G1's built-in flash has a guide number rating of 36 feet (11 meters) at ISO 100, translating to a range of about 10.2 feet at ISO 100 with an f/3.5 lens or 6.4 feet at f/5.6. That's a little weaker than most digital SLRs, which are typically rated at 12 or 13 meters. The Panasonic G1's flash is released manually by sliding the Flash Open lever toward the front. Raising the flash enables it, though it can be defeated using a menu selection. It never pops up automatically like some models, which can be good or bad, depending on your point of view. A novice would probably appreciate an auto-popup flash, but someone with experience might think it nuisance.
When open, the flash doesn't extend very high, so at wide angle even the smallest Micro Four Thirds lens casts a shadow when the lens hood is attached. As you can see from our test results below, it clears the 14-45mm kit lens at wide angle without the lens hood in our standard test shots, though you will run into shadows at times. The Panasonic G1 has a dedicated AF assist LED, and unlike the L10's, the G1's built-in flash can cannot be used as an auxiliary AF assist, probably because focusing speeds are not quite fast enough. The G1's flash is disabled by pressing down until it clicks shut.
The built-in flash has seven modes: Auto, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On with Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Slow Sync with Red-Eye Reduction and Forced Off. Flash modes are changed via the Record menu, and available settings vary depending on exposure mode. A Digital Red-Eye Reduction feature is offered, which when enabled, will attempt to remove red-eye after the photo is taken, via post-processing. A second curtain synchronization mode is also offered. X-Sync (the maximum shutter speed with the flash enabled) is 1/160 second, a bit below average these days, and there is no mention of a higher-speed FP (focal plane) mode. There doesn't appear to be wireless flash support, as offered on competing Olympus Four-Thirds SLRs.
The Panasonic G1 allows you to adjust flash and ambient exposure independently of each other, by providing flash exposure compensation between -2 and +2 EV in one-third EV increments. Flash exposure bracketing is not supported, and there is no manual flash mode where output level can be set as a percentage of full power.
Like an SLR, the DMC-G1 also has a dedicated hot shoe, for mounting external flash units, like Panasonic's DMW-FL360. Olympus flash units such as the FL-50, FL-36, FL-20 should also work, and non-dedicated units can also be used provided they have a compatible trigger voltage and polarity. (Panasonic does not seem to mention the trigger voltage or polarity in the G1's user manual, though.) The advantages of a good external flash are many: more power for increased range, faster recycle times, longer battery life, reduced red-eye, auto zoom to match coverage to the current focal length, and the ability to adjust the tilt and swivel of the head to allow light from the flash to be bounced off nearby surfaces such as a ceiling, for a diffuse effect. Most external flash units have a more powerful AF assist illuminator built-in than the one on the body, and other useful features such as modeling flash are common on higher end models.
Flash Test Results
Coverage and Range
A moderately powerful flash, but uneven coverage at wide angle. Slightly higher than average positive exposure compensation required.
|Normal Flash, +1.0 EV||Slow-Sync Mode, Default|
Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage is quite uneven at wide angle, but coverage at telephoto is much more even. Indoors under incandescent background lighting, the Panasonic G1's flash performed quite well, requiring just slightly more than average positive exposure compensation of +1.0 EV for a bright image. The camera's slow-sync flash mode required no compensation, though the longer shutter time results in a warmer cast from the ambient background lighting.
ISO 100 Range. Flash power remains pretty strong to about 13 feet at wide angle. At telephoto, the flash starts out a bit dim at our shortest distance of 6 feet, increases in brightness until about 11 feet, then gradually gets dimmer from there. The increasing brightness from 6 to 11 feet is odd: The flash exposure system seems to have been fooled somewhat by light reflecting back from the light parts of the target, possibly the reflective pot lid.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Manufacturer-Specified Flash Test. Panasonic rates the G1's flash with a GN of 11 meters at ISO 100. That works out to about 10.2 feet at an aperture of f/3.5 and 6.2 feet at an aperture of f/5.6. In the shots above, the DMC-G1 seems to perform exactly as Panasonic says it will at wide angle, providing a bright exposure at the rated distance, however, as we saw in the flash range series above, the telephoto shot is a bit dim at 6.2 feet.
Note: Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. With the above test, we're also looking at whether their stated specification rings true.
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.