Panasonic Lumix GM1 Review

 
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Panasonic GM1 Review -- Image Quality Comparison

We were really eager to see how the Panasonic GM1's image quality stacked up, given that it's basically a GX7 in a smaller body with just a few features missing, but selling for significantly less money -- and the GX7 had excellent image quality, arguably the best Panasonic has ever produced. So does the GM1 stack up? Check out our results below, but have your checkbook ready, this is a fantastic little camera!

Below are crops comparing the Panasonic GM1 with the Panasonic GX7, Fuji X-M1, Olympus E-PL5, Sony NEX-5T and Sony RX100 II.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Click any image to bring up the full test shot.

Panasonic GM1 versus Panasonic GX7 at base ISO

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 200
Panasonic GX7 at ISO 200

The GM1 shares the same sensor and processor as its larger sibling, the GX7, and as such we would expect these to be virtually identical in image quality. Both cameras look quite good and sharp here at base ISO, bringing out the subtle details of our test target. Since the GM1 is substantially smaller and less expensive than the GX7, the similarity in image quality should make it a very appealing option of advanced photographers.


Panasonic GM1 versus Fuji X-M1 at base ISO

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 200
Fuji X-M1 at ISO 200

The X-M1, with an MSRP of $800, is the most affordable of the Fuji models to sport an APS-C-sized version of its highly acclaimed X-Trans sensor. In this comparisons, the Fuji produces sublime image quality in the first two crops, and brings out subtle details in our red fabric swatch while losing out in the pink fabric detail. The smaller-sensored GM1, while having just slightly less detail in some areas, takes a more even approach in handling all areas well.


Panasonic GM1 versus Olympus E-PL5 at base ISO

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 200
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 200

In this face-off between two Micro Four Thirds competitors, the E-PL5 has more aggressive default sharpening than does the GM1, and it shows here with sharper-looking edges and lines, especially in the mosaic tiles. But as we've seen in other recent image comparison tables, this aggressive processing often yields mixed results as ISO rises, and can actually obscure the finest detail in the subject.


Panasonic GM1 versus Sony NEX-5T at base ISO

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 200
Sony NEX-5T at ISO 200

The NEX-5T has an APS-C sensor with roughly 63% more surface area on which to gather light with than does the GM1. Here at base ISO they look fairly similar in fine detail performance, both doing a great job, with slight nod to the NEX-5T for its slightly better rendering of the mosaic and red fabric swatch.


Panasonic GM1 versus Sony RX100 II at base ISO

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 200
Sony RX100 II at ISO 160

As opposed to the NEX-5T with its larger sensor, the RX100 II has a sensor about half the size of the GM1, and yet sports roughly 4 more megapixels of resolution. Sony's "backlit" sensor technology does a very good job here at base ISO, though the GM1 extracts more fine detail from the red and pink fabric swatches, areas that smaller sensors typically have a hard time resolving.

 

Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Panasonic GM1 versus Panasonic GX7 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 1600
Panasonic GX7 at ISO 1600

Once again, and as expected, these two siblings perform nearly identically in the image quality department. Both do a fairly good job for this ISO but show some noise processing artifacts in the bottle crop, lose some fine detail in the mosaic tiles and have a tough time resolving contrast and detail in our target's red fabric swatch.


Panasonic GM1 versus Fuji X-M1 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 1600
Fuji X-M1 at ISO 1600

As predicted, this is where the larger sensor and X-Trans technology of the X-M1 pulls away from the GM1. The bottle crop from the X-M1 is amazing, and there is still some good detail in the mosaic tiles and the red fabric swatch. However, as it did at base ISO, the X-M1 curiously loses detail in the pink fabric swatch, which is an odd twist on an otherwise solid performance.


Panasonic GM1 versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 1600
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

The aggressive sharpening at default cameras settings helps the E-PL5 display crisper detail in these images, but at the cost of some unwanted artifacts starting to show up -- such as the granular-looking noise in the bottle crop and the pink fabric swatch. The GM1's approach to default noise reduction is more even-handed, so it would be helpful to view the two compared in RAW format with manual sharpening applied.


Panasonic GM1 versus Sony NEX-5T at ISO 1600

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 1600
Sony NEX-5T at ISO 1600

With its larger sensor, we would expect the NEX-5T to perform better at this ISO, and it certainly pulls more fine detail from the mosaic tile. But it also exhibits more noise in the shadowy areas behind the bottle and splotchiness in the pink fabric swatch. These are unwanted artifacts, and somewhat disappointing.


Panasonic GM1 versus Sony RX100 II at ISO 1600

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 1600
Sony RX100 II at ISO 1600

This is where the 1-inch-type sensor of the RX100 II starts to lose ground. It beats most other non-ILC compacts currently on the market, but can't keep pace with the GM1's much larger sensor as ISO rises.

 

These days, ISO 3200 is a very viable shooting option for most quality cameras, so let's take a look at some comparisons there.

Panasonic GM1 versus Panasonic GX7 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 3200
Panasonic GX7 at ISO 3200

And again, the same sensor and processor on these two cameras produce virtually identical results, both yielding significant noise reduction artifacts in the bottle crop and losing a lot of detail in the mosaic tiles and red fabric swatch.


Panasonic GM1 versus Fuji X-M1 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 3200
Fuji X-M1 at ISO 3200

Here the X-M1 doesn't outpace the GM1 nearly as much as at ISO 1600, which is curious to note. There's more detail in the mosaic tile, but in the other two crops, it doesn't really deliver anything beyond what the GM1 produced. Yet again, the X-M1 curiously loses outright on the pink fabric.


Panasonic GM1 versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 3200
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

Splotchiness from default noise reduction starts to really take a toll here on the E-PL5 images, with the GM1 yet again taking a more even-handed approach.


Panasonic GM1 versus Sony NEX-5T at ISO 3200

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 3200
Sony NEX-5T at ISO 3200

As at ISO 1600, the NEX-5T has quite a bit more visible noise in the bottle crop than does the GM1. It also produces a much softer rendering of the pink fabric swatch. The GM1 is certainly not perfect here by any means, but kudos to it for standing up so well against two good APS-C cameras at ISO 3200!


Panasonic GM1 versus Sony RX100 II at ISO 3200

Panasonic GM1 at ISO 3200
Sony RX100 II at ISO 3200

This ISO is tough terrain for a 1-inch sensor. The RX100-II does much better than many traditional compact cameras, but most people will be much happier with its results at ISO 1600 and below.

 

Detail: Panasonic GM1 versus Panasonic GX7, Fuji X-M1, Olympus E-PL5, Sony NEX-5T and Sony RX100 II.

Panasonic
GM1

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Panasonic
GX7

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Fuji
X-M1

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus
E-PL5

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
NEX-5T

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
RX100 II

ISO 160
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. Fine detail is fun to look at, and often yields far different results than the comparison table above. As is often the case these days, Olympus cameras tend to dominate this table, thanks to their stronger default image sharpening. The NEX-5T also looks quite sharp but there are a few noise reduction artifacts, as is the case with the granule in the "U" of the Pure bottle letters. The RX100 II sensor size limitations are quite obvious here, while the two Panasonic's and the Fuji turn in reasonably good performances, though obviously losing ground to the E-PL5 for overall sharpness.

 

Panasonic GM1 Review -- Print Quality

Very good 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 125/200; a nice 13 x 19 at ISO 1600; a good 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 125/200 prints are quite good at 24 x 36 inches, with nice detail and rich colors. Wall display prints are possible up to 30 x 40 inches.

ISO 400 shots look very good at 20 x 30 inches, retaining good detail throughout our test image.

ISO 800 prints are good at 16 x 20 inches. Typical softening in the red channel begins to occur here, as is the case for many cameras we test.

ISO 1600 makes a nice 13 x 19 inch print, with only mild softening in the red fabric and minor noise in flatter areas.

ISO 3200 tends to be the turning point for many Micro Four Thirds cameras, as is the case here, and requires a reduction to 8 x 10 inches due mostly to noise in flatter areas.

ISO 6400 prints a very good 5 x 7. 8 x 10s don't quite pass our official "good" standard, but are not bad for less critical applications.

ISO 12,800 yields a good 4 x 6 for this ISO and sensor type.

ISO 25,600 prints are not usable by our standards; this setting is best avoided entirely.

The Panasonic GM1 turns in a solid performance in the print quality department, and as expected, it yields prints similar to its acclaimed cousin the GX7, which shares the same sensor and processor. These sizes are what we have come to expect from good Micro Four Thirds cameras, and the GM1 certainly doesn't disappoint. Note that the biggest decrease in quality occurs at ISO 3200, so it is best to stay at ISO 1600 and lower if you want to print photos larger than 8 x 10 inches. For online use or small prints, feel free to snap away at ISO 12,800!

 

Panasonic GM1



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