Panasonic GM1 Review Conclusion

Pro: Cons:
  • Extremely small and lightweight design with large, Four Thirds sensor
  • Ultra-portable camera and lens combo
  • Incredible image quality for the size
  • Excellent high ISO performance for its class
  • Compact kit lens is sharp, even wide-open
  • Uses standard Micro Four Thirds mount; lets you use the full range of Micro 4/3rds lenses
  • Large 3-inch LCD touchscreen is bright and easy to see in bright conditions
  • Panasonic grip plate attachment for added grip (great when using larger lenses)
  • Autofocus speed is very fast, especially for a contrast-detect-only AF system
  • Electronic shutter allows shutter speeds up to 1/16,000s; includes a silent mode
  • Full-res burst shooting performance is excellent at ~10fps with electronic shutter (up to ~5fps with mechanical)
  • Super High Speed burst mode shoots 40fps! (4MP JPEGs only)
  • Touch-screen interface is easy to use and customizable on-screen Function buttons make for easy settings changes on customizations
  • Touch AF is nice to quickly change focus point or area
  • Wi-Fi features are straightforward to setup, work well, and are useful for stills and videos
  • Can use Touch AF in stills & video via Wi-Fi remote app
  • Can change nearly all shooting settings via Wi-Fi app (can't change PASM modes, however)
  • Two video codecs (AVCHD & MP4)
  • Peaking for manual focus in both stills and video
  • Handheld Nite Shot mode works well to create low-noise images in low-light scenes without the need for a tripod
  • Small body can be difficult to hold with larger lenses
  • Very weak flash
  • No hotshoe for attaching external flash, EVF or microphone
  • Poor macro performance with kit lens
  • Touch-AF is slow to re-focus by itself
  • No body-based, sensor-shift image stabilization like GX7; relies on lens-based OIS
  • Panasonic's grip plate attachment covers card slot/battery door and uses tripod socket without providing an additional socket
  • Rear 4-way control dial is very easy to press accidentally, especially scrolling quickly
  • Maximum mechanical second-curtain shutter speed of 1/500s
  • Electronic shutter artifacts
  • Maximum flash sync is 1/50s
  • No Bulb mode
  • Somewhat shallow buffers with RAW files (7-8 frames)
  • Dynamic range not quite as good as some competing models
  • Maximum video frame rate at Full HD resolution is 60i -- no 60p option
  • No headphone jack for monitoring sound levels during video recording
  • No external mic input
  • Meager battery life

The Panasonic GM1 surprised us all upon first glance -- it's a Panasonic GX7, for the most part, all crammed into an insanely small, practically-pocketable body! Indeed, the GM1 packs a lot of horsepower, including the same 16MP Live MOS sensor and Venus Engine image processor as the larger GX7, making it capable of an ISO range up to 25,600 and up to ~5fps burst shooting (~10fps with electronic shutter, or a whopping 40fps at 4MP). Furthermore, it includes other niceties like built-in Wi-Fi for easy sharing and remote control, as well as a host of creative modes and full PASM exposure modes for more advance photographers.

Performance-wise, the GM1 proved to have excellent chops. Panasonic has done a great job honing the performance of their contrast-detect AF system on this and their other recent cameras to really make it fast with minimal hunting. We found the GM1's AF performance to be excellent. Plus, features such as Pinpoint AF, for fine-grained focusing on small subjects, and the easy to use touch-to-focus capability make it simple to compose and focus quickly (note: Touch AF felt slow on its own, however tapping to move the focus point and then half-pressing the shutter button was quick and accurate).

Furthermore, JPEG image quality from the Panasonic GM1 was excellent with good color rendition and dynamic range at low ISOs, plus outstanding high ISO performance for a Micro Four Thirds camera -- even beating the flagship Olympus E-M1 in fine detail resolution as well as ranking very well against some APS-C cameras, too.

It's not just its physical size that makes the Panasonic GM1 a great camera to use; the body construction is equally excellent with a solid-feeling, magnesium-alloy chassis. While it may look like a dainty "fashion" camera, it's actually a very well built, solid little camera, yet one that can easily fit in a jacket or cargo pocket.

However, as with many cameras, especially one this small, the GM1 is not without its compromises. The physical size of the GM1 is both a blessing and a curse, at times. With the included kit lens, the GM1 feels great in the hand and is easy to hold, with or without Panasonic's optional grip-plate attachment. However being an interchangeable lens camera, chances are another lens or two will be mounted to this camera, and the GM1 doesn't handle well with larger lenses, especially without the grip attachments -- Panasonic's grip or otherwise. While it's comfortable to use small-to-medium-sized lenses such as the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 or Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8, larger lenses, like telephoto zooms, can get a bit awkward. Furthermore, its physical size can also make it difficult for users with larger hands or those wearing gloves, as the buttons and rear dials are quite small.

There are other compromises to the GM1 apart from physical handholding quirks. Due to its small form factor, Panasonic really had to manage the heat generated by the processor and sensor, and therefore scaled back video recording to only 1080/60i and eliminated Bulb exposure mode for stills as well. Also, the shutter mechanism was completely redesigned limiting maximum flash sync to only 1/50 second, and the fastest shutter speed with a mechanical second curtain is 1/500s which can lead to artifacts at higher speeds in certain situations. (All-electronic shutter speeds go as high as 1/16,000, though!)

Overall, though, Panasonic squeezes so much good stuff into the lightweight, trim and slim GM1, that its compromises are altogether quite minor. It offers great image quality, great performance and the ability to use great lenses (for the most part -- this is not the wildlife shooter's camera), all in a package that fits in your pocket. The Panasonic GM1: it's an easy Dave's Pick.


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