Panasonic Lumix GF1 Micro Four Thirds camera review

In this review, we’ll introduce the fourth Micro Four Thirds camera to earn some coverage here on Gadling. As a quick reminder – Micro Four Thirds digital cameras offer the same image sensor quality found on large(r) digital SLR cameras, but in a much smaller body. This size and weight reduction obviously makes these cameras perfect for travel, especially if you want to lighten your load, without sacrificing image quality or features.

The basics inside the Panasonic Lumix GF1 are what you’d expect from a camera in this (price) range. 12.1 megapixels, 1280 x 720 HD video, live view and a built in flash.
In the version being reviewed here today, we used the GF1 with the Panasonic H-H020 20mm F1.7 pancake lens. The design of the GF1 is very much in line with all other Panasonic cameras – and I’ve been a longtime fan of their Lumix lineup, so I was instantly attracted to the GF1. Controls are fairly basic – the usual mode selector dial is on top, along with a very handy shoot mode switch (for single, continuous and timed photos). Many other cameras hide those options under the menu, so quick access like this is quite welcome.

On the rear is the D-Pad menu/option selector, buttons for the display, delete, play, Autofocus lock, quick menu and a fast auto/manual focus selector.

Startup time of the camera is very quick – in part because of a “real” power slider switch. From power on till first photo can be just under 2 seconds making the camera perfect for those spur of the moment things you’d like to photograph.

Because this is a Micro Four Thirds camera, the GF1 can be used with some other Micro Four Thirds lenses, though Panasonic did inform me that not all lenses will work – in some cases, the lens may not auto focus. In my test, I used the 14-42 lens from an Olympus E-P1 which worked perfectly – in fact, it performed better on the GF1 than on the E-P1, mainly because the E-P1 has a notoriously slow focus, something the GF1 does not suffer from.

The GF1 features a built in pop-up flash. The flash is manually operated (so no auto pop-up). Think of this flash as handy to have around, just don’t expect it to light up a large room as it is pretty weak. Still, it beats having to carry around a separate flash. Of course, there is a flash shoe on top of the camera.

The flash shoe can also be used for an optional ($155) viewfinder, which uses a small connector port just under the shoe.

Image quality from the GF1 is very, very good – the camera is fast, and the 20mm lens was much more fun to work with than I had expected. There are a few things lacking though – there is no in-camera image stabilization, and movies are recorded in mono.

On the side of the camera is a miniHDMI port (for HD video and images), a dual USB/AV port and a remote control jack. The camera can not be charged over USB, so you’ll need to carry the included charger along with you. Battery life is quite excellent – rated for up to 380 photos per charge.

All in all, I found the GF1 to be a worthy competitor to the Olympus E-P1 and E-P2. The pop-up flash is a handy feature to have, and the auto focus performance is certainly better. But the lack of image stabilization and stereo audio puts it a few steps behind.

PROS: Fast focus, easy to use menu structure, good battery life, excellent photo quality
CONS: No image stabilization, mono video audio

As reviewed, the Panasonic Lumix GF1 retails for $899 – with the 20mm lens. This is exactly the same price as the Olympus E-P2 with a similar pancake lens (the E-P2 lacks a pop-up flash).

Olympus announces the E-PL1 Micro Four Thirds camera

Olympus just announced their latest Micro Four Thirds digital camera – the E-PL1.

The E-PL1 combines the high quality 12.3 megapixel image sensor of the E-P1 and E-P2 in a more compact body, but also manages to find room to add a pop-up flash.

In addition to the flash, the E-Pl1 also features the accessory port found on the recently released E-P2 allowing for users to add the optional viewfinder and microphone adapter.

Best of all, the E-PL1 is the first sub-$600 Micro Four Thirds digital camera, retailing for just $599.99 when it hits store shelves in March.

The camera loses some of the metal bulk of the first two PEN cameras, opting for a little more plastic in its exterior. While the camera feels a little cheaper, it still has plenty of weight to give you sense that you are holding a semi-professional camera.

One other cool feature worth pointing out is an array of “live guide” tips. If you are just beginning to enter the world of digital photography, you’ll love these. The tips assist with every aspect of making good photos, explaining how to control brightness, focus, white balance and more.

As can be expected from any camera in this price range, the E-PL1 shoots video in 720p HD, and offers a one-click way to switch to video mode, making it really simple to capture spur of the moment videos.

The E-PL1 weighs just 10.4 ounces (about three ounces lighter than the E-P1), and measures 4.51″ x 2.84″ x 1.63″.

The $599.99 package includes the camera body, the fantastic M. ZUIKO 14-42mm Micro Four Thirds lens, a battery with charger, usb and video cables, shoulder strap and software CD. It’ll be available in three colors; black, Champagne Gold and Slate Blue.


Gadling gear review – first look at the new Olympus E-P2

Santa visited my house early this year, and dropped off the new Olympus E-P2 Micro Four Thirds digital camera. The first Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera, the E-P1, passed through Gadling earlier this year, and left me mighty impressed, so in this first (and very brief) look, we’ll see what the E-P2 has to offer.

At first glance, the E-P2 looks identical to the E-P1, albeit in a slightly different color. The E-P1 is available in silver/black and white/tan, and the E-P2 only comes in black. It takes a bit to find any differences, but once you reach the flash hot shoe in the middle, you’ll notice a small connector port below it.

This port is in essence the biggest difference between the E-P1 and E-P2. One of the biggest drawbacks of the E-P1 is its lack of a viewfinder. An optical viewfinder is available for using with the 17mm pancake lens, but it won’t work well with the 14-42mm lens.

The connector on the E-P2 works along with the included electronic viewfinder and an upcoming microphone adapter.

The VF-2 viewfinder slides onto the hot shoe, and can tilt upwards. Of course, with the viewfinder attached, you can no longer use the flash, but you obviously won’t need the flash in those situations.

Other changes are all inside the camera – the E-P2 features a new live focus tracking mode, which works for photos and in video mode. It also adds two new art settings (diarama and cross process). The camera also allows for manual control when in video mode, and adds HDMI control when hooked up to a compatible HDTV .

All in all, great changes, but the new viewfinder and additional software tweaks add $300 to the price (the E-P1 is $799.99, the E-P2 will retail for $1099.99). In the coming week, I’ll take the camera for a real test, and determine whether the $300 is easy to justify, or whether it finally prices itself out of where it should be.

Olympus E-P1 Micro Four Thirds digital camera – part 1 – a brief intro

In the coming days you are going to see quite a bit about a new digital camera. Anyone who stays up to date with my reviews will know that it takes something special to get my attention and for the first time in ages, I’m actually excited about a digital camera.

The new Olympus E-P1 is a compact digital camera – if you saw it from a distance, you’d easily mistake it for a point-and-shoot camera. The design can be described in one word – absolutelyamazinglycool. Seriously, this is a gorgeous camera. It borrows a lot of its looks from the original Olympus Pen, without looking too outdated. It has the perfect balance of modern and retro, and Olympus clearly spent a lot of effort making it their camera look this nice.

That is all your are going to get in part 1 – I simply have too much to tell you about this amazing camera to fit it all in one part. In the coming days you’ll get up close with its usability, photo and video quality and some more focus on how well it travels.

In the meantime, head on over to the Olympus E-P1 minisite to learn more about this amazing camera.