NOTE: Sorry for all the technical jargon in this review. I'm writing this for fellow photographers who are thinking about purchasing a smaller camera for fun or profit and might be interested in my experience with the Panasonic GX1.
I think every DSLR photographer craves a smaller format camera but loathes the idea of giving up quality and functionality. The Four-Thirds format has been intriguing to me since it first appeared, and I even bought my wife a Panasonic G2 a few years ago (and have "borrowed" it from time to time). The G2, though a fine camera, never grew on me, largely because the form factor is only slightly smaller than a small DSLR and there were a lot of trade offs in photo quality, particularly in low light situations.
Last year, Panasonic released the GX1 which caught my eye immediately based on the 16MP sensor and the 12800 ISO capabilities (which I imagined would only be good up to 3200, but that was still a big improvement over the G2). Also, the GX1 was a much more compact form factor, reminiscent of the old rangefinders, especially sporting my favorite four-thirds lens, the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake.
But what finally put the GX1 over the top for me was when Panasonic, without explanation, slashed the price of the body only version of the GX1 in half to $249. Occasionally, the price drops as low as $239 with some dealers. Since I already owned the 20mm pancake, which now costs more than the camera itself, I could no longer resist.
There are already some great reviews of this camera available that will tell you what a great camera it is. Coupled with the 20mm pancake, I doubt there is a better all around general "rangefinder" camera out there at double the price. Yes, Fujifilm has some amazing cameras competing with this setup, but you'd have to shell out easily $1000 or more for them.
The level of detail in my tests photos of my garden are phenomenal. Individual hairs on flower stems and leaves are easily identifiable without any sharpening. Focus is crisp and generally quick. Bokeh is smooth and as lovely as you're going to find in this format camera.
My main purpose for this camera was not just portability, though it can easily be taken anywhere being not much larger than a large point-and-shoot. My main purpose was actually to have a nice camera for shooting portraits on the fly and if I get the nerve, to shoot some street portraits of strangers. The camera is small and unremarkable looking, definitely not as intimidating to people as my hefty Nikon D7000 with an 85mm f/1.4 mounted on it. Yet it is capable of producing quality images as good or better than that of a DSLR in the right conditions. With 4 custom settings (yes, there are 4 although the dial only shows 2), I can pretty much preset the camera to shoot exactly how I want to shoot and be ready to capture a shot as quickly as I can get the power on and the lens cap off.
Although shooting your garden would not be your primary subject matter for a camera like this, take a look at the details in these images (processed in Lightroom 4 using VSCO Film).
Hi, I'm Todd, a professional freelance photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area available for all kinds of image creation including portraiture, events and fashion. This blog is where I share my about latest projects and thoughts on the creative process in general.