Most helpful positive review
120 of 122 people found the following review helpful
Putting the "Micro" in Micro Four Thirds
on 20 February 2014
There is one overwhelmingly major reason for choosing the GM1 over other M43 cameras, and that is size. I have heard people bemoan the lack of an eye-level finder, small buttons, lack of grip, flip-out screen, hotshoe etc - but that is missing the point entirely. If you need those, there is plenty to choose from already. This is the one for the ones who like a camera that is as small as possible without compromising on what is the most important thing: image quality.
Ever since I sold my Canon 5D in favour of a Panasonic G1 some years ago, it was the smaller size that was the main allure of the then rather fresh-faced micro four thirds standard. I still felt the occasional need for a more compact take-everywhere camera, trying the Sigma DP1, the Canon G10 and, more recently, the Sony RX100. The latter I found rather disappointing, raving reviews notwithstanding: burnt-out highlights, high ISO noise, so-so lens, and 20 are too many megapixels for a camera that doesn't really resolve more than 12 megapixels of detail. I quickly sold it again.
Enter the Panasonic GM1, and it is the best of both worlds. It is light, it is small, and can be brought along in situations when I'd never bring my - in comparison rather bulky - Olympus OM-D E-M5.
The GM1 is also the quietest camera I've ever used. In fact, it is absolutely soundless in silent mode, and I have to look at the screen to verify that it actually took a picture.
Another thing to like is the spot-focus, zooming in on the focus spot on the screen to verify accurate focus. My first proper camera had split-screen focusing, and so I am still used to putting my focus spot in the centre of the frame, then recomposing for the shot. For the more tactile photographer, one can just touch the screen to focus anywhere too.
And I am sure the whopping 1/16,000 (yes, that is 1/16,000, not 1/1,600) shutter speed will come in handy on a bright, sunny day.
The 12-32 lens is designed for its diminutive size; it is not perfect optically. With the sun in the frame, one does get some flare, though I have seen worse before. Centre sharpness is good, but the corners are a bit soft. Then again, I have been using the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 a lot lately which has some of the sharpest corners of any lens I have used - and it is the perfect size to use on the GM1.
I like how they have made the kit lens start at 12mm rather than the more ubiquitous 14mm. It makes a big difference to the angle of view. In fact, had it been a 14-40 lens, I'd have been more pensive about buying it. I have owned the Panasonic 7-14mm lens, but found I mostly used it between 12-14mm - a range not covered by any of my other lenses. In fact, the GM-1 presented a good opportunity for me to sell my old 7-14mm to make my kit even lighter.
Panasonic's menu system is one I find rather user friendly. The control wheel and buttons are the same, though smaller, than on other Panasonic cameras. The size might bother some people, but for anyone used to writing texts on a smart phone, it is a doddle to use. One customisable function button might not be enough for everyone, but for me it just what I need to set ISO easily. The rest of my most used controls are conveniently accessed via the control wheel.
I have said a lot in this review about why the GM1 is the right camera for me. Because of its size, it is full of compromises - some of which might be unacceptable to certain photographers. I think the trade-offs are worth it for what you get in terms of portability and image quality.
For many M43 users it will be a perfect bring-everywhere second camera, for others, like myself, the only camera they will ever need.