Stunning portraits, taken with the Lumix GF1 (Picture by july_w1123 on Flickr).

Stunning portraits, taken with the Lumix GF1 (Picture by july_w1123 on Flickr).

Panasonic is known to produce high quality compact digital cameras. The quality of their image processing engine competes with those of a Nikon P6000 or Canon G11.

Advantages of DSLR cameras

However, one thing all compact cameras suffer from—and a big advantage of DSLR cameras—is the latency of those little point-and-shooters, the time from the moment you press the trigger until the actual picture is taken. If you carry a compact camera for that reason, to point and shoot, you’ll soon feel frustrated over this latency effect.

Taken with the Lumix GF1 and a Leica 45mm lens. (Picture by digitalbear on Flickr)

Taken with the Lumix GF1 and a Leica 45mm lens. (Picture by digitalbear on Flickr).

Another advantage of DSLR cameras are replaceable lenses. Not only are they bigger (hence, offering a better image quality), they are also swappable, so depending on your motive, you can use a long lens, a regular view angle lens, or a wide angle lens. Compact cameras offer zoom functionality, but some of these are digital zoom, usually resulting in poor quality.

Compact, yet powerful

The Lumix GF1 and Minolta CLE in comparison.

The Lumix GF1 and Minolta CLE in comparison (Picture by Nokton on Flickr).

Panasonic’s new model, the Lumix GF1 stands above Nikon’s and Canon’s flagship models in the compact range. The difference is a replaceable lens, much like it’s used for DSLR cameras. But the GF1 isn’t as bulky as those, it is compact like the Minolta CLE, which came out in the eighties of the last century (and which wasn’t digital, consequently).

The Micro Four Thirds lens system

If you want the most compact camera solution, go for the 20mm non zoom “pancake” lens, equivalent to 40mm in 35mm terms. It works best for portraits and close ups, due to the shallow depth of focus, an image style often desired by professional photographers.

Panasonic Lumix GF1

Control the field of depth with the 20mm pancake lens. (Picture by: takuhitosotome on Flickr)

The GF1 weighs 448 gramms (with power cell) and has 12MP effective sensor resolution. Light sensitivity ranges from 100 to 3200 ISO, but noise is fairly well processed by the image engine. It can take images in RAW or JPEG format and mounts lenses like a traditional DSLR. The Lumix GF1 is based on the Micro Four Thirds system. This technology enables smaller and lighter camera bodies and lenses by simplifying the convoluted optical path required by a conventional SLR. If you want to buy the Lumix GF1 as a kit, you have the choice between a pancake 20mm lens (maximum aperture of f/1.7) or a long 14-45mm zoom lens.

Shoot HD video too

The Lumix GF1 can take 3 frames per second in continues shoot mode, but it has also video capabilities (AVCHD), creating stunningly crisp clips with cinematic style (HD video at 1280 x 720 (720p) resolution):

Within the segment of regular compact cameras, the Lumix GF1 kit stands out with a price tag of an average US$1000 in Europe and around US$850 in the US. An optional external viewfinder is priced at US$199.99. But compared to heavier DSLR models from competitors like Nikon and Canon, the GF1 comes close to an ideal choice photographers have been waiting for.

(Pictures and video clip from Flickr and Vimeo)

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  • Dja74

    I was searching for G11 portrait photos when I stumbled over this article, and I must say I am surprised of the little knowledge regarding camera the author has. You are comparing apples and pears, Panasonic GF1 is a microfourthirds camera and should be compared with olympus PEN and in a way also with the Sony NEX3/5 models as it has replacable lens. Canon G11 and Nikon P6000 are only (If I take into consideration the date of this article) comparable to the Panasonic LX3. The GF1 is considerably larger than both G11 and P6000 when you put anything but panncake lens on.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, stranger, and thanks for your comment. First of it all, of course I am aware of the differences of these camera classes. The GF1 was creating a new market that didn’t previously exist. Now we have the Olympus PEN (which appeared around the same time) and meanwhile the Panasonic GF2 was released, with an even smaller body.

    Coming from a consumer perspective, what happened was this: you only had choices between heavy and big DSLR cameras or these new models, to get similarly good image results like with the GF1. Prior to that, the only other camera class that existed in the digital image market were compact cameras. Hence the comparison, from a consumer perspective. Being able to choose something more lightweight (with a pancake lens) but getting similar good image results was a big deal for customers. I personally carry my GF1 much more around than I used to carry my DSLR camera, due to its bulky dimensions.

    It’s true that the GF1 has a bigger dimension in total than the Canon G9 (which was the leader in this segment at the time of the article, if you don’t take Micro Four Third in account) and other compact models. The lens makes the big difference. It is responsible for the much higher image quality.