My Lumix GF1 Field Test

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by Christan, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. Christan

    Christan Mu-43 Rookie

    21
    Jan 20, 2010
    Malaysia
    It has been about a 2 months since I got my Lumix GF1 and have been shooting quite a lot with it. Quite a few people have been asking me what I thought about the Micro 4/3 system and GF1 in particular, so I thought I shall do a short writeup about it.

    First things first, people need to be realistic and set their expectations accordingly. The GF1 body itself cost about USD500, and as such, should be compared to entry level DSLRs in the same price range. Obviously, its performance is not comparable to mid-high end DSLRs.

    So, how does it compare to entry level DSLRs ? Well, I would say its performance is in the same league, up till about ISO800. For ISO1600 and above, APS-C sensors still outperforms 4/3 sensors when it comes to noise. Apart from that, I really do not see any significant differences.

    Usability
    =====
    Shooting with the GF1 is a real joy. The user interface (menus, buttons, etc) was very well thought out, allowing for quick access to most settings. The layout of the buttons and dials are nicely done, I do not have any problems with accidentally hitting buttons or turning dials, despite my rather large hands.

    AF Speed
    ======
    The AF speed is comparable to entry level DSLRs when using 14-45mm and 45-200mm lenses, but slightly slower when using the 20mm pancake lens. This is quite an achievement given that it is using contrast-detect AF, rather than phase-change AF normally used in SLRs. The speedy AF of the GF1 was crucial for my shots taken at the floating market (here), as I was on a moving boat, and my subjects are also constantly moving. When I see a photo forming, I probably have a few seconds at most to lock the exposure, lock the focus on the subject, then reframe to get the composition I want, and take the shot.

    Flash
    ====
    The GF1's build-in flash is something that many people dismiss off-hand without much thought because it's only GN6, but after shooting so much in Bangkok, I cannot stress strongly enough how useful it is, as fill flash. I found myself using it quite often for those typical holiday snaps when you are trying to take pics of people in front of whatever scenery and the sun is blasting down, or when the subject is in a shaded area (in a car, boat, etc) and the surroundings are bright as heck. And of course, it is useful for night portraits too.

    LCD
    ===
    Shooting under tropical sun, as you would imagine, makes the LCD pretty hard to see. This is true for any LCD, not just the GF1. I can see enough to frame the shot, get the focus, and the live histogram tells me the exposure, so I can still live with it. But if you want to preview your photo and zoom in to double check the focus, WB, etc. under the sun, I would say it's difficult. Most times, you can just find a shaded area to rest and do this, so it's not a big deal.

    I am not thrilled about the low resolution EVF for the GF1, so I have decided to get the Hoodloupe 3.0, which is pretty much future proof and I can use it with any DSLR. Yes, it does add some bulk, but it is light and *optional*. I only need to bring it out with me if I believe I have a need for it.

    Conclusion
    =======
    Well, unless I am being paid to do a shoot, it is quite unlikely that I would bother to bring out my Canon gear anymore. The GF1 + 20mm f1.7 + 14-45mm + 45-200mm weights almost exactly 1kg in total, and fits easily into a very small sling bag (see below).

    [​IMG]

    And if I was just going out for a casual outing, I will just bring the GF1 + 20mm, which fits into a small pouch. Contrast this to the fact that my old Canon 80-200mm f2.8L lens alone weights 1.33kg, and I think you can see why I am in love with this system.

    As the saying goes ... "The best camera is the camera that you have with you". With the GF1, I find I have a SLR-class camera with me more often than not, and that makes up for everything.

    I hope this is useful for anyone who is considering the GF1 :) ...

    More sample photos I shot:
    Insect Macros
    Bird Park
    Dumnoen Saduak Floating Market
    Exploring Bangkok
    Crab Island
     
    • Like Like x 3
  2. voyager

    voyager  

    104
    Dec 31, 2009
    Nice review, have you had a chance to compare it with the E-P1?
     
  3. Christan

    Christan Mu-43 Rookie

    21
    Jan 20, 2010
    Malaysia
    Yup, I personally tested both the E-P1 and GF1 before deciding on the GF1 :smile: ... I have also played with the E-P2 recently ...
     
  4. Brian Mosley

    Brian Mosley Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Thanks Chris, nice summary... and I especially appreciate the example you gave of where fast CDAF gave you a practical advantage (floating market) - in that situation I would have probably been using the 20mm f1.7 (very similar CDAF speed on Pen) or a fast long prime (manual focusing).

    This takes nothing away from GF1 as a highly sophisticated and capable camera - I'll look forward to viewing your images in detail soon (I'm on the iPhone here)

    Cheers

    Brian
     
  5. Bullfrog

    Bullfrog Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Thanks for the review Chris. I appreciate the time and effort. :thumbup:
     
  6. Christan

    Christan Mu-43 Rookie

    21
    Jan 20, 2010
    Malaysia
    Well, the 20mm focusing speed is significantly slower than the 14-45mm & 45-200mm lenses, so I chose latter two when shooting the floating market :smile: ... I did that shoot mostly with the 45-200mm because I wanted to compress the perspective, and also to achieve subject isolation. The market is packed with tourists ...

    I have manual focus Canon FD primes too (50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.8, 135mm 2.8, 50mm 3.5 macro) ... but I would not have bothered in this scenario because the market is such a fluid situation, where things are constantly in motion, not to mention myself being on a boat that is also moving all the time.

    While I am not saying it's impossible to prefocus and anticipate a shot, I would say it would be very difficult. For example, you might prefocus and wait for a boat to move into focus, but by the time that happens, a lot of other things could have changed. Some other faster moving boats could have popped into the frame, or when the boat that would be your subject comes into focus, the person might have lifted his hand up and covered his face, etc etc ... so literally, when you see a photo emerging, you really only have a few seconds to capture it ...

    In addition, given that it's a tropical country, even early morning sun feels like it came thru a magnifying glass :biggrin: ... and we're moving in and out of shades ... when I want to take a shot, I have to lock exposure first to make sure it's how I want it to be, before I can lock focus on the subject, recompose to get the frame I want, and take the shot. Given all the things that needs to be done ... I very much doubt I can still manually focus :biggrin:
     
  7. Brian Mosley

    Brian Mosley Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    I've used the lumix 45-200mm on the E-P1... it's nice and smooth and quick to focus there too... the difference in focusing speed appears between Panasonic body + fast focusing lens vs Olympus body + slow focusing lens.

    If you put a fast focusing lens (such as 14-140, or 45-200) on an Olympus body the difference is even less significant.

    Cheers

    Brian
     
  8. Christan

    Christan Mu-43 Rookie

    21
    Jan 20, 2010
    Malaysia
    Well Brian, if you notice, I made no comparison between the GF1 and Pen, because whatever differences there are comes down to personal choice and shooting style more than anything ...

    My intention in writing this review was to bring an awareness about why someone who shoots with bigger DSLRs might want to use micro 4/3 systems as well :biggrin: ... hence my comparisons to DSLRs.

    At the end of the day, the thing that matters most is the skills of the photographer. Most SLR-class cams today are more than capable of capturing great photos :smile: ...
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Brian Mosley

    Brian Mosley Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    I'm aware of that Chris, and also my own oversensitivity to the CDAF speed comparisons - so much damage has been done by these comparisons I now find myself reacting on reflex. Please accept my apologies, and as I said above this is not to take anything away from a fantastic camera.

    Cheers

    Brian
     
  10. Iansky

    Iansky Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 26, 2009
    The Cotswolds, UK
    Great personal review Chris.

    I also have the GF1 with 20/14-45 & 45-200 and the combined lit weighs less than my original prime DSLR with 1 lens so is a no brainer for those days when I want to travel light and still capture good images.

    To date, I have not noticed any difference in the 20mm focus speed compared to the other two lenses, they are all "very fast".

    I have not had chance to use my kit in bright light yet (snowy/rainy/foggy UK) so your comments about the LCD are very relevant in considering the EVF, I would be interested in hearing views of users of the EVF.
     
  11. Christan

    Christan Mu-43 Rookie

    21
    Jan 20, 2010
    Malaysia
    Hey Brian, no worries, no hard feelings :smile: ...
     
  12. Christan

    Christan Mu-43 Rookie

    21
    Jan 20, 2010
    Malaysia
    Thanks :biggrin: ...

    The difference in speed between the 20mm compared to the other 2 lenses probably don't feel that great unless you actually sit down and intentionally test them. Then again, the difference is in fractions of a second ...

    I think the general consensus on the EVF for the GF1 so far is that it's usable, but not great :smile: ....
     
  13. Yves D.

    Yves D. Mu-43 Regular

    42
    Jan 8, 2010
    Montréal, Canada
    Hi Christan,

    I agree on your comment. And at $200, i was expecting a little more. Can we expect something better from panasonic in 2010?

    Can you talk more about the hoodloupe 3.0.

    Thanks
     
  14. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    There is a good chance that Panasonic could release a higher res EVF still compatible with the GF1. Great thing about competition!

    I wish these Olympus and Panasonic would take the next step in standardization and lose the proprietary batteries, EVF connector ports, etc. How great if Pana users could use the Oly EVF and vice versa!
     
  15. Christan

    Christan Mu-43 Rookie

    21
    Jan 20, 2010
    Malaysia
    You can see the hoodloupe in this thread, including how it looks like looking thru it. Basically, you put it over your LCD, and it turns into a EVF of sort :smile:

    The product page is over here.
     
  16. Christan

    Christan Mu-43 Rookie

    21
    Jan 20, 2010
    Malaysia
    Well, I pretty much doubt Oly and Pana will standardize on a single standard for those things you mentioned, simply because they still need ways to differentiate themselves from each other.

    I would be happy if Panasonic could at least standardize the port they use for the EVF, so that accesories are usable across all future models that includes that port. Right now, we have no idea if the EVF we purchase for the GF1 is usable at all in the future ...