Two years ago, with everyone still deciding what this new breed of mirrorless camera should be called (have we decided?), the Panasonic GF1 took a startling early lead among enthusiast and pro photographers looking for a small, rangefinder-style, carry-everywhere camera with a large sensor and full manual controls. I almost bought one myself, but decided to opt for the second generation, which I hoped would address the slightly laggy AF speed and poor low-light performance. As we now know, that camera never showed up. The GF2 was a consumery confection which, while considerably smaller, had been stripped of it’s external body controls and was driven by a touchscreen-centered experience (which has since evolved to be well-respected in subsequent models). The GF3 continued this ‘soccer-momization’ trend. Panasonic moved the focus of its high-end Micro Four Thirds cameras to the relatively bulky but spec-impressive DSLR-inspired bodies (GH2). Pros and enthusiasts looking for a pocketable second camera, meanwhile, directed their attention elsewhere, as Olympus (E-P2, E-P3), Samsung (NX100, NX200), Fujifilm (X100) and Sony (NEX-5, NEX-5N, NEX-7) courted them with offerings aimed at more demanding photographers.
What was Panasonic thinking, abandoning it’s early devotees and forfeiting this obvious market niche? Surely the importance of this demographic in this rapidly growing market-segment couldn’t have been lost on them. Rumblings of a serious GF1 heir began in earnest in late summer and now, Panasonic has announced its spiritual successor, the GX1. It’s physical controls restored (plus two new function buttons and touch screen), AF-speed improved, and low-light capabilities enhanced (supposedly it inherits its 16MP sensor from the G3), this looks to be the camera I was so eagerly waiting for…two years ago.
Panasonic is in a much less enviable position today. The GF1 had only one major competitor in its class at the time of release, Olympus’ E-P1. Sony’s NEX series, arguably the MILCs to beat, were just a twinkle in some Sony engineer’s eye. The GX1 enters a vastly-more crowded marketplace with fierce adversaries on every side. At $700 for the body, it sits somewhere around the Olympus E-P3, both incredibly well-spec’d cameras, with the polish of multiple generations of refinement. The Sony NEX-5N, though, is $100 less for body only, and has higher specs in many key areas: higher ISO range, full 1080p 60fps AVCHD 2.0 video recording, peaking (extremely helpful for critical focus with other lens families added with mount adaptors), higher resolution (and tiltable) rear display and optional EVF resolution as well, and of course, one of the best APS-C sensors out there. The Micro Four Thirds standard comes with its own set of advantages (better sensor coverage, smaller lenses, more developed lens family) and disadvantages (image quality, DOF, low-light performance) that factor in, but from a cutting-edge technology standpoint, Sony is in the lead.
But the GX1 has a modern spec sheet, a diminutive form-factor and a nice price point. So with the GX1, Panasonic has entered the high-end, rangefinder-styled, MILC fray…again. But it’s a shame to have watched it hand over its early lead in this space. Only time will tell if it can wrestle back marketshare from its many challengers.
The press release is below:
PANASONIC ANNOUNCES NEWEST COMPACT SYSTEM CAMERA, LUMIX GX1 EXCELS IN SPEED, IMAGE QUALITY AND SIZE
SECAUCUS, NJ (November 7, 2011) – Panasonic today announces its latest Compact System Camera (CSC), the LUMIX DMC-GX1, which joins Panasonic’s award-winning LUMIX G Series of digital cameras, which are acclaimed for their high image quality with small and compact body and lenses. The new LUMIX GX1 features a 16.01-megapixel Live MOS sensor and Venus Engine, helping to ensure real-to-life images through excellent resolution, image rendering and color reproduction. Even in low-light situations and at maximum 12800 high ISO sensitivity, the LUMIX GX1 can produce stunning photos and videos, and because of its compact size it can be easily carried for daily use.
“Panasonic expects the LUMIX GX1 to please a lot of photo enthusiasts who have been eager for a technology upgrade comparable to the LUMIX DMC-GF1, which continues to be a very popular digital camera with dedicated followers who appreciate the compact size, yet high quality of photos and video,” said Darin Pepple, Senior Product Manager, Imaging, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. “The LUMIX GX1 is an extremely flexible and capable digital camera with fast AF speeds and outstanding image quality. Plus with a built-in flash and a hot shoe allowing for accessories like an external view finder, the GX1 is a powerful compact system camera that is small enough to be a photographer’s everyday camera choice.”
The LUMIX GX1, like all the models in Panasonic’s LUMIX G Series of CSC, adopts Contrast AF for its focus system, so focusing is controlled by the image sensor. When compared with the Phase difference system AF, Contrast AF achieves higher accuracy especially when shooting with a bright lens with small F value. For instance, the accuracy of Contrast AF is approximately 90% while Phase difference AF is approximately 60% at F1.4. Additionally, with the precise Contrast AF system, the LUMIX GX1 achieves high resolution through an optimal balance of resolution and noise reduction, thus producing lifelike image rendering and highly precise Auto Exposure and white balance. To further advance the Contrast AF, the LUMIX GX1?incorporates full-area focusing, making it possible to set focus on any point in the field of view. With the LUMIX GX1’s 3.0-inch touch LCD screen, frame composition is intuitive and easy.
The LUMIX GX1 features an ultra high-speed Light Speed AF*, which means it can Auto Focus in approximately 0.09 second. This is achieved by reducing the detection time for focusing by the synchronizing the lens and sensor at 120 fps. Plus, the newly-added focus mode AFF (AF Flexible) locks on the focus when the shutter button is half-pressed, however, if the subject moves, the focusing is reset to get the best results. Combined with the Touch AF control, setting and focusing on the subject is incredibly easy and quick.
The touch-control system of the LUMIX GX1 lets users set the focus on the subject by simply touching it on the large, 460,000-dot wide-viewing angle LCD. Users can even release the shutter by touching the screen. Once locked on the subject with a touch, the LUMIX GX1 tracks the subject, even when it moves, using the AF tracking function. With a touch on the screen, users can select the part and the size of the AF area, choosing from 1-area AF, Multi-area AF with 23 AF areas and Pinpoint AF, which allows extremely precise focus setting.
Despite its compact size, the LUMIX GX1 is extremely intuitive to operate, with an optimized layout of control buttons, a mode dial and dedicated function buttons. Users can customize the two external buttons and two menus tabs to settings they most frequently use so they are easily accessible. In addition, a total of four custom setting patterns can be stored to the camera’s model dial – one on ‘C1’ and three on ‘C2.’ Furthermore, the LUMIX GX1 was designed to enhance its ergonomics, with a grip that fits naturally and comfortably in the hand, despite its flat profile and compact design. Plus, the LUMIX GX1 has a more tactile texture and the mode dial is easy to turn and features print that is easy to read and won’t easily wear.
The LUMIX GX1 can record 1920 x 1080 at 60i, with sensor output of 30p, full-High Definition videos in the AVCHD format which excels in both compression efficiency and compatibility with AV equipment for playback. In addition to the practical full-time AF, the Touch AF in video recording also lets users enjoy professional-like rack focusing. Just by pointing at the subject, the focus is shifted so it stands out. With a dedicated video record button on the top, users can instantly start recording videos while shooting photos without any having to make any extra setting adjustments. Along with the full-HD video capabilities, the LUMIX GX1 also features high-quality sound, recorded with Dolby® Digital Stereo Creator. Videos can also be recorded in MP4 format for playback on a PC or other portable electronic devices without having to convert the files.
Other features of the new Panasonic LUMIX GX1 compact system camera include:
- A new Level Gauge, which lets the camera detect the horizontal/vertical angle of view with its internal level working with the sensor. In addition, photos shot in portrait aspect will be automatically displayed vertically, regardless of which lens is used.
- One Push AE adjusts exposure with a single press of the “Fn” (Function) button when it is over/under exposed, which is especially useful when shooting outdoors with open aperture or indoors with fast shutter speed.?
- Dust Reduction System helps to eliminate dust or foreign matter getting inside the LUMIX GX1 when lenses are being changed. By placing a supersonic wave filter in front of the Live MOS sensor that vibrates vertically around 50,000 times per second, the filter repels dust and other particles effectively.
- Zoom operation can be controlled with touch control when either of Panasonic’s new LUMIX X Power Zoom lenses are attached. And the zoom speed can also be adjusted in two steps for more precise control.
- Popular iA and iA Plus modes for beginners looking for automatic shooting in both still and video modes.
- Increased energy consumption and an approximately 11%** longer battery life when compared to the LUMIX DMC-G3, which also uses the same battery pack DMW-BLD10.
The LUMIX G Series is a robust system of bodies and lenses, featuring a total of 14 Micro Four Thirds lenses including the new power zoom X lens – standard zoom lens, telephoto zoom lens, single focal length lens, wide-angle lens, fish-eye lens, macro lens, and even a 3D lens – to fit a variety of shooting scenarios and occasions.
The Micro Four Thirds System products are joining today’s Four Thirds System products to provide customers with even higher levels of performance in a digital interchangeable lens camera. In addition to LUMIX G lenses, the LUMIX DMC-GX1 can use any interchangeable lens that complies with the Four Thirds System standard via an optional mount adapter for the unlimited number of lens properties. The LUMIX GX1 system camera offers a wide variety of options to choose from to match every shooting situation and shooting style, including: external flashes, PL filters, ND filters, MC protectors, remote shutter, zoom level, battery packs, AC
adaptor, DC coupler, straps, cases, bags and more. Plus, with the LUMIX GX1’s hot shoe on the top, users can attach the optional tilt-shift Live View Finder (DMW-LVF2), with approximately 1.4x and 1,440,000-dot equivalent, 100% field of view.
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GX1 will be available in black and silver bodies in mid-December and in the following kit options: DMC-GX1-X with the LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 14-42mm / F3.5-5.6 ASPH. / POWER O.I.S (H-PS14042) lens will have a suggested retail price (SRP) of $949.99; the DMC-GX1-K with the 14-42 standard zoom for an SRP of $799.99; and the DMC-GX1, body only for an SRP of $699.99.
* The time for focusing on the subject is measured with LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 14-42mm / F3.5-5.6 ASPH. / POWER O.I.S (H-PS14042) to move the lens position to “2m” from the “infinity” position. The zoom is positioned at its widest end. Panasonic measurement method
**Based on a CIPA Standard.