Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1

6/19/2012 3:57:29 PM

We are CSC’s fans, but we still have not seen a remarkable camera at one of important fields: image quality, performance, control, and feature. Sony NEX-5N goes nearest with especially high video and image quality, but it may be slow to focus, and scarceness of buttons and digital dial is not ideal for those who are interested in taking pictures. It is the camera that Panasonic GX1 has to beat.

Description: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1

GX1 leads with its controls. It reminds Lumix DMC-GF1, with digital dial at suitable mode and buttons giving ISO speed, white balance, drive mode, focus area, and AE/AF lock. The later can be reassigned, and the labeled Fn button can be assigned to one of 25 features. Metal buttons seems to be smart but their carved lebels are illegible. The touchscreen is extremely useful to move auto focus point and navigate the Quick Menu, which provides access to other shooting settings.


Description: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1

Sony NEX-5N is at advantage when we mention safe design and labor effect. GX1 has an elastic handle – a considerable improvement compared to the front fat GF series – but NEX-5N’s handle is more practical. NEX-5N’s tilt screen is useful for video and macro shooting, although we prefer the aspect ratio 3:2 of GX1’s screen rather than 16:9 of 5N since pictures fully cover the screen and are larger in fact. GX1 pushes everything to go further by including integrated flash rather than an accompanied unit. You can also tilt the flash to make the light reflection from the ceiling although its limited power restricts this feature’s usefulness. We are pleased that Panasonic chooses standard and more multi-function base instead of Soney’s sole accessory port.

Kit lenses use 2 levers instead of focus ring to control zoom and focus. It took us a while to get used to using them without looking at the camera’s front to see where they are. Both provide two-speed manipulation, adjusting more quickly when they are pressed stronger, but neither is fast or satisfing when being used as lens ring.

However, if that is the price payed for the remarkable neat and light of this lens, it is still valuable. CFCs’ impact is often compromissed by their bulky kit lenses - NEX-5N can be light but cannot be pocketed since it has a size of 99 mm from the screen to the lens’s cover. GX1 has a size of 65 mm, so it is put in the coat’s pocket more easily. There are many fixed pancake zoom lenses available, but installing 3x zoom lens into such a small space is a considerable achievement.

GX1’s exellent controls makes it faster than NEX-5N in adjusting settings, and it is also quicker in shooting. It just takes 0.45 seconds between shots in normal use – a new record for CSCs and faster than most SLRs. This is mainly thanks to auto focus which was very fast in clear light and spends under 0.5 second in weak light. Flash shooting was not so impressive, with the fact that GX1 spent 6.5 seconds while NEX-5N spent 2.3 seconds.

Both cameras have many burst options, and equally to say, GX1 is more impressive. It provides the shooting speed of 4.1fps for 23 JPEG pictures or 10 Raw ones before reducing the memory’s speed. Burst mode with updated auto focus ran at 2.6fps speed, and the 4MP speed shot 40 pictures at 20fps speed.

Too close to call

Description: Description: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1

In the review of NEX-5N, we taked about rather light focus from the kit lens in wide angle and aperture shot. However, in fact, it was difficult to differentiate NEX-5N and GX1’s lens sharpness, and NEX-5N’s JPEG processing dealed with sublte details a bit better. There was a small evidence of noise reduction and some color noise in GX1’s output at the slowest ISO 160 setting. This is disappointing but could not be avoided in pictures cropped heavily.

NEX-5N widened the leading position when ISO speed increased. GX1’s noise was still low at ISO 1600, but noise reduction made details dimmer. However, both cameras created useful results up to ISO 3200, so just in too weak light, NEX-5N’s brighter output became remarkable.

Video modes were the same. In bright condition, both cameras had the same level for image quality, but in weak light, GX1 lagged behind, displaying more noise and fewer details than NEX-5N. NEX-5N also gets benefit from chosing frame speed up to 50p and full control of manual exposure – features that GX1 lacks. The important thing to note is that GX1 is still extremely good video camera, especially if based on quiet and smooth focus. But the fact is just that NEX-5N is better.

GX1 is an attractive upgrade for GF1 owners, and have big improvements for image quality, higher resolution in video, small increase in performance, and really useful touch-screen control.

For those who are choosing the first CSC, this is a narrow race between GX1 and NEX-5N.  Both create sparking image and video in clear light. While NEX-5N leads in noise in weak light, slower auto focus makes moving objects are more difficult to be caught, especially in weak light. So, NEX-5N can be excellent in weak light but GX1 is reliably good.

GX1’s excellent controls and base will attract those who are used to SLR, while NEX-5N’s simpler controls and smart shooting modes are suitable for common photographers. NEX-5N is also $225 cheaper than GX1 when we write this article although changing collapsible zoom lens for the normal 14-42mm lens will increase the price. It cannot be said that GX1 is a choice for professional people – Panasonic camera’s lack of control for video exposure means that NEX-5N is a better choice for those who prefer shooting video.

In sum, there is no clear winner in gerenal. Both cameras are deserving of Best Buy Prize, so you will have to decide yourself which is better for you.


Description: Description: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1

Verdict. Excellent controls, fast as lightning performance, thin state, and excellent image and video quality (but not leading) create an excellent package with high price.

Compact digital cemera. 16MP (4592 x 3448), 3x optical zoom (28 to 84 mm), 3-inch LCD (460,000 pixel), SDXC slot, Lithium-ion battery, 71 x 116 x 65 mm, one-year RTB warranty


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