Friday, 1 November 2013

Overview of Panasonic cameras

It was Panasonic who released the very first Micro Four Thirds camera, the Lumix G1, back in 2008. While it was a very ergonomic camera with photography oriented functions and one of the best kit zoom lenses in its class, it never made much impact. It was not until Olympus released the retro looking E-P1 that the format took off.

Since this time, they have released a number of cameras. Here is an overview of the current models.

CameraLumix GH3Lumix G6Lumix GX7Lumix GM1Lumix GF6
Price$1000$600$900$750$500
AnnouncedSep 17th, 2012April 24th, 2013Aug 1st, 2013Oct 17th, 2013April 9th, 2013
Dimensions133 × 93 × 82mm122 × 85 × 71mm123 × 71 v 55mm99 × 55 × 30mm111 × 65 × 38mm
Weight550g390g402g204g323g
StyleSLRCompact SLRRangefinderCompactCompact
EVFYesYesYes, tiltingNoNo
Tilt LCDArticulatedArticulatedTiltingNoTilting
Flash hotshoeYesYesYesNoNo
Focus peakingNoYesYesYesYes
IBISNoNoYesNoNo
In a nutshellWeatherproof, pro ergonomics, the best videoCompact, value for money, good on featuresRetro rangefinder styleVery compact, retry styleCompact, enthusiast friendly
Body



Panasonic Lumix GH3


After a long two year wait, the Panasonic GH3 replaced the premium Panasonic GH2. While the GH3 is often perceived as a video centric camera, I would say that it is actually intended to mimic the classic pro DSLR photo camera.



It improves upon the GH2 in virtually all aspects, with some few exceptions: It loses the multi aspect feature of the two predecessors. Also, the viewfinder optics are not as good as the GH2.

The GH3 introduces a sensor which is designed by Sony, a first for Panasonic. It is basically the same sensor which is used in the Olympus E-M5 and even the Olympus E-M1, although the GH3 employs a heavier anti aliasing (low pass) filter, common for cameras that are optimized for video use.

Compared with previous Micro Four Thirds cameras, it improves the video AF dramatically. I would say this is the first Micro Four Thirds camera which is truly useful for autofocus during video recording. You can do focus pulling using the touch autofocus.

Panasonic Lumix G6


The G series made a detour in 2011 with the more style oriented G3, but is now back to the ergonomic style of cameras which the G1 pioneered in 2008. The latest instalment, the G6, lends a bit of the style from the Leica R9, with the tall shoulders.



You could view this camera as a cheaper, more compact GH3. It has almost all the features of the GH3. It has an earlier generation sensor, though, based on the GH2. And the G6 doesn't have the same high bitrate video output as the GH3. But apart from this, the G6 is a very capable camera at a reasonable price. Despite the older sensor design, it has updated image processing, and does beat the GH2 in terms of image quality.

Panasonic Lumix GX7


The GX7 is one of the most exciting camera arrivals from Panasonic. While it includes new features, it is the form factor which is revolutionary. Enthusiasts have been craving for a camera shaped like the Leica M rangefinders, with the viewfinder in the top left corner, for a long time. Here it is.



Beyond the rangefinder style, it also adds a tiltable electronic viewfinder (EVF). This is useful for when having the camera on a tripod on a bright, sunny day. Also, the LCD display is tiltable, which is very useful. While employing a retro look, it is still quite ergonomic, with a handsome grip on the front of the camera.

The features are also new: It includes In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), a feature previously only seen on Olympus cameras. And the shutter is new, capable of 1/320s flash sync, and 1/8000s max shutter speed, both twice as good as previous models.

On the negative side, it is said to eat batteries rather quickly.

Also, the rubber eyecup is a bit narrow, and would not always reduce glare on a sunny day. This especially goes for people who use glasses. There is a solution, though. There is an extra large eyecup coming, the DMW-EC1. I would recommend people who use glasses to get this item, when it gets available.

Panasonic Lumix GM1


Another camera which made a huge impact upon the launch, this time for the size. It is the smallest Micro Four Thirds camera so far. It also gains a retro style, heavy on aluminimum and faux leather body styling. Despite being small, it still gets a PASM mode dial view on the top, and remains enthusiast friendly.



In addition to the impressive size, the camera also introduces a new shutter module, introducing an electronic front curtain technique. It allows for a shutter speed of 1/16000s at the max, using the electronic shutter.

Together with the camera, a new compact wide angle zoom lens was announced, the Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6, featuring optical image stabilization. It is as compact as the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 pancake, and needs to be extended to be usable.

It does not have any grip surface for the front, but this is remedied by an optional aluminium hand grip, the DMW-HGR1. It screws into the tripod mount, and adds some height to the camera.

There is no way to connect an external EVF, and there is no tilt LCD. This lessens the usability of the camera, in my opinion. It means that you are limited to holding the camera out in front of your face, which makes it hard to hold it stably. Recording video without shaking your hand in this way is pretty much impossible.

Panasonic Lumix GF6


While this camera looks rather bland, I think it is in fact quite interesting. It adds enthusiast friendly features to the previously dumbed down GF line. Considering the size, it has quite good ergonomics, including a PASM dial.



Keep in mind that it lacks a flash hotshoe, though, so it is not entirely enthusiast friendly.

The LCD screen tilts, for more easy "shooting from the hip", a position which enables you to record video in a more stable way.

It is an inexpensive camera, but full of features, and very compact, true to the purpose of Micro Four Thirds.

Conclusion


The Panasonic camera lineup is quite impressive now. For the best of ergonomics and video quality, go for the Panasonic GH3. Sadly, it does not implement focus peaking, a feature which could have made manual focusing easier, especially during video recording.

If you like the classic rangefinder style, you will surely enjoy the Panasonic GX7. But this is not an old fashioned camera, it is in fact in the forefront of the technology now, with IBIS, and a new shutter. It also offers a weaker anti aliasing filter, for better image sharpness.

If you want the absolutely smallest camera, the Panasonic GM1 is for you.

But don't forget the G6 and GF6. They are enthusiast friendly cameras, compact, and reasonably priced.

5 comments:

  1. It is not always easy to understand the logic of the product line of any camera manufacturer. This article supports that intuition. One instantly wishes to make some adjustments to the confusing mix of different features, make it more understandable the natural progression of the lineup in size, functions and prize. Both Panasonic and Olympus has this mixed up. But there might be a reason, commercially. Who knows...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the Panasonic camera lineup makes a lot of sense now. In 2011, they were seriously on the wrong track, with the G3 and GF3, slim and slippery items. Thankfully, they were back to basics with the Lumix G5, very competitively priced now.

      They also had a strange detour with the Lumix GX1. It has a nice rangefinder style, like the GF1, but camera buyers demand much more from these types of cameras today. And the GX1 has pretty much nothing in terms of new, useful features.

      My only worry is that they are going too far down the retro road with the GX7 and GM1.

      Delete
  2. Would you commit to a similar line up commentary of the Olympus, or are you solely a Panasonic enthusiast?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love all cameras! But I think my competence is the largest with Panasonic, so I started in that end.

      Delete
    2. Can't wait for your Olympus lineup!

      Delete