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ROBIN WONG : Close Encounter with Panasonic GM1, the Tiniest Micro Four Thirds Camera

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Close Encounter with Panasonic GM1, the Tiniest Micro Four Thirds Camera

Robin Wong

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I have a confession to make. I, like every other human photographers out there, am the same, and susceptible to a disease called Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS). Here comes the surprise: I have bought myself a new camera: the Panasonic Lumix GM1. 
OMGwhathappenedrobinisanolympusfanheshouldnotbeusinganyothercamerastheworldwillendWTF
Yes, I got a non Olympus camera. Mind you, this is not the first non-Olympus camera that I bought, I have used Sony Alpha DSLT system quite extensively for almost a year, blogging frequently with the Sony setup. In my journey of learning photography I have come across and made friends with so many beautiful people, photographers who have used all kinds of cameras and system, and I have also been given many opportunities to try many other brands (yes, including Canon and Nikon too, both are great camera makers). I may look like I am completely biased to Olympus but if you do know me in person, and if you have sat down and spent some time talking to me you will realize that when I speak about photography I generally do not talk much on camera brands. Photography is a lot more than just what camera and what lens you use!

Panasonic Lumix GM1. 

Coming back to the original question, why GM1?
1) I want a Non-Olympus camera
I work at Olympus. I eat, breathe and spend most of my waking hours (and who knows how many more in dreams) having my thoughts occupied with Olympus. Sometimes, it would be great to have something not related to Olympus, especially when it comes to photography as a hobby. It is indeed refreshing using something different! Something new for me to discover and learn all over again. Yes, when you use a new camera, you need to relearn everything, where the shorcuts are, what is hidden in the menu, how to optimize the focusing operations, how the metering control works, etc.
2) I want familiarity
This is the contradictory part here, though I wanted something new and different, I still wanted a Micro Four Thirds system, something which I am already familiar with. Same sensor size, same aspect ratio, and most importantly, same family of lenses, meaning I can utilize ALL my current lenses in possession. This is also partially due to my limited budget as well, I do not need to spend more to get new set of lenses.
3) So Tiny!
You have got to admit, it is sooooooo cute! The camera is even smaller than most compact point and shoot cameras out there. Yet it houses Micro Four Thirds sensor, has quick focusing system and all online reviews have indicated very good image quality output. Small is the new black.


4) Panasonic GM1 is used by

Ming Thein

and

Smashpop

Ming Thein has spoken highly on Panasonic GM1, and even Smashpop, a Sony fanboy since the beginning of the Sony DSLR A100, has added GM1 into his everyday use camera! Jason Goh (the bloke behind Smashpop) using GM1 was a surprise for me. Both photographers/bloggers have produced excellent photographs from the GM1.
5) I found it dirt cheap in used market
This, is actually the main reason, which precedes everything else, before I spent hours finding justifications for my decision to go for the Panasonic GM1. It was so cheap, even the cheapest lens I have with me now costs twice as much of the price that I paid for the camera.
I really think Panasonic is making some excellent cameras and lenses these days. GH4 and GH3 are strong considerations for film makers, and that 42.5mm F1.2 Nocticron was such a beautiful lens!

Open Smoke

Piggyback

Portrait of a Stranger

Red

Yellow

Blue

Green
I went for a shutter therapy this morning at Chow Kit, my usual hunting place. I was joined by Tobias from Germany (whom I have shot his wedding last week), Fred and CJ both visiting from Malacca over the weekend, as well as Jackie Loi, a photographer blogger who uses Olympus system. 
This was my first time using the GM1. No, I will NOT be doing a review, since that would be redundant considering there are now so many useful and well written reviews of the Panasonic GM1 out there, which I have read extensively before I made my decision. I do not see myself adding anything new to whatever that has been said. Nonetheless, I will do what I do all this time, shoot and share photographs taken with the camera here. By doing so I am creating a collection of photographs taken with GM1, available as online samples for anyone who is interested to see. 
I have only used the GM1 for a short period of time, here are my quick comments:
1) Small, Simple, Minimal
It was as if I was holding nothing at all! I understand that OM-D is designed to be a practical camera for photographers, with excellent ergonomics, comfort in handling and all the available shortcuts and dials for quick controls and access to important features. This Panasonic GM1 is the Anti OM-D. It is everything that the OM-D is not. It does not have Image Stabilization, which is the OM-D’s main strength, it does not have an electronic viewfinder (though the new GM5 has it, which substantially increased the price), it has minimal buttons and dials. It is very minimalistic. It is simple, and I like it that way. if I do need the capabilities and extensive practical solution, I would not hesitate to grab my OM-D. The GM-1 is the opposite of OM-D, which is quite an interesting approach, a little challenging, yet with a breath of fresh air around that!
2) It works
Though simple and straightforward, the camera works. Putting aside the horrible menu system, after spending about half an hour going through everything and doing my own customization I was good to go. I did not have much issue of oh where is that ISO button or how to I change that or adjust this while I was shooting. I have not encountered such issue yet. 
3) Focusing was easy and quick
I used the touch screen to select the focusing point, which was different from Olympus but it works too. Getting used to it was not a problem. Set where you want to focus with just a touch, and you press the shutter button after that. 
My setup for the camera this time, I did differently from my usual OM-D shooting style. 
– Aperture Priority, with active adjustment of F-number to correspond to my control of depth of field
– ISO Auto, with limit set at ISO6400 (I usually set manually on Olympus, somehow I figured why bother with GM1 which is meant to be for fun)
– JPEG, with Fine setting. I wanted to try the JPEG capabilities of the camera first before going RAW. If JPEG was good enough, I would not go to RAW since I do not print my shots mostly and I just use them for web display. 
– Using camera LCD screen to compose, instead of the electronic viewfinder which is missing from the GM1
– Auto White Balance

From the shadows

Work

hide and seek

Instant noodles

Fly

Cart

Under the Bananas

Sharpen

Rest

ISO 4000 dude
The absence of Image Stabilization
I did not expect this, and it is something I have not been even considered for a long time: hand/camera shake blur. I was shooting with the 25mm and 45mm F1.8 Olympus lenses, with the Auto ISO and Aperture priority I was given the slowest shutter speed of 1/60sec, which I thought I would be comfortable shooting with. Quick review on site after shots revealed to me something I have not seen in years, camera shake!
I realized, I have become so reliant on the Olympus 5-Axis Image Stabilization system that I have somewhat grown dependent on it. I was completely hopeless shooting with 1/60sec, even with a 25mm lens which should not be a problem. This is a reminder to myself to be more strict and pay more attention to how I hold the camera and make sure I do all I can to steady my shot while I press the shutter button. There is no excuse for me of course and this is one of the main advantage of opening myself up to newer systems, to relearn some things that I might have accidentally neglected!
I am sure those of you who have experienced Olympus 5-Axis IS and have shot with Olympus extensively will understand what I am going through. that 5-Axis Image Stablilization is godsent. 
No, please do not get me wrong, I did not in any way wish that the Image Stabilization was included in the GM1. I fully understand to truly make it that small in size, some mechanical parts needed to be excluded. I was merely shocked at discovering how useless I have become without the Image Stabilization system. The fault is with the photographer, not the camera. 
Panasonic JPEG
After running through one session with the JPEG only images, I must use RAW the next session. The JPEG files were good, satisfactory for most part, but not excellent. The colors were good, accurate and there was not much to complain about anything, but the images came out rather flat and uninteresting. It was not a big issue, the camera was perfectly fine at delivering sharp, detailed images, and I was happy to see familiar results, very similar to what I can accomplish with Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera. I have to be honest here, the JPEG files, could have been better and more optimized. 
Not a big complain here, since I do shoot RAW with Olympus cameras most of the time. Even DPReview recommends serious users of GM1 to go for RAW. 

Fred Yap visiting from Malacca

Jackie Loi

I am Nikon, with an OM-D camera in hand.

Jackie has also blogged about today’s walkabout

, with his photographs taken with OM-D

CJ Fen from Malacca

Tobias from Germany. Do check out

Tobias’ blog entry from today’s walkabout

Tobias giving the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens a try. 

The best wedding photographers (in my own very subjective opinion of course) you can find in Malacca now. Check out their portfolios

here

and

here

An unholy combination. Fred is having fun!

Coffee and Snacks

Flower. I take horrible photos of flowers

Coffee in Glass

Salmon Bagel
I enjoyed the Panasonic GM1 tremendously. It has its shortcomings, and I do have a few more complains, but hey it is still a fun and great little camera to use. I shall be using it for my future shutter therapy sessions, along with my OM-D system. I think it complements the OM-D very well. 
Do you have a Panasonic GM1? Do share your thoughts and experience! 

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