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Tiny Panasonic puts power in your pocket
- The Panasonic Lumix GM1 is the smallest camera of its kind
- Cameras like this allow for portability without sacrificing the ability to swap lenses
- The GM1 will deliver image quality comparable to much more expensive cameras
Over the past few years, compact cameras that let you swap lenses have continued to gain traction as people seek out portable cameras that have better image quality than your average smartphone.
Larger, traditional interchangeable lens cameras from the likes of Canon and Nikon have their place, but companies like Panasonic are proving with so-called mirrorless cameras that a pocket-friendly shooter can be just as potent as a full-fledged DSLR, without sacrificing the ability to swap lenses at will.
Panasonic’s latest mirrorless creation is the Lumix GM1 (MSRP $749.99 w/ 12–32mm kit lens), which has the same image quality as the company’s $1,300 flagship
, but in a much smaller, cheaper package. About as wide as the average deck of cards, this is a camera you can easily toss in a jacket pocket, purse or messenger bag.
With these system cameras, top-notch image quality in a compact box is the name of the game. And between Panasonic, Olympus, and several third-party manufacturers, the GM1 can mount a whole host of excellent, compact Micro Four Thirds lenses.
While the GM1’s size is impressive, there are many things that Panasonic sacrificed to produce such a small, powerful camera. Left behind from the
are the tilt screen, in-body image stabilization, dual control dials,
, and the tilting electronic viewfinder. In fact, there’s no viewfinder whatsoever, and no option to add one, so you’ll have to shoot with the back screen — a tall task on bright, sunny days.
Those lost features aside, the GM1 is a surprisingly well-rounded camera; it is more than powerful enough to blaze through menus, capture crisp 1080/30p or 60i video, and provides better low light image quality than just about any smartphone or point-and-shoot can manage. Autofocus with the 12–32mm kit lens was quick and responsive, though quirks with the sensor mean the GM1 probably won’t be the best camera for capturing fast-moving action. But it does offer a silent mode, which lets you shoot incognito in noise-restricted environments (like in a church or around wildlife).
The lens collapses down to a compact size when not in use, though we should mention that it doesn’t include a focus ring — a corner Panasonic had to cut in order to keep the lens as small as possible. While the rear touchscreen will let you focus manually in a pinch, more advanced shooters might find this frustrating, but upgrading to different lenses is always an option.
The camera body itself is remarkably sturdy, with high construction quality comparable to more expensive cameras. Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no grip around front, though the GM1 is so tiny and featherlight that you can still hold it quite comfortably with a single hand, and we certainly never felt in danger of dropping it while shooting. If you’re feeling a little less secure, you can pick up an optional machined aluminum grip (MSRP $99.99).
What’s more, the Lumix GM1 is priced and sized in a dead heat with the current king of fixed-lens compacts, the
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II
(the compact camera we first said could replace your DSLR). Given its larger sensor and ability to change lenses, the GM1 brings the very idea of a $750 point-and-shoot into question. Buyers in the U.S. only have an option of purchasing a silver-and-black model, but soon all-black versions will be available.
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