Earlier this year, I figured that I could use a more portable camera that I can use for everyday snapping while still maintaining a fair degree of manual controls. Having a long zoom range would have been preferable, but interchangeable lenses were OK too. While there has been a healthy line up of advanced P&S and pro-sumer cameras that met my criteria, the Panasonic GF1 stood out above my short list.
Released in 2009, The GF1 was one of the first cameras on the market to adapt the micro 4/3 system. At first I was a bit apprehensive about the new camera system which I first got wind from Dannychoo.com. At that time, I still had my Sony DSC-H1, and I loved the Zeiss lens, long zoom range and largely DSLR-like body and controls in a compact package. While I found the form factor and system packaging impressive, the thought of having another interchangeable lens system next to my Canon EOS400D and Sony didn’t really pique my interest. However, the fact that it had a Leica derived lenses and sensor was definitely worth looking over. Then again so did its more P&S oriented sibling, LX3. It wasn’t until I sold my Sony H1 to a friend did I start considering on looking for a secondary camera to my Canon.
While it is comparable to a cinder block in terms of aesthetics, it definitely feels solid in ones hands. It’s not much lighter than my Canon EOS 400D but I think its heft does provide a better degree of stability as opposed to my other options. It is still a lot smaller than the 400D. While it has already been replaced in the market by the GF2 & GF3, I wasn’t too fond of either ones touch screen and smaller form factor. Blame my Wookie sized hands. Form factor and functionality certainly played a role in making the GF1 my choice.
The controls aren’t completely idiot proof. As a prosumer camera, it’s simple enough to operate provided you skim through the quick guide. An off the shelf point and shoot definitely it is not. It leans more towards the photographers who are looking for an alternative to their clunky DSLRs, or those who have been using advanced P&S cameras looking to step up. Even for myself, it took a while for me to get re-acquainted with the bits and bobs.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the idea of getting new lenses for another system camera didn’t quite appeal to me. And the Micro 4/3 lenses do not come cheap. Thankfully, I was able to pick up an adapter mount for Canon lenses. Though it doesn’t allow auto-focusing, the 3.0″ screen on the GF1 makes manual focusing less of a chore. Another feature that I’ve come to appreciate lately is the ability to record at 720P. Combine that with the large aperture lenses available and you’ve got videography effects you thought you’d only see on large video cameras.
Consensus: It’s very feature packed for a relatively outdated model and can still stand toe to toe with a lot of newer cameras in its bracket. I’m considering picking up another lens mount, one which I can adjust the aperture for my Canon lenses. Maybe pick up the viewfinder for it sometime down the road. Otherwise, it is a great everyday camera for photography enthusiasts who find lugging a DSLR cumbersome.