Monday, January 12, 2015

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

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. 


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


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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38 comments :

  1. Love the shot of the big black 40-150 on the little orange camera. Nice post and images!

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  2. Robin, would you miss the direct buttons/dials in Manual mode?
    Having an OM-D, I rarely use the EPL1 because of lack of direct controls.

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    Replies
    1. As I said I when I use GM1 I am not expecting it to be like OM-D, surely it does not matter not having the twin dials and extra buttons. I acknowledge the importance and necessity of having them, in practical photography. I see GM1 as a casual, fun everyday camera. I can forgive a few exclusions.

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    2. I understand your point. The GM family is wonderful, a dream come true, but I think there is room for improvement in the usability front.

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  3. I was close to buying one, but chose to wait for the GM5 and then, the GH4 had a US$200 discount and I bought that. The GM5 is still on my list, as it and the 15mm f/1.7 lens would be good for casual food photography.

    I attached my Four-Thirds Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 using the MMF-3 adapter at the store to the GM1 in photos here: http://nobuyukishouldknowbetter.blogspot.com/2014/09/panasonic-gm1-vs-gm5.html

    I think the size is great and the image quality is generally the same as the GX7.

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    Replies
    1. Glad to find out you use Panasonic too! GH4 is a great camera. Thats the beauty of using a Micro Four Thirds there are so many choices of lenses!

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    2. It is such an advantage of micro Four-Thirds. I only have three native lenses but I'm considering my choices although for video, I'm not sure which choices are best. There is even a crowdsourced project for such lenses: http://www.veydra.com/

      The GH4 and the GH3 are so good at such a relatively low price. I just wish that Panasonic and Olympus would cooperate much more closely.

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  4. Nice photos! I almost gotten one for its size but the absence of the IBIS got me thinking still. :)

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    Replies
    1. For the need of image stabilization, I have the OM-D's amazing 5-Axis IS. I do not expect the GM1 to be like OM-D or replace it,

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  5. I got GM1 since last week , so we still knowing each other. But for initial experience i am very excited with it. I can't deny that this is capable micro camera with good potential for street photography, especially when paired with pancake lenses;
    I bought my E-M1 a month ago, but soon after that GM1 took its place in my jackets pocket as everyday fellow traveller ...

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    Replies
    1. The best camera is the camera you have with you at all times! Photo opportunities happen at most unexpected places. Great to have GM1 handy!

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  6. My photo macam got hand shake eh

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  7. GM1 looks cute.
    I do like it's simple design.

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  8. Can you shoot using the touchscreen like the OMD?

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    Replies
    1. Hey Ripi,
      The touch screen is quite similar to OM-D but it does not have the touch to shoot function. You can use the touch screen to select the focusing point anywhere in the screen, then you use the shutter button to shoot.

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    2. That is not correct.
      Touch to shoot is possible option.
      In shoot mode on the right, you have pop-up bar that contain some options and soft Fn buttons
      Here how it works in pics:
      Step 1) https://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/15498/248829269.8/0_17dad0_eabd03d9_orig

      Step 2) https://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/15499/248829269.8/0_17dad1_e652a361_orig

      Step 3) https://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/15480/248829269.8/0_17dad2_cfb86fd3_orig

      And there is an alternative way.
      First You must select Pinpoint from AF-mode (Left side of multi-selector)
      When magnified view appeared on screen, at the bottom right corner we found three soft buttons
      Those in the middle could be touched to take a shot
      https://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/15531/248829269.8/0_17dad3_cd8711c1_orig

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    3. I forgot to notice!
      Touch to Shoot must be activated every way when turning the camera On
      By Default it is Disabled, and after turn the camera Off it's become disabled again.

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    4. Thanks for pointing out Emil.

      I have tried it myself and found it to be rather slow! So to Ripi, do not expect the same performance of touch screen AF as OM-D.

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    5. I found Touch to Shoot with GM1 good enough for me.
      Maybe not as fast as that of E-M1, but GM1 is sensibly slower than the OM-D with same OLY lenses.
      This should be taken in mind before make any comparisons.
      GM1 pared with the superb 12-40 Pro lens is very fast !
      So my point is that depends which lens do You use.
      For GM1 personally would be better to have the best LUMIX lenses for advantage (12-35/2.8 35-100/2.8 for example)

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    6. edit:
      "...but GM1 is sensibly slower than the OM-D with same OLY lenses." (I mean at any focus modes not only touch shooting)

      GM1 paired with the superb 12-40 Pro lens is really fast !

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    7. Taking the small size and overall camera design (no grip), I would not even use Olympus 12-40mm or Panasonic 12-35mm lenses. There will be handling issues when used for long period of time.
      I'd say using primes (especially pancake lenses) is the way to go. And I've tried Panasonic 14mm f2.5 and 20mm f1.7. When you touch the AF area on screen there is an obvious lag, time taken to achieve focus.
      In Olympus cameras even the cheapest E-PM2 camera the touch focus is instantaneous. The response is fast even for Panasonic lenses. But accuracy is another issue though I do get very high hit rate.

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    8. LUMIX 20mm F1.7 II Pancake is slow. Laggy AF-performance on both E-M1 and GM1.
      Just OLY has Fast-focusing lenses.

      For me 12-40 + GM1 isn't bad combo at all.
      Just you must rethink all ergonomics. In this case GM1 is just a digital back - lens cap , with LCD.
      My hands have long fingers, so 12-40 lens perfectly fits in

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    9. Touch to Shoot works Great on GM1

      I give my apology, because I mislead you...
      ...more correct to say, I missed to share to you the better way to shoot through the screen.

      The best performance can be achieved by using it in AF-mode 1-Area (selected by navi-pad, left direction)
      Then from the right side of screen from pop-up bar enable the touch shooting by pressing the soft button (as i demonstrated in pics above in my previous post)
      Try this way, and be happy ! ;)

      Excuse my bad english

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. Great shots as usual, Robin. It proves that the man behind the camera is the most important ingredient to produce nice pics, whatever the camera brand is used.
    What do you use to process the raw files? As far as I remember, OV3 can not process Panasonic raw files.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words Alexander. Was shooting JPEG for this round.

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    2. Pictures are truly nice, but you should try the RAW of that little beast.
      Excellent noise performance and micro detail. Even more, i could say in par with the OM-D.
      GM1 utilizes the same sensor as the GH3 and GX7, after all ;)

      Delete
    3. I like to use DxO Optics Pro 10

      Here 2 examples from me:
      Example 1 @ISO2000 (Av-mode | 12mm | f/3.5 | 1/60s | 16MPix )
      https://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/15563/248829269.8/0_17cfe8_9091631c_orig

      Example 2 @ISO2500 (Av-mode | 12mm | f/3.5 | 1/60s | 16MPix )
      https://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/15584/248829269.8/0_17cfe6_998bfeeb_orig

      these are with kit lens LUMIX G VARIO 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 MEGA O.I.S.

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  11. Wow, Robin, your pics are so beautiful. Especially liked Open Smoke, but, seriously all of them are great. I'm enjoying a Panasonic LX100 at moment, it's also a brilliant camera, lens, but just don't like the out-of-camera colours like I like my Olympus colours, so not surprised you're also advising better to shoot raw. Great to see you trying a panasonic!

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  12. Filmed with the GM1 > https://vimeo.com/107842344

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  13. I had already forgotten that GM1 existed and thought that GM5 is the smallest one.
    So after thumbled to Your post, I did little research and found that GM1 is truly a amazing camera what I have wanted Olympus to make with 2- or 3-axis IBIS.
    I would even consider if there could be a tiny flip screen to make it great street photography camera as camera thickness ain't such problem as the larger otherwise.

    So I went and bought one, in OK deal 300€ with 3 years warranty and the kit objective (12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS). Could get fairly good low light photos with 12-40mm Pro in 1/5 of a second.
    I didn't find the grip bad, Rec and Play buttons are deep enough to not be accidentally pressed. The wheel is OKish to adjust settings and touch screen is uselful as settings can be adjusted from it.
    But I just dislike the menu system, spending couple hours learning it and still couldn't recall other than video settings easily from it. Even today I am wondering where is a way to bind Fn1 button to switch wheel to change aperture instead shutter :)
    But got the touch to focus work right away, thanks to Emil Georgiev mentioned way. Makes easy to just point the subject.

    But it was not for me, I would use it only with a few objectives: Olympus 15mm f/8 body cap (true fun camera on summer), Olympus 17mm f/2.8 (the best objective to fun camera in any day), Olympus 45mm f/1.8 (the truly amazing portrait objective to anyone, perfect fit to GM1!), Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro (what can you say, looks and feels nice, awesome capability to get telephoto and macro in one small kit).

    But now the camera is with its owner, going on trip and I can't play with it anymore.
    Because GM1, GAS hit me as now I want a Olympus to make identical but with 3-axis IBIS and AP2, flipped screen.

    I compared this GM1 to Olympus E-PL5 that was just 80€ more but I rejected it because old 2-axis IBIS that is about 1-1.5 stops effective so similar and then 1cm thicker, wider and taller too. Over 100g more (50%) to weight and no integrated pop-up flash (that is a photo savior in many situations), no WiFi for remote shooting (replaces tilting screen well!).
    And Olympus records only 30fps video, meaning it is 70% of the world countries (basically everything else than USA and Japan) useless if you have any artificial light in the frame as lights will flicker (no way to eliminate it with 1/50 shutter speed, anti-flicker enabled etc).

    The GM1 feels stupid on Olympus 40-150mm Pro. 12-40mm Pro feels OK to be used some times but great for close ups. But Olympus 45mm, 17mm primes and 60mm Macro are just great on it.

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  14. Hi Robin, l really like your site and work. I am also a olympus fan but currently i m using the lumix gx7 because i love the pana 20/1.7 that works better with that camera. I have a question that maybe somebody can answer: With the GX7 i can put the Spot metering is every point of the evf i want to. I think with the Oly EPl 6 (maybe i´m wrong) the spot metering is fixed in the middle. How does this work with the OM D camera? and with the GM1 ? Thanks!

    @Emil: You have to try the LUMIX 20mm F1.7 II with the GX7 or the GH4

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  15. By the way Piggyback is my fav photo.. Great!

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  16. Hi Robin, did you use the 12-32mm kit lens for these photos?

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