panasonic lumix gf1 review

Anyone buying this camera with the 20mm pancake lens will be delighted, especially if you've only used the rather compromised zooms on a cheaper compact or budget SLR.

It's fast, bright and sharp, and an irresistible invitation to rediscover the timeless joys of fixed focal-length photography.

There are many other things to like about this camera too, though it's not without it quirks. And of course, you have to weigh up the relatively price, especially if, as we recommend, you buy the Lumix DMC-GF1 with the pancake lens. There's a risk here that Panasonic might price itself out of the market…

We liked:

The lens, the lens, the lens! Shoot at wider apertures than f/2.8 and the results are a joy to behold –go back to a camera with a narrower aperture range and it suddenly feels very restrictive.

We also like the stylish looks and quality build quality, the bright rear LCD and range of intelligent exposure controls. High iSO performance is fine, the metering and AF are smart and reliable and there are some genuinely useful extras, such as intelligent exposure widgets and shutter speed preview.

Meanwhile, being able to record HD at 720p in stereo sound is surely a good thing, especially as the movie mode is so easy to use.

We disliked:

While the pancake lens is great, the choice of other lenses is tiny compared to the Canon or Nikon SLR system.

The Lumix DMC-GF1 is a bit bland looking compared to the retro Olympus Pen and it suddenly gets bulky and awkward when you pop up the flash or add the optional electronic viewfinder.

While the pancake lens is great, it's not stabilised, and neither is the camera body. While there are more manual controls than you get with a compact, the options aren't as wide as you get with a similarly priced SLR.

The flash is weedy and JPEGs can look a bit washed out, too. Oh, and the menus look cheap and nasty compared to the competition.

Verdict:

We really like this camera, mainly because of the lens, superior sensor, intelligent design and handy exposure widgets.

Low light performance is good too. It might not be as chunky as the PowerShot G11 or as chic as the Olympus Pen, but it's definitely got the X factor. At the end of the day, this is quite a specialist camera considering the unique lens and relatively high price, so we recognise it's not going to appeal to everyone.

The price could certainly deter compact owners looking for a fairly cheap upgrade, or SLR owners who are reluctant to spend almost as much on a backup camera as they did on their main model. If you can afford it with the pancake lens though, the Lumix DMC-GF1 won't disappoint.

It'll rekindle your love of photography, and if that's not the hallmark of a fine camera, we don't know what is.

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