Panasonic was first to launch a compact system camera all the way back in 2008, so it has a decently rich heritage on which to build its new releases.
The Panasonic GM1 starts a new line for the company, bringing the total up to five now. There's G, GF, GX, GH and now GM. The GM1, being the smallest, lightest and cheapest available is primarily aimed at beginner photographers, especially those who might be stepping up from a compact camera.
Featuring a 16-million-pixel Four Thirds sensor, the same as that found in the excellent Panasonic GX7, the GM1 is compatible with the extensive range of Micro Four Thirds lenses that are available - the greatest number of proprietary optics available for any compact system camera.
As Olympus also uses the Micro Four Thirds mounts, all of their lenses are also compatible, as well those from thirdparty manufacturers such as Sigma and Tokina.
Alongside that sensor is a Venus processing engine, while the sensor is said to be capable of producing up to 10% better images at high sensitivity than the GX1.
Panasonic says that its engineers have downsized almost every component of the GM1 in order to produce a small body size; for instance, although the sensor itself is still a Micro Four Thirds device, the overall unit is 30% smaller. The flash unit has also been reduced by around 30%, while the shutter unit has had a reduction of 80%. Overall, the body size is 40% smaller than the GX7 with which it shares a sensor.
Keen to keep the overall system size down, Panasonic is also launching a new standard kit lens with a focal length of 12-32mm (24-64mm equivalent) which is also ultra compact, collapsing down even smaller when not in use. A new 15mm f/1.7 pancake lens has also been launched, while a 35-100mm 'GM' style lens (that is, small) will also be introduced next year.
Other interesting features include 1/16,000 shutter speed and silent shooting, thanks to its electronic shutter. It's also got built in Wi-Fi and HD video recording at 60i. Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to shoot remotely from a smartphone or tablet, as well as send photos across to a device or upload directly to services such as Facebook. Panasonic says that there is no NFC chip, as seen on the GF6 and G6 due to size restrictions.
The camera is capable of shooting in raw format and gives the user full manual control. There are also a number of automatic and scene modes, along with plenty of digital filters. Despite its incredibly small size, there is an inbuilt flash included.
The camera has a classic design, with a metal chassis. On the back of the camera is a three-inch, one-million-dot touchscreen, which is fixed. As you might expect, there is no viewfinder, and there is also no hotshoe or accessories port through which you could attach an external one. If you're looking for a camera which is relatively small but has the option to expand via accessories, the Panasonic GF6 would be a more appropriate option.
Panasonic says that it will be marketing the GM1 primarily as a compact camera, rather than an interchangeable lens camera, despite its ability to do so. It is smaller, even including the standard kit lens, than the Sony RX100 II, the current best seller in the premium compact camera market – it is this type of customer the company is targeting.
Aside from the Sony RX100 II, other compact system cameras that the GM1 is going up against are the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2, Sony NEX-3N and Panasonic's own GF6. All of which are significantly larger than the GM1.