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Panasonic DMC-G1

After 30+ years shooting 35mm film with my trusty, fully manual Minolta SRT-SCII SLR, I finally bought a digital camera.  My criteria were:

  • General purpose, mostly daylight.
  • Bright viewfinder.
  • Work flow similar to my manual camera.
  • Interchangeable lenses.
When Panasonic began discounting the DMC-G1 (rumours were the G2 was coming), I bought one from Amazon at half the retail price.  It came with a 14-45mm kit lens and has an on-camera pop-up flash.  It's a Micro Four Thirds camera, which means it has no mirror like my old SLR.  This makes the camera very thin, front to back, and not very tall either because there's no pentaprism.  The viewfinder is a tiny LCD screen; the camera basically reads right off the CCD sensor and sends a feed to the viewfinder.  That makes for a pretty bright viewfinder, in my opinion.  Very nice.

The work flow for setting F-stop and shutter speed is different but easy to adapt to.  There is a wheel under the shutter button that can be worked with the index finger.  Press it to switch between setting F-stop and shutter speed and turn to make the adjustment.  Auto-focus is new to me, but I'm surprised at how well it works.  I have it set to spot focus most of the time, and it does a pretty good job.  It's easy to switch to manual focus; there's a knob for that on the top left.  The camera has a cool 5X magnifier that snaps on when you manually focus - it zooms in to the middle of the image so you can see the focus snap better.  There's no split image or dazzle prisms to help focusing, which I miss.

When I'm in the car, I put the camera on Program and let it decide everything.  If I see something interesting I can stop, pick up the camera and shoot.  That's pretty handy.  The camera even has an ultra-simple mode Panasonic calls Intelligent Exposure.  That sets the focus, F-stop and shutter speed all based on an analysis of the scene the camera is looking at.  So (in theory) a photo of a person at the Grand Canyon will have different settings than swinging the camera a little bit at the canyon itself.  I haven''t used that a lot yet.

The kit lens is OK.  Not very fast though.  Zoomed, it only opens op to F5.6.  Plenty good for daylight work.  It also has on-lens optical image stabilisation which works OK.  I seem to be able to hand hold about as well as I could expect.  Maybe I get an additional F-stop out of it being turned on.  One interesting thing about the M43 system is that the lenses are exactly half the focal length you'd expect.  That is, a 100mm lens on a 35mm SLR is marked 50mm in the M43 world.  So my 14-45mm zoom is really a 28-90mm zoom.

One thing I bought recently is an adapter to go between my old Minolta MD lenses and the Micro Four Thirds camera.  I'm very happy with it.  I've been using my Minolta MD 50mm f1.4 lens on the camera and wow, what a beauty!  It behaves like a 100mm lens, and it gives the ability to really, really control depth of field.  The downside is that it can be hard to find the focus - no split image pentaprism - and if the depth of field is really narrow, focus gets pretty crucial.

One thing the camera has that I hardly ever use is an articulated 3 inch LCD screen.  My eyes can't use that to focus or compose.  Don't know why; maybe it's my bifocals.  I really, really like the viewfinder better.  There's nothing wrong with the big LCD, in fact I use it quite often to show someone a photo I just took.  I just don't use it to compose.

  • Miscellaneous technical bits:
  • 12MP sensor
  • ISO 100-3200 (grainy above 800)
  • 1/4000 speed shutter
  • Can auto-bracket
  • SDHC memory card
  • Multiple white balance settings
I'm having fun with this little camera!

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