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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £700
inc VAT

Superb controls, lightning fast performance, slim profile and excellent (but not class-leading) image and video quality – a sublime package that's worth the high price


17.3x13mm 16.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (28-84mm equivalent), 413g

Its superior controls make the GX1 faster than the NEX-5N for adjusting settings, and it’s faster to take photos too. It took just 0.45 seconds between shots in normal use – a new record for a CSC and faster than most SLRs. This is largely thanks to the autofocus, which was incredibly quick in bright light and took less than half a second in low light. Flash photography wasn’t so impressive, though, with the GX1 taking up to 6.5 seconds compared to the NEX-5N’s 2.3 seconds.

Both cameras have a range of continuous shooting options, and on balance, the GX1’s are more impressive. There’s 4.1fps shooting for 23 JPEGs or 10 RAW shots before slowing to the speed of the memory card. Continuous mode with updating autofocus ran at 2.6fps, and there’s a 4-megapixel mode that captured 40 shots at 20fps.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 samples
Outdoor image quality is excellent but there’s a slight loss of clarity in the dense texture of these rushes – click to enlarge

In our review of the NEX-5N we reported slightly soft focus from its kit lens in wide-angle, wide-aperture shots. In practice, though, the 5N and GX1 were hard to separate for lens sharpness, and the NEX-5N’s JPEG processing handled subtle details a little better. There was slight evidence of noise reduction and even a little chroma noise in the GX1’s output at the slowest ISO 160 setting. This is disappointing but it was only perceptible in heavily cropped photos.

The NEX-5N extended its lead as the ISO speed went up. By ISO 1600, the GX1’s noise levels were still low but details had been softened by noise reduction. However, both cameras produced perfectly usable results up to ISO 3200, so it was only in very low light that the NEX-5N’s cleaner output became significant.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 samples
It can’t quite match the Sony NEX-5N for low noise, but passable skin textures at ISO 6400 is extremely good going nonetheless – click to enlarge

Comparing their video modes told a similar story. In bright conditions the two cameras were level pegging for picture quality, but in low light the GX1 fell behind, exhibiting more noise and less detail than the 5N. The 5N also benefits from a choice of frame rates up to 50p and full control over manual exposure – features the GX1 lacks. It’s important to note that the GX1 is still an exceptionally good video camera, especially with its smooth, silent autofocusing. It’s just that the NEX-5N is even better.

The GX1 is a compelling upgrade for GF1 owners, with significant improvements to image quality, higher-resolution videos, a small but welcome boost to performance and genuinely useful touchscreen control.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1
There’s a wide range of lenses available for Panasonic’s G-series now

For those choosing their first CSC, it’s a close-run race between the GX1 and the NEX-5N. Both produce gorgeous photos and videos in bright conditions. While the NEX-5N takes a clear lead for noise levels in low light, its slower autofocus makes it harder to capture moving subjects, especially in low light. As such, the 5N can be superb in low light but the GX1 is dependably good.

The GX1’s superior controls and standard hotshoe will appeal to people who are used to using an SLR, while the NEX-5N’s simpler controls and clever shooting modes are better suited to more casual photographers. The NEX-5N is also around £150 cheaper as we go to press, although swapping the GX1’s collapsible zoom lens for the more conventional 14-42mm lens (as per the Panasonic G3 kit) brings their prices in line with each other. It’s not just a matter of the GX1 being the connoisseur’s choice, though – its lack of control over video exposures mean the NEX-5N is a much better choice for keen videographers.

In short, there’s no clear overall winner. Both cameras are equally deserving of our Best Buy award, and you’ll have to decide for yourself which is best for you.

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Basic Specifications

Rating *****
CCD effective megapixels 16.0 megapixels
CCD size 17.3x13mm
Viewfinder optional electronic
Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 460,000 pixels
Articulated screen No
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 3.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 28-84mm
Image stabilisation optical, in kit lens
Maximum image resolution 4,592×3,448
Maximum movie resolution 1920×1080
Movie frame rate at max quality 25fps
File formats JPEG, RAW; AVCHD, MPEG-4


Memory slot SDXC
Mermory supplied none
Battery type Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 310 shots
Connectivity USB, AV, mini HDMI, wired remote
HDMI output resolution 1080i
Body material aluminium
Lens mount Micro Four Thirds
Focal length multiplier 2.0x
Kit lens model name Panasonic LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 14-42mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH/POWER O.I.S
Accessories USB and AV cables
Weight 413g
Size 71x116x65mm

Buying Information

Warranty one year RTB
Price £700

Camera Controls

Exposure modes program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed 60 to 1/4,000 seconds
Aperture range f3.5-22 (wide), f/5.6-22 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution) 160 to 12800
Exposure compensation +/-5 EV
White balance auto, 5 presets with fine tuning, manual, Kelvin
Additional image controls contrast, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction, i.Dynamic, shading comp, colour space
Manual focus Yes
Closest macro focus 20cm
Auto-focus modes multi, flexible spot, pinpoint, face detect, tracking
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, flexible spot, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, WB bracket