Don Lindich’s Sound Advice: Pana­sonic DMC-GM1 eclipses Sony for best small camera

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Question: I am looking for a small camera for travel and want the best image quality available. What is your top recommendation, regardless of price?


San Antonio

Answer. It used to be the Sony RX100 se­ries, but now that I have tested the Pana­sonic Lumix DMC-GM1, it’s my top pick by a coun­try mile. The DMC-GM1 of­fers the im­ag­ing power of a full-sized in­ter­change­able lens cam­era in an im­pos­si­bly small pack­age.

If you ap­pre­ci­ate good in­dus­trial de­sign and love pho­tog­ra­phy and nice cam­eras, the Pana­sonic DMC-GM1 is likely to in­voke lust the mo­ment you open the box. Its tiny form fac­tor, retro-in­spired styl­ing, and jewel-like fin­ish are stun­ning. Pic­tures sim­ply don’t do this cam­era justice.

My ad­mi­ra­tion just added to the ex­cite­ment of know­ing the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the cam­era. This is no point-and-shoot cam­era, but an in­ter­change­able lens cam­era with a big Mi­cro Four Thirds sen­sor and the guts of Pana­sonic’s crit­i­cally ac­claimed DMC-GX7.

The DMC-GM1 is sold with a col­laps­ible 12-32 mm zoom lens that is get­ting rave re­views for its op­ti­cal qual­ity. I took the cam­era to Paris and was able to fit the DMC-GM1 with its kit zoom lens and an Olym­pus 45 mm f/​1.8 lens into a small belt pouch. This cov­ered a 35 mm equiv­a­lent range from 24 mm to 90 mm with two small, light, ex­tremely sharp lenses. The zoom han­dled most of the im­ag­ing du­ties and I had a short, fast 45 mm tele­photo for por­traits. The whole out­fit was per­haps one-third the size of a typ­i­cal dig­i­tal SLR with kit zoom lens, while of­fer­ing much more ca­pa­bil­ity and no com­pro­mise in im­age qual­ity.

The DMC-GM1 is re­ally fun to use. Just use the sharp, re­spon­sive touch screen to drag the fo­cus point where your want and press the but­ton. It feels great in your hands, and there are shoot­ing modes and art fil­ters to cover most ev­ery sit­u­a­tion. Most im­por­tantly, the im­ages it pro­duces are out­stand­ing in their sharp­ness, con­trast and color. Low-light ca­pa­bil­ity is ex­cel­lent as well.

The down­sides are few. There is no view­finder or ex­ter­nal flash avail­able, and the small size means you may hit the touch screen in­ad­ver­tently at times.

At $749 (in­clud­ing lens), it is not in­ex­pen­sive, but the price is a bar­gain given its qual­ity and per­for­mance. I con­sider it an ex­cel­lent value.

The DMC-GM1 is an in­cred­i­ble travel cam­era for any­one. It also makes a won­der­ful ad­di­tion to an ex­ist­ing Mi­cro Four Thirds out­fit, and is a great ex­am­ple of why I love this sys­tem so very much.

With Mi­cro Four Thirds, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are al­most end­less. The cam­eras and lenses are com­pat­i­ble re­gard­less of man­u­fac­turer, so you can mix and match cam­eras and lenses to cre­ate a per­fect out­fit. You can’t do that with Canon and Nikon gear. For ex­am­ple, the tiny DMC-GM1 makes a per­fect com­ple­ment to Olym­pus OM-D and Pana­sonic G mod­els. With such a pair­ing you can have a tiny cam­era for travel and an ev­ery­day cam­era with a view­finder, and both will use the same lenses.

As for the lenses them­selves, there are 51 lenses cur­rently avail­able and new ones are be­ing added con­stantly. Op­ti­cal qual­ity tends to be ex­tremely high across the board, and there are many out­stand­ing and af­ford­able fixed fo­cal length lenses, a cat­e­gory sadly ne­glected by the “big two” in the past dozen years.

Back to the Pana­sonic DMC-GM1. This is one of those prod­ucts I couldn’t live with­out. After I got home and sent the re­view sam­ple back to Pana­sonic, I or­dered a DMC-GM1 to keep for my­self.

Read prod­uct re­views by Don Lindich at soundad­vice­

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