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?

DAVID A.

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 soundad­vice­blog.com.

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