Panasonic officially announces the new GF-1 and two new MFT lenses – how does it compare?

Written by Gary on September 3rd, 2009

As has been rumoured, Panasonic has now officially announced their new Micro Four Thirds camera – the slimline GF-1 which is very similar to the Olympus E-P1 but with some important differences.

GF-1

See here for a general comparison of the E-P1 and Canon G11.

New Micro Four Thirds lenses:

  • Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 MFT pancake kit lens
    • seems very nice, compact and will be great for street photography – pity there is no IS in the body to extend its low light capabilities hand held though – you will need to use it on the Olympus E-P1 to get that!
    • the big question – how will it compare with the Olympus ZD MFT 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens – I suspect if the 20mm is at least as good at f/2.8, then the 20mm would be the way I would go if price is similar as the extra low light capability will be VERY handy!
  • Panasonic Leica-D MFT 45mm f/2.8 1:1 macro with OIS
    • at last a high quality macro lens for the MFT with contrast detect AF and focus range limiter, and has a built-in optical image stabiliser to boot
    • very nice, although will be expensive, and will not be able to be used on a Four Thirds camera as it is a MFT lens
    • not as good a portrait lens as the Four Thirds Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro – but that lens will not AF with the GF-1, and it does not have IS or a focal range limiter – hopefully Olympus will be updating this lens soon, especially now that Canon has produced what appears to be a brilliant 100mm f/2.8 IS L macro lens
  • Lumix MFT lenses coming in 2010:

Now for some comparisons between the GF-1 and similar cameras:

The main specifications which differ from the Olympus E-P1:

  • no in-body image stabiliser – a pity because this may in the end be a show stopper for me!
  • no optional optical viewfinder but an optional electronic viewfinder which can be put into the hotshoe and angled upwards
  • built-in pop-up flash
  • faster AF but not as compatible with Four Thirds lenses for AF as is the E-P1
  • different approach to creative “film modes”
  • appearance is not classical retro style as is the E-P1
  • HD movie LITE is only mono audio not stereo
  • jpeg colours are not quite as “nice” as Olympus – but then Olympus is arguably the world leader in “nice” jpeg images out of the camera

The main specifications which differ from the Panasonic GH-1:

  • slimmer and the 20mm f/1.7 pancake kit lens provides a much more compact and lighter option to the GH-1 with it’s bigger, heavier, more versatile image stabilised 14-140mm HD lens
  • HD video LITE only – mono not stereo, 720p not 1080i, but otherwise seems to have similar video options such as MPEG 720p as well as AVCHD 720p 60/50fps BUT sensor output is 30fps (not 60fps as on the GH-1) and for the vast majority of users, the 720p option is probably the best anyway as it gives smoother motion results, although 720p may not be as nice as on the GH-1 given the 30fps sensor output rate?
  • no continuous AF during video unless you use the 14-140mm HD lens, but you can at least do intermittent AF unlike with most dSLRs such as current Canon and Nikon models
  • image aspect ratio option disappointingly is now the same as on most other cameras – a rather useless crop option which may as well be done in Photoshop – the GH-1 has an over-sized sensor which allows 16:9 ratio and 3:2 ratios to give true wider images, not just crops restrained to maximum 4000 pixels wide
  • additional option of “peripheral defocus” to produce a Lens Baby-like effect in camera and which will also work in movie mode – perhaps this may be in a firmware upgrade for the GH-1
  • LCD is fixed – not swivel as is the one on the GH-1
  • metal body

The main specifications which differ from the Canon G11:

  • much larger sensor – ~5x larger and thus much larger photosites allowing for better image quality, shallower depth of field, improved high ISO capability
  • ability to use almost any lens ever made via adapters instead of a fixed 5x zoom 28-140mm f/2.8-4.5 lens
  • timed shutter speed to 60 secs not just 15 secs – great for astrophotography
  • exposure compensation +/- 3EV not just 2EV
  • burst rate 3fps not just 1.1fps
  • HD video at 720p not just old VGA video at 480p
  • optional EVF instead of an in-built optical viewfinder
  • fixed LCD instead of swivel
  • kit lens is 20mm f/1.7 without IS – better for general low light work and shallow DOF work but not quite as versatile in bright light as the 5x zoom of the Canon G11
  • flash sync to 1/160th sec no where near the G11’s very nice 1/2000th flash sync – but if you can’t get shallow DOF portraits with the G11, there does not seem much point to having the high flash sync other than as general fill-in flash in bright sunlight – now, if the MFT’s cameras could come up with flash sync 1/2000th sec at full flash output not just SuperFP/HSS flash, that would be special – would be using my ZD 50mm f/2.0 and ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 lens with fill in flash in bright sunlight a lot more than I would now!

See also dpreview.com for a preview of the GF-1.

This site suggests that the AF on the GF-1 may be even faster than on the GH-1 and the shutter seems to be even quieter. While imaging-resource suggests the GF-1’s prefocused shutter lag is also faster than the GH-1.

 

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