Camera Review: Panasonic GF1

Continuing the camera review idea with the Panasonic DMC-GF1.

I’ll warn any sensitive readers right off the bat that there will be many swear words in this post. It’s as much of a rude awakening into the world of consumer digital cameras as it is a camera review.

The GF1 is the most expensive camera I’ve ever bought. It cost about £413 with a 14mm-42mm lens, or 21mm-63mm in film-speak, and I even went on to purchase a secondary zoom lens, 50mm – 200mm for £250.

In retrospect I’ve often wished I hadn’t bought it, if not the body then that piece of utter shit 50mm – 200mm zoom lens.

That lens is horrendously slow for focusing, more on focusing later, and it’s max aperture is f5.6 or something.

The GF1 was my first step-up with digital cameras since I previously only ever had junk-y digital P&S’s and before that I only had a Pentax K1000 film camera. What a leap.

So this was my first step into digital cameras as dictated by the media and out of the cameras I saw on the market at the time the GF1 appeared to be the best option.

Of course I was wrong but I knew fuck all about digital cameras and, almost proudly, I still know fuck all about digital cameras.

The good thing about this camera is it has interchangeable lenses and you can shoot with the lens off. This allows for freelensing if you’re into that and it allows you the ability to use other branded lenses via lens mount adapters.

I’ve got an M39 mount for the old screw Leica lenses that my Zorki and FED use. It’s great but with the Micro Four/Thirds standard the focal length of these film lenses is roughly doubled, so a 50mm becomes 100mm etc.

From here I’m going to dip into the well that is the blurb I wrote on my GF1 flicker set page. If you’ve read that already then this will sound familiar-ish.

An additional note: these were/are the thoughts and problems I had/have with this camera but please take note of context.

When I first bought it I’d never used a DSLR or any digital camera other than a P&S. Everything I knew was film with a focus and aperture ring on the lens where, in my opinion, they should be.


 

You can almost get a nice sharp image with this camera but to me it does have a number of ‘functional’ drawbacks compared to a classic Rangefinder, SLR or maybe your more expensive DSLRs, I don’t know.

ISO Noise. Things start to look like shit from ISO 1000 onwards, 3200 is hideous. You could almost get away with it by converting to B&W but in a colour mode or looking at the RAW files the banding is ghastly.

Focusing. With the 14mm-42mm lens I mostly used Aperture Priority and Auto Focus because I had no idea what the fuck was going on, and why does this ring just turn and turn on the barrel?

It’s for ‘manual’ focus?

Who the fuck creates a lens with a focus ring on the barrel that just keeps turning and turning? How do you know when you’ve reached infinity or vice versa?

They give you a magnified image on the display that requires you to track slowly across if you need to check your focus. Once you enter ‘focus mode’ your hope to compose is then shot down.

**

I’ll stray off topic momentarily here and briefly mention the XPro1. I was in John Lewis a few months back after it was launched and had a play with one.

As soon as I saw that all the kit lenses had focus rings that spun in either direction for eternity I fucking hated it. What’s ‘pro’ about that?

The sales clerk was all douchie about it saying it was as good as a Leica but with a focus ring that spins like that I don’t think so.

**

Anyway, back to the GF1. Maybe buying the viewfinder adapter could fix my issue with it but there’s no way I’ll pay an extra £150 to find out. Needless to say, Otto is in town when I use the GF1.

Aperture. Where was the aperture ring I thought? A scroll wheel on the back, are you fucking kidding me?

Setting the aperture on a scroll wheel, to me, is just weird. I came to notice that even some Nikon/Canon ‘Pro’ cameras can have aperture control on a scroll wheel. Bloody Hell!

This camera doesn’t have any sort of live metering but you can ‘enable’ a live feed that looks like really choppy video, also weird.

*Rage Break*

… and we’re back.

Positives. The ability to mount different lenses is nice. It affords me a little more control over the image with focus and aperture on a lens away from the camera body.

On manual you have to set the shutter speed on the scroll wheel and you still have to run the preview to see what you will actually get but its a little bit better.

Because you can shoot with the lens off, this also enables freelensing as I’ve already said lets you use anything with a lens even turn it into a pinhole camera.

With all that said, I do actually like this camera and I almost exclusively run it in manual mode, except focusing, despite having to click a scroll wheel between shutter speed and aperture. P-mode is garbage and Otto-mode is also garbage.

I’ve been able to make photos I like with it and that is the most important part. I’m sorry if you’re a GF1 user reading this and love your camera but this was my impression of it.

As always, keep making photos because …

fin

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