GX1 Review

The GX1 is a real contender for best street photographer’s camera of 2011/2012. One of the keys to good street shooting is to find a lens that works with your style. So when I got my hands on the GX1 at a launch event I ran it through a couple of lenses that you might be interested in for street photography.

14-42mm X Lens
I tried the GX1 first with the 14-42mm X lens (available at a kit in Dec/Jan). The X lens is nicer than you’d expect. It feels a bit like a point and shoot but it’s so easy and nice to use that after a moment you let go and just enjoy the toggle-to-zoom power steering. The GX1 and 14-42mm are well proportioned and the focus is fast.

Panasonic GX1 with 14/45mm X lens

Small, fast, discrete and well built

As for how the toggle zoom performs on the street, it is fast enough to let you frame the shot, even when things are moving fast. For a prime shooter like myself, it still feels a bit like cheating. I also don’t like the point and shoot aesthetic. Yet somehow it all seems to come together and using the GX1 with the 14-42mm on the street is effortlessly cool.

Lumix GX1 with 14/45mm X lens

The GX1 with 14-42mm X lens

45-175mm X Lens
The GX1 and 45-175mm X lens feel like a great combination. The lens doesn’t overpower the camera and the weight balance makes for easy shooting. The 45-175mm X lens is the unsung hero of micro four thirds. I predict big things for this lens. It has semi-manual zoom-by-wire and focus-by-wire (twist controls on the barrel) giving you the feel of a good manual control lens. Like the touch screen on the GX1, the toggle to zoom on the X lens is only there if you want it. If you want to run manual, you can.

Panasonic GX1 WITH 45/175mm lens

The GX1 pairs nicely with the 45-175mm lens

The X 45-175mm gets you up close and personal with your subject (from a distance). It’s a bit over powered for street shooting but I think you’d get used to it. The quality at the long end isn’t perfect but it packs so much into a small space that you’ll forgive it alot. I didn’t encounter the focus hunting or incurable softness that some have complained of. For street shooting the small size of the 45-175mm means that you can reach out and touch your subject.

GX1 sample street photography

GX1 with Lumix 45-175mm lens street photo

GX1 Pros:
1. Small, light, subtle for use on the street
2. Good manual controls
3. Image quality

GX1 Cons:
1. Sensor seems like it hasn’t caught up with competitors
2. No EVF or tilty-swivelly LCD
3. Can wash out highlights

Bottom line:
The GF1 reborn as a modern street shooter.

Ps. Panasonic UK are running more demo events in London. I wrote a separate mini-post on the GX1 Launch Event Review. The Lumix GX1 is a camera you have to try in person to appreciate.

46 thoughts on “GX1 Review

  1. Pingback: Panasonic GX1 Launch | London Street Photo

  2. Thanks for the review ….. this to me seems to be the camera that should have followed the GF1 …. 102 years ago. Now I can help feel that NEX7 has set a high fence and for me I will await a small camera like an LC1 or a EPL3 with an EVF … or maybe the new NX20 ….its still nice though but i really appreciate the tilting screen for street work … so despite the lack of controls would prefer the EPL3 over the EP3 …

    • I’ve got a couple of friends who love their NEX cameras and they are like stealth ninjas with street photography. The larger sensor on the NEX lets you bump the shutter speed so you can “run-and-gun”. But you’re right that the EPL3 just feels like a better mix of sensor, control, LCD and lenses.

  3. Hi,

    Could you advise whether the Ex. Tele Conversion mode(when taking videos) on GX1 is a Full HD one like GH2’s, or is it a scaled down one (1280 x 720) like the one on GF2?


    • Good question Shung, Panasonic says that Tele Conversion mode increases the zoom in stills and video “without compromising quality”. But no one seems to knows yet whether that means it will stay in Full HD.

  4. Question: I have the GF2 with 2 lenses. Coming from a Canon G10 before that, I kinda miss the dial aspect. I’ve had my eye on this new camera as well. Do you think I should upgrade to this camera or just get another lens. (Currently own a 20mm and 45-200, I think) If I do go for another lens, which one should I get? I’m into street photography as well.


    • Hi REP96st, if you’re missing the dials on the G10 are you sure that you’re using the the GF2 thumb dial to its full potential? At first I missed the fact that in manual mode you can scroll the wheel to set aperture and then press the wheel in to start changing shutter speed.

      Anyway, as for your GX1 versus a lens question… the classic saying is “Glass is always better value than metal.” – Meaning, focus on building your lens collection. If you want something will complement your existing kit, I’d look at the Olympus 12mm, it’s a badass piece of glass for street photography. If you like taking shallow depth of field portraits then the Olympus 45mm will open up a whole new world. If money is tight then then pick up an ex-kit Panasonic 14mmm. It’s wider than the 20mm so you’ll get some of the Olympus 12mm flexibility without the price.

    • If you want a fast, light, Lieca style street shooter, then get the GX1. If you want a retro, classy, mini-slr then get the EP3. In the end they have the same size sensor and take the same lenses so you need to try them out in the store and see which feels better in your hands. The photos from them (if you shoot RAW) will be almost the same.

      • The sensor size on the NEX cameras could be a real drawcard and the interface is great if you’re a beginner. But the Sony isn’t a system that you’ll still be using in five years because the lens variety just isn’t there (even with the good range of adapters).

  5. I tried the GX1 in store at the London events too. I’ve got a G3 and really tempted by the GF/GX form factor for street photography. The GF2 body is now selling for about £170, while the GX1 body seems to be priced at £500+. Do you think it’s worth the extra for just the improvements in the sensor at higher ISO? Is the build quality of the GX1 significantly better than the GF2 – I understand the GF2 is all metal and made in Japan too?

    • As you would have spotted, the build quality of the GX1 is great and the higher ISO is nice. But if you can get a GF2 for 170 pounds and spend the extra on glass then I’d choose the GF2 every time. The GF2 is surprisingly solid in the hand and seems to cooperate well with every lens. For street shooting you don’t want to be precious about your camera. It’s a workhorse and a tool. It’s a personal thing but don’t spend any more than you can afford to drop on the street in a puddle, to get that one shot you’re chasing.

      • I HAD a GF2, which, in one series, grossly overexposed all shots, even though I was on “IE”. I believe it was a software error within the GF2, so I returned it. Interested in the GX1, but a bit leery until others use it more.

  6. I am pleased that Panasonic have launched the GX1, every new µ4/3 model is a boost to the format. I have used a G1 since the start of the system and have now added a GF3 with 20mm pancake lens. Panasonic seem to have a good line up now. GH2 / G3 with EVF and DSLR shape & grip, GX1 for those “serious” GF users and GF3 as the smallest possible µ4/3. A GX / GF with built in EVF is still the holy grail of photography. Never mind, perhaps its just me !

      • Peter, some time ago I tried the 14mm outside a camera shop. I was surprised and disappointed. I have used the G series from the start and was aware that the JPEG algorithm is good at removing chromatic aberration, but not so with the 14mm !

        As well as having a G1 I also wanted a small camera that would fit in a winter coat pocket. When the GF3 arrived I decided to get one. With previous knowledge of the 20mm f1.7 it was the must have lens. I am extremely pleased with the tiny GF3 + 20mm combination. I cannot get enough use out of it, only the weather can stop me now !!

        The GF1 / GX1 give full control in the obvious way with knobs and buttons. No one should dismiss the GF3 as being point & shoot only. Everything is adjustable, its just a different way of doing things. The loss of second curtain sync etc is not a problem for me.

        I can use the GF3 / 20 in a discreet way in venues such as garden centres and craft fairs etc without people staring at me as they do with a larger camera. As a street shooter yourself Peter you will understand all about that.

  7. GX1 review (mini)

    Just got my GX1 from Henry’s to USA. Nice clean ISOs at 1600. However, pictures looked very soft. Could barely see individual hairs when E-P3 was clearly showing individual hairs. Set sharpness a point higher, that helped. Seems it is great at high contrast subjects but needs help with hair and fur. Skin tones are like the G3, good but not as good as Olympus E-P3. GX1 not as good as Leica X1, Samsung NX200, Fuji X100 indoors. Not as sharp. GX1 is not a Fuji X100 killer. All in all I am dissapointed that it is not as good as a APS-C sensor like the X100, and that it requires skin tone adjustment, unlike Olympus E-P3/PL3, X100, X1. On the other hand, it is like a G3 pocketable (minus EVF). It is better than Oly E-P3 for non portraits. We are gonna need good people to note preferred settings for the GX1. Defaults are not sharp enough.

  8. I used the GX1 and the E-P3 with Pana/Leica 25mm f1.4 at 1.4, 2.0, 2.5 and 3.5. Also the Pana 20mm 1.7 at 1.7, 2, 2.5, 3.5 in low light. Jpegs OOC. Both cameras did great, but I think the GX1 needed to be at NR Low, the same as the E-P3.

  9. Great article and the posters are all knowlegeable in this area and some great informormation. I have a 350D and was looking to upgrade to a 7d / the enourmous 5DII. The point is I want to use my camera and not be afraid on the street to take shots. I was looking for something that had good iso wich it seems the gx1 has. I like the range of the 14-42 lens. Will get me moving and zooming with my feet i think. Its a great small set up that i think i will keep with me wherever i go without worry about losing that much image quality.I think the price is not bad atall. What i would like to know is there anyway i can use an adaptor so i can use my Canon EF lenses on the GX1 pleaaaase say yes !! 🙂

    Thanks again

  10. Hi Peter, I have an EP3 and love how quick it responds to say half shutter press (to get out of preview mode), focus and shutter lag coupled with the PL25. Many times it feels faster than my Nikon D3100 SLR with the 35 1.8G. I am still on the fence regarding the GX1 and was wondering… did you find the GX1 as fast as the EP3 in this regard? Thanks!

    • I’m writing a separate review on the EP3 soon, but I can tell you that the GX1 is as fast or faster than the EP3, depending on the lens. I used the EP3 with the 17mm and it was a dog compared to the GX1 with the PL25mm.

  11. On IA mode I’m getting some great skin tones from the GX1…but on P very yellow. The olympuses with built in IS are still great contenders IF they put that chip in the e-p3 they’d do better than pana. If NEX took some Samsung Pentax pancakes they’d clean house. The GX1 is fun. An oly person like me misses the IS I routinely get great shots at 1/10sec …

  12. I’m about to buy a µ4/3 camera for the first time and want something that is small enough, with the 20mm lens (and maybe x 14-42 if it’s about the same size), to fit in a pocket. Perhaps unreasonable but otherwise I know I’ll use it less often! So I’m planning to get the GF3, despite its limitations. Do you think I should wait and try out the GX1 or is it so much bigger than the GF3/E-pm1 that it’s clearly not pocketable? The EP-3, for example, is way too big for me at the moment.

    • The GX1 is about the same size as the GF2 so for what you’re describing (pocketability), a GF3 sounds like a good call. The GF3 didn’t get a lot of love from the street photography community because it lost one too many dial and it’s a bit soft and rounded looking. Even so, the sensor on it is good and it takes great photos. You should also consider the 14mm as a lens. It’s even slimmer than the 20mm.

      • Thanks. I have noticed how disliked (even reviled) the GF3 is amongst the online µ4/3 community but found while comparing it to the similarly spartan E-PM1 that its touch screen helped compensate for the lack of dials and buttons in a way the E-PM1 couldn’t match. But for some reason there’s a lot of love out there for the E-PM1 (maybe it all comes down to the hotshoe).
        Do you think it’s worth getting the 14mm to supplement the X 14-42 lens that the GF3 comes with? How is that at 14? I wasn’t sure there was enough of a difference to justify the 14 prime and thought maybe other lenses should come first. Any advice is welcome as I’m new to all this.

      • Having used the G1 since the start of µ4/3 I recently added a GF3. I now carry the GF3 everywhere, fitted with the 20mm pancake it fits in a coat pocket.

        The major problem with the GF3 is that I carry it to the extent that the G1 is not getting used ! Anyone who dislikes the GF3 has clearly not tried one. If you can manage without the hot shoe and second curtain sync then what is the problem ? Answer could be the “I am a serious photographer so the camera must have a dial on top” brigade. Crazy. Aperture and compensation are still controlled by a wheel. Just how many times does anyone change the mode ? a quick tap on the screen is no hardship.

        The name micro four thirds gives us a clue. Micro as in small. Small light and carry everywhere. Perhaps the GF3 is what µ4/3 was invented for ! Anyone who wants to carry something the size of a house brick can still buy an ancient style DSLR. Then sell it when back ache is a problem !

      • I agree, there is a strong argument to have the GF3 paired with the 14mm or 20mm pancake as a carry everywhere camera. The GF2 isn’t that much bigger either, and benefits from the smaller size. The GX1 is basically the same size as the GF2 and only a bit larger than the GF3. It’s a signifcant step up from the GF3 in terms of features and build quality but comes at a cost. You don’t lose much of the portability though.

        I have a G3 and rarely use the mode dial — really only if I change lenses. I haven’t used a hot shoe for about 10 years and rarely use the built in flash anyway. The swivel screen and EVF do get a fair bit of use though, so I sacrifice portability for these two features. It is handy to have a few more physical buttons to have direct control rather than going through the touch screen, especially if just using the EVF, too.

        I am almost prepared to give them up for a camera that’s more portable though, and was quite tempted to get the GF3 body but realised the lower ISO performance would mean I’d still probably end up taking the G3 out at night. The GX1 seems to take the best of both, performance from the G3 but the portability of the GF3, all in a metal body. I’m going to hold off buying it for a few months to wait for some more reviews and hopefully a price drop!

  13. Interesting review. I’ve had my eyes on the GX1 for a while, but have a hard time deciding if I should go for it. Impossible to try it out since it’s not been in the stores yet. If it came as a kit with the 20mm lens I would probably just go for it, but it’s only available body only or with one of the zooms so I need to buy the lenses separately and none seems to have the 20mm either.

    My main reason for looking at it is that I want a faster AF next to my X100. Had a GF1 which I sold, but never quite forgot. Somehow most reviewers of the M43 cameras have a weak spot for Olympys while I prefer Panasonic myself. What I’m mostly worried about is the button layout and how easily they are moved/change position while carrying it. This happened a lot with the GF1 (yes, I wear gloves during the winter..).

    • Why don’t you just keep the G3? It’s a great camera. It’s size, image quality and AF speed are equal to the GX1, but the G3 has an EVF and a swivel touchscreen. I really don’t understand why you would want to step down to the GX1 that only has a slightly better build quality and some minor extra things going for it. You should really keep the G3 and use that on the street, it’s a winner.

    • The EM5 is more of an SLR, so for street shooting it will be less subtle than the GX1. But the photos will be very similar because it’ll use the same lenses and has the same sensor size.

      The Fuji xPro I honestly don’t know. The larger sensor and viewfinder on them is a wild card. But like the NEX range, you’d have to live with the lenses you can get from the original manufacturer because that’s all you’re getting.

      • I don’t think the OM-D E-M5 will be less subtle. There’s a black version and the camera is absolutely tiny. Every camera you use is going to be seen I think. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a m4/3 camera or a big bad DSLR. The moment people see that you have a camera of some sort, it’s all the same to them. Just you making a picture of them with a camera.

        The Fuji is another class with a bigger sensor and much better image quality, especially at high ISO’s. However, the AF will be slower and I don’t like the limited choice of lenses. Also there’s the price to consider.

  14. Pingback: Anthony Stonehouse Guest Photographer - London Street Photo

  15. Hi
    I would like to buy a gx1 for street photography, my D700 it’s to big and loud. I ‘ve a question on the shutter sound, on the video test the GX1 seems loud , I shoot a lot in metro with a smal canon and I’m affraid that the GX1 going to be too loud to take a shot of a personne at 1 meter.

    Nice photographs by the way

  16. Very useful review of the GX1 which I am thinking of purchasing. I agree that technically it is similar to the G3 but I think you under rate the usefulness of a seperate EVF With the G2/G3/ GH2 viewfinder you can only look ahead at the subject when composing. It can soon become obvious that they are the intended subject. With the additional EVF you can look down and turn camera (or yourself) left or right so that you are not positioned directly facing the subject. It is true you could use the vari-angle LCD for that purpose but I find it pretty much rubbish for composing except in dull light, That however, maybe because in part I am an ex slr viewfinder kind of guy. With out a viewfinder I just do not feel that same sense of connection with the subject or feel I can compose so easily. .

    So I will probably sell my G2 in part exchange for a GX1 plus viewfinder and keep the GH2 for my pictorial photography Though I have to say that having tried out the Olympus OMD 5 the days of the GH2 may be numbered also unless a super improved GH3 comes along 🙂

    • No problems so far. The image quality is about the same as the non-powered kit lens but the size is miraculous. Personally I’d spend the money on primes. If you wanted a compact zoom camera then by a compact zoom camera.

  17. Hi Peter. Great review and nice shots!

    I own a GX1 with the normal 14-42mm kit lens, and I’m wondering if it’s worth buying the new x series lens. is there much of a diference on shot results, despite the amazing size reduction?

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