Digital Cameras Guide

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 review

Living Up to the Micro Four Thirds Promise - Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

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Design & Handling Part 2

Design & Handling Part 2

Display

The LCD on the GF1 is bright, and the Live View feed is fast and responsive. The large 3-inch screen definitely makes for a great shooting experience and makes it easier to check your photo/video previews. The Quick Menu display as well as the other menus borrows heavily from the Panasonic Lumix compact cameras, which is a good thing as they're easy to use.

There are a couple of features we'd like to mention, one of which is the shutter speed/aperture exposure meter.

If you're shooting manually (either in shutter or aperture priority, or full manual), whenever you change one setting like shutter speed, a meter will show up displaying the corresponding change in aperture setting and vice versa. If some settings aren't appropriate for the scene, like too slow a shutter speed for too bright an environment, those settings on the meter will be colored out to warn you.

Not only is this is an intuitive way to quickly understand and select the shutter speeds and aperture settings you need for the scene, it also helps beginners who are new to shutter speed and aperture settings to understand them.

Something else we like is the live DOP (Depth of Field) and shutter speed previews. When selected, the GF1 shows you a preview of what your photo will look like with the present aperture or shutter speed settings, helping you get the settings you want before you take the shot.

Optional Live View Finder

For those who miss an optical viewfinder, there's an optional live view finder that can be attached to the GF1's hot shoe. A button on the finder toggles between using the LCD and the live view finder, and you see exactly what you'd see on the LCD using the view finder.

While the live view finder is as fast and responsive as the LCD, we found the finder screen really small, and because previews of what you've just taken are so tiny, we felt it wasn't practical to use the live view finder to inspect your images at all. Unfortunately, there's no way to shoot with the live view finder and then preview your images on the LCD like a DSLR, it's either the use of one or the other.

So unlike some DSLR cameras where we'd rather shoot with the optical viewfinder than live view, the GF1's LCD monitor is so much more compelling that this time round, we'd rather eschew spending extra for the live view finder and stick with the LCD.

Focusing

By far our favorite part about the GF1 must be its quick and accurate auto-focus. And not only does it focus fast, the GF1 benefits from Panasonic's Face Detection technology, which has been honed on its Lumix line of compact cameras and works really well, even with multiple faces.

If you need more precise focusing, the GF1 offers three other focusing modes besides Face Detection: AF tracking, 23-area focusing and 1-area focusing. In single AF mode you can use the directional pad to precisely select the area you want to focus on. With 23-area AF, the GF1 automatically selects what it thinks are the right subjects of interest from 23-points on the screen. The AF tracking mode lets you lock down onto a subject of interest and stay focused on that subject even as you move the camera.

While the GF1's auto-focus is very good, if you choose to use manual focus there's also a manual focus assist that magnifies the image five or ten times when you twist the lens' focus ring. This helps make manual focusing easier and more accurate.

There's nothing more frustrating to go home and preview an SD card full of unfocused shots. The GF1's auto-focus takes that pain away and makes shooting a quick and fun experience.
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