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The Panasonic Lumix G1: what I love and hate

In January, I bought a new camera, the Panasonic Lumix G1. It's the first digicam to have interchangeable lenses that is NOT a 'single-lens reflex'. Instead, an excellent electronic viewfinder replaces the traditional SLR mirror/prism 'reflex' light path. This makes it smaller and lighter than previous dSLRs, albeit larger than the just-announced Olympus E-P1. (The Oly, like the Panny, is "Micro four-thirds" format and is just about pocketable. Indeed if it had a viewfinder, I'd be gnashing my teeth about having bought the Panny instead of waiting.)

For hiking and taking landscape shots for our guidebooks, size/weight is a major issue. But the smallest digicams tend not to have a viewfinder. In bright daylight, I find an LCD screen almost useless. Back in 2007 while on Xtreme Everest with such a camera, I was reduced to setting it to auto-bracket, pointing, shooting and hoping - only to delete 2 out of 3 shots each evening, in the dark of my tent at Everest Base Camp.

What I love about the G1:

  • full creative control of settings and lenses

  • sensor switches image from screen to viewfinder when you bring the camera up to your eye

  • manual focus does a clever enlarging trick just when you need it

  • articulated LCD screen lets you shoot over people’s heads or from low angles

  • helpful community of G1 users on the Lumix forum

  • 7-14mm wide-angle zoom (WAZ) lens opens up huge new scope, see images below.

So what's not to like? The price of the recent WAZ lens apart, a spare battery from Panny costs a ridiculous £70- whereas third-party replacements are about £20 in rip-off Britain, or USD25 for 2 in the US. And for use on trek and at altitude, a spare is not a luxury, it's a necessity.

Panny has just made matters worse by announcing that its new firmware "upgrade" will detect unofficial batteries and disable the camera! I realise that they'd prefer us to buy batteries from them, and if they'd slash its price I'd be happy to. I can believe their claim that some unofficial batteries lack internal protection and may overheat, but even Panny says only "some", not all. I've used third-party batteries with two previous Lumix digicams without any problems. If expecting customers to disable their camera for use with competitive batteries isn't illegal, it ought to be. This dubious "upgrade" is a scandalous restrictive practice, and the Lumix forum is buzzing with protest.

But still, I love this camera. Let me share a pair of photographs I took on Thursday at the newly refitted Faraday Theatre of the Royal Institution. There was NO natural light source, and hardly any artificial, so these are at 2000ASA, hand-held (after several glasses of wine:) at 1/5th second. The first image is what a "normal" 28mm wide-angle lens would capture, the second (equivalent to 14mm) captures the whole 310-seat raked theatre with front desk.




This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 21, 2009 9:45 AM.

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