Panasonic’s new Lumix GM1 is the first camera in a new line of mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras that will prioritise style and portability over blockbuster features. Damn, this thing is freaking tiny like a point-and-shoot.
The GM1 is primarily striking for its minuscule footprint, equivalent to the amount of space that an advanced, pocketable point-and-shot takes up. It weighs just six ounces. Wow. We shouldn’t under-estimate the reductive design and engineering at work here. The camera contains the same 16-megapixel micro four thirds sense that’s in the Panasonic GX7 announced over the summer, but this camera is way smaller. Panasonic reps claim “almost the same performance as the GX7,” but as we’ll see, you can’t shrink something this much without scaling back the features.
For example, Panasonic trimmed down the size of the shutter so that its 80-per cent smaller than the one in the GX7. The downside of course, is that the shutter only operates mechanically down to at up to 1/500th of a second. Any faster, and it uses a virtual shutter, which amounts to it taking samples off the image sensor without flipping the shutter open, which leaves a lot of room open for processing errors and distortions.
In part, the GM1 is tiny because of its itty bitty 12-32mm 3.5-5.6 lens, which was designed specifically for new GM series. It’s so small you won’t believe it. But again, there are disadvantages to going this small: There is no on-less manual focus ring. To focus manually with the new lens, you’ve got to use an interface on the camera’s touchscreen, which is a bit too laggy to be practical.
For all its impressive engineering, Panasonic hasn’t managed to engineer-down the GM1’s price too low. It’ll cost $999 with the kit lens, which is approximately the same price as Sony’s loaded RX100 II point-and shoot. The two cameras are about the same size, so you have to ask yourself: Would you rather have a near-perfect point-and-shoot, or a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera that makes loads of compromises for compactness.