The abundance of buttons on the Panasonic Lumix L1 could scare off a number of users when first getting acquainted with the camera. After all, it might cause you to suspect the camera is tricky to operate. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Virtually all settings on the L1 can be adjusted directly, without the need to resort to the menu. Moreover, all buttons feature only one function, which proves greatly beneficial to the camera's operation. In fact, one could say the Panasonic L1 offers a large collection of quick buttons, which means you will have to spend considerably less time in the camera's menu.
Panasonic Lumix L1 - Supersonic Wave anti-dust filter
It takes approximately one to two seconds to start up the Panasonic L1. Although this may seem somewhat slow for a DSLR camera, Panasonic have a good reason. The start-up time is related to the Supersonic Wave anti-dust filter, which vibrates the dust from the sensor before you can capture your photos. Better said, it shakes the dust from the filter. As a result, you will no longer have to worry about those irritating dust particles in your image. It is in fact the same system that is used by the Olympus E-330. Not all that surprising, considering the fact that these camera's have been developed in cooperation. A pity, however, that this feature does cost valuable time, and cannot be switched off. That things can indeed be different is shown by Canon, who apply a different technique in their new 400D, and get the same dust-free result in return, whilst keeping the priority on the actual capturing of the image. This is done by ensuring the dust-reduction process can be interrupted via the shutter release button.
Panasonic DMC L1 - Shutter speed & Aperture
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 aims mainly at the more experienced photographer. Pictogram modes can thus not be found on this camera. However, it does allow you to set it in a way that selects the shutter speed and aperture automatically, or one of these features if you prefer. It has to be said this can be done with real ease. The lens features an aperture ring. That's right, just as one would see on older analogue cameras. If this ring is set to A, the camera will select the aperture. If you prefer to set the aperture yourself, and thus control the depth of field, you simply turn the ring to the desired value. A similar process applies to the shutter speed. If the shutter speed is turned to A, it will be selected by the camera. If not, you will be able to set it yourself. If you opt to set both the shutter speed and aperture to A, you will be working with the familiar programme mode. If both settings are not set to A, you will be exposing manually. Things were never easier. Do note that not all lenses from the FourThirds System are equipped with an aperture ring. This only applies to the Leica lenses. If you decide to use a different lens on the Panasonic L1, you will have to use the FUNC 1 button in order to change the aperture. This too proves decent to deal with, although I personally prefer to work with the Leica lens.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 - LCD screen & Viewfinder
If you capture your images via the viewfinder, all settings will be displayed on the screen on the back of the camera. It will tell you which colour setting you are using, as well as the sensitivity, white balance, quality, and many other features. In a blink of the eye, you can check whether you have set the camera correctly, which is very pleasant to work with in practice, especially as the letters are displayed in quite a large size. Then again, this is of course exactly what one would expect from a 2.5-inch screen. When working in Live View, you will also be able to enjoy a large amount of information. It will then be moved to the upper side and bottom side of the screen, so that you are presented with a clear view of the image. Furthermore, Live View will also display a histogram. Unfortunately, this histogram disappears briefly when using the exposure correction. Consequently, you will not have a live view of what the exposure correction does to the histogram.
Panasonic L1 DSLR- Menu & Mode dial
Upon pressing one of the buttons, a menu appears. The mode dial will then allow you to select the correct setting. This proves both fast and convenient to work with, although I must say I constantly found myself wanting to use the navigation buttons to select the desired setting. And that does not work. I kept forgetting the mode dial, even though a small symbol tells you the values have to be adjusted via the dial. However, after having worked with the camera for a while, this quickly improved.
The navigation buttons are only used for the white balance. They enable you to quickly apply a white balance correction. Personally, I would find it easier to turn these two around, and thus browse with the navigation buttons, and apply the correction through the dial, or have the option to select this through the menu.
Panasonic DMC L1 camera - Live View
It has to be said the viewfinder of the Panasonic Lumix L1 is both very small and very dark, even with the striking standard lens by Leica, which is reasonably bright and features a start aperture between f/2.8 and f/3.5. Although it proves sufficient for average photography, those who wish to frame or focus more accurately will find it isn't quite up to par. Instead, it would be better to switch to Live View. Just as with the Olympus E-330, you will then be able to see exactly what is happening. Contrary to the Olympus, however, the Panasonic L1 features only one mode. Moreover, the screen does not rotate, whilst that of the E-330 does. This somewhat limits the use of Live View. When working with the Panasonic L1, the mirror will be folded aside, and you will really be looking via the sensor. The attractive screen does ensure you will have a proper view. If you hold the camera overhead to capture a scenery photo, you will also be able to use the High Angle view. A nice addition, although it isn't quite as enjoyable to work with as a rotating screen, especially as it can only be used in one direction. This means that you will still have to bend your knees if you want to capture a photo from a low position. The auto focus can also be used when working with Live View, or at least the single version can. Upon pressing the shutter release button half-way down to focus, the mirror will fold back briefly. This allows the light to be sent to the AF sensor. After focussing, you will have your view back. The entire process takes less than a second, and is accompanied by a fair share of clicks. Although it isn't particularly fast, it does prove decent to work with, and ensures Live View is a handy tool in practice. Live View is particularly useful when you want to focus manually; it enables you to zoom in on a certain part of the image, which is then displayed in full-screen size. This allows you to assess the focus with considerable accuracy. Ideal for those who enjoy macro photography.
Panasonic Lumix L1 - Focus points
Even those who opt to capture their photos through the viewfinder of the Panasonic Lumix L1 will find it is an enjoyable camera to work with. The auto focus is reasonably fast, although far from a speed freak. A pity, however, that the three focus points are positioned quite closely together. This means you will have to change the composition after focussing, which isn't exactly beneficial to a perfectly sharp photo. Moreover, the fact that the sharpness cannot be assessed that well in the viewfinder means you often have to trust it is taking place properly. Fortunately, this turns out to be the case for the majority of the images. Most blurry photos are caused by mistakes made by the photographer.
Panasonic DMC-L1 SLR - MEGA O.I.S.
Just like all Panasonic cameras, the L1 features image stabilisation. Or at least the standard Leica lens is equipped with MEGA O.I.S., not the camera itself. If you opt to equip the Panasonic L1 with a lens by, for instance, Olympus, you will of course miss out on the stabilisation. The Olympus system proves excellent to work with. The camera allows you to choose between two types of stabilisation. In Mode 1, MEGA O.I.S. will be active continuously. In Mode 2, the stabilisation is only activated upon pressing the shutter release button. Although the effect will then be greater, you will lose a certain amount of time, as the image needs to be frozen first. If you equip another body from the FourThirds System with the Leica lens, only Mode 1 will be active.