The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 features extremely compact dimensions. Its appearance is, contrary to the Olympus P1, more traditional and quite plain. The weight of both cameras is nearly identical and in terms of size, there are hardly any differences. Yet, they are still two clearly different system cameras, each with their typical appearance. Personally, I expect the design of the Panasonic GF1 to appeal more to the public than the retro-design of Olympus.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 lens
The front of the Panasonic Lumix GF1 is dominated by the Micro Four Thirds lens. Our test sample came with the ultra compact Lumix G f/1.7 20mm ASPH lens. In terms of size, an SDHC memory card is even a tiny bit higher if you place the camera and the card in an upright position side by side. The housing of the GF1 features a small handgrip that provides sufficient grip and really contributes to the stability while shooting. An AF-assist lamp provides extra support during focusing, and the button right of the lens serves to unlock the lens so that it can be exchanged. A strong feature of the Panasonic GF1 is the flash, a component which the Olympus P1 lacks. The flash features an ingenious system to pop up, and provides just that extra bit of light to make the shooting circumstances optimal. The guide number has decreased compared to the G1 and GH1 cameras!
Panasonic Lumix GF1 screen & viewfinder
The beautiful 3-inch screen on the back of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 provides a pleasantly sharp rendering, and functions optimally as a display to be able to focus properly. When it comes to the screen, the Olympus E-P1 simply stays behind, while it only features a low resolution monitor. The screen of the GF1 comprises of 460,000 pixels, compared to the 230,000 pixels of the P1. The familiar buttons are found to the right along the screen, as well as a group of multifunctional buttons including the menu, ISO and other frequently used buttons to change settings. Above the screen, more buttons are found, including an interface to connect an external viewfinder (EVF). This makes the GF1 really stand out; combining the option to mount an optional electronic Viewfinder with full Live View support. You cannot entirely compare the quality to, for example, the simply superb viewfinder of the GH1, however, the 60fps refresh rate and 1.04x enlargement certainly make the external VF a convenient addition.
Flash of the Panasonic Lumix GF1
The top side of the Panasonic DMC-GF1 features a hot shoe to mount an external flash or the earlier mentioned optional electronic viewfinder. The familiar mode dial containing the main programs is also present, as always. Below the dial, a switch serves to alternate between the various transport modes, exposure compensation and self-timer. To the right of the shutter release, a small red key is placed to activate the video function. This is a better location than the key on the Lumix GH1. This time I never unintentionally started recording video in practice.
Panasonic GF1 battery & memory compartment
The DMW-BLB13E Lithium Ion battery can be inserted together with an SDHC memory card in the compartment at the bottom of the handgrip. This ensures the Panasonic GF1 features a maximum storage capacity of 32GB. In the centre, right next to the cover of the battery/memory card compartment, there is a universal metal tripod mount. In practice, it will be hard to replace the battery or memory card without having to demount the camera. The camera's side features a number of interfaces including an HDMI connection.
Panasonic Lumix GF1 camera design
The hand-fit of the Panasonic GF1 is excellent, and since the camera is an actual light-weight, it won't become a burden to you when you carry it along. Especially in combination with the small Panasonic pancake lenses, such as the 20 mm, which keeps the combination nice and compact. The avid DSLR photographer is likely to find it more than difficult to switch back to using his heavy DSLR after having worked with a system camera like the Panasonic Lumix GF1.