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My Photography with the Panasonic GF1

Jim Radcliffe

December 11, 2009 - It's Here!

After selling my Leica M8 I knew that I was looking for a camera that was small and versatile. I looked at photos taken with the Panasonic GF1 on numerous websites and read as many reviews as I could (having to translate some) and decided that the IQ and versatility of the GF1 made it my only logical choice at this time.

First Impressions
Quality Build. Those are the two words that come to mind upon handling the Panasonic GF1 for the first time.. The camera feels very well made. It also feels to be just the right size for my hands.

I ordered the GF1 with the 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens. I also ordered the 14-45mm and the 45-200mm as well as the EVF.

I have noticed that the 20mm makes a bit  of noise when AF is used. I believe this to be normal (confirmed) but I am so used to the totally quiet D-Lux 4 that it came as bit of a shock to hear it.  It's not objectionable but it would be much better if it were totally quiet in AF operation.  It's a small thing, very small..

This is my first experience with a MFT camera and I am really looking forward to it.

As usual, I will not attempt to do a "GearHead" review of this camera.  Instead, I will post photos taken with it. and my personal feelings about the camera.

I will have more to say about the GF1 in the future as I become accustomed to using it and my other lenses begin to arrive.

I will be adding photos to this section in the coming days and weeks along with more thoughts on the camera. So, if you are so inclined, check back every now and then to see what I have done with the Panasonic GF1. This looks like it's going to be a very fun and versatile camera to use.

Jim Radcliffe
Dallas, Texas

What I Like So Far

  • The build of the camera is great
  • The size is just right. It's not going to fit well in your pants pocket but it will easily fit in a coat pocket with the 20mm attached.
  • Manual Focus is good and proper.. proper meaning you have to twist the focus ring on the barrel of  the lens rather than some little joystick or wheel on the camera body.
  • The LCD is very easy to work with indoors and out..  The quality is great.
  • How no one pays any attention to me when I am using this camera.
  • The battery life.  It's great!  After my first five hours of shooting I was still showing a full charge.  I recently shot over 500 shots in one day and the battery still indicated a full charge.
  • The files out of the camera are very good, needing little or not post work.
  • Black & White shooters will like the in-camera BW options.
  • The price.  The price is right. 
  • Versatility.. the main reason I sold my Leica M8 and bought the GF1.  I don't get the same quality on any level as the Leica but I'm not missing shots and I have more options when shooting.  To me, versatility and the small size are the key features of the Panasonic GF1.

I Like This.... but see the March 22nd note.

GF1 Electronic Viewfinder

January 11, 2010: The Electronic Viewfinder for the GF1 has finally arrived and I have had a lot of fun playing with the thing.  I can tell you that I consider it a must have accessory for the GF1.  I do not find the resolution to be an issue.  Yes, it could be better but it is primarily a focusing aid for me.  I know for a fact that there will be more than one occasion in bright sunlight where this little device will save the day and allow me to get the shot I wanted when the LCD was totally useless.  It also helps a lot with manual focusing.  

Update: March 22, 2010:  I had a chance to compare the EVF of the Oly EP2 to this one and I have to say the Oly beats the pants off of the Panasonic EVF.  I now wish I had never looked through it as now I know what I am missing.  Bigger, brighter, better resolution.  Panasonic needs to upgrade this EVF.  Still, the EVF for the Panasonic is a must have accessory as it is the only way to frame shots when the LCD is washed out in the sun or you are attempting critical manual focus. 

What I Don't Like So Far
I've just received the camera so not a lot of things I dislike at this point but there are a few right off the bat.

  • My number one gripe about the GF1....
    The GF1, unlike the Panasonic LX3 and Leica D-Lux 4, does not show you in the LCD or EVF what you will get when you take the shot by doing a half-press of the shutter.  Instead, the LCD displays the image as clearly and as brightly as possible.  You can see what you are going to get with a two button press but I feel this is the wrong implementation of the feature.. 

    A NEW menu selection regarding the half press of the shutter should be implemented. Let's call it LCD Stop Down.  It will be either ON or OFF.  If OFF the camera behaves as it does now.  If ON the camera displays what you would actually get if you took the shot.  It's strange that the LX3 and D-Lux 4 do this but Panasonic failed to implement it in the GF1.  This would be my priority for the next firmware upgrade.

  • Focus by Wire
    While I like the manual focus capability of the the GF1 the Focus by Wire implementation is irritating.  Focusing a 50mm Summicron with adapter would be easier than focusing the Panasonic lenses.  There just seems to be too much twisting of the focus ring to accomplish what is needed. Other users have stated they love it but I find it to to be slow and somewhat awkward.  Manual Focus with the Leica M8 is much faster and easier but I suppose that should be expected.
     
  • The manual that came with the camera.  The information is there, it's just not presented in a user friendly manner.  It's written as your typical technical writer would do.

    Update: download and print the manual from Panasonic's website.  It prints full size pages and is much easier to read than the little manual that came with the camera.
     
  • The LCD has some really small text on it and these old eyes of mine have a hard time reading it.  The quality of the LCD is great, it's just that Panasonic is trying to jam as much info onto it as possible. 

    Update: you can turn some of those items off for an uncluttered screen.  Amazing what you can find in the manual.
     
  • Manual focus with the 45-200 can be a real beatdown, especially in bright light using the LCD and the lens operating at 200mm.  This is not a camera issue as much as a lens/tripod issue.  If the camera is hand held the lack of stability makes manual focusing extremely difficult. The EVF should make it a bit easier.

Some Thoughts After Coming to MFT From an M8
I recently sold my Leica M8 because I realized that while it was a fine piece of photography gear it was not the camera I need for what and how I shoot.  I really don't like manual focus and only want to use it when focus is critical.  With the M8 you have to focus manually for every shot.  Because of that I missed more than a few shots.  I was not quick enough and hyper focal did not work  well enough for me 100% of the time.

The money I had tied up in my M8 and two lenses was hard to justify when I looked at the output of the camera and what I was getting on a day to day basis from it.  $2600 for the body (used), $1895 for one lens, $1,000 for another lens, not to mention the IR cut filters.. it was a lot of money and I did not feel I was getting the output or the personal enjoyment from using the Leica M that I desired.  I hated to part with it because there really is nothing like a Leica.. but sometimes the brain must overrule the heart.

Bottom line:  One lens from the M system was enough to cover the purchase of the GF1 and three additional lenses with money left over.  I now have a more versatile camera than the M and at a fraction of the cost. That's a good thing. 

Do I wish I could have kept the M8? Absolutely!  I love Leica glass and sometimes using a rangefinder makes you slow down and think more about what you're doing but.....

Why I chose the GF1
The GF1 is more the camera I am looking for.  Smaller than an M8, quick AF and manual focus capability.   Bang for the buck, the GF1 is an incredible deal for someone who does not want to carry around  a large DSLR and twenty pounds of glass or sink $10,000 into an M9 and one really good lens... and still be able to get quality images from a small, compact camera system.  The GF1 fits in the same bag my M8 used to occupy along with the 20mm, 14-45mm and the 45-200mm... and there is room left for my D-Lux 4... and we're talking a pretty small bag.

Is the GF1 perfect? No.  There's no such thing as a perfect camera but the GF1 offers great image quality at a reasonable price.  It's not an M8 but in so many ways it can outperform the M8.

Is The GF1 The Poor Man's Leica?
I am a big fan of Leica cameras but I am also smart enough to know when I am spending too much on my hobby.  In many ways the GF1 is the camera I envisioned Leica producing.  A small, black box you could hang some really fine glass on.  Quiet, discrete and versatile.  The bokeh that can be achieved with the GF1 and Panasonic lenses is not quite Leica bokeh but it is the best I have seen from a compact camera and lens system and it costs a fraction the price of a Leica M and Summilux glass.  Some of the photos I have taken with the GF1 could easily compete with those I have taken with a Leica.  That statement does not mean that the GF1 has the same IQ as the Leica, it does not but the IQ is very good. Unless you are printing really large prints, you might find it hard to tell the Leica print from the GF1 print.

Fact: The GF1 and other Micro Four Thirds cameras are only the 3rd digital camera platform to be able to use Leica M and Leica Screw mount lenses!   That's another good thing about the GF1 for those who already own Leica glass.

These are my opinions.  They carry as much weight as a grain of dust in the wind. - Jim Radcliffe

December 12, 2009
My First Five Hours With the GF1

My first five hours with the GF1 occurred on a cold, dreary Saturday in Dallas.  I set out for Deep Ellum, the trains in Grapevine and any other photo-op that presented itself. 

Because of the weather I was a bit rushed and tended to shoot in areas that I have worked in before.  I had to get some photos with the GF1.  You know how it is.. new toy.. gotta play with it.  So forgive me for revisiting subjects you may have seen before.

All of these shots were taken with the 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens.  Most were shot wide open.  ISO setting was at 100.  All were hand held.. I hate tripods.

Little if any post work was done.  Most post consisted of cropping, resizing, black and white conversion, levels adjustment, and the occasional bit of sharpening.

Note: These were all shot as JPG.  I normally shoot RAW with the exception of the D-Lux 4.  I just wanted to see what the GF1 could do with JPG shots.

December 13, 2009 - The Sun Came Out
The sun came out today so all I could do was manage a quick trip downtown to take a few shots.

December 16, 2009 - Sunrise and Close Ups
Got up early enough to shoot the sunrise with the GF1 this morning and then decided to play with the "Poor Man's Macro".. the Diopter or Close Up Lens. The diopter I used is a +3 made by Quantaray and purchased off a clearance table for $5.  It screws into the threads on the 20mm pancake.  The pancake takes a 46mm filter.  Be careful using step up adapters for anything above 46mm as the lens settles deeper into the camera than the adapter will allow.

December 21, 2009 - Playing with the 45-200
I've just received the 45-200 lens and I must say, I am impressed.  Below are a number of shots taken with it.  By the way, all images are JPG.

The Homeless Christmas Tree - Fort Worth, Texas

A Bit Of Nature
I don't do tons of nature shots but the 45-200 on the GF1 seems to have a mind of its own.  Here are a few from my lunch hour today.   12/23/2009.

Color & Black & White

Two Birds In The Bush..er.. Water
Before I went to work this morning I drove by the nature park to see if there were any water birds out and about.  Here's two from that little before work side trip.  Both were taken with the GF1 and the 45-20mm.  12/28/2009

Playing With The 45-200 on the GF1

 

Two From This Morning's Walk
Some people hate gulls but I've always loved them.  I found these guys at a small pond close to my home.

My First Concert With The GF1
On January 8, 2010 Willie Nelson performed at Billy Bob's in Fort Worth, Texas.  Stage lighting at this venue is always hit or miss depending on what the artist desires.  In Willie's case he seemed to like lots of red and orange light.. the absolute worst for concert photography.. well, not as bad as blue light but still pretty bad.  To make matters worse the light levels were quite low.  So, I decided to shoot the entire concert in Black and White.  That's the best thing to do under those lighting conditions.  I used the internal BW Dynamic setting of the GF1.  I think if I had it to do over again I would have used Standard BW.   All of the photos were taken with the GF1 and the 45-200mm lens at ISO 800.  Click on the image below to view the series of photos from the show, some good some not so good.   All in all, the GF1 performed well for its first concert.  I'm sure I can produce better images as I get to know the camera better.

My First Photos of 2010 With The GF1
These were taken over the first three days of 2010.  I used the 14-45 and the 45-200.  The 45-200 does a very good job as long as the light is good.  Once the light starts to fade, focus at the long end (200mm) becomes a bit difficult and the result is softness due to what appears to be focus lock that is not totally accurate.  Just my guess as to what is going on.

The Last Sunrise of 2009
I got lucky.  I had to take my son to the airport to catch a flight at 6am and noticed that there was a gap between the cloud cover and the horizon.  I used the 45-200mm and the GF1.  ISO 250, f/5.3 at 1/80s.  A beautiful beginning for the ending of 2009.  The first is a 200mm shot the second is a 45mm shot at f/4, 1/160s.

 


The 7-14 Arrives
I often like to shoot wide so when I began to see some really good photos taken with Panasonic's 7-14mm lens I decided I needed it for those times the 14-45mm would not work.  It's a pricey little lens but after using it for a couple of days, I have no regrets... and it also fits in the same small bag my M8 used to occupy.. along with the three other lenses, the GF1 body and the D-Lux 4.   Sorry I do not have any wide landscape for you at this time.. but keep in mind that most of the shots below were taken from just a few feet away and look at the scope of the shot.  Can't wait to use this lens in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and in San Francisco this spring.

A Few From The Weekend
The night and rodeo shots below were taken at ISO 1600-3200.  I was really surprised how well the GF1 performs at high ISO settings.  I normally do not shoot above ISO 800 but the performance of the GF1 is certainly making me rethink that.

 

Related Interest: 
Click here for my Leica D-Lux 3 gallery
Click here for my Leica D-Lux 4 gallery

Click here for my Sigma DP1 gallery

Click here for my Leica M8 gallery



To View The Images
Click on any thumbnail image on this page to view a larger image.   Return to this page by clicking on the larger image.

A Note About The Images
I post process all images in Photoshop CS3.  I tweak contrast and saturation.  I dodge and burn.  I adjust curves and I do BW conversions. I correct for lens distortion and more.  In short, I use a digital darkroom.  I am not one of those who believes that  what comes out of the camera is the final product.  There is nothing you can do in-camera that can not be done better and with greater control in Photoshop. The digital darkroom let's me do everything I used to do in the wet darkroom but without the chemistry, paper safes, print dryers, and working under red lights.  The bottom line is that every image you see here came from the Panasonic GF1 and was post-processed in PS CS3.

February 2011
A Few Shots From Texas with the 7-14mm

Here are a few shots taken recently using the GF1 and the 7-14mm wide angle lens. I have to use this lens more often. Very sharp with great color and detail.

December 11, 2010 - One Year Later

Well, It's Been a Year With The GF1

I've been using the GF1 for a solid year now and wanted to put a few things in writing about the camera.

I love almost everything about the camera except the EVF, the manual focus assist magnification and focus by wire.

The EVF for this camera is one of the worst I have seen. Why Panasonic has not updated it is quite puzzling since they clearly have the technology to do so. I use it but only because I sometimes have to use it to get the shot. This is one of the reasons I am taking possession of a GH2 this week. The GH2 has a much better EVF among other things.

The GF1 focus assist magnification goes full screen and I really dislike that but it is what it is... better than no focus assist. I would prefer only the focus point be magnified but the end result of that might be just as irritating. It's nothing major, just a personal dislike.

Focus by wire on the GF1 is a real pain. I don't manually focus any of the Panasonic lenses due to this factor. I use legacy lenses for all manual focus shots. Canon, Minolta and Leica.

All in all the GF1 has proven itself to be a great camera and allowed me much enjoyment and captured some great photos. I had hoped the GF2 would be a much improved model of the GF1 but instead it seems to be a dumbed down version of the GF1 aimed primarily at the home market of point and shooters.

I have no regrets in purchasing the GF1. It is an outstanding camera.. now we just need some fast glass options.

December 8, 2010    Waiting for the Light, Etc.
Finally had a chance to capture an image I have seen in my mind for the last year. Sometimes you just have to wait for it.

October 23, 2010  West, Texas
I took a look through a broken window of a boarded up store in West, Texas.  Couldn't resist taking this shot.  The light was just too good to walk away.

October 20, 2010  Deep Ellum, Texas
It's been a dry spell for photography so I took an extended lunch break today and shot a few photos in Deep Ellum.  I stumbled across a mural I had never seen before and an old garage doorway that has not been opened in years.

August 7, 2010  When it's Too Hot Outside
It's Saturday and I have the entire day free to go out and find something to shoot.  I open the door to venture out and it's like walking into a sauna.  One hundred degrees outside again.  So I put the camera up and decide to work on a few of the coastal shots I took in California, where the high temperature was only 67 degrees while I was there.  These are all BW conversions just because I wanted something different to play with today and because I have just received the latest edition of BW Magazine.

 

August 5, 2010  Manual Focus - Legacy Lens
All of these shots were taken with Minolta Rokkor 58mm f/1.2 lens.  It's a lens that is probably older than some of you reading this.  I was practicing using this lens at the nearby nature park early in the morning.  Yes, the depth of field is very shallow but that was why I was practicing with it.  At f/4 these would have been a breeze but at f/1.2, it took some real effort, especially handheld and using only the LCD to focus, to get these shots.  The flora cooperated, the butterfly and frogs did not.  Still, a fun way to spend an early morning hour on a day that would see the temperature hit 105 degrees in the shade.  Texas summers are not much fun for me.

July 30, 2010  Old Stuff From New Orleans
I took some time today to work on some of the texture shots I took while at Mardi Gras this year.  I love shooting old, decaying objects and the French Quarter in New Orleans is a gold mine for this kind of stuff.  Here's a few I really liked.

July  25, 2010  Chinatown - San Francisco
This last trip to San Francisco I finally got to spend some time in Chinatown.  I love going there.  It is, in many ways, a different world.  It's full of different colors, smells and tastes.  Click on the photo below to see sixty photos from one day and night in San Francisco's Chinatown.

July 11, 2010 - Shots from Alcatraz
I've just returned from a week in California using the GF1.  One of the things I wanted to do was to shoot Alcatraz in BW using the GF1 and various lenses.  I used the 7-14mm, 20mm, 14-45mm and the 45-200mm.  The weather did not cooperate, it was windy, cold and overcast.  I have to say that experiencing 59 degree weather in July was a new and unexpected experience for me.  Click on the photo below to view all of the Alcatraz shots.  Very little post work was involved with these photos.. mostly cropping and resizing.

Alcatraz

June 9, 2010 - Shooting Wide Open with an f/1.2
I finally got my hands on the legendary Minolta 58mm Rokkor PG f/1.2.  This lens has a huge cult following due to it's bokeh and glow.  I bought my copy for $400 after losing four auctions on ebay.  I've not had much time to play with it yet but what I have seen so far is exactly what I was hoping for.  Fast glass, great bokeh, super shallow depth of field and sharp when stopped down.  It was worth the money.

May 17, 2010 - A Few From The Graveyard
Just north of Dallas is a huge auto salvage yard full of old cars and trucks from the 1940s to today.  Here's a few shots from a brief visit today.

Back To The Zoo - March 27, 2010
Minolta 500mm Rokkor and Panasonic 45-200mm

My first outing to the Fort Worth Zoo was somewhat of a disaster as it was Spring Break and every parent with a minimum of two children and at least one toddler in a stroller was there.  I decided to go back a week later and was rewarded with much better weather, smaller crowds and animals that actually seemed to pose for me.  It was amazing, plus I got to try out my latest eBay acquisition, a Minolta 500mm Rokkor.

Hands of The Harpist
Strange weather in Dallas today. It was in the 30s after being almost 80 yesterday.  I went to the mall because it was just too cold and windy outside.  While walking around the mall looking for something to shoot I heard a harp being played and followed the sound to a gentleman sitting by himself with a few CDs for sale.  These are his hands as he played. Taken with the GF1 and  the 50mm f/1.4 MD Rokkor-X, a lens I bought on eBay for $20 plus shipping.

The GF1 Goes To The Zoo
I recently went to the Fort Worth Zoo to test the Leica X1.  I also took along my GF1 because I knew there were going to be shots that would require the 45-200mm to get what I wanted.  Here are a few from that little photo safari.  GF1 with 45-200mm.

GF1 with $34 eBay Macro Lens
I picked up a Minolta MC Macro Rokkor X off of eBay for  $34.  I've not had much time to play with it, but today I went out in my backyard to see what might be worthy of a macro shot.  All I found was the head of a Dandelion gone to seed.

GF1 with Minolta Macro Lens

An Old Russian Gas Mask
In the waning light of the afternoon I took this "portrait" of my son wearing an old Russian gas mask. I used the 20mm f/1.7 pancake with post in CS3.  Just playing with low light.

Mardi Gras In Black & White
Mardi Gras is a very colorful affair as you can see by the "Faces on Bourbon Street" section.  But I also love Black & White and decided to do BW conversions for a small gallery which shows a bit of the "Dark Side" of Mardi Gras. Warning: some nudity.

Click for the gallery

Mardi Gras 2010 - Faces on Bourbon Street
I took the GF1 with me to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  It performed quite well and the battery life, once again, is exceptional.  Here are a few shots from Fat Tuesday on Canal and Bourbon Streets.

Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 on the GF1
One of the reasons I bought the GF1 was so that I could use other lenses on it and shoot in hyperfocal mode when desired.  Using manual focus legacy lenses allows me to do that much like I did with the Leica M8.  I knew that I could buy some pretty good fast glass for next to nothing.  The Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 cost me $20. On the GF1 that lens becomes a 100mm f/1.4 short telephoto.  I am not disappointed and the bokeh from this lens is very nice.  Focusing is really quite easy with both the EVF and the LCD.  Versatility... that's what MFT brings us.

The GF1 & 7-14 at the Train Museum
I love trains and the older the better.  I had taken my M8 to this same location and so I was looking forward to returning with the GF1 to see how it would do.  I used the 7-14 for all shots.