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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1: Hands-on Preview
by Allison Johnson -  9/1/2009

Panasonic offered us a brief shooting tour with a pre-production Lumix GF1 at a press event in Germany this week. The first images and video emerging from the just-announced GF1 offer a glimpse at the performance of Panasonic's latest Micro Four Thirds offering - and European history. Take a look at how the pre-production GF1 fared in and around Berlin's Castle Charlottenburg.

Remember, this isn't a production-ready unit, so these aren't production-ready samples. Sound familiar? They should offer some insight to the new Lumix GF1 and, at the very least, a nice visual guide to one of Berlin's historic landmarks.

Holding the GF1 brought to mind an oversized, slightly heavier point-and-shoot. The flat camera body mirrors the style of Panasonic's Lumix ultracompacts, like the recently announced ZR1. A curved grip on the front and a small thumbrest on the back keep it steady in the shooter's right hand.

American shoppers, don't fall in love with the white, red or silver models as they won't be coming to the U.S. anytime soon.

I found the 3.0 inch LCD on the back panel to be quite sharp and usable even in bright daylight, though not perfect. Panasonic rates it at 60 fps, and it does seem pretty snappy. As with the Olympus E-P1 though, using certain creative "My Color" modes slows down the LCD's frame rate a bit.

The creative modes don't offer anything a Photoshop user can't achieve in post-processing, but it's a fun feature and something that current point-and-shoot users might find attractive. Below the effects are applied on a table centerpiece.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
Expressive

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
Pure

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
Dynamic

The Lumix GF1 seemed to be quite fast to focus in my preliminary shooting tour. Panasonic lists AF acquisition at 0.3 seconds, and that doesn't seem out of line at all. Once a focus target is locked in, shutter lag was also minimal. Speed is key, but so is image quality. The first images from the GF1 prove it to be a capable little camera. All images in our hands-on feature were photographed using the new 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens and auto white balance setting.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

Default settings certainly bring out vibrant reds. Those who would look for more neutral color reproduction would be able to adjust saturation and exposure settings.

Other My Color exposure modes offer a quick substitute for a polarizer in a pinch.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

My few hours with the GF1 added up to a very enjoyable shooting experience. As promised, it's not too heavy, not too bulky. I didn't experiment with the pop-up flash, so we'll have to reserve judgement on that one, but it was nice to know it was available should I need it. As always, we can't pass any final judgements based on the pre-production samples, but we'll be very eager to get the GF1 into the DCR lab and put it to the test for a full review.

Additional Sample Images
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1