Panasonic G1 and Cameraquest Lens Adapters Review

Panasonic G1

For a more expansive history of the four-thirds system, please check out the related entry on our good friend Wikipedia.

A brief, and highly opinionated, history of the micro four-thirds system

The Four-Thirds (or 4/3) system has never really taken off. In the beginning it was hyped as a new “digital designed” format that was going to get rid of some of the legacy designs of film and allow for smaller high quality professional cameras designed around a digital sensor, or something like that. But it never really took off. Sure, the 4/3 camera bodies were small. But they weren’t really that much smaller than whatever the comparable generation APS-C cameras were. The lenses were somewhat smaller, but again, not by that much. The camera designs were mostly just SLRs or variations of the same. And professionals never really took to the system. Probably because most of us have so much invested in our lens systems that it would take a lot to convince someone to make the switch. The 4/3 cameras being offered are nice, no doubt, but not nice or radical enough to make a working pro leave the tried and true Canon/Nikon system.

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But then in August of 2008, Panasonic and Olympus announced the creation of a new “Micro Four-Thirds” standard that would change the game for the four-thirds world. Market research had shown that while people still thought of SLR’s as being the highest quality cameras (as they had in the film days), many consumers shied away from buying them due to their size and weight. So the four-thirds designers set out to address this issue with the micro four-thirds standard. The sensor size would be the exact same four-thirds size, but a few key specifications would be different in the cameras. First off, the micro four-thirds standard does away with the “SLR” concept. The reflex mirror and accompanying prism have been ditched on the micro four-thirds system, all viewing has to be done via the LCD screen of via an electronic viewfinder (EVF). But getting rid of the flapping SLR mirror, the micro 4/3 designers were then able to cut in half the lens mount-to-sensor distance from 40mm to 20mm. With the idea being that a thinner mount-to-sensor distance would allow them to make the micro 4/3 cameras much smaller than the original 4/3 cameras had been. Now, as smaller cameras were only half the equation for a smaller overall package, the micro four-thirds designers also shrunk the lens mount diameter by 6mm to 44mm (from 50mm) and added two additional electrical contacts. The reduced lens diameter would allow for smaller lenses and the new electrical contacts would allow for more features to be added in the future.

In September of 2008, both Panasonic and Olympus showed prototypes of micro four-thirds cameras at the Photokina trade show. Then November of 2008 saw the introduction of the first production micro four-thirds camera, the Panasonic G1. Olympus has continued to show it’s same prototype at various trade shows, but as of April 2009, has still not released any information regarding a release date, specifications or estimated price. By all accounts it appears to be Panasonic who is driving the bus for micro four-thirds. Reinforcing this was the announcement at PMA 2009 of the upcoming Panasonic GH1, essentially a G1 with the ability to record HD video. There are currently two lenses available for the micro four thirds system, a 14-45/3.5-5.6 and a 45-200/4-5.6, both from Panasonic. Panasonic has also released an adapter to allow original four-thirds lenses to operate on micro four-thirds cameras (with some limitations) and has announced that it will be coming out with three more lenses, including a fast pancake 20/1.7, later in 2009.

Where to Buy

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The G1’s reception

Panasonic has stated that they view the micro four-thirds system as a stepping stone camera for those photographers who want to move past their p&s camera, but view DSLR’s are too big, heavy, complicated and expensive. For the sake of conversation, I’m going to call this group of photographers “tweeners”. As in, “in between” p&s and DSLR. So, while originally aimed at these tweeners, the Panasonic G1 has been well received by these photographers and praised by reviewers as a nicely designed camera with very good image quality. Somewhat surprisingly, the G1 has been well received by a much more advanced “class” of photographers than Panasonic probably expected given their market research and stated marketing plan for the micro four-thirds system. The reason for this is twofold.

First off, the photographic world has been waiting for “the next Leica” since the beginning of the digital age. By this I mean that photographers who enjoy the Leica M rangerfinder’s small size and fast prime lenses still do not have a digital version that gives them the portability and low light ability that their film cameras gave them. Yes, there have been two different digital rangefinders (the Epson RD1 and the Leica M8) but due to the relatively small market share that RF cameras have, the high cost of R&D for digital products, and the specific technical challenges that a digital RF design faces, the general consensus is that the best chance for a digital “rangefinder style” camera is going to come from a totally new direction rather than a digital RF itself. For many photographers, the micro four-thirds system represents that chance. The cameras are small, light, quiet, and unimposing. Equally important, tiny fast prime lenses could be designed, even for wide angle focal lengths. No, we’re not there yet. The only lens that starts to fit the bill is the upcoming Panasonic 20/1.7. But the image quality and operational speed is there enough that rangefinder nuts can see what the future might bring.

The second reason is that the Panasonic is one of the best digital cameras ever for manual focusing using the LCD or the EVF. Couple that with the fact that it’s tiny mount to sensor distance, and you have a camera that with the right adapters can use just about any lens made in the past 50 years (as long as it has an aperture ring). This is truly amazing stuff and something that all photographers who have an older manual focus camera system in their closet should think about. In the past, manual focus on LCD’s has been hard at best and awful at worst. The resolution and clarity just wasn’t there. But that was a dream compared to manual focusing on previous generation EVF’s, which was nothing more than a joke best not told in polite company. The Panasonic G1 changed all that with it’s new “field sequential system” design EVF that easily doubles (or quadruples, depending on how you count, more on that later) the resolution of previous generation EVF’s. Now, many photographers are using their Canon FD, Leica M, Leica R, Nikon, etc lenses on the G1 with impressive results. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty much blown away with how usable manual focus was with the G1. Which brings me to the meat of why this article is being written.

The purpose of this article

The main purpose of this article is to discuss the options for and results of using adapters and manual focus lenses on the Panasonic G1. That ability is something that has a lot of photo.net photographers talking about the G1 and interested in using it. Though this isn’t a full review, I will start out by giving a quick (well, quick for me) overview of my thoughts on the G1 itself and it’s performance and usability.

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A brief review of the Panasonic G1

Contrary to most camera reviews, I will put my conclusion here towards the top so that readers who aren’t really interested in the nitty-gritty of the camera itself can skip down to the section on adapters and manual lenses.

Conclusion

The Panasonic G1 is a capable camera that surprises in a number of ways. Most notable is the excellent resolution and clarity from both the LCD and the EVF. But not to be overlooked are the G1’s multiple AF features, a very usable MF option, a clever LCD/EVF auto switch, articulated LCD, overall quick operation, and compact size. Auto exposure is very good in most all situations, though white balance can suffer a bit under incandescent light. High ISO noise is well controlled up to ISO 800 and perhaps even ISO 1600 (depending on your tolerance), but is still a far cry from the top of the line Canon or Nikon models. To be fair, some of this likely has to do with sensor size differences. Larger sensors are going to have the advantage in sensor noise. Overall image quality was very good from both the camera and the existing lenses and IS worked as well as any in-lens IS system from other companies. The kit lens might just be the best kit lens I have seen in a long time, if ever.

Due to the very short mount-to-sensor distance of the micro four-thirds system virtually every SLR or rangefinder system out there has a larger mount-to-sensor (sensor or film) distance. Meaning that all you have to do to use an old manual focus lens on the G1 is to find the correct size adapter. There are a couple 3rd party adapters on the market, including the Leica-M and Canon Fd adapters discussed in this article. Panasonic is also making a four-thirds to micro four-thirds adapter that will allow use of four thirds lenses on the G1. Of course, adding older manual lenses requires manual focus and manual or aperture priority exposure, as none of those older lenses will properly interact with the G1. However, the G1’s wonderful LCD and impressive EVF allow for manual focusing on a level not previously seen on a non-SLR digital camera (although the EVF fails somewhat in low light due to noise and refresh rate). I was skeptical at first, but in all honesty, using manual focus with the G1 is very usable. This will be a great way for users of older manual lenses to be able to use them on a digital body. The only drawback being that due to the four-thirds sensor size, the focal lengths of any lens effectively becomes doubled. So that 35/1.4 Summilux you love so much for it’s “classic” rangefinder FOV becomes a 70/1.4. Now, that isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s something to think about. The Panasonic four-thirds to micro four-thirds adapter will allow some original four-thirds lenses to operate fully on the G1, but the list is limited. Read further down for more information on this aspect for the G1.

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However, as nice as the G1 is, the overall “tweener” concept behind the micro four-thirds system causes problems as well. The lenses are all (at this time) slow ‘consumer’ zooms with none of the 2.8 zooms or fast prime lenses that would make this a tempting system for advanced photographers. The camera has lots of capable features, but many of them are buried behind menus and button presses. The G1 is designed more for people who set their camera to “auto” and leave it there more than it is designed for people who like to adjust ISO, exposure composition, etc frequently. That having been said, at least the options are there and you do get used to using them. Overall, I think the G1 is an attractive option for those who have a lot of manual lenses that they want to use on a digital body or for photographers that don’t already have SLR lens investments and who want a higher quality larger-sensor system as a step up from their prosumer/p&s cameras.

Now, if that is enough opinion on the Panasonic G1 itself, you can skip to the part of the article where I talk about using manual lenses on the camera. Otherwise you can keep reading and I will go a bit further in depth reviewing the G1.

A bit more of a review

As I said above, this isn’t going to be a huge long review about the camera itself, there are a number of those out there already and I want to get to talking about using the G1 with adapters and manual lenses. But I will run through a few aspects of the camera and my likes and dislikes.

Body, appearance and handling

Despite the fact that there is no mirror or prism in the G1, the designers kept the camera styling very close to that of a DSLR. Perhaps this was done to try and keep their target market thinking that it looked like a “pro” camera is supposed to look, or perhaps it was done to keep more serious photographers from thinking that the G1 was a toy. In any case, the look isn’t bad at all. I don’t require high design in my camera bodies, just good results and ease of use. The body itself has a decent feel to it. It is a fairly plastic feeling camera and the texturized “rubber” coating over most of the body was actually better feeling that I expected. It is grippy without being sticky and doesn’t seem to gum up with use like some rubberized plastic does. that having been said, judging by the wear marks on the review camera I borrowed, the rubberized stuff is going to get a bit uglier after it has seen some scuffs and scratches. Not that it will be scraped off or anything, just that I think it will show wear much more quickly and obviously than the plastic of the body.

The Panasonic G1 is a small camera. With the kit lens, it’s really not much bigger than many “prosumer” small sensor cameras on the market. This is by design and is a big part of the whole idea behind the micro four-thirds system. It gets people into a large sensor interchangeable lens system, but without the bulk and expense (both real or perceived) of a DSLR system. At this, the camera succeeds very well. I could easily see taking this camera many places that I would have previously brought a smaller camera because I didn’t feel like carrying my DSLR. However, as with all small cameras, people with large hands should make the effort to try the G1 out before purchasing. While the camera has a surprisingly deep and comfortable handgrip, the buttons are all close together and small and the lack of larger navigation wheels/joysticks can make things difficult. In general, I didn’t have any of these issues, but I am smaller than the average guy. I don’t want to oversell this as an issue, but if your nickname in school was “Redwood” or “Paul Bunyan” you should try before you buy.

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The buttons are small, and it takes more practice than I would like to get comfortable with being able to press them without having to take the camera away from your face. Some button space is also wasted with dedicated buttons for stuff like “film type” which more advanced photographers aren’t likely to use. I would have preferred to have more “custom” buttons that I could have mapped different commands to. In addition, like many cameras in the “non pro” price bracket, the G1 relies a bit too heavily on button presses and scrolling for my taste. While there isn’t really space in this form factor to add in something like the Canon 5D’s control wheel, it would have been nice to see something like the slick quick-menu controller joystick that is on Panasonic’s LX3. As it is, the G1’s quick menu is a lot less handy than it could be simply because it isn’t as quick as it should be to navigate. Which obviously defeats some of it’s purpose. Overall though, handling is adequate in terms of button layout given the size of the camera. Everything is usable and not nearly as frustrating as a lot of “prosumer” camera layouts.

LCD, EVF, menus and display

The G1’s 3 inch 460,000 pixel LCD is one of the best I have seen on a digital camera. Color, sharpness, and clarity are just wonderful. The fact that it articulates is a big bonus for those who like to use that feature for above-your-head or at-your-feet type shots. One advantage that is often overlooked is that with an articulating LCD you can flip the screen around backwards (facing the body) and it will be protected while in your camera bag. While a nice LCD is nifty, it isn’t that much of a surprise. LCD screens have been getting better and better every year for a while now. What is a surprise, and a huge one at that, is the quality of the electronic viewfinder (EVF). EVF’s have been a technology that has never lived up to its hype or promise. They show up on a few camera models every year and every one that I have ever tried has been too low in resolution, sharpness, and refresh rate. The G1 changes all of that in spectacular fashion. Panasonic used something called a “field sequential system” in the viewfinder that shows red green and blue images sequentially one after another at 60fps. It’s all a bit technical mumbo-jumbo for me, but the result is that the G1’s EVF is really absolutely honestly usable as a viewfinder. It may be hard to believe for those who have used EVF’s in the past, but this EVF is honestly good enough to use when focusing manually (more on that later). All is not wonderful however, the EVF requires a decent light level to perform at it’s best. In low light conditions, the refresh rate drops quickly from the 60fps and the gain gets cranked up giving a much grainier view than normal. However, even at its worse, it is still usable if you really have something against using the LCD. One very cool feature of the G1 is that you can set the camera to automatically switch between LCD and EVF when you bring the camera to your eye or lower it down. Some may find this odd and annoying, but I found it to be excellent and used it all of the time. To be honest, it made me fell like the camera was a lot closer to the DSLRs I usually use than it would have if I had to remember to press a button every time I brought the camera to my eye or wanted to use the LCD to review or change settings.

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The G1’s menu structure is not all that much different from any other camera. Lots of scrolling, lots of use of the 4 way controller buttons, etc. It works but is nothing special. The camera does remember what menu setting you were last at, which is really nice for when you are trying a couple different settings in a row. You do get a truly staggering number of choices for a lot of the options. Too many if you ask me, given the target market. Then again, perhaps that tweener market actually likes the ability to use a color picker wheel to decide the color that their b/w images will be toned in camera. In any case, you could get lost in the various options and effects if you had a mind to. However, one nice thing is that all of these options are only there if you go looking for them. Photographers who don’t care can just ignore them all day long. There are a few options that are particularly clever. First off is the fact that not only can you have a live-view histogram, but you can place that histogram anywhere you want on the image. This keeps you from having a histogram over someone’s face if you tend to shoot a lot of the same general compositions. You can also decide if you want all the shooting icons on the screen, just the most important ones, or none at all. And finally, you can decide if you want those icons overlain on top of the image (p&s style0 or in black bands on the top and bottom (DSLR style). Overall, the G1 is pretty well equipped in the display department.

Exposure, white balance, Image stabilization and ISO

The exposure on the Panasonic G1 is really pretty good. I can’t even think of anything that bothers me enough about it to comment on. In all the situations where you could expect a meter to perform accurately, it did so. It was fooled by the same sorts of heavily light/dark subjects that all cameras have a hard time with. Overall, I was very happy with it. White balance was overall quite good, but it did seem to have more problems than other cameras in it’s price range with artificial light when using the “auto white balance” setting, particularly in tungsten light sources. To be fair, many cameras have trouble with tungsten light sources in the AWB mode. But the results with AWB on the G1 were a bit worse than average. However, like most cameras, switching the white balance setting to “tungsten” cleared this problem right up. Other than that, there isn’t much to say about the exposure and white balance systems, they just seem to work pretty well. All the typical options are there for users who like to fiddle. But other than the using the tungsten setting from time to time, I have to admit that I really didn’t need to mess with them much at all.

ISO noise is well controlled in the G1. I was quite satisfied using the G1 at ISO levels up to 1600 (though 800 is a better choice if you can get away with it). The noise in the G1 seems to lean more towards the film grain-like luminance noise and shows comparatively little of the ugly blotchy chroma color noise. While this may be a personal opinion, I find that luminance noise is much more pleasing to see than chroma noise, particularly in the higher ISO levels. Is the G1 better than other cameras in it’s class? Well that really depends on which cameras you compare it to. If you compare it to “prosumer” cameras like the Canon G10, then yes the G1 blows it away. But that is as it should be, the G1 has a much larger sensor. If you compare the G1 to entry level SLR’s like the Canon XSi, the answer is a bit more mixed. In general, I would say that the G1 competes well with cameras in the entry level SLR range but that it can’t compete with the higher end or full frame SLR’s. Then again, you are paying a big premium with those cameras to get a few more stops of usable high ISO. Many photographers will be plenty happy to pocket that extra money and use some noise reduction post processing for those times when ISO 1600-3200 is required.

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Focusing

The focus system of the micro four-thirds system required a shift away from the phase detection autofocus used on DSLRs and to a contrast detection system more like what is used in point and shoot cameras. This was an obvious point of concern for anyone who had ever been frustrated by their point and shoot camera’s slow auto focus. Contrast detection simply hasn’t been as fast or as accurate as it’s phase detection cousin. However, I am happy to report that whatever the Panasonic engineers did to soup-up and improve contrast detection autofocus, they did a great job. I’m not going to say that the G1’s AF is as fast as the better DSLRs. But I seriously doubt that anyone could tell the difference between the G1’s AF and the AF from DSLRs in the same class/price-range. The G1’s AF works fine. It’s quick and accurate and does the job you want it to do.

Once you get past the “is this AF system going to take 30 seconds to lock focus” you start to see that the G1 has some AF features that DSLR users only wish they could have:

  • Face detection AF – Sure some may call it cheesy, but is some situations it can work wonders.
  • AF point tracking – You pick a point in the scene, your dog for example, and the AF will follow the dog and keep it in focus. There are limits to this function’s accuracy, but overall I’ve been impressed with it on both the G1 and the Panasonic LX3. Very Handy.
  • Pick your own AF point – Instead of just offering 3/5/9/15 AF points like the DSLRs do, the G1 allows you to choose anywhere on the image to place your AF point. So if you needed the AF point in the extreme lower left corner for some reason, you could do it.

Manual focusing with the dedicated micro four-thirds lenses is pretty nifty. You can set it so that as soon as the camera senses that you have touched the focus ring on the lens, it instantly engages the magnify function to assist with focusing. Along with the G1’s great LCD and EVF, this allows for accurate and easy manual focusing, should your needs call for it.

Using manual lenses w/adapters

For many photo.net photographers, the ability to use older manual lenses on the G1 is probably what causes the most interest in this camera. Rightfully so, because the Panasonic G1 is the first digital camera with a short enough mount-to-sensor distance that virtually any lens from any camera system made could be used with the proper adapter. For those who don’t understand, here is a completely inadequate simple explanation. Lenses are designed to focus properly for a given distance from the sensor (or film) to the back of the lens mount. They will not focus properly if mounted further or closer than that distance and will lose either infinity or close up focus. For example, if a lens is designed to be 5cm away from the sensor, mounting it on a camera that has 7.5cm between the mount and sensor will cause the lens to be unable to focus to infinity. Mounting it on a camera with 2.5cm between the sensor and mount will cause the lens to be unable to focus on anything close-up (most likely closer than infinity). Now, if you take that 5cm lens and that 2.5cm camera and then add in a 2.5cm adapter between them the story is totally different. You have set the lens at it’s correct 5cm distance and there fore it will focus correctly at all distances. Now, this is totally dependent on the camera you want to use having a smaller mount-to-sensor distance than the lens you want to use. You can add distance with adapters but with only a few rare exceptions, you cannot take away distance. And this is where the Panasonic G1 really shines. It has the shortest mount-to-sensor distance of any camera that I know of. Other than a few mirror-lock-up or extreme wide angle lenses, It really can use almost any lens that you have sitting around in your closet as long as you can find the right adapter or combo of adapters.

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What adapters are available?

At the moment, there are only a few micro four-thirds adapters that are easily purchased from standard photographic dealers. The adapters I used for this article are the Leica M and Canon FD ones from Cameraquest. These were the first adapters to be released onto the market and are probably the most popular. Novoflex has supposedly created a few different micro four-thirds adapters (Leica M & R, Canon FD, M 42, Contax/Yashica, Minolta MD, Olympus OM, etc). But so far the only one I have been able to find is the Leica M adapter and it is priced a good $70 higher than the Cameraquest adapters. Some interesting news I heard asthis article was being written is the fact that Voigtlander has announced that they will be making a Leica M micro four-thirds adapter in the very near future as well. No word on pricing as of yet. But if previous products and prices are any indication, it should be a good value and solid construction. There are also some cheaper adapters popping up on ebay but I have no idea of the quality. To be honest, I would tend to encourage people to order from Cameraquest. Stephen Gandy is a good guy who stands behind his products. Ebay can be great and ebay can be a nightmare. Sometimes it’s just better to deal with someone you know and trust.

Though it is currently (May 2009) very hard to find, the Panasonic DMW-MA1 four-thirds to micro four-thirds adapter needs to be mentioned. This adapter will allow use of original four-thirds lenses on micro four-thirds bodies and is the only adapter that will allow you to get any sort of automation with lenses that are not micro four-thirds specific. However, should be noted that the DMW-MA1 adapter is not designed to be used with extension tubes or teleconverters. Also, there are a lot of limitations on how much automation you can get with the original four-thirds system lenses. Because the AF system in the G1 is different from previous four-thirds cameras, not all of the lenses in the four-thirds system will work with it. In addition, of the lenses that will work, some number of them need to have a firmware update to do so. It’s more than a little confusing for the average person. But here is a page from Panasonic Japan that lists out compatibly lenses and this page here has instructions on doing the firmware updates. I also highly suggest posting a question to the Photo.net Olympus and Four-Thirds forum if you have more questions. I’m sure someone there will be able to assist you.

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Once nice thing about the DMW-MA1 adapter is that it allows you access to a whole world of adapters that were for the original four-thirds system. Using the DMW-MA1 and an original four-thirds adapter will allow you to add lenses such as Nikon F, Pentax K, Olympus OM, Contax C/Y RTS, Leica R, Minolta MC/MD, Leica Visioflex, Exakta, Topcon, Rollei SL, and others. It really is surprising how expansive the list is of lenses that you can mount on the G1 when you have the right adapters. This really is going to give new life to a lot of old camera lenses.

How are the adapters in use?

The first thing to remember is that the sensor in the four-thirds and micro four-thirds systems is roughly half the size of a 35mm frame of film. That means that the field of view (FOV) for a given focal length will equal that of a lens that twice its length. So a 50/2 Leica Summicron used on the Panasonic G1 will have the same FOV as a 100mm lens. This can be a hindrance for wide angle lenses, as that amazing 24/2 Canon FD lens is going to become a more normal 50/2 on the G1. However, it can also be a great advantage for those who lust after fast telephotos as your Canon FD 135/2 becomes a pretty interesting 270/2 on the G1. Like it or hate it, it is what it is. Using old manual lenses on a Panasonic G1 means dealing with an effective doubling of the focal length.

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The adapters themselves are fairly simple to use. You just mount the adapter onto the G1 and then add or remove lenses just like you were adding or removing them on the camera that your lenses normally go on. The Camera quest adapters mount solidly to the G1 and the lenses mount solidly to the adapters with very little play and seem to be well constructed. This info bears repeating for those who might have missed it, these adapters have no automation. The only micro four-thirds adapter that has any automation is the Panasonic DMW-MA1 with a specific set of original four-thirds lenses. When using a adapter like the Cameraquest FD or Leica M options, you are limited to shooting in either manual or aperture priority modes. As the camera cannot change the lens aperture, it cannot operate in any other mode. It should also go without saying (though I am saying it here) that even if the lens mounted was an autofocus lens, the adapters have no contacts or motors to interface between the lens and body. All focus is manual when using these adapters.

Once the adapter and lens are mounted, it is crucial that you make sure that your G1 is set to allow shutter release with no lens attached. Otherwise you are going to get a frustrating message that you need to “check the lens” and you will wonder why you were stupid enough to leave the instructions at home. At least that’s how I felt the first time. To do this you need to go to the cameras “custom” menu (indicated by a “c” with a wrench icon in the “menu” screen). You will find “shoot w/o lens” as the very last option under the custom menu. One more example of something useful for advanced photographers being buried under a pile of button presses and scrolling. But again, at least we get the option, I applaud Panasonic for that.

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How is the overall experience of using and focusing MF lenses on the G1?

As I have previously stated, I was very impressed with how easy it was to manually focus on both the G1’s LCD and EVF. The quality of both screens is just flat-out better than anything else I have seen for that purpose. While it’s not like focusing with a true SLR, there is actually a “that’s in focus” moment a lot of the time when manual focusing on the G1. It’s not any sort of thing I can quantify, it’s just more of a feeling or trusting of instincts. I thought it was a crock or my eyes were tricking me at first. But as I began to check the images on the computer, I saw that I had been right. This, for me, is in large part what makes the G1 so usable as a manual focus camera.

If you wish to be more critical about your focusing, you can use the G1’s manual focus “magnify” function. However, unlike when using a dedicated micro four-thirds lens, you cannot set the camera to automatically activate the magnify function when you start to focus. This is not surprising, because with no connection between the lens and the body there is no way for the G1 to know that you have started focusing. In order to turn on the magnify function when using a manual lens and adapter, you first have to press a button (the “left” on the 4-way controller) to activate the function then press another button (the “menu/okay” button) to zoom in. While the G1 does give you the option of scrolling around and zooming in on any area of the frame (using the 4-way controller buttons before pressing “menu/okay”) overall this process was just too annoying and fumbly to do quickly with the camera up to your face. It really makes using the magnify function difficult within the flow of quick shooting. Happily, I found that I just didn’t need the magnify function that often. However, if you are the kind of person who is absolutely critical about focus or likes to use razor thin depths of field, you may have a different opinion.

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While the results from the Canon FD and Leica M were both great, I have to say that I much preferred using the Leica M lenses on the Panasonic G1. This wasn’t out of any preference for the fames “Leica glow” or because I am snobbish about my lenses, it was simply a matter of size. The Leica lenses, by and large, are much smaller and more compact than the FD (and most other) SLR lenses. The G1 is a pretty compact and light camera and the bigger FD lenses just didn’t balance or handle as well on it as the smaller Leica M lenses did. Now, the FD lenses that I used are not the smallest choices in the FD line, to be sure. The 135/2 is a pretty big lens. But given that many users will be picking from a pile of what lenses they have available in their bags or at the back of camera closets, I feel that it’s fair to mention this. I’m not saying that the FD lenses aren’t usable, they absolutely are and will give excellent results. I’m just saying that you lose a lot of the cool size/weight/handling aspects of the G1 when you start sticking big heavy lenses on it.

Final verdict?

Overall, it’s really hard to not be impressed with the G1’s ability to use manual focus lenses. Did Panasonic have this in mind when they designed the camera? Probably not, in general companies are more interested in gaining new customers than they are in helping existing photographers use legacy lenses. For Panasonic, those “new costomers” are likely in their stated “in between p&s and SLR” target demographic . Be that as it may, Panasonic did make the effort to include a number of “advanced” features in this camera. They probably didn’t have to use such a high quality LCD and EVF setup and they absolutely didn’t have to include the ability to enable shutter release with no lens attached. But because they did, the G1 opens up a very viable path to digital imaging for users of older manual focus lenses. While the user experience of doing so isn’t perfect, I would have a very hard time not steering people to this camera if they had older lenses and wanted to use them on a digital platform.

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    • I think that MFT is a great idea and I have pretty much decided to buy such body and fit it with small lenses (I am thinking about the Zuiko as they are very good, very cheap and very small). However, I will not buy the G1 or GH1 because of one single reason: I want AS as well. I will thus wait for the next model. Happy shooting, Yakim.
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    • This is an interesting concept, and a very good review of the camera. However, and this really gets overlooked a lot these days, judging by some of the test shots, the dynamic range of the sensor still leaves a lot to be desired. "Crepe Girl" shot has a lot of blown highlights, but is perfectly exposed in the shadows. I think that in order to win any new customers camera makers need to come up with a small package, good dynamic range sensor and interchangeable lenses. As such there is still older Pentax DSLRs that are fairly compact with an APS-size sensor and pretty good dynamic range. In general, until affordable sensors with dynamic range that is close to that of negative film of yesteryear show up, consumer/prosumer digital cameras are still going to be catching up to a simple film camera in image quality. Size of the sensor also matters. Not so much for noise performance (that can be dealt with in post-processing or just tolerated if the texture of noise is not totally ugly), but rather for focal lengths of lenses to be longer thereby providing pleasant depth of field effects. With a tiny sensor anything with a "normal" FOV will have infinite depth of field and that's what makes many of today's consumer images fail. No depth of field control is a serious loss to photographic art that has been played down by the digital camera makers, but I think it is a very serious loss. APS size sensor is probably the smallest you can go and retain any kind of DOF control. Who wants to shoot a 40mm lens on the 4/3 sensor unless doing portraiture (even then you need a big room to step back for an effective 80mm lens). A 20mm lens that is promised for G1 will have very large DOF and will be no doubt touted as a "normal" effective 40mm lens. Poor DOF control as well as not enough dynamic range to take a shot on a bright sunny day is still a huge problem for most digital cameras (I am not talking multi-thousand pro rigs). Until these very important issues are solved it almost doesn't matter what else camera can do. Mounting your old MF lenses is nice, but so what if you are going to be blowing out highlights in high contrast shots? Or you need to take 5 steps backwards to take a shot with that lovely old 50mm lens. I think manufacturers' efforts are misguided and concentrate on whiz-bang features while sacrificing the very basic photographic tools: DOF control and wide dynamic range of possible scenes. Once technology progresses to where sensors can be 24mmX36mm (full size 35mm film frame) without prohibitive cost, then we will actually begin to see digital cameras to really shine. Until then it's either a big pro rig or everything else. I think many p&s cameras today have pretty good image quality and are adequate for many things. But if art photography is to be done and digital is to be the medium, then it needs to be a good DSLR with a good selection of quality lenses. There is very little in between yet.
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    • Can this thing mount LTM lenses? I'd like to use some russian industar and other old funky glass. BTW, your comment :"While there isn’t really space in this form factor to add in something like the Canon 5D’s control wheel" isn't really true. Just look at the tiny Ricohs like the GRDI and II, and the GX200. Ricoh's been using front and rear wheels for years, giving them DSLR-like control in significantly tinier bodies than the G1. For that matter the Canon G10 has a control wheel on the back. Panasonic could certainly have done the same.
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    • i have read about ltm adaptors for the micro four third system. so your ltm lenses should fit the bodies without any problem.
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    • Are StevenGandy's adapters authorized by Panasonic or Leica or are they counterfeit? See the new Mike Johnston article on Leica to G1 adapters: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2009/05/panasonic-gets-in-on-adapter-action.html Also, here's link to 4/3 micro 4/3 adapter from panasonic, you know the authorized example for $139 at B&H, also not a counterfeit: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/588085-REG/Panasonic_DMW_MA1_DMW_MA1_Mount_Adapter_to.html
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    • What about using Olympus Pen lenses,designed for the Olympus Pen half frame film cameras? They are tiny,and the optical quality is way up there.
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    • I bought the G1 and a jinfinance (China) adaptor from the internet. The adaptor is well made and works fine - it is probably not as well finished as the cameraquest adaptors. The camera works very well with Canon FD lenses and I find that I can use the zoom feature to focus manually with ease (after some practice). As stated in the review MF is difficult in low light. The FD lenses perform very well - especially lenses from 24mm to 200mm. I have played around with the 300 f2.8 and it works well if you are careful. Once you get to about 200mm or you use very wide aperture (e.g. 85 F1.2 at F1.2, 135 f2 at F2 or the 200 f2.8 at F2.8) you really need a tripod or bean bag to steady the camera as the DOF is so small. I have found the image quality with old canon FD glass to be extremely good - much better than with the standard Panasonic zoom. The only issue I have found is that if you shoot almost into the sun you get remarkably low contrast. I suspect that this is due to the lack of an anti-reflection coating on the rear lens element. I think this results in light reflecting off the sensor, onto the rear lens element and back to the sensor. As I say this only occurs when the sun is in or almost in the shot. I have found that it is best to use ISo 100 or 400 - the camera is Ok at ISO 800 but I find it rather noisy. The quality of the image is very good - much better than I expected. If Panasonic (or Olympus) ever manages to fit IS into the body then this is a real winner - especially if they can improve the EVF even more.
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    • I've had the G1 since January and added the Cameraquest adaptor for FD as soon as it was available. I only had an old FD 50 f/1.8 still laying around but the results from it were so nice--and fun, may I add--that I bought several more from KEH. I wanted to consider size/weight (since I was coming from 5D and large lenses, both primes and zooms) so stuck with the smaller lenses--24 f/2.8, 35 f/2.8, 135 f/2.8--so gave up the faster, larger, heavier lenses and these are very well balanced on the G1. I've since added a Konica Hexanon 40 f/1.8 which I love. It had to be converted to 4/3rds (easy for someone with mechanical ability--not me LOL) and used with the Panasonic MA-1 adaptor. Its still very small. I also added the Oly 9-18 WAZ, so that gives me quite a nice FL range with some faster MF lenses (which I tend to use in preference to the AF Panny lenses because I like primes--I also have the 45-200 with IS as well as the very good 'kit' lens, 14-45). I've become a real fan of the G1--use the EVF almost exclusively. I never thought I would say that LOL--but I find I'm picking up the G1 every day instead of the 5D which I've had going on 4 years (and a number of 1.6x bodies prior). I'm surprised that other adaptors haven't been mentioned. In another forum (getdpi.com---4/3rds forum) there are many lenses being used from cine lenses to most any other lens you can imagine--sans the Canon EFs (its been sampled once but with stacked adaptors and wide open since there is now no adaptor that allows the electrical contacts for aperture--nor do I expect there will be). There is a great little list kept up to date with lens adaptors/lens possible http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dx428wg_10fdvsmtd7 For those that are interested in the new GH1 (only available in Japan at this date) and its video abilities, check Vimeo and the GH1 group and esp. look for videos by Phil Bloom (and you might look for his video blog). I have no interest in video, but the results are very good. The new Panasonic 7-14 f/4 and 14-140 f/4 are available in Japan also, so those should be available elsewhere in the world soon. There is a 20 f/1.7 (pancake--I'm expecting to buy this) and 45 macro on the roadmap---most expect them in late Summer. And--of course, Olympus has been dropping hints about what its m4/3rds may be like--and there is a strong rumor that they are to introduce 4 m4/3rds lenses at the same time. Diane
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    • "Interesting" to read a review that does not address picture quality (but promotes the biz of Mr. Gandy, who charges 30 USD for an envelope and a stamp)
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    • Yeah, I can see eos adapter isn't perfect for eos glass due to wide open only option. However with eos adapter you can then adapt other affordable nikon to eos, or olympus to eos or pentax to eos adapter. Well affordable meaning like what Jinfinance at ebay gets for his: under $20 delivered. He too has customer satisfaction so this isn't unique to cameraquest adapters. I have bought 25 jinfinance adapters over the years. Never got a bad one. Same exact adapters would have run me additional $3,875 via cameraquest: 25 adapters times $150-$160 savings for each one! So with same 25 adapters inhand from Jinfinance I saved enough coin to pay for both my brand new Canon 5D in 2008 & $75 in change to spare.
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    • ""Interesting" to read a review that does not address picture quality (but promotes the biz of Mr. Gandy, who charges 30 USD for an envelope and a stamp)"

      The article wasn't supposed to be a pixel peeper review. I made that pretty clear. There are plenty of anal-retentive "never used by a real photographer" image quality reviews out there you can read all day long. I aim to write something a little different.

      As for Cameraquest, Stephen Gandy has always done right by me and I would recommend him to anyone who asked. But if you don't like him, that's fine. There are many other camera retailers out there. Your "subtle" innuendo that this article is somehow not valid because I personally have a good opinion of Cameraquest is baseless at best. You are welcome to have whatever opinion you want of camera retailers. But to cast some sort of shadow over my writing and opinions just because they don't match your opinion of a specific retailer is pretty sad.

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    • Has anyone got experience of using OM lenses with the Panasonic G-1? How do they "fit" together - do they "feel" right? Andrew
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    • Did any teſted lens cauſe vignetting and (or) chromatic aberration, as do the kit lenses?
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    • Did any teſted lens cauſe vignetting and (or) chromatic aberration, as do the kit lenses?

      It is highly unlikely that any manual lens used via an adapter would cause vingetting. Since the manual lenses would have been designed for a 35mm "sensor" size and the cropped portion of the image circle that the G1 uses is much smaller than that 35mm, the camera is not using the corners of the image circle that are where vingetting shows up. If that makes any sense.

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    • Traditional optical design lenses (i.e. those that are not telecentric) will cause light falloff on the G1 near the edge of the field of view, due to the light not striking the sensor sites perpendicular. This can be confused as vignetting, which it technically is not, but looks similar. Regarding the claim of the kit lens having chromatic aberration, Panasonic designed the kit lens, camera and software to operate as a SYSTEM to produce a final image. As such the software (JPEG engine in-camera, or SilkyPix Developer for RAW files) will do the final correction for chromatic aberration. So if you take the quality of the kit lens by itself, it will display more chromatic aberration than one would expect of a camera of this caliber. But the final image quality from the Panasonic software is very well corrected, to the point that many reviews have commented specifically about the level of quality.
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    • Traditional optical design lenses (i.e. those that are not telecentric) will cause light falloff on the G1 near the edge of the field of view, due to the light not striking the sensor sites perpendicular. This can be confused as vignetting, which it technically is not, but looks similar.

      It looks like I don’t know what vignetting is… back to the Google univerſity.

      Regarding the claim of the kit lens having chromatic aberration, Panasonic designed the kit lens, camera and software to operate as a SYSTEM to produce a final image. As such the software (JPEG engine in-camera, or SilkyPix Developer for RAW files) will do the final correction for chromatic aberration. So if you take the quality of the kit lens by itself, it will display more chromatic aberration than one would expect of a camera of this caliber. But the final image quality from the Panasonic software is very well corrected, to the point that many reviews have commented specifically about the level of quality.

      Sorry, not good enough. Not for pixel peepers, which I am not, becauſe ðey will notice increaſed noiſe and diminiſhed reſolution, nor for free ſoftware uſer, which I am, becauſe SilkyPix is not free ſoftware and will not run on a free, ſafe operating ſyſtem.

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    • Why put a Leica M lens on this thing when all you get is tiny center crop? The small sensor really is a letdown.
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    • Why put a Leica M lens on this thing when all you get is tiny center crop? The small sensor really is a letdown.

      No, it is just what is needed to avoid at least some of the light fall-off and chromatic aberrations inherent in using non-telecentric lenses on digital bodies.

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    • Since I last commented 3 days ago about the Micro 4/3 adapters available for sale in global marketplace, I've now ordered from Jinfinance at ebay: Eos to Micro 4/3 at $79.50 & FD to Micro 4/3 at $93.50 & C Mount to Micro 4/3 at $38.50. I am not sure why the Panasonic made 4/3 to micro 4/3 adapter is hard to come by? I looked & immediately located one from my favorite online vendor in USA: B&H for $139.95 Here's the handy link for MA1 the "very hard to find" $139.95 Genuine Panasonic 4/3 to m4/3 adapter, "instock" via B&H. I ordered up mine tonight, & its been in stock for days. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/588085-REG/Panasonic_DMW_MA1_DMW_MA1_Mount_Adapter_to.html Lindy
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    • EOS to MFT? But EF lenses don't have an aperture ring. So how will you adjust the aperture? Happy shooting, Yakim.
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    • Hi Yakim, I choose Eos to Micro 4/3 to then use/stack my vast array of other adapters like: Oly OM to Eos Nikon to Eos Pentax K to Eos I am quite satisfied with the performance above three adapters I sourced from Jinfinance at ebay so I felt the eos to m4/3 was a great choice for me. A couple years ago I located a new in the box, genuine OM to Oly 4/3 for $40 so I figured having the pansonic 4/3 to micro 4/3 would be smart to add to it. Thats why I ordered up the genuine panasonic adapter to stack with it. Well that and the article here says the panasonic made adapter is very hard to find inspite of fact its been instock for $139.95 at B&H since this article posted. I'll probably get GH1 at somepoint later rather than sooner. At least now I'll have almost all the adapter options covered, well all the options I actually own adaptable glass for. I'm looking at Spring 2010 to get a HD dslr or GH1. The new Pentax K-7 came up out of nowhere, I feel some of its HD related specs are above both Nikon and Canon HD Dslrs at this moment. But I like alot of features of GH1 so I commited to the adapter purchase incase I later persue the panasonic option for HD. As it is I own 3 brands of dslrs: 5D, D700, K20D, so I can swing in which ever direction suits me best or go panasonic instead. I have a gut feeling both Canon and Nikon will respond with HD Dslrs that better compete with new Pentax K-7. If the Pentax K-7 had articulated viewscreen I would have likely skipped GH1 entirely. With these micro 4/3 adapters inhand the field is open to me to decide "who" in 2010 I'll buy my first HD Dslr from. Today the GH1 makes most sense as I own numerous lenses that will work with it. But in reality, "today" there is no GH1 or K-7 as each is announced for delivery in next few weeks. You know, then all the reviews will post, the utube videos will post and bugs need to be sorted out before I decide.
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    • But how will you adjust the aperture? Happy shooting, Yakim.
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    • You cannot adjust eos lens aperture. Wide open only. I guess I'll try my array of eos lenses wide open but its not why I ordered up eos to m4/3 adapter. I am using this eos to m4/3 adapter to stack adapters I already own to use old pentax, old nikon, old om glass. I do not own any 4/3 lenses. As far as adjusting aperture on Nikon G lens, like my 14-24mm 2.8 thats what the C Mount to m4/3 adapter I ordered is for. I own a original nikon F-C adapter and with cable relase I can adjust G series lens with it. I know, I already confirmed this. Over the years I've added numerious gear to my kit. GH1 puts about everything I have into play for HD. Thats why I ordered up the adapters. As it is its a good chance it'll be the HD I choose due to all the old glass, like Canon FD I still own here's link to eos to m4/3 I'm chatting about: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=350201470018 Lindy
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    • Got it. All the best. Me? I'll wait for an AS version or to a Canon version which is under development. Exciting times we live in. Happy shooting, Yakim.
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    • Anybody seen a launch price for the next two Genuine Panasonic m4/3 lensmount adapters? Here's the press release on May 21 2009: "Panasonic has announced the DMW-MA2M M-mount adaptor and the DMW-MA3R R-mount adaptor for its Lumix G Micro System. Both Panasonic adaptors allow the use of movable MF assist function, which enlarges a selected area when focusing manually. The new adapters add to the list of third-party adapters designed to attach Leica M or R lenses to the DMC-G1 and DMC-GH1." "May 21, 2009: Panasonic is pleased to announce two new mount adaptors, the M Mount Adaptor DMW-MA2M and R Mount Adaptor DMW-MA3R, to further enhance the photographic experience with cameras from the Lumix G Micro System. The M Mount Adaptor and R Mount Adaptor are developed under support of Leica Camera AG, making it possible to attach Leica M lenses (DMW-MA2M) or R lenses (DMW-MA3R) on DMC-G1 and DMC-GH1. Users can enjoy outstanding image rendering offered by the combination of high quality Leica lenses and Lumix G cameras that are full of Panasonic's cutting edge digital technologies. These adaptors also allow users to use the movable MF assist function, which enlarges the selected area when focusing manually."
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    • Well, it took 6 days from Shanghi to USA to receive my Jinfinance m4/3 adapters package. I got me a C Mount to m4/3 Canon FD to m4/3 Canon Eos to m4/3 and coincidentally my B&H Panasonic brand 4/3 to m4/3 arrived also. It took 6 days also ;^) I noticed Jinfinance now offers his Olympus Pen to m4/3 adapter now at $94.50 delivered: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=350204254064 I don't know when I'll get a GH1 or G1 but atleast I won't have to wait for adapters. Fit & finish on all adapters including others I added to this order are real nice as typical from this adapter manufacturer. I suddenly have about 2 dozen lenses that will work with GH1 & G1. I'm not counting eos lenses, as the adapter is real tight. However for my numerous other mount to eos adapters they fit real good & snug with positive click lock. I cannot control aperture anyways on eos, I just got eos lens to m4/3 to stack other mount adapters to m4/3. I am looking foward to HD video clips from GH1 shot via alternative lenses... I wonder if that long overdue micro 4/3 olympus due to announce on June 12th 2009 will be neater than GH1 or G1??? I have the luxury to wait & see how the hands on reviews shake out Has anyone required service on their G1? If so how was the experience and turnaround time?
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    • I love adapting other lenses to cameras, especially since so many good old ones are available at reasonable prices. However, after suffering for 2 years with terrible Olympus optical viewfinders and doing manual focus with them, the Panasonic G1's SVGA EVF is a Godsend. Manual focus is easy, even in dim lighting. Because I had numerous 4/3rds adapters left over from when I owned Olympus, I was able to use them all with a u4/3rds to 4/3rds adapter which meant I didn't have to duplicate adapters for the G1. Of course, I had to get M-lens adapters and a Canon EOS adapter because they didn't exist in 4/3rds configurations. I especially like using high-grade and tiny c-mount lenses on the G1 as it makes it hyper-portable. The c-mount lenses that are made for 1" CCTV sensors more or less cover the whole 4/3rds sensor size.
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    • I will cut it short. As a street photographer I hardly can imagine a more intelligent design for a camera than the G-1. The flippable back, plus the electronic viewfinder, make up for a myriad of conspicuous and unconspicuos shooting possiblities. And combining these with all other features of the camera - it all ends with a camera that I will choose instead of another having much higher sensor capabilities. On top of all these, having the best manual focus legacy lens option = an astonishing camera, Maitani would be proud to be its designer. As for the EVF, I would like to clear cut state that it is by no means a second rate type of viewfinder. On the contrary, its electronic capability to zoom/focus x10 both with AF and MF lens, makes a more desirable option than a traditional mirror. Have no doubt, many digitals will come and go, the G-1 will remain a classic.
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    • Realizing that this excellent review is now ancient and nobody is probably reading any more, I have a question.  Josh's review mentions "Image Stablization" in a heading but then never says anything else about it.  I would want to know, does the camera's IS work when using legacy manual lenses and if so, how well?

       

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    • All - Please join the official Panasonic Facebook account on http://Facebook.com/Panasonic as well as our Twitter: http://twitter.com/panasonicdirect and Flickr: http://flickr.com/groups/lumixlovers ... Enjoy!

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    • image stabilization only works with the Panasonic/Zuikio/Leica lens designed for micro 4/3 cameras and best if compatible software is installed.  So far all my "old" manual camera lenses  work well on manual focus and I have not seen light fall-off on the margins of the images.  My Nikon lens perform exceptionally well as do my Carl Zeiss lenses.  And with manual focus lenses the MF fine focus assist works well on the G1.  I really pleased and the circle of confusion is only apparent when the images are excessively enlarged.

      I should add that I also have mounted my Kiev lenses on the G1 with satisfactory results.  Most  old 35 mm lenses can be mounted with the appropriate adapter. I use Pixco adapters with really good results.  Don't toss old lenses, despite comments on the net that they don't focus well on the sensors this is just nonsense, with the right adapter they work well.

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    • When I decided to switch from film to digital, I chose this camera after seeing some of the work my mom was producing using her pre-G1 Lumix. I am a self taught photographer still learning the trade, but I have found the options offered (still learning them all) are very useful. I wouldn't dream of using a different camera. Probably not the most helpful review post, but I just wanted to put it out there: this camera ROCKS.

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