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Field Review: Panasonic GF-1 (Day 2)

by Chris Gampat on 09/09/2010

The Panasonic GF-1stayed in the bag most of the time on this day as I was using the Leica M7a lot more for a personal project, but the results that did come out were, well, blah. In fact, I’d find them unacceptable. Then I ran them through Lightroom to see to my surprise what are perhaps some of the most versatile RAW images files I’ve ever seen in a review.

With the M Classics Compact Bag

First off, the M Classics bag is absolutely wonderful and I believe totally worth the money if you can afford it. Make no mistake, the bag I’m using isn’t the one on the page there. It is different. If you’d like more info about it you’d have to email Seth at the email address on that site. Trust me when I say that you’ll never want another bag again unless you need more space. Though here are some specs on it:

Fabric: Cabriolet cloth, same as spec’d by Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and BMW in their convertible topped cars. It’s a colorfast acrylic weave backed by embossed cotton/poly cloth. In between is a layer of butyl rubber for waterproofing. It has all the durability, clean-ability, waterproofing, and function that one would expect from their car top.

Leather: Hand selected, vegetable tanned, saddle and bridle leather.

Hardware: Solid brass

Design: The design philosophy is focused on speedy access to the gear, discrete looks, and all-day comfort.

- Straps attach at the rear of the bag for a comfortable hang-angle to access gear….easier and faster than reaching around a side mounted strap.

- The shoulder strap has a sliding pad as well as adjustment slides on both ends. This allows for a very high carry that is favored by many photojournalists. The high, under arm carry makes for stability while running.

- There is a suspended “speed pocket” inside. When the camera is placed on its left side in this pocket, the right side of the camera is well positioned under your hand as ysou reach in the bag for a fast shot. That pocket is reinforced with leather so that “re-holstering” the camera is fast and easy as well. This fast in and out makes for very discrete shooting on the street.

- Two front pockets provide space for miscellany like films, meter, batteries, even another camera body.

- Two additional accessory pockets are inside for cell phone, media/memory cards etc.

- There’s a map/document pocket inside as well.

- The Velcro on the underside of the flap spans its length so that the flap will sufficiently grab some portion of the Velcro on the front pockets, even when simply dropping the flap. No need to carefully reposition the flap when trying to grab a fast shot.

- We provide two small leather backed Velcro patches so that you can selectively disable as much of the Velcro closure as needed for your shooting scenario. At weddings or when shooting other quiet events, even a small noise from Velcro can be a problem. This system gives the photographer control.

Construction: Our bags are all bench-made, by hand in our small New England shop.

Either way, the Compact bag was able to hold the Leica M7(which I was mostly using), Panasonic GF-1(both with lenses attached), three rolls of film, my wallet, a spare shirt, lens cleaner, sensor cleaner, a bottle of Vitamin water, a bottle of Purel, and it still had room to spare.

Autofocus

The autofocus on the GF-1is spot on, fairly intelligent based on composition and fast. The most interesting feature perhaps may be to tracking focus. What one needs to do is first focus on an object/person/pet/zombie/thing-that-is-moving and then release the focus. The camera will continuously keep tracking it. It manages to do this quickly, accurately and quietly as well. Tracking happens as the subject moves from left to right within the frame as well as forward and backward.

Image Quality

Out of camera image quality isn’t the greatest—even with the highly rated Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lensattached to it. Perhaps it may be great for amateurs and hobbyists, but for people that make a living off of their images you’ll need to work some more in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3or Adobe Photoshop CS5as part of the normal post-production process. More on that later. However, the GF-1does have different “Film settings” that allow the user to dial in different contrast, tone and contrast settings for each different film mode as well as adding its own settings. Admittedly, these haven’t been experimented with yet though the camera has mostly been shooting in the “Dynamic” film mode.

High ISO shooting hasn’t been given a full run-through yet, but that will change.

Raw File Versatility

Now I really understand why everyone is raving about this camera and how amazingly awesome it is. The raw files are extremely versatile and allow for the most subtle of changes. Much more versatile than anything I’ve shot out of something like the Leica M9during its review period. I compare it to that because the camera feels and acts very Leica-like.

If there is a reason to buy this camera, it is the raw file versatility. This is great for a student that wants to experience all the tweaking and processing that needs to be done in the digital darkroom but doesn’t want something as big as a Canon EOS Rebel T2i(review here.)

More to come in the review!

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