Let’s admit it right away : While I have been using 4/3rds and M4/3rds cameras since I started shooting digital, I have never used a Panasonic camera. One of the main reasons is, I guess, that Panasonic being a electronic giant , they decided, early on, to develop cameras with a strong focus ( pun intended) on video. As it happens, after a decade of shooting digital, I still have very little interest in shooting video.
On the plus side, this means that I cannot be suspected of some bias when I write that , as far as digital cameras are concerned, 2014 may be considered as the Panasonic year.
Back a few years ago, between its G, GH, GF lines it seemed that Panasonic did not seem sure of their client target and some of their models seemed a little bit “off” compared to the competition..
Since last year , they have revamped their product line in what I believe a pretty efficient way.
First, on the top of the pyramid, we have the GH4 widely acclaimed for both its still and video performance. This came after Panasonic introduced in August 2013 the GX7 a successful “rangefinder style model” with an innovative tilt built-in EVF.
Later on , we got the tiny GM-1, arguably the first one to take full advantage of the relatively small size of m4/3 versus APS. Obviously , the larger and heavier m4/3 lenses, while technically usable, are not going to be very practical in daily use on this diminutive body but there are still enough to choose from on the Panasonic/ Olympus lens line . On the Panasonic side, in addition to the new 12-32mm zoom, the 14mm and the 20mm come to mind. At olympus, the 45mm is going to make a great combo for portraits.
Barely a year later , comes the GM-5 which is basically a gm-1 with a built-in EVF.Personally, I find the GM models a tad too small to hold comfortably ( there is an optional grip that helps a little bit) but people with smaller hands will probably like it. It is also a great back up body for m4/3 users wanting to travel light but with the security of an extra body ” just in case “.
During the last 5 months, Panasonic focused on its fixed lenses products. In March it was the Fz-1000 model, an expert bridge camera with a long and useful zoom reach but a bright max aperture across the entire range. (2.8 at wide FOV to a maximum of 4.0 at longest focal lengths). An interesting camera for many with the Sony Rx10 as sole competitor. Last month at photokina , Panasonic introduced the LX-100, a very interesting compact ( think cargo pants or coat pockets) with a very useful 24mm to 75mm zoom range ( in 35mm terms) and a constant max 2.8 aperture. What makes this camera stands out though is that these specs are achieved on a relatively large sensor for a compact. It is a multi-aspect ratio 16 mp sensor which, in real use, results in a 12 MP file (slightly smaller than m4/3 rd sensor). This also easier software corrections for the lens shortcomings.
The LX-100 sensor is significantly larger than the new trendy 1 inch sensor that seems to be de rigueur for expert compact cameras nowadays.
Speaking of 1″ sensor, Panasonic also introduced right at the Photokina the CM1 a smartphone with this sensor, which is pretty large fir a smartphone usually fitted with a very small sensor (1/2.3″ or 1/1.7” in most cases).
While I readily admit having no inclination to photograph with a phone , there is no denying that this constitutes real news in this segment and proves once more that compact cameras with tiny sensors are a dying breed.