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Lumix G1

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I bought my G1 nearly a week ago now having only used a phone camera and a bog standard 5mp digi cam before this. But i fancied something i could learn with to get custom shots with all the settings set manually etc...but also something which, to start with, i can point and shoot. And i can say im not disappointed. Im a bit of a newbie in the camera world, im tech savvy but still getting used to the camera terminology so this might not be the most in depth review but it should be useful!So, lets get it out of the box. Mine was a display model so it had nearly full charge and a memory card already installed, but if yours hasnt then youll find the battery door on the bottom right hand side and the card door on the right edge. Sliding the card door open it does feel a little cheap and standard, and personally i would like to see the door bulked up about to cope with the continual opening and closing, after all this is a camera im going to be using for a fair few years. The card slots in nicely, not too stiff to lock in which is nice compared to my card reader... The battery compartment is a lot sturdier and locks in nicely with a sliding latch, it's recessed so accidental openage shouldnt be an issue. (Yes, i made that word up).Time to stick a lens on it, i bought the kit which comes with a 14-45mm lens, but the same procedure applies to other lenses too. Firstly take off the lens caps and they seem of good quality, not cheap plastic! Hold the lens against the body and twist it to about 45 degrees and line up the red dot on the camera and lens you will feel it slip in to the housing, twist the lens so the dot is now at the top and your lens is securely fitted in place. It is a satisfying feel and again feels like quality rather than cheapness. Thats it! Provided you have a charged battery you can take photos. I find it easier to use the LCD display so flip that out to the left and twist it so it is upside down and then i find it easier to fold it back into place on the camera body, this is a good feature of the screen as you can have it screen side in for carrying and protecting the LCD, or screen side out for easy viewing and for more awkward shots fold the screen out and angle it. Once you have the screen as you want it push the small On/off switch/lever forward and you will see the amazing speed with which the camera powers on, much less than a second, and probably less than half a second, it really is good. More than likely the camera will be set to intelligent auto (A red IA symbol). This is perfect for point and shoot of any subject, person, animal, scenery, macro etc... It really is ideal. It will auto select the aperture, ISO, focus... everything, all you need to do is zoom the lens, half depress the shutter button (very easy to feel the half way point so you dont accidentally shoot blurred images all the time) and within a second, usually less, the image will be focussed upon one (for portrait/macro) or many (for scenery etc...) points which will be shown by a brief green square. If taking longer shots with not much going on (eg a blue sky with no clouds) focussing can take some time as the camera has nothing to focus on, and when doing macro it can pay to hold your hand behind the object if it is full of holes or something such as the space between the petals of a flower as the camera will tend to focus on the background, but this is solved in macro mode. Fully depress the shutter and you will hear the very satisfying slick of the shutter and your image will be displayed on the LCD for a few seconds. To play back your saved images press the green play button and use the arrow buttons to scroll through the images. For a grid view roll the function wheel on the front-right of the camera to the left, to zoom roll it right. Ill talk about the function button later.So now you can see the brilliant qualities of the IA mode and how useful it is. But the camera has other built in functions too such as the scene (SCN) mode, macro mode (flower icon) and portrait mode (face icon). all of these can be used as-is to take photos of that type, my two favourites are the SCN mode and using the sunset mode or the macro mode with the flower settings. The flower macro mode is particularly useful when you want the focal point to be something like a flower rather than the gaps between petals as the screen is divided into 9 equal cells and by default the camera tries to focus in the centre cell or as close to the centre as possible so you can place the centre of the flower in the middle of the middle cell and 95% of the time it will focus correctly, then simply pan the camera to get the flower or focal point in the right area of the shot and take the photo. Very useful mode!There are also custom modes in which you set specific values, the most used one for me is the shutter priority mode (S) in which you can set the shutter speed from 60 seconds to thousandths of a second, perfect for high speed photos or longer shots like trailing car lights etc... Be aware though that nothing is automatic here except the focus, you will need to manually set the ISO sensitivity to get the right exposure. There are also aperture modes and fully custom modes which i havent explored enough to write about yet. Overall the range of shots available is impressive, i have some excellent shots of a red damselfly in vivid colours against a green leaf, the damselfly is about 2000px or more in size on-screen which was taken using the flower option of the macro mode with impressive clarity. And on the opposite end of the scale i have some lovely warm shots taken using the sunset mode which is focussed to infinity with the land going for a fair few miles and the sky creeping in. The zoom lens you get in the camera kit is ideal for someone such as me who is branching into the SLR arena (even though the G1 isnt strictly an SLR...) in tele mode (IE at 14mm) it has an impressive field of view which allows very wide scenery shots to be taken and would be useful for indoor shots of events like parties, christmas etc... and at full telescopic range of 45mm you get a fair zoom, maybe 4x or more, i dont really know, but it is more than capable of taking shots 50m away of medium to large birds for example, even though it looks small on the LCD screen or the view finder, once at 100% zoom the images are actually pretty large and zoomed in, at large image size the images are 4000x3000px and the screen itself is only probably 400px in ordinary monitor resolution but you will get used to the sizing after use. So far a few minor issues have been the shutter speed being slightly too slow in IA mode, but that can be changed in the custom modes and due to inexperience it has been sometimes hit and miss with the macro focussing. But both of these can be cancelled out with experience.The camera comes with:two lens drawstring bags, one of which is big enough for the camera as a temporary casea shoulder strap (for safety the manual says use it for your shoulder but i hang it from my neck)the 14-45mm lens (only in the "kit" version, not the "body only" box) both lens caps and the body cap.camera to TV lead camera to PC (usb) leadAC charger with socket for AC>camera lead but none supplied)DriversImage editing software (silkypix) The kit contains everything you need to go out and take photos EXCEPT a memory card, so be sure to buy one or make sure you have one to use. Since mine was charged i took it out the box and took some photos of the lake nearby which came out very well. I would suggest buying a tripod, i went for the joby gorilla pod as it is more versatile, if you choose the joby pods then be sure to get the SLR one or the model above which can both support the weight of the camera and a small lens, the bigger pod can hold 6lbs so that will cover almost every situation and lens!The function wheel on the front is a very clever idea, it has no set function but is mapped by the function in use, so for example when using the playback function the wheel is mapped to zoom (scroll right) and grid view (left) in IA mode it is mapped to the white balance and in the custom modes clicking the wheel changes its function from ISO, white balance, shutter speed and aperture depending on the mode you are using. It is an extremely versatile and useful little toggle, much easier than the arrow buttons on the back of the camera and cleverly placed to be just above the natural position of your index finger for easy use during shooting.There are many more features i havent mentioned here such as the burst mode, self timer etc... i will mention the burst mode briefly though as it could help wildlife photographers! Above the on/off switch is another toggle, the second option above self-timer is the burst mode, if you select this you can press and hold the shutter button to constantly take photos up to 3/second until the card is full, useful for things like flying birds or insects or running animals so you can select the best shots. And remember to use the self timer mode for those long shutter speed shots to eliminate the shaking of the camera when you press the shutter!To summarizeOverall i think the camera is superb! I give it a 98/100 the 2 missing points are just there because nothing deserves 100 and the card door could be more sturdy. The battery life is excellent, i took 317 photos, all using the LCD screen, image stabilization and auto focus in about an hour with the camera on all the time and didnt loose a single bar of battery (measured in thirds). The average image size when set to large size and fine quality is about 3mb so make sure your card is big enough, i used about a gig with those 317 shots over an hour period. So if you were going out for a whole day i would suggest at least a 4gb card, to be safe id say an 8gb which is the size i use. That way you can comfortably stay out all day taking multiple photos of each shot to select the best and be sure your memory wont fill up! The camera will take SD and SDHC (is that right?) cards and can save in JPEG or RAW format, but of course the RAW images are absolutely huge!!!The LCD is suitably bright for all conditions and the electronic view finder is brilliant. It shows all the information that is on the LCD and has a small wheel to the left to focus the EVF display, so the use of the EVF or LCD is purely personal preference.Focussing is very easy and zooming is just as easy, and all but the tiniest of hands will find the camera very comfortable to hold. The advert shows a girl holding the camera and taking photos with one hand and this is not unreasonable! It would take a very steady hand not to shake somewhat but it is comfortable and light enough to hold with one hand. The design is extremely good!The buttons and interfaces are very well designed and easy to use, the menus are split into pages of 6 entries each so the font is clearly visible and large, the buttons are small yet easy to press without hitting multiple ones by accident and the function wheel adds another dimension to the abilities of the buttons and toggles. Remember to enjoy your camera! No matter what make! And if you are thinking of getting the G1 i recommend it highly! Especially if you are a leisure photographer! I have some shots up at http://forums.xisto.com/no_longer_exists/ in the "Ingreborne" gallery. But this site is still under construction so be patient! All the photos currently there were taken with the G1 and the 14-45mm lens with no filters.

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