Panasonic GX1 - why don't I like using it?


Do you ever think either of these when you are out shooting? - "Why don't I use this camera more often?" or "I wish I'd brought something else." I've had exactly those experiences over the last two days. The first with my Sony NEX-7 and the second with my Panasonic GX1.

The GX1 should be a camera that ticks a lot of my boxes. I have bought two of them after all. Its rangefinderesque, it looks like a scaled down version of the "brick" the Panasonic L1, a camera I really liked, its small, light and takes a good picture. And yet every time I take it out to use it, I do indeed think "I wish I'd brought something else." Its one of those cameras that look great on the shelf, but for me doesn't feel particularly comfortable when I'm out shooting with it. I had the same feeling about the GF1 and I bought two of those as well.

So whats the problem? Well the problem is that I'm a fusspot, which has been mentioned once or twice on certain forums. My particular cranky objection to the GX1 is that it feels somewhat "flimsy"and it has this characteristic Panasonic shutter action which is something I've never liked. 

I've seen various explanations for the rather strange double action that these cameras have. Apparently its because of the live view on either the screen or in the viewfinder. What happens is this :- Press shutter release button > Shutter closes >Shutter opens >Sensor is exposed >Shutter closes > Shutter opens. Now this does all happen pretty quickly but what happens is that I always get the feeling that I've taken the picture at a slow shutter speed. Certainly its not a very positive action and I always get the feeling that it hasn't fired properly. It happens on all m4/3 cameras, and it seems to be better with fast primes and worse with zooms. This is one of the reasons I like the G5 electronic shutter so much because it doesn't do this. Sony use a different system in their NEX cameras I gather.

This may seem almost trivial but pressing the shutter is pretty important in the picture taking process and to my mind it should feel positive and convincing, a kind of affirmation of my decision of what to record for posterity. However with a camera like the GX1 I always have the impression that I haven't got the shot. Firstly I'm not sure at which point in this clunking process its actually taking the picture and secondly, even after all these years of using m4/3 I still haven't got used to this double action going on when I press the shutter down.

The other "flimsiness" I dislike with the GX1 is the small buttons and wheels. Yesterday I was adding + or - exposure quite a lot and I had cold hands so they kept slipping and I ended up altering the aperture instead. The wheel on the back of the camera is extremely small and nothing like as easy to use as the equivalents on an OM-D or NEX-7 for example.  

Now this is all very personal, but isn't that what choosing a camera is all about? We all work in different ways and some cameras are a "good fit" and some aren't.  So despite my appreciation of the GX1 aesthetic, in going out and using it for real photography, I'm not so convinced. It did bring home to me just how much I preferred using the NEX-7. In a situation where I have cameras that produce pretty similar results, then things like this become more important. I keep thinking that I should make more effort to like using the GX1, but then why should I bother? Surely its more important to have a camera I like using rather than keep persisting with something that doesn't work for me just because I like the look of it? As I said, a fusspot!!

I will end on a positive note however, the GX1 does take a great picture.









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