Compared to the GF1
Oddly, the first thing I notice about the Panasonic GX1 is that it seems considerably smaller than its spiritual though not literal predecessor, the GF1. It is in fact only barely smaller by the numbers: 2.7mm less wide and 2.2mm less tall. The GX1's thickness measurement is greater, but only because of the bigger grip; the body itself is a few millimeters thinner.
Yet it just feels smaller. A number of factors probably contribute to this: the fact that I've had a Kirk L-bracket tripod mount on the GF1 that I'm too lazy to take off when I don't need it, which adds 74.2 g to the weight; the plainer, less ergonomic body shape of the GF1; and the fact that the new camera tilts my gram scale at 316.1 g vs. the GF1's heavier 343.1 g.
So, two things: first, the GX1 feels much more ergonomic and hand-friendly than the slight differences would imply; and, second, the GX1 is also about as small as I'd ever want a camera to be. It fits my hands, but just barely.
In keeping with these other differences, the thumbrest is only slightly larger, deeper, and lower than the GF1's, yet it feels considerably better. Even so, it's about as small as it can be to be useful with my largish hands. (I have to admit, I don't think I've ever even noticed the thumbrest on the GF1, despite having used that camera a lot.)
Hand-feel is an individual thing, and you might feel differently. Ergonomically I like the GX1 quite a lot. The On-Off switch is nicely placed to turn on the camera by sliding your thumb up a bit, a motion that I'm sure will become second nature very soon. (I turn it off with my right index finger.) The handgrip is particularly nice, for my hands anyway. The thumb-side of my right middle finger lays in right alongside the inside the grip in comfortable fashion, putting my hand in perfect position to work the controls. Mikey likes it.
On the down side: there's nothing wrong with the construction quality of the GX1; but the GF1 just feels a bit more more solid, better put together, more deluxe. Maybe it's the weight; maybe it's the finish; maybe it's the fact that the mode dial of the GF1 has an incrementally smoother feel and a cleaner click as it hits its detents. The dial on the new camera feels just noticeably cheaper. Not a big deal.
Overall, though, it's just funny how much better Panasonic has made the new camera feel by tweaking things just a little. I'll shut up about this now.
Compared to the G3
Now then. Compared to the very similar Panasonic G3, I'd have to say that the SLR-style G3 is more practical in almost every way at the moment. It's a lot cheaper, since it's on closeout for $249 right now, and especially considering the extra $180 you have to pay for the LVF-2 add-on viewfinder for the GX1 (the EVF is built-in on the G3, of course). The G3 is shorter than the GX1 when the latter has its viewfinder in place, even though it is about 69 grams heavier. The controls are similar and so is the sensor (at least according to external reports—I haven't compared for myself).
And of course the G3 has one more big advantage—an articulated viewing screen.
Consider intangibles, though, and the equation flips. The G3 feels like a polycarbonate appliance in comparison. Nothing wrong with that, but it's like a bargain kitchen knife set from Target as opposed to one Miyabi Morimoto chef's knife, or last year's Chevy Malibu vs. a Volkwagen GTI. The GX1 is just a much nicer thing, and it feels better—nicer to hold and use—and it's nicer to look at. More pleasing all around, sez me. I'd use it more.
Nothing wrong with a G3, of course—and there's absolutely no sensible reason to switch should you already own a G3. (I hear they're reliable, too.) But unless I was being frugal, I'd pick the GX1 over the G3 any day.
I'll see your flippin' viewing screen and raise you a flippin' EVF
...To be fair, the GX1 can do a few tricks the G3 can't. You can take the EVF entirely off the GX1, for one thing, if you don't want it or need it. (I typically just need the EVF outdoors in bright light, for instance, and I use the viewing screen in dim light.) And the GX1 electronic viewfinder can do this:
The viewfinder can stand all the way up, so you can use it like an angle finder or like a chimney finder. Now, once upon a time I wouldn't have given two figs about this, but then I tried a flip-up electronic viewfinder like this on the Ricoh GXR—and discovered I liked it. It can be very comfortable. And handy sometimes as well.
And of course you can use the GX1 like this, too:
This is a Voigtländer 35mm OVF. Not an exact match for the 40mm-e 20mm, but close enough for government work.
I guess you could clip an optical viewfinder to the hot shoe of the G3, too...if you're the type who doesn't mind wearing black socks with sandals. Dorky. Of course, as every guy wearing black socks and sandals will tell you, appearances aren't everything.
The final issue I have to acknowledge is that personal history counts for a bit. Not just in terms of a warm squishy friendly feeling, but in terms of a continuing familiarity. Longtime Canon DSLR users feel more comfortable with new Canon DSLRs, longtime Nikon DSLR users feel more comfortable with new Nikon DSLRs. Just the way it is. As I've mentioned before, I've used the GF1 more than any other camera over the last three years, so I probably feel a little more comfortable with the GX1 than I would if I were coming to it cold.
• • •
More in a few weeks, after I've had a chance to shoot with this little beaut for a while.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
A product of interest today:
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Gato: "Reading your comments about G3, it's just about what I have been saying about the G5 vs. the GX1. Thanks to a small cash windfall and the pre-Christmas sales, I wound up with both. On paper, making lists of pluses and minuses, the G5 wins. Wins big with the articulated LCD, auto switching from LCD to EVF and even a bit smaller in the bag (compared to the GX1 with EVF). The G5 grip fits my hand better, though the GX1 just feels more solid.
"In the end, when I pick up a camera to make pictures it's the GX1 pretty much every time. I have to make an effort to use the G5, even just to give it a fair chance. The GX1 just has so much more a quality feel.
"The damn people at Panasonic offer everything I want in a camera, but they won't put all the pieces in the same body. Damn."
D. Hufford (partial comment): "Any camera with a tiltable viewfinder gets extra points from me now. I cannot live without one after having used one on my Olympus E-P3 for the last 18 months. When I pick up one of my Nikon DSLRs with the shut-up-and-look-through-it-the-way-Nikon-says old-timey view finder, I feel restricted. In fact, I now feel handicapped."
Matt (partial comment): "'Utilitarian' is not really a dirty word, just a dull one. I think the G3 is actually a very, very good camera, even though it only whispers 'use me' instead of screaming 'love me!'"
For the full text of partial comments, see the Comments Section. —Ed.