Panasonic’s Lumix GF1—a great all-around travel camera

| April 5, 2010 | 15 Comments

The Virtual Backpack is all about finding those pieces of kit–the ones that stand out. The ones that have won important volume in your pack and deserve to be lugged around the planet. Join us as we take a closer look at gear from the perspective of the long-term traveler.

Kathyrn and I had—for a while now—been considering a new camera—one that we can bring along with us on our round-the-world trip. We’d been looking for something that was portable without having to sacrifice the bells and whistles of a traditional DSLR. With its great image quality and small body, it seemed that we had found the perfect camera in the Panasonic Lumix GF1. In many ways, the camera seemingly took the best of point-and-shoots and mixed those results with the best of the DSLRs.

panasonic gf1 Panasonics Lumix GF1—a great all around travel camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1—near perfection!

Micro Four Thirds standard

The GF1 is based on the Micro Four Thirds standard. This means that the camera eschews the conventional mirror in digital SLRs that traditionally bathe the sensor in light—the reason why the GF1 has a much smaller footprint compared with its bigger brethren. Put simply, this standard allows for smaller and lighter camera bodies and lenses by greatly simplifying the sometimes intricate optical path required by a conventional SLR.

Honestly, there’s not much we can say about the quality of the GF1 that hasn’t been said elsewhere. And rather than concentrate on a traditional review of the GF1, we’d do much better to simply link to Craig Mod’s review of the camera. It’s the review that caused us to pull the trigger.

What Others Say

For 16 days Craig field-tested the camera as he climbed through the valleys of central Nepal up to Annapurna Base Camp. Craig writes: “The compact combination of Panasonic’s GF1 body and the 20mm f1.7 Lumix pancake lens works with you as a traveller. It’s a light, sturdy, capable, exceptionally well conceived photography kit that demands to be taken on adventures.” Check out the exhaustive review here. Craig’s shots are amazing.

A near perfect travel camera

Thus far, we’ve been very impressed with this camera. We picked it up a couple of months ago and intend to use it as our main travel camera during our round-the-world trip. We agree with Craig Mod’s assessment that the GF1 is “a near perfect travel camera”.


If you’re considering the purchase, you’ll have to decide between two options for standard kit lenses—the more common 14–45mm lens or the now cult-classic 20mm f1.7 ‘pancake’ lens. We bought the package with the 20mm f1.7 ‘pancake’ lens—which is the lens we’d recommend based on reviews and—most importantly—size.

The ‘pancake’ lens keeps the camera’s profile small enough to slip into a pocket—almost. At the same time, however, it remains versatile enough to give great results in a variety of light situations. It makes for an interesting package—a normal range prime lens means no ‘zoom’—and you’ll have to shuffle back and forth in lieu of rotating a zoon ring. In the future, we’ll likely complement it with the 14-45mm OIS lens.

With the ‘pancake’ lens, our whole kit can now fit in a handlebar bag. The last time we travelled for a considerable length of time, we lugged around a Canon Rebel with an 18-55 kit lens. Not only did it take up a lot of space in our daypack—the kit was heavy! What’s more, the small profile of the GF1 has the added bonus of making you feel less conspicuous when taking pictures. So far, this seems to be the ultimate travel camera—an unobtrusive creative tool that you can carry anywhere! And one in which you don’t have to sacrifice results.


The build quality of the GF1 is solid—it feels like a sturdy truck in your hands—a piece of gear that won’t be any worse for wear on the road. To squeeze this level of image quality into a camera of this size was unheard of until just recently. The Micro Four Thirds standard delivers results that approximate the results achieved with entry-level DSLRs. Ultimately, the GF1 does not measure up as a substitute for DSLR, but serves as a great complement to one—especially for travellers wanting to carry a small light body.

For more information, check out the Panasonic Lumix GF1 on Amazon.  As far as we’re concerned, this little unit has won itself a place in both our real-world —and our virtual—backpack.

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Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. His latest book, The Physics of Flocking, gathers his favourite writing featured over the past two years on Two Go Round-The-World in columns like 'Looking Back' and 'The Whole Picture'—along with new reflections.

Comments (15)

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  1. I know that you can use an adaptor to use just about any lense, but what lenses are mad for the micro four-thirds cameras? Here is the deal, I am very very new to DSLR—and photography to be perfectly honest. I haven’t taken a photography class, I have used point and shoots like most human beings have and would like to walk around town taking pictures just for the hell of it—is this camera easy to use for somebody who has never really used a DSLR before? I want to get into this stuff, and feel that the best way to see if it really is worth is to get it and see how it goes. I just want to know if it is easy to use like a P&S but adjustable like a DSLR—if you know what I mean!

    • Daniel says:

      Most of the new DSLRs are simple to use — offering a fully automatic menu setting and the GF1 is no exception. Moreover, menus for changing options are easy to use and autofocus is simple and fast, too. Although it’s by no means an entry-level camera owing to its price, it’s great for beginners needing a camera well suited for lowlight/indoor situations. I could think of some other options potentially better suited to beginners, but this camera would do the trick, too!

  2. Josh says:

    I must admit that I had a brief bit of buyer’s remorse when I saw this- I just bought a Canon G11 for many of the same reasons you describe. I’m certainly happy with the G11 (and can’t really argue with the price), though the GF1 with Leica glass is a sweet setup.

    • Daniel says:

      Your buyer’s remorse would likely disappear after comparing the pricetag of the G11 with that of the GF1. I thought long and hard about picking up the G11—it’s one hell of a great camera. I was really intrigued, however, with the Micro Four Thirds standard. We just couldn’t let go of interchangeable lenses!

  3. Ryan & Liz says:

    Hey guys,

    This is an issue I’ve been going back and forth with for a while now. I’ve been debating on whether to go with a DSLR, or a high end P&S and after owning a couple DSLR’s, dealing with swapping expensive lenses, the weight, etc. I have decided that we’re going to go with the high end P&S.

    Personally I have never strayed from Canon, I love their product for many reasons, not only the fact that they are the best of the best.

    For P&S, I’ve been looking at the Canon SX200IS, and the newest SX210IS. Have you guys looked into these at all? No, they don’t offer interchangeable lenses but they have a lens that will cover just about any situation you come across! They seem to be fairly rugged, 3.0″ LCD, 12-14MP, Fairly Wide, and Huge Zoom, and they shoot 720P HD Video.

    For me, The HD video feature is huge as I intend on producing a lot of short videos while we’re on our upcoming RTW trip. Originally, I thought I’d pick up a Canon HF Camcorder, but I quickly realized that I didn’t need the hassle and worry of carrying that around either.

    Along with the P&S that I purchase, I also am bringing along a Flip Ultra HD camera for kicks. I have to admit… I’ve had mixed results with the Flip.

    Here’s a non-canon P&S that I was really impressed with, and I’m sure you will be too when you see this amazing stills, and HD video that it produced: . The video and stills in this video were shot on the Panasonic Lumix LX3 while traveling through Iran! Crazy!

    Looks like the GF1 is a killer camera, although the price tag is quite outrageous if you ask me. Good luck, and I’m looking forward to seeing some great photos!

  4. Europeeno says:

    I always rememebr the tale from Everest explorers whose equipment failed and had to resort to a buch of disposable cameras to get their snaps

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