A significant anniversary
Three years ago today*, Panasonic introduced the GF1.
*Yes, pedants, most press releases were on Sept 2nd, but the first announcement was Sept 1st.
It wasn’t the first micro four thirds camera, but it was probably the first to capture the imagination of keen amateurs. Prior to that there had been the Panasonic G1 and GH1, fine cameras but not really micro enough. Then there was the Olympus EP-1, a cute fashion statement and a good enough machine; but the focus was a little slow and the supplied lens was nothing special.
Then along came the GF1. Small, fast, configurable; and with a couple of cracking lenses. There was a 20mm F1.7 lens, and a 14-45mm F3.5-F5.6 lens. The 20mm lens is still sought after as a must-have for the system, and although there have been six subsequent kit zoom lenses by Panasonic and Olympus (all 14-42mm), the 14-45mm remains the preferred lens in terms of quality of construction and optics. A fantastic combination of camera and lenses and sales went through the roof, such that it was very hard to find them until later in the year.
I found mine in Singapore on the 15th December 2009. I believe I had sold the trip to she who must be obeyed on the basis of “seeing the lights”; but once there I dumped her in a shoe shop and scoured the island for a GF1 kit with both lenses. Found it in the afternoon and spent a couple of frustrating hours dodging the pouring rain trying to get shots, before repairing to the Long Bar at Raffles for free peanuts, expensive drinks and a chance to take a photo.
Nothing special, but could I have whipped out my Canon 1D in such a place and pointed it at the patrons? Not without being firmly ejected in a shower of peanut shells.
At the time I had the 1D and a collection of weighty lenses, about twelve kilos in all. We were taking regular trips within and outside Thailand, and we were both getting a little tired of my hauling around a backpack full of gear everywhere we went. The purpose of the GF1 was to be a secondary camera, to take along when photography was not the prime objective. But it didn’t take long before the GF1 and the two tiny lenses were all I was taking everywhere. The GF1 was easier, more fun, gave me shots I would never had captured with the 1D, and that 20mm lens blew a hole in my rather average 24-105mm Canon L lens.
Within a year I had sold all my Canon gear. At least I was going to until I was persuaded it would be made worth my while to retain the body and the 300mm lens. But everything else was sold, which provided cash for the extension of my M43 lens collection.
Since disposing of my DSLR gear there has never once been a moment that I have wished to have it back, and days beyond counting when I give thanks that I am no longer saddled with the unnecessary weight and bulk of such equipment.
Eventually, the GF1 gave way to a GX1, and the original lenses were less used as new prime lenses came along. But I didn’t sell the GF1, partly because my wife wouldn’t let me (“it’s a classic” – annoyingly, she’s right), and partly because it looks like it has been dragged through a hedge backwards, and it’s a hedge made of steel wool, and it’s happened more than once. And I didn’t sell the lenses because; well because they are really good lenses. The 20mm still gets used by she who must be obeyed, usually with the GF1. The 14-45mm is used sometimes, for example for shooting the wife’s little sister:
Fabulous IQ, it’s just the F stop that makes it a bit restrictive.
So my purchase of nearly three years ago remains available, should it ever be called upon to give service. It’s a little battered, not helped much by a stick-on black covering which hides the worst of the abuse but adds its own particular brand of crap.
I decided to call upon its services last night, and give it an outing to mark the anniversary of the unveiling of this remarkable little camera. I took the GF1 without the added viewfinder, because that is all I had when I bought it, with the 20mm on the front. I went to Walking Street at night, shooting Dynamic Black and White JPEG files at ISOs up to 1600. I also shot RAW, so I could use colour if I felt the need. In slightly over half an hour, I came back with these:
The first three are of a young girl, performing with a hula hoop to extract cash from tourists while her minders looked on. She seemed to be enjoying herself, but this was not the environment for a young girl at a time when she should have been tucked up at home in bed.
The IQ and noise may not be up to the GX1, but it’s not at all bad for a four year old sensor design. And I missed the touch screen of the GX1 for choosing focus points and changing options. Apart from that, stepping back in time was a painless and fun experience.
Spike, you are going on a trip and you can either take any modern DSLR of your choice and two lenses of your choice; or that battered old GF1 kit you bought nearly three years ago; what’s it going to be?
GF1 of course, it really is (still) that good.
Comments are closed.