Panasonic DMC-L1 review by Carl Garrard.

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That amazing looking high quality body still makes me say WOW when I see it. And it’s also one of the favorite cameras of Carl Gerrard (Click here to read his review). He just posted a full test of the camera he owns: “The L1 was never designed to compete with the likes of the standard DSLR (if there ever was such a thing), rather this camera was something entirely new and different in many respects and that fact alone was grossly missed. What a pity, a real pity. I don’t consider the new GX1 or previous GF1 to be successors to the L1 or L10 because neither have a built in viewfinder of any kind. I don’t like accessory viewfinders generally speaking.To my eyes the DMC-L1 is a Panasonic classic that might be just a victim of being born in the wrong era- it was never as popular as I think it should have been. To me, the L1 is still a gem.”

Yeah it’s a real gem, and that’s why it still costs a lot in new condition (Check the price here at Amazon) or iused on eBay (Click here to see all L1 auctions). A wonder how long it will take until Panasonic will make a m43 version of it.

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  • I actually have one of these. In person, it’s best described as the photo brick. It’s quite bulky, despite its rangefinder aesthetics. It does have very nice manual controls, however, especially coupled with a 4/3 lens that actually has an aperture ring (like the Panasonic/Leica lenses). Pictures are still brilliant, especially coupled with the Oly 14-54 II.

    It’s the L1 that makes me want a µ4/3 body that does what it did… sans brick bulk.

    • Neonart

      Same here. I had 2 and miss them a lot. Just like you, the manual controls I miss most. Photo quality was great (at low isos). Got an E3 after that, and even though photo quality was better and the viewfinder was way better, I still miss the L1 dearly. I had the 25, 14-50, & 14-150 and it was great to operate the camera with all manual controls!

      Hope a m43 cam does the same. But it’ll pob be the Fuji Pro.

  • Panasonic made great products in the L1 and L10 but didn’t put the marketing in or the bricks and mortar distribution – they learnt their lessons in this department :D

    Also they were given unfair reviews with reviewers nit picking on minor things or reviewers treating live view as a gimmick.

  • Haha, that IS really good looking. I guess I’m not the only one that would love to see this in slimmer version.

  • spam

    Big, bulky, bad sensor, bad viewfinder, but great userinterface.

  • Robbie

    L1 is a nice camera(design wise) but it was a little hyped.
    I actually like the L10 more (and both kit lenses bright or less bright by Pana-Leica are great)
    And like all Panasonic cameras, I don’t really like the colours, need some tweaking to get the ones I like but then, it’s all to individual taste.

  • Looks a bit like an X-Pro1 draft ;)

    • omolympus

      Wait till you see Olympus’ digital OM ;)

      • Uhm… Why do we need MF digital camera? ;)

        • omolympus

          Think styling as opposed to implementation, or functionality. In addition to ‘fit&finish’ with good IP rating.

  • Robbie

    Dear Admin,
    When will there be more rumors about the upcoming Olympus u43?
    It seems that Olympus has been very protective about the new camera, not any substantive leak!

  • Yun

    I like the design of L1 & wondering why Pana don’t design the GX base on L1 pattern . Look at Fuji X pro almost similar with L1 .
    Really don’t know how Pana going to counter the X pro since they claim they want to be mirrorless no 1 while still having a hard time with NEX system .

  • Sven C.

    I have had the DMC-L1 für a couple of months and i thought the same about it. It has great controls and feels very solid. In comparing to the GH2 i enjoyed the bigger, handy metal body. It makes fun to take pictures with it, but the viewfinder is too small.

    To change the aperture on the lens, like in old times, was a great idea. What a pity, that Panasonic discards this idea.

  • Zörg

    I’m wondering why most people never mention Olympus E-330 when discussing Panasonic L1; after all, they share the same internals. Olympus built a tilt screen around them, Panasonic gave them a classical interface.

    Anyway, I acquired the E-330 as soon as it came out, and I totally agree with Carl’s conclusions. I love my E-330 even though it has its limitations. Now that I join the mirrorless train, I’m thinking of converting it for IR; glad to see from the review that the sensor works well for that. BTW, any tip on how to do the conversion?

    • Zörg

      By the way, both of these bodies received unfair treatment at launch. Live View was seen as a gimmick, a renown reviewer even slamming it “only good for numismatic”. The E-330 even more than L1—no reviewer was sufficiently open-minded to understand the genius of having two Live View modes. They both went a long way since, with “mode B” (Live View using the imaging sensor) being more-or-less present on every modern DSLR, and “mode A” (Live View using a secondary sensor in the mirror box) being copied by Sony on its SLT bodies. Panasonic L1 had only “mode B” available.

      Two brother bodies ahead of their time.

      • spam

        The E-330 was a better camera IMO and I almost bought one. The L1 was overengineered (presumably for Leica) and missed still missed some E-330-features. The userinterface with aperture control on the lens was nice though.

    • Frederic Hew

      +1

      Olympus came up with the concept (mirrors allowing placement of viewfinder to the side) with the E-300 and improved it a bit with the E-330. The L1 looks pretty but is essentially rangefinder styled E-330 without the tilt screen.

      If design is so much more important than functionality and innovation, you can get one used in ebay and spend the day fondling it.

      • Tom

        I’d completely forgotten that the 330 had a 2nd sensor for live-view, Olympus really have tried hard to innovate with the digital format over the years! Throw in the E-10/20 and all that you can really do is applaud.
        Hopefully the forthcoming hybrid viewfinder will be executed 100% successfully… Unfortunately (in my mind) it needs to be a TTL OVF with overlay: highlight/shadow clipping indicators, focus peaking aid etc etc etc. I’m not sure of the value of an X100 system, I’d love to be proven incorrect though!

    • lnqe-M
  • DC

    I own and still use Panasonic LC1 and L1. Both of them are great cameras with the Panasonic/Leica lenses. It’s sad that Panasonic doesn’t have a M4/3 version of these cameras.

  • Anonymous

    Can this camera use MF lenses as m4/3? Are the adapters for M mount for example?
    Cheers

    • spanky

      Yes, but limited by the flange distance, which is a lot longer than m43.

  • mahler

    When the L1 and the E-330 came out, I liked the design especially of the L1. However, as soon I looked through the awfull and small viewfinders of those cameras, I was completely turned off.

    This tunnel vision , dark, and small view finders were the achilles heel of all small 4/3 camera bodies, including the small Olympus DSLR. The view finders and the relatively poor IQ, were the reasons that 4/3 was never really successfull, despite of the interesting concept of the format.

    So, yes, the L1 had a near to perfect design, but that’s it. Nothing that current m4/3 products need to worry about. The GH2 design is at least as good as a L1, and is as far as I remember even slightly smaller. Additionally, the GH2 has the preferable view finder position (centric).

    • ras

      This is the first time I’ve heard anyone say that they prefer a centrally placed viewfinder. I personally can’t stand the way it makes you twist your head to bring your eye up to the eyepiece and how nose grease always gets smeared on the LCD, making it harder to see in daylight.

      The fact that these cameras are not SLRs irritates me further. It’s completely unnecessary to mimic the shape of SLRs, and these cameras lose that sense of integrity and innovation. I’m not talking about just the GH2 and G3, but also the Nikon V1. Who wants a pseudo-SLR when better (IMO) form factors are made possible by new technology?

      Of course, I’m biased because I am mainly a rangefinder user. More power to the Panasonic L1 and Sony NEX-7 viewfinder placement!

      • Mr. Reeee

        Now you’ll hear it for the second time…

        Why is “mimicking” the shape of an SLR any less valid than attempting to replicate the shape of a rangefinder? In fact, “style” has nothing to do with it. Form and function do. Neither is superior, simply marginally different from one another.

        For MANY, a viewfinder vertically centered above the lens is preferable on numerous levels. Ergonomically and logically in terms of line-of-sight when lifting the camera to the eye. It’s like sighting with a rifle or pistol or bow and arrow. If you’ve ever fired a weapon, you’d know exactly what I mean. There’s a simple, direct line between eye and target/subject.

        I used 35mm rangefinders and SLRs for years and prefer the vertical viewfinder/lens arrangement. Because that arrangement came from an SLR arrangement and what those cameras actually looks like is completely irrelevant. It’s a tool.

        If you prefer one type of viewfinder placement, that’s fine, but don’t try to negate and put down a different placement simply because it’s not your preference. There’s a vocal group of users who think that viewfinders of ANY sort are archaic and worthless. What’s your response to that?

        It’s not a religious war, a camera is… I repeat… a tool! If something works for you, then use it, but don’t play missionary and attempt to “save” the savages from their unholy beliefs. What a waste of mental energy. How irritating!

        • Fan

          Yes, viewfinders of ANY sort are archaic and worthless (haha).

      • mahler

        Every time, I read this nose grease joke, I have to laugh. Your screen will catch grease and smear by anything more than the nose, which eventually touches your screen. By the way, the GH2 has a touch screen, so you may operate parts of your camera by touching the screen anyway.

        Additionally, due to the GH2’s well thought design, thanks to the protrusion of the view finder, normal noses, do not tend to touch the LCD anyway.

        Ergonomically, I see a big advantage if the view finder is along the lens axis and not sideway. Additionally, for left eye viewing people, a rangefinder VF on the left has no advantage, so a neutral design is clearly better. Overall, the centric VF gives a camera a better balance.

        You ask why a DSLR design in mirrorless and claim that such a form factor is against mirrorless philosophy. I say such an argument is pointless. Mirrorless gives the freedom to have mostly any design, so why not DSLR form factor? It is a proven design. Strangely, m4/3 DSLR designs (GHx, Gx) still have the best control layout and ergonomics of all mirrorless cameras. Trying cameras, like the PENs, in a shop proves that every time, I play with them. The slippery flimsy soap box design with no or small grips, is simply relatively awkward to hold and operate (also thanks to this idiotic multicontrollers). It is strange that current rangefinder designs cannot get rid of it.

        Rangefinder form factors are a legitimate body concept for mirrorless system cameras, but there are not the panacea of mirrorless camera design. The hype for them is completely unwarranted.

  • Chris

    These camea’s are starting too look like camera’s back in the 1950s. My mate has this cool medium format camera that the lens folds into the camera. Runs on medium format slides of cause and you never know what the film is going to look like till your develop it.

    Best thing is when you develop the film you can scan it into a scanner and have a nice 50 Megapixcel image.

    All for £40

  • Miroslav

    I’d like to see that bounce TTL flash on new m4/3 cameras.

    • Fan

      GX1 can bounce, as well as E-PL2.

      • Miroslav

        My E-PL1 as well ( and GF3 ), but without any automatic control. You have to manually set up flash mode and hope you’ll get the desired result.

  • st3v4nt

    Nice Nostalgia talking about how great Olympus and Panasonic was….but hey this is rumor site why not talk about new m4/3 ? I know how 4/3 is a great system but Oly and Pany left it for dead….I can’t buy a new 4/3 body beside expensive E-5….:-(

    • Daemonius

      Maybe cause newer isnt always better..

      ..unless its NEX-7. :)

  • Daemonius

    Its expensive cause its “kit” lens 14-50mm f2.8 – 3.5 ASPH .. by Leica. In this case true Leica. Body itself isnt pricy, but lens are pure awesomness. And very usefull on for example E-3 as standart zoom lens. :) (cause you have both OIS and IBIS)

    Or theres another forgotten lens 14-150mm f3.5 – 5.6 ASPH (Leica D) which is probably best superzoom lens ever made (along with 28-300mm VR from Nikkor, which is really good, especially on D700).

    L1 itself or Digilux 3 were made pretty much up to Leica quality standarts, thats why it looked, handled like one and survived so long. Btw. Digilux 3 looks even better than L1. :D

    • Esa Tuunanen

      Leica D 14-150mm is in overall optically clearly best of all DSLR “super zoom” lenses.
      Photozone has reviews of most of them and that generic Sigma/Tamron level Nikon 28-300mm isn’t even close with lots of geometry distortion which continues at every focal length, more vignetting and resolution drops outside center and at full aperture.
      Big and heavy Canon EF 28-300mm L comes closest but still has plenty more distortion and performance drop towards tele end.

  • Funny, I’ve just seen Panasonic L10 in our “Saturn” electronics store (body+14-40mm Leica lens cost 799€), and it was displayed next to modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras. I caught myself comparing and actually preferring L10 to many of modern cameras. Indeed, the quality of the L10 body is remarkable.

  • Mai-san

    I still own and use L1 and L10 cameras. I love the smoothness of the interface when using the panasonic lenses like the summilux and the 14-50 zoom lens. The L1 is really Cool with the olympus pancake too, rangefinder like. Iq wise the L10 is really excellent files are really sharp much sharper than my e3 ever was esp in raw. The raw of the L10 are in E5 level very very sharp. The L1 has a rather unique 7.5 mp sensor which is very sharp at base iso very clean files and decent shadow noise control, much better than the later 10 mpx chip. The low pixel pitch has excellent dr but is only usable up to iso 400. The E1 is still king of DR in the 43system. The L1 is a real cool camera. If i had ro sell one of both i d keep the L1 only

  • Oriol

    I recently saw one in a shop in Barcelona. The feeling is impressive, you have the impression of holding something unique. It came with the kit lens and it was extremely heavy. But it was better built that any m43 or current SLR, that’s for sure!

  • gc

    I like to use my L1 with the 150 f2 for street shooting the high contrast B&W jpeg setting. I really like the black and white output on this camera, though I wish it could do color filters like the Olympus cameras.

    The L1 has the lightest antialiasing filter of any 4/3rds camera until the E5 came along. The contrast and sharpness is remarkable for the 7 megapixels or whatever it is.

    Great flash design, autofocus confirmation with legacy glass, shutter speed on a dial, autofocus assist light on the body.

    Great fun with the 25 1.4.

    I was reading the latest version of lightroom fixes a RAW bug that affected the green channel of the image, creating a repeating patten in the demosaiced image. It affected both the L1 and E330, and surely the Leica one as well.

    The kit(!) lens is really nice as well. Great on the Ep1 for stabilized video (without the digital stabilizer turned on, I hate the tighter field of view).

  • ITs a very nice camera. i’ve bought so many and sold many, but this one is a keeper. iv’e just upgrade to Oly E-5 recently, really good workhorse but is not that fun to use. Wish a L2 with a least 12Mo…

    Y

  • Bob2

    I use my L1 with the 25mm Olympus pancake, resulting in a pretty compact RF type camera. No, not as small as an X100 or M film Leica, but smaller than my pro Nikons. Too bad neither Olympus nor Panasonic developed any reasonably fast compact wide angle primes (28mm, 35mm f/2 equivalents) for any of their 43 cameras, as the 25mm f/2.8 is neither wide enough nor fast enough for my style of shooting. But, used within its limits, it’s a very nice photo tool, producing sharp and detailed images (due to the weak AA filter, no doubt).

  • Sonny

    My DMC-L1 got sold on Ebay yesterday I think because of this review :) the Ebay ad suddenly increase page view to hundreds in 1 day and then got sold. Price was $300 body only.
    Thanks

  • Philumix

    I still own one and I recently went back to my “old files” with emotion; the depth of colours is wonderful compared to my D700. The D vario Elmarit is unmatched. Now as I have already stated it here, born with many features that others missed for a long time – IOS, self-cleaning, clever flash, liveview, low shutterspeed compliant thanks to the laterally swinging mirror, etc. – this camera should have been improved over time, and I think Panasonic made a tragic mistake when they set another -downward IMHO -course for their line of cameras. After the G1 experience, I relunctantly had to go Nikon … Pity!

  • Oitzsek

    You forgot to mention the af confirm light for legacy lenses, no olympus has this

  • i like the L1 very well. i often use it with the 25 1.4 leica or with the 14-50 2.8 leica or with fab. oly lenses great cam.
    some shoots at my blog!
    greeting from vienna
    christian

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