It seems like everyone in photography is talking about mirrorless cameras these days. The term mirrorless generally refers to a camera that accepts interchangeable lenses, but does not have the focusing mirror found in a DSLR camera. These mirrorless cameras range from full-frame 35mm systems to cameras with image sensors the size of your average point-and-shoot. The Panasonic Lumix GX7 and GM 1 cameras are part of this mirrorless, or Micro Four Thirds, system of cameras and lenses.
I was excited to get the opportunity to write the first book about Lumix cameras for Peachpit Press. The Snapshots to Great Shots Series is such a good reference for beginning to intermediate photographers. You can learn tips and techniques for many different shooting situations while learning how to use the bells and whistles on your camera. I knew a lot about these cameras before I began the book, but I learned more than I ever expected in the process.
In this article, I offer a few tips from my book, Panasonic Lumix GX7 and GM1: From Snapshots to Great Shots, as well as a couple of bonus tips. The GX7 and GM1 are powerful machines and I hope I can help you make the most of yours.
Why I Use a Micro Four Thirds Camera
I bought my first mirrorless camera about two and a half years ago as a “toy” camera to use when I didn’t feel like carrying my big heavy full-frame cameras. I decided to go with a Micro Four Thirds camera at the time because there was such a good selection of lenses available for the system. Two years later the lens selection is even better and includes several professional quality lenses from Lumix and other manufacturers.
The more I used my “toy” camera the less I found myself using my big full-frame kit. I learned that I could make most of the photos I wanted to make with the smaller camera, but I still used my bigger gear for a few projects.
My mind really started to change when Micro Four Thirds cameras got the bump from 12mp to 16mp. I remember teaching at a photo workshop in North Carolina after I got my first 16mp MFT camera. My wife literally made me take my big full-frame camera with me when I was teaching because she was afraid no one would take me seriously if I only had the small camera. By the end of the workshop everyone was just as excited as I was about the small camera and the excellent images I captured with it.
About the Lumix GX7 and GM1
Here we are, two years later, and Micro Four Thirds cameras are better than ever. The Lumix GX7 is a very capable camera that I have used to shoot everything from landscapes to portraits to sports and even weddings. The combination of excellent image quality, excellent video quality and small size makes it a great tool for many different types of photographers. The GX7 has all the controls you expect in a modern digital camera. It gives you 16mp still images and beautiful HD video in one small package. The in-camera image controls can allow you to dial in your images without the need for lengthy editing on your computer.
The Lumix GM1 is a technical marvel. The GM1 takes the image quality and functionality of the GX7 and crams in into a tiny all-metal package. While the GM1 doesn’t have the external controls of its big brother, it is a very stylish camera with a tiny high-quality zoom lens that begs you to bring it with you.
Five Tips for Using Your Lumix GX7 and GM1
1. Take advantage of the touch screen. There are a few cameras with touch screens, but the touch interface on the Lumix cameras makes it fast and easy to do everything from choosing the focus point to navigating the menus. The most obvious use for the touch screen is selecting your focus point. You simply touch the screen anywhere you want the camera to focus and use the Rear dial (GM1: Control dial) to adjust the size of the focus point. You aren’t limited to a fixed number of focusing points, and
I find it much faster to touch the screen than to navigate a series of set points.
You can also use the touchscreen on the GX7 and GM1 to choose settings like ISO, white balance, etc. Press the Q.menu button to bring up the quick menu, then simply touch your choice of settings. No more scrolling and clicking to change settings!
I see a lot of new Lumix users who don’t take advantage of the touch screen for navigating the menus. You can select a menu, page down, and choose your settings all by touching the screen. I will warn you, once you get used to working this way cameras without a touchscreen will seem downright old-fashioned.
2. Give your GM1 an ISO button. The tiny Lumix GM1 does not have much room for external controls. There is one programmable function button on top of the camera that activates the Wi-Fi by default. I recommend changing the function of the Fn1 button to ISO setting. You can move the Wi-Fi control to one of the on-screen function buttons, and use the Fn1 button for a function you will most likely need more often.
3. Make Use of the Wi-Fi. The Lumix GX7 and GM1 both have built in Wi-Fi functionality. Each camera can create its own Wi-Fi network that allows you to connect to your tablet or smart phone. When you connect with the free Panasonic Image app you can send images to your phone or tablet either while you're shooting or after the fact. You can also remotely control the camera from the app. The app shows you a live image from the camera. You can change settings and fire the shutter or start a movie recording from your phone or tablet.
I use the Wi-Fi a lot to transfer images and videos to my smart phone for sharing via social media. If you want to transfer video files be sure to capture them in MP4 format.
4. Give Creative Control Mode filters a try. The Lumix GX7 has 22 different creative image effects! Each effect has adjustments based on how the filter affects your image. You can dial in the look you want with each filter, and your settings will still be there when you open the filter again. This allows you to effectively save your own set of 22 image effects. Unlike most cameras with filter effects, the Lumix cameras allow you to adjust the aperture setting and the exposure compensation when you’re using the image effects.
If you are a RAW shooter you can shoot Raw+JPEG and get a filtered version and a raw file for every shot. That way you can play with the different image effects without giving up the flexibility of a raw workflow.
I shot a wedding recently with two Lumix GX7s. I set them both to Raw+JPEG quality and dialed in my own flavor of black & white for the JPEGs. While I was shooting I could see how the images would look in black & white on the EVF and LCD. When I downloaded the images I had a full set of images in black & white that I could deliver to the client and a full set of raw images for editing.
5. Use the built-in time-lapse features. The Lumix GX7 and GM1 both have a built-in intervalometer. This is a feature that allows you to take a series of images that you will combine into a time-lapse video. With this feature in the camera you don’t need a dedicated remote to set up time-lapse recordings.
The GX7 and GM1 go one step further than most cameras. After you capture your series of images you can go into the playback menu and have the camera combine the images into an HD time-lapse video. You can choose the frame rate and size of your video, and even create multiple videos with the same series of images. This is a very handy feature if you have ever wanted to try a time-lapse, but you didn’t want to learn a new set of software tricks.
I hope this gives you an idea about the versatility of the Lumix GX7 and its little brother the GM1.
Please feel free to email me with any questions about mirrorless cameras, and especially the Lumix line. You can get ahold of me at firstname.lastname@example.org.