The New Old Lumix G1

A new-to-me “old” Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 arrived here today. Actually, it arrived at my wife Lisa’s workplace and I picked it up on the way home.

This event came about because in the Spring I stashed away some cash in a wooden box in anticipation of our road trip along the Central Coast of California in June. I forgot the cash was there, even when we were on the road trip. Forgetting the cash became a long-term activity. A couple weeks ago, I opened the wooden box to store a pair of vintage aviator sunglasses and spotted the cash. “Must be my birthday”, I thought.

Shortly after the appearance of the G1, the world’s first M4/3 (Micro Four Thirds) camera, I made my way to the local Ritz Camera store to get one in my hands for a few minutes. Unlike a number of user reviewers, I didn’t have a problem with the EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) during the handful of minutes I played with it. As circumstance had it, Lisa was along to bib me so the 12″ drool spot wouldn’t show on my t-shirt.

At the time the G1 was beyond my budget, so I didn’t buy one. Now three years later, I’d still have a problem justifying dropping $800 on yet another camera, but the standard G1 with 14-45mm lens kit is going for $525 (+/-) for a new one (out of old stock), and used kits run between $300 and $400.

What do you get for that $300-400? I can only tell you what I got, and where I got it. I always do a great deal of “research” when the B&H catalog arrives. I pour over the pages of the giant candy store. Given the enjoyment I get out of their catalogs, I always remember to check the Web site when I’m window shopping. It seems that B&H has been around forever, and the company continues to have a good reputation with its customers. And by the way, I don’t get paid if you use the link to B&H. It is just a company that I feel comfortable dealing with. Your experience may vary.

I found my used G1 at B&H for $399. It was possible to get one cheaper, but the condition wasn’t as good. This one was rated 9+, which means “barely visible wear” on the B&H scale. I couldn’t see any wear when I opened the box. The lack of wear made sense an hour later, when I shot a couple frames, then looked at them on the computer. The first frame was numbered P1000381, so the camera’s shutter had 380 activations when it arrived here. I figure that’s equivalent to getting a $20,000 motorcycle for $10,000 because it has 380 miles on the odometer.

It seems likely that it was a demo model. But it is equally likely that the camera was returned shortly after purchase. It was the wrong camera for the buyer. Or the wrong buyer for the camera. Who knows?

After playing with the camera for a few hours and checking the high end jpegs on the computer, I’m quite happy with it. Also unlike a number of user reviewers, I didn’t have much trouble getting around in the menu system or getting used to the controls, though I spun the mode selector a couple of times when using the On/Off switch.

Compared to handling and carrying a large Nikon, the G1 feels downright small and light. This calls for extensive field testing, and the best way I know to test a camera is a multi-day motorcycle ride. Road trip!