Introduction

The Panasonic Lumix DC-G100 is a mirrorless camera designed explicitly for vloggers. To this end, it’s been designed to be small and features an innovative audio setup as well as a fully articulating rear screen.

It’s capable of 4K video and both fast and slow 1080 footage. We took a closer look at what the camera offers and both its strengths and its weaknesses for its stated task.

Microphones / Tracking Audio

Central to the G100’s vlogging credentials are the three microphones built into the top plate of the camera. The separated locations of the mics allow the camera to create directional pickup (and suppression) patterns, using technology licensed from Nokia’s ‘OZO’ virtual reality program.

This technology offers, in addition to simple front, rear and surround modes, a ‘tracking’ audio mode that works in tandem with the camera’s face detection feature. This not only gives priority to the signal coming from the microphone nearest the detected face, it also uses the other mics to detect and cancel-out background noise that might distract the user.

Fully articulated screen / Self Shot mode

As you’d expect on a vlogging-focused camera, the G100 has a fully articulated screen. It’s a 1.84M dot touchscreen in which the backlight and liquid crystal layer are very close together, maximizing both viewing angle and brightness.

When flipped forward, the camera automatically engages a ‘Self Shot’ mode, that engages a series of simple touchscreen functions, such as ‘Background Control’ that lets you select either whether the aperture should be opened up to provide a ‘defocused’ background or stopped down to make it ‘clear.’ Processing options such as skin smoothing and slimming mode are also present, to provide a social media-friendly result out-of-camera.

You can disengage Self Shot mode from the menus, if you don’t want it.

Image stabilization

The G100 does not have any mechanical image stabilization, which Panasonic says would make the camera body too big. It is usually bundled with stabilized lenses and offers electronic image stabilization in video mode.

1080 video has shake corrected in five axes (pitch, yaw, vertical and horizontal translation, and roll), whereas 4K footage is not corrected for roll. Panasonic says this correction is based on the same gyroscopic sensors and algorithms used in its physical IS systems, to maximize performance.

However, since electronic IS is delivered by windowing (capturing video from different regions of the sensor in response to the movement the camera experiences), it means that the camera needs to crop-in, to provide room to move the active window around.

Video specs / crops

The G100 can shoot 4K but it does so with a significant crop. This crop becomes more extreme if you wish to utilize the camera’s more powerful stabilization modes, which makes it extremely limiting for vlogging. There’s no way to make it look more positive: the G100’s stabilized 4K is not very usable for the camera’s explicitly stated purpose.

It’s a happier story in 1080 mode. Increased stabilization requires cropping (as is necessarily the case for EIS), but this effect is rendered less severe because the unstabilized 1080 footage is taken from the full width of the sensor.

The camera also offers quick and slow modes, where it can take output 4K 60 fps capture as 1/2 speed 30p, there are also options for 1/2 speed 60p and 1/2 and 1/4 speed 30p in 1080 mode. The camera also offers sped-up footage taken from very slow fps capture, again output as either 60 or 30p files.

Video features

The rest of the video spec is an odd mixture of seemingly high-end options and social media friendly features, though they do sometimes meet in the middle.

For high end users, the G100 includes the ability to shoot V-Log L footage, which captures more dynamic range but requires subsequent color grading before it’s usable. There’s also onscreen framing guides to give you an idea of when your subject is within the region that you’d use for a super-wide cinematic 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

For the more social-media minded, there are framing guides for 9:16 and 1:1 video (for if you’re planning to shoot 16:9 but want to crop a region out for display on a a different platform, later). Alternatively, the G100 can natively shoot vertical video for InstagramTV and will include all the metadata to ensure it’s shown correctly.

All users are likely to benefit from the VU audio meter display, borrowed directly from the GH5.

Shutter

The G100 has a compact shutter unit originally developed for the smallest Micro Four Thirds camera: the DMC-GM1.

It’s simpler, mechanically, than most shutter mechanisms and includes only a return shutter: the first curtain that begins the exposure is provided electronically, by rows of the sensor being activated, one after the other. The shutter is relatively slow, which limits its fastest exposure to 1/500 sec and its flash sync speed (the shortest duration in which the entire sensor is exposed at the same time), to 1/50 sec. Shutter speeds from 1/500th up to 1/16,000 sec are provided by using a fully electronic shutter.

When shooting with the G100 we found P and Auto modes seem to try to keep the camera within the EFCS shutter range, unless using the full electronic shutter is unavoidable, even if this means stopping the lens down well into diffraction-blurred territory.

Viewfinder

Unlike the Sony ZV-1, Panasonic has decided to include a viewfinder on the G100. It’s an impressive finder for a camera at this price.

The resolution is 3.68M dot equivalent, with the e-word denoting the use of a field-sequential update where the red, green and blue components of the image are flashed at your eye one after the other (rather than having separate, sub-pixel ‘dots’ showing each color at each location).

However, whereas this technology can sometimes produce a strange rainbow ‘tearing’ effect if your eye moves as the colors update, the experience on the G100 is excellent. Even the person most sensitive to the effect had no problem using the camera, meaning you’re left with a large, bright and energy-efficient viewfinder.

Tripod grip

The G100 will be offered in kits along with the DMW-SHGR1 Tripod Grip. It’s a small selfie grip that can double as a tabletop tripod, to support two key types of vlogging.

It’s a small, light unit that connects to the camera (or other recent Panasonic models) via the USB B (or Micro USB) socket on the side of the camera, meaning there’s no need to mess around pairing over Bluetooth as is sometimes necessary.

The grip features both shutter and [REC] buttons to make it easy to start and stop capture even at arms length. The battery/card slot is still accessible, even with the tripod grip attached.

Usual Panasonic features

Being a Panasonic, the G100 has a host of other features, many of which are derived from its 4K video capability.

The most prominent of these is the 4K Photo feature, that lets you shoot images at 30 frames per second, at around 4K resolution. Because these stills are taken from the video feed, they feature a similar crop to the one applied for video capture. There’s a useful interface for finding the best image and options to pre-buffer frames before you press the shutter, to help make sure you capture the right moment.

Also exploiting the video feed are the Focus Stacking and Post Focus features. These shoot video while simultaneously driving the focus motor. Focus Stacking combines the result to give images with everything in focus, while Post Focus lets you retrospectively decide which point you want in focus.

On the G100 there’s also a fairly comprehensive timelapse feature built-in, too.

Summary

The G100 is an interesting little camera. Like Sony’s recent ZV-1 it feels like Panasonic has tried to rummage around in its parts bins to see what it would take to turn the GM or GF cameras into something that would appeal to vloggers.

This should be a relatively easy win, given the company’s expertise in video, especially when combined with the audio cleverness from Nokia. However, the result feels slightly undercooked.

It can take some lovely stills and in many respects is a well-specced, usefully compact camera. But our initial impression of its vlogging capabilities are, mixed, to say the least. We’ll be shooting a lot more with the G100 in the coming weeks and we’ll see whether the large viewfinder and bright rear LCD make up for the things it doesn’t seem to quite get right.

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