Review of the Panasonic GF1’s Viewfinder LVF1

What a disappointment. There is no point beating around the bush on this one. Overpriced and underspecced. Let’s review:

Cons:

  • The screen is tiny. Imagine the smallest DSLR viewfinder you have ever used. Now reduce that.
  • Resolution is too low to check for focusing.
  • Major tunnel vision.
  • Colours seem less accurate than the LCD.
  • Awkward button positioning for switching from LVF to LCD.
  • Takes up the hotshoe.
  • Expensive.

Pros:

  • Tiltable. A really, really great feature. Useful for photographing from lower angles.
  • Has diopter adjustment.
  • Impervious to sunlight.
  • It’s a viewfinder.

Uff. A sad day indeed. The first thing that strikes you is just how small the screen is. Then, how far away the screen is (strong tunnel effect). I feel like I’m watching a movie in a Smurf cinema. If you are a glasses wearer, like I am, then it is especially awkward to use since you have to press your eye up quite close to the VF to be able to see the whole frame. The resolution is too low to do any sort of precise focus work. The colours seem a bit off, slightly bluish with a narrower gamut. Switching from LVF to LCD is a pain because the button for switching is up against the side of the VF and a bit hard to push. I think there is a bit of flickering, though I’m not sure because of the eyestrain I’m getting from looking through the damn thing.

There are positives though. I really like how it can be tilted. In bright sunlight, it may be more comfortable to use than the LCD. That’s about it I guess.

Smurf cinema. The end.

[all photos with Olympus E-P1 / 21mm f2.8]

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17 Comments

  1. Hmmm… sounds like it’s totally useless or at leat way too overpriced.

    But hey… where did you get that blue shoulder strap from?!

  2. Yeah, the foibles could overlooked if it were maybe USD 100 but it’s going for a lot more than that.

    As for the blue shoulder strap, it’s by Artist & Artisan, a Japanese company that specializes in nice looking accessories. What can I say, I’m a big poser. I believe they have a US distributor based in New York called Camera Village or something. I got mine in Hong Kong at Tin Cheung Camera.

  3. Nice blog! I appreciate the insight on the GF-1. I’ve got the EP-1 and the GH-1. That’ll keep me covered on small cameras for a while, but I can’t resist reading about people’s experiences with the others!

    Great photos on the site, too.

  4. Thanks!

  5. You’re pribably thinking of photovillage.com (not Camera Village), which sells Leica and other high-end gear.

    Did you ever get the chance to try the external electronic viewfinder for the Ricoh GR-series of pocketable cameras? It looks like Panasonic may have licensed that finder directly from Ricoh — they look that close!

    Pic: http://tinyurl.com/yka5uc2

    I wonder how different those viewfinders are from each other….

  6. Whether it’s 100 or 199 doesn’t change how good or bad this LVF is… if it’s as useless as you had describe it won’t even worth 10 bucks!

    but for someone who liked the E-P1/GF-1 form factor more than DSLR-sque looks, this LVF is the ONLY option and it is more than capable for fine-focusing on my 50 noct – which gave me fits on any RF…. so not sure where’s that res too low for focusing came from….

    screen could be bigger, and less tunnel vision would be nice… but these weren’t deal breaker for me…. E-P1 which don’t have an LVF and that IS a deal-breaker for me….

    my 0.02….

  7. Yes, I did in fact. I owned the GX100 with the EVF and they are pretty darn close! I even comment sarcastically on it in the most recent blog post, haha …

  8. Well to be fair, it has limited uses for me so I am willing to keep it, but I’d be a much happier camper if it was a better value.

    I can imagine your 50 1.1 is a PITA to accurately focus though so if it works for you, then congrats on finding a suitable solution. Always nice to have the right tools for the job!

  9. Reminds me EVF od Digilux 2

  10. i am using the evf with a canon 50mm 0.95 and have no problems focusing with the lens wide open… the evf is not perfect, but it most certainly works for manual focusing.

  11. Wow, that is a very harsh review and not really warranted if you compare it to other similar sized viewfinders out there (like the Ricoh GX series for example). Could it be better? sure, but I have not problems focusing with it as long as you select “full screen” in the menu options (vs. having the camera setting displayed in a black band at the bottom of the screen). I agree that colours could be more accurate, however what do you use this for? to frame your shot, not to review pictures you’ve already taken.

  12. I don’t really understand. How can it be so small it is like looking through a tunnel, but you have to press your glasses against it to see the whole screen?

  13. So, do you regret your GF1 because of this ? just curious…

    I find viewfinder to be a must feature for perfectionist like me. I wonder if i can take picture without viewfinder. (im not a live-view fan). I doubt i can live without a viewfinder. And i need a viewfinder for focusing.

    so is the GF1 still worth getting with this kind of tiny tunnel viewfinder?

  14. Does the lvf have magnification capability to allow for manual focusing? Im having a really hard time manual focusing using only the camera screen. Perhaps it’s the fact that you have to hold the camera far from your body (instead of bracing against face).

  15. Having played with my GF1 and the EVF now for about a month, I’d concur with everything in the review. I’d also add that it’s not hard to get used to all of the EVF’s drawbacks with the exception of the wretched resolution (and the cost).

    The color/contrast of the EVF can be adjusted via the camera’s menu so that it approximates the rear LCD, and manual focusing ability is greatly improved by using the MF assist feature, which zooms in on the center of the frame allowing critical focusing. Too bad the camera doesn’t allow you to dedicate a function button to this terrific feature.

    BTW, raw IQ from this camera is outstanding, handling is quick to familiarize, and I can use all my manual focus Nikon and Pentax lenses with inexpensive adapters.

  16. The RAW IQ is indeed excellent and Panasonic’s 20mm lens makes good use of the sensor. I’ve been experimenting with some of my M mount lenses but not totally successful. The metering is quite a bit off. Maybe I’m doing something wrong.

  17. If you’re using the 20mm lens, just buy a Voigtlander 40mm viewfinder, it works very well, there are a few parallax issues close up but not too hard to overcome. The electronic viewfinder is quite frankly ghastly.

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