Sony RX100 III vs Panasonic GM1 Comparison

June 24, 2014

Sony RX100 III and Panasonic Lumix GM1 cameras side by side

In this article I will compare the Sony RX100 III (RX100M3) vs Panasonic Lumix GM1. A large-sensor pocket camera versus the world’s smallest MFT camera as of the time of writing, the Panasonic GM1. It’s an interesting comparison for those looking for a compact camera that can provide them with high quality image and advanced features. Those two cameras are indeed different by definition, and having the option to change lenses might convince you to get the GM1 instead of the RX100 III.  The GM1 is indeed smaller than the RX100 III without a lens attached, but as you attach a roughly equivalent lens, the total volume changes drastically, and I will also talk about that in the article.

Two popular cameras, each one with its own cons and pros. If you are having trouble deciding between those two cameras, I’m here to help you out. I’m pretty sure that after reading this article, you’ll have a much better understanding what each camera brings and which camera offers the best features for your specific shooting style.  So without further ado, let’s begin our comparison!

I will start with a short introduction to each camera, and we’ll talk about the difference in-depth later on.

Panasonic Lumix GM1

As of the time of writing, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 is the world’s smallest mirrorless camera. There is much more to it than its cute look. It’s important to understand that the GM1 without a lens can’t take pictures. If you are coming from P&S, you need to understand that after mounting a lens, the camera actually loses its compactness advantage — but that’s depends which lens you attach to the camera, let me explain..

Panasonic GM1 with lenses attached vs Sony RX100 III size comparison

In the same order: GM1 + 12-35mm f/2.8, Sony RX100 III, GM1 + Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 (CLICK to view on camerasize.com)

The following screenshot from camerasize.com website tells the size story quite well.  At the left side you can see the GM1 with a fast 12-35mm F2.8 lens, and you can see that as a whole (body + lens), it’s much bigger than the RX100 III that has a built-in 24-70mm equivalent lens. On the left side we also have the GM1, but this time with a small pancake lens, and you can see that it helps maintain it’s compactness. Pancake lenses are prime lenses that were designed to be very slim and compact in size. That said, those lenses have a fixed/single focal length, and although fast, they don’t offer any optical zoom. Even with the 14mm which is one of the smallest pancake lenses, the lens still extends quite a bit and it’s not retractable as the RX100 III lens that extended when zooming in and retract back when zooming out, with the ability to be completely hidden inside the lens compartment to maintain a compact size. This means that even with such a slim MFT lens, it still not pocketable, unless you have large pockets and don’t mind the bulge that it gives.

GM1 Optional Grip

People with small hands will appreciate the GM1 size, but those with large hands will appreciate the ergonomics of a larger camera. Neither way, the two cameras don’t offer any good ergonomics and lack a hand grip for firm holding of the camera.  You can buy the Sony AGR1 hand grip or Richard Franiec’s custom grip for the RX100III/RX100II/RX100 cameras, and this will give you a good grip. The GM1 also has an official Panasonic DMW-HGR1-S grip which provides enhanced stability and a comfortable hold. Richard Franiec also provides a custom grip for the GM1 as well.

As Compact as its Attached Lens

I personally think that people whom buy these type of cameras prefer them to be as compact as possible, so I don’t see this as an issue at all. The Panasonic GM1 is as compact as its attached lens, so if you want to be more portable, you should look at one of Panasonic’s or Olympus (or any third party MFT lens, all Micro Four Thirds lenses are compatible with the GM1) pancake lenses, or go with one of its small zoom lenses, like the Lumix G Vario 12-32mm, Olympus M.Zuiko ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ ultra compact lens, which are relatively small and lightweight.

TIP: The only two lenses that I know that can make the GM1 match the RX100 III compactness is the Olympus 15mm body cap lens and the 9mm Fisheye body cap lens, those two are an exception and they are two prime lenses which are super slim – but again, there is no zoom, these two have a fixed focal length (1x zoom).

Here’s how the GM1 looks when compared to other Panasonic MFT cameras, the GM1, GF6, GX7 and G6.

Panasonic GM1, GF6, GX7 and G6 size comparison

Panasonic GM1, GF6, GX7 and G6 size comparison (via camerasize.com)

OK, now that we put the camera size in place, let’s move on..

GM1 Design & Features

The GM1 is small and lightweight and built with polished magnesium alloy frame, which makes it light and durable, ensures that the camera can withstand some degree of abusive use without breaking. It’s external buttons and dials and lever are made of aluminum, which gives the camera it’s prestige looks and feel. You feel that you hold a high-quality camera in your hands, and that’s always good!

The GM1 features a 16 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor (17.3x13mm). This is referred to by the community as a large-sensor, as it’s much larger than the conventional sensor found on many point-and-shoot cameras (e.g. 1/2.3″), but it’s smaller than the APS-C and Full Frame ones (see image below).

Sensor size comparison: APS-C, 1-inch and Micro Four Thirds

Sensor size comparison: APS-C, 1-inch and Micro Four Thirds

The camera features a 23-point contrast-detect AF system and 1728-zone multi-pattern light metering system, the same as the one found on the Panasonic GF6, GX7 and G6 MFT cameras.  At the back of the camera you get a fixed 3.0 1036K-dot touchscreen display. The GM1 lacks an eye-level viewfinder, but that’s quite understandable considering it’s small body (well, that’s true until Sony surprised us with its pop-up EVF mechanism with the RX100 III, more in the RX100 III key feature coverage).

In the following video by Blunty, you can see an unboxing of the GM1 (orange version) and see how it compares to the RX100 in terms of size. The camera has the 12-32mm lens kit attached, so you can also see how much it adds to the depth of the camera too.

Among it’s other key features are: RAW + JPEG shooting mode, Wi-Fi wireless connectivity (no NFC though), Silent shutter mode, AF assist lamp, WB/AE bracketing, 1/16000 sec. shutter speed, 5 fps burst shooting, built-in flash (not hot-shoe) and 1080p24 and 1080i60 video recording with stereo sound.

The GM1 grabbed many positive ratings and awards from leading camera review websites, including DPreview Gold Award. An overall very good performer with responsive touch-screen and wireless capability. It was criticized for its poor battery life (well, after all, it’s a small camera, so small battery), slow flash sync speed (1/50s), lack of viewfinder and it’s relatively expensive price.  The camera comes in either silver (top plate, black cover), black (top place and cover), white (white cover, silver plate) or orange (orange cover, silver top plate) finishes.

If you are searching for a compact highly capable mirrorless camera that is built well and captures high quality image and don’t mind its shortcoming, the GM1 is an excellent option. The MFT lens selection is also one of the advantages of this camera. You have a large selection of lenses to chose from, and you are not limited by using only Panasonic MFT lenses, you can use any MFT lenses available from any manufacturer.

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III

The Sony RX100 III replaces the popular RX100 II. The RX100 III is The best compact camera I’ve seen to date. It’s all starts with a 20.1 megapixel 1″-type Exmor R BSI-CMOS sensor, the same sensor used in the previous model. As you can see from the sensor size comparison image above, a 1-inch sensor is significantly smaller than Micro Four Thirds and even much smaller than APS-C which can be found in many DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras as well.

This is a trade-off that Sony had to make in order to keep the camera price reasonable and the camera size as compact as it can. A few of the advantages that larger sensor have are improving image quality and low-light performance, as well as allowing blurry backgrounds (also depends on the lens and distance from subject).

In the next image you can see how big the 1-inch sensor is compared to 1/2.3″ one which can be found on many conventional compact cameras and even in some mobile phone cameras.

1-inch vs 1/2.3-inch sensor size comparison

1-inch vs 1/2.3-inch sensor size comparison

Speaking about lenses, the Sony RX100 III comes with a 24-70mm (equivalent) F1.8-2.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens — 2.9x optical zoom. A high quality lens with Sony’s SteadyShot optical image stabilization. If you compare the RX100 III lens versus its predecessor, you can see that the camera loses 30mm at the tele-end, gains a wider 24mm FOV and it’s also much faster at the tele-end (f/2.8 instead of f/4.9). Sony also improved the optical design of the lens, utilizing a cementer lens design by combining two advanced aspherical elements together (the first time it’s done in lens manufacturing). The advanced lens construction allows Sony to produce a smaller lens with a wide angle of view. This HQ lens is coated using Zeiss unique T* coating that helps minimizing flare and ghosting and promote clear and beautiful images. The RX100 III accept filter adapters and has a programmable lens ring that provided intuitive control over the camera settings , including the zoom, aperture and focus.

Sony RX100 III selfie tilting display

Sony RX100 III with its selfie-ready tilting display lifted

RX100 M3 also incorporates a 3-stop built-in ND (Neutral density) filter.

At the top of the camera we have, probably the biggest surprise, a built-in OLED Electronic Viewfinder. The EVF is built inside the camera using a pop-up mechanism, so it doesn’t take any vertical or horizontal spacing when the camera is closed and in your pocket. This EVF also uses the same Zeiss T* coating as the lens, improves the visibility of the viewfinder and an eye-sensor to save on battery-life.

At the back you’ll find a 3-inch 1228.8K-dots tilting WhiteMagic (improved outdoor visibility) LCD which can tilts upward 180 degrees (easy to shoot selfies) and 45 degrees downward. Unfortunately for some, this is not a touch-sensitive display.

This is not all. The Sony RX100 III also improved upon its predecessor when it comes to video features. The RX100 II was praised for its HQ videos and the RX100 III makes it even better with a wide-range of frame rate options, including 1080p60 (progressive frames) video recording with stereo sound, the ability to shoot videos in XAVC S video format (100 Mbps bitrate), a Clear HDMI output and a 5-axis image stabilization (optical + digital) which included (first in the series), Sony’s frame analysis technology. All are suppose to improve the video quality and provide more options to video enthusiasts. Looking a few years back (yes, I am quite nostalgic now..), who have thought that we get to shoot with such a tiny pocket camcorder and shoot such high quality videos. You don’t have to make compromises on videos, as the RX100 III does both incredibly well. BTW, the RX100 III lacks a mic input and headphone jack.

One downside of the RX100 M3 is that it lacks the Multi interface shoe of the RX100 II. I can unerstand that Sony had to make room for the EVF, but this means that you won’t have the option to attach an external flash or an external microphone. That said, it shouldn’t be a problem whatsoever, and I assume that most people who buy this camera will be glad to use it ‘as-is’ without any add-ons, but I think that it’s important that you’ll be aware of it.

Among its other features are: the same 25 AF points as its predecessor, 10 fps burst speed in ‘Speed priority’, built-in pop-up flash, BIONZ X image processor (an upgrade from the RX100M2), Zebra pattern and focus peaking, Wi-Fi and NFC, sweep panorama, in-camera HDR, and PlayMemories downlodable apps.

*video by The DigitalDigest

The RX100 III is fast and responsive, high image quality for stills and videos and lots of built-in features that allows you to be more creative and to easily share your creative arts with others. If size matter to you and want a pocket camera, the RX100 III is in my opinion, your best option.

RX100 III vs GM1

As you can see, these are really impressive little cameras and it’s great to see where miniaturization brought us to. There are two different cameras by definition and might appeal to different audiences, depends on the use case. If you are debating between the two, and I assume that you do if you read this comparison review. You still haven’t decided whether to buy a pocket camera with all its cons and pros, or go with the interchangeable lens option that will give you an option to buy and use different lenses, which can be a huge benefit for the creative photographer who want to experiment with different type of lenses to get the best results.

If it wasn’t for the interchangeable lenses, I would probably pick the RX100 III for myself, but we can’t ignore that fact, and the question that remains is whether the RX100 III worth that trade-off?

In this section you’ll have the option to clearly see and understand that differences, as well as cons and pros of each camera versus the other. It will give you a good perspective of the things that might matter most to you, and hopefully will help you with your buying decision. The fixed-lens vs interchangeable lens is a topic that’s worth its own topic. But to put thing into context. With the GM1 you’ll have the option to choose from a wide variety of lenses, including some special lenses like a fisheye lens, 1:1 macro lens, super fast prime lenses, ultra-wide angle lenses, long telephoto zoom lenses, etc. For some people this is a necessity and opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities, but others might be satisfies with a walkaround lens that will serve its purpose for general photography. Not everyone needs that flexibility and versatility in its camera, some people just want a pocket camera that they can take everywhere they go, which is preferable for a camera they might leave at home most of the time. Something to keep in mind.

OK, let’s continue to the side by side comparison table.

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Let’s take a look at some sample videos before we move on to the conclusion section..

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III sample video

Panasonic Lumix GM1 sample video

Conclusion

The RX100M3 and the GM1 have thing that is certainly in common, and that their compact size. I’ve already mentioned that the GM1 won’t be pocketable when used with lenses other than the lens-cap or a pancake lens, and even then, I would probably won’t be getting the GM1 if I wanted a camera that I can carry everywhere I go, that’s what the RX100 III is for.

The ability to attach lenses certainly gives the GM1 its power over the RX100 III, and for some of you this can be a well-worthy trade-off to make. Just imaging the great images you can capture with special lenses like a fisheye lens, or a super-fast prime lens. This is something that some of you might don’t want to miss out. If you see yourself shooting with only one lens, the RX100 III is a great option.

I can tell you from my own experience, that there were lots of times when I didn’t take my DSLR camera with me because it was a burden to carry around, and I’m sure that I would have been able to capture lots of wonderful shots if I had a high quality compact camera with me, yes, like the RX100. So a camera is worth as long as it’s with you, and if you feel connected to what I’m saying, the RX100 III might appeal better for your specific needs.

That said, the GM1 certainly has various advantage over the RX100 III:  better high ISO performance and sharper image across the ISO speed scale, faster AF performance and better AF performance in low-light, much faster maximum shutter speed, touch-screen with touch-AF shooting modes, can take 3D photos (with the Panasonic a 3D lens),  longer exposure shooting and a cheaper price (with the 12-32mm kit lens).

On the other side, the Sony RX100 III has some advantages that are really hard to ignore, and it’s really an all-around marvelous compact camera, this included: pocketable camera body, built-in lens-shift stabilization and 5-axis (digital + optical) stabilization for videos, tilting display (180 degrees for easy selfy shooting), built-in auto panorama mode (Sweep Panorama), much faster burst speed, high-speed movie recording (120 fps / 720p), 1080p60 video recording / XAVC S video format and Clean HDMI output, built-in viewfinder, Wi-Fi + NFC, remote control connector, better battery life, Time-lapse recording (via a downlodable app), built-in ND filter and higher resolution sensor.

The RX100 III is one of those cameras that was designed to appeal to a wider audience, those who can want a pocket camera, but don’t want to give up on image quality and features. If you don’t mind giving up on the interchangeable lens option, don’t mind for a slower AF in low-light and don’t mind the inferior high ISO performance (compared to the GM1), the Sony RX100 III should be a better option for you.

The GM1 allows you to grow with it as a photographer, and the option to mount various lenses makes it more exciting when you get out shooting. Each lens has its own characteristics, and some of you might feel quite limited with the RX100 III lens, especially considering its small optical zoom.  Those of you who have been shooting mostly using a mobile phone camera will certainly enjoy the high-quality images, pleasant blurry background effect and easy sharing using WiFi/NFC that the RX100 III brings. You’ll be able to capture very high-quality stills and videos and easily share them with others using your mobile device, or even use your mobile device to control the camera itself.

If you are more serious about exploring the world of photography and feel a need for lots of shooting angle versatility, the Panasonic Lumix GM1 is the best camera for you.

So as you can see, the decision shouldn’t be that hard after all. These are two different cameras, each one with its quite prominent advantage and disadvantages. If you want my opinion, I would pick up the RX100 III for myself because I want a camera that I can take everywhere I go, which gives me more options to capture photos that otherwise (without a camera) I wouldn’t able to shoot.  That said, you can get much more creative with the GM1 with its special lenses, something that many photographers won’t give up on, no matter what the size of the camera is.

So that’s it. What’s your opinion, which camera you prefer? — share your opinion in the comment’s section below, and please don’t forget to LIKE this article and our Facebook page. Thanks for reading!



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