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Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1

>> Tuesday, February 3, 2009

With the G1 specifically, and the Micro Four Thirds standard in general, Panasonic (and Olympus) hope to attract those users who want the advantages of interchangeable lenses and the flexibility of a dSLR, but in a more compact design. And to a certain extent, the G1's specifications read like those of an entry level dSLR, including a 12 megapixel Live MOS chip (with the same expanded photo site design of the sensor in the Lumix DMC-LX3) and rated continuous shooting speed of 3 frames per second for an unlimited number of JPEGs and 7 raw.

But the G1 finds itself in an odd competitive situation. On one side of it are relatively compact enthusiast models such as the Canon PowerShot G10, Nikon Coolpix P6000, and Panasonic's own Lumix DMC-LX3: small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, with full manual feature sets and high quality photos, but with no pretensions at acting like dSLRs and commonly available for less than $500.

On the other side of the G1 sit less expensive entry level dSLRs such as the Nikon D80 and Canon Rebel XSi. While they're about as much bigger than the just under a pound G1 as the G1 is over its compact competitors, the G1 still can't fit into a large jacket pocket. (I don't think it would even if equipped with one of the pancake prime lenses promised for the future.)

And while the G1 and future models will be able to use standard Four Thirds lenses via an adapter not all will support the MFT contrast focus AF systems, though with the exception of pancake primes such as the Olympus f2.8 25mm lens, they're all awkwardly big relatively to the size of the G1. Unlike dSLRs, though, the G1 comes in three colors: two-tone black and blue, black and red, and sedate solid black.

The camera ships with a Lumix G Vario f3.5-5.6 14-45mm (28-90mm equivalent) lens, and currently there's one other lens available, the Lumix G Vario f4-5.6 45-200mm (90-400mm equivalent). Though Leica lenses are likely in the Micro Four Thirds future, these are Panasonic lenses. Panasonic also offers a converter which allows you to mount standard Four Thirds lenses on the G1, but AF will only function if the lenses support contrast AF.

The body is made of sturdy plastic with some metal on the inside and on the mounts, with a nice feeling rubberized coating over everything. It's also got a large, comfortable grip. It offers a considerable number of direct access button and dial shooting controls, and, overall, I like their layout and operation. (Click through the slide show for details and commentary on them.) There are two exceptions, however.

First, the front jog dial. You press it to toggle exposure compensation adjustment. Nice in theory, but in practice I found myself accidentally pressing it way too often. It needs to be further from the grip indentation. And second, the EVF. As far as EVFs go, the G1's is pretty good 1.4 million dots with 100 percent scene coverage, bright and easy to see, with a relatively speedy refresh. But it's still an EVF. (Read about my issues with EVFs.) If it weren't for that, I'd have really enjoyed shooting with the G1.

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