Is it an SLR, a point-and-shoot, or neither? Panasonic's new Lumix DMC-G1, introduced today and available in mid-November (price hasn't been announced), defies neat categorization. In fact, it may well define a new class of digital camera.
What differentiates the DMC-G1 from all other cameras is that it combines key SLR features—a large image sensor and interchangeable lenses—with the smaller size and weight of a point-and-shoot. No, the DMC-G1 won't fit in your pocket or purse, but it is considerably smaller and lighter than the smallest SLRs out there—even when outfitted with a lens (details below). So if you've been considering an SLR for its superior performance and flexibility, but have held back because you're put off by the typical SLR's size and weight, the DMC-G1 (and the similar cameras that are sure to follow) may resolve your dilemma.
The DMC-G1 uses an innovative design, developed by Panasonic and Olympus, called Micro Four Thirds that allows for both a smaller body than an SLR and smaller interchangeable lenses, but which makes the DMC-G1 something other than an SLR.
Here are some highlights of this fascinating new camera:
- A large, SLR-style sensor. This type outperforms the smaller ones typically found in point-and-shoot cameras, especially at rendering details and colors in challenging lighting without introducing image artifacts and color casts. So, you're more apt to nail the shot.
- Smaller and lighter body and lenses. Panasonic really thought outside the box on this. In fact, they removed the box altogether. The mirror box, that is. An SLR's mirror box, the internal component that makes a Single-Lens Reflex camera an SLR, also makes it larger and heavier. Removing drastically reduced the DMC-G1's size. Compared with two of the smallest SLRs, the Canon Rebel XSi and Olympus E-420,the DMC-G1's body was about 25 percent smaller. And, yes, its lenses and external flash are smaller and lighter too.
- Considerable versatility. To make this camera as versatile as an SLR, Panasonic will offer a system of interchangeable lenses. There will also be a lens mount adapter that lets you tap into the array of existing Four Thirds lenses designed for SLRs like the Olympus E-420 or Panasonic Lumix L10. The Lumix G1 will also offer a myriad of features and functions found on SLRs, such as RAW-file capture, complete manual settings, custom white balance settings and others.
- Design breakthroughs and compromises. In designing the DMC-G1, Panasonic made some tough choices that critics might call compromises. We'll get into these in a later post, but I predict heated debates on how robust G1's autofocus will be and if the camera's reliance on live-view functionality can really compete with the quality of an SLR's through-the-lens viewfinder. When the camera is available, we'll get one in our labs and put it to the test.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 will come in several colors (red, blue, and black). Initially, two interchangeable lenses, the Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Mega O.I.S. kit lens and the Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4-5.6 Mega O.I.S. lens, will be available separately. Panasonic may also be offering the camera as a two-kit package and as a body-only camera. Pricing hasn't been announced.