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For the fledgling Micro Four-Thirds System, it looks like the fourth time may be the charm.
Panasonic today announced the eyebrow-raising Lumix DMC-GF1, the fourth Micro Four-Thirds camera in the system's brief history. Like previous Micro Four-Thirds system cameras, the GF1 offers the ability to swap out lenses (and thus the versatility of a DSLR) without having an in-camera mirror box (which allows for both a more-compact size and video-recording capabilities, but at the expense of an optical viewfinder).
At 119mm wide, 71mm tall, and 36.3mm thick, the DMC-GF1 is also the thinnest Micro-Four Thirds camera, literally by a hair: It undercuts Olympus's stylish EP-1 (120.6 by 69.9 by 36.4mm) by just one-tenth of a millimeter in depth. In addition to an on-board pop-up flash, the GF1 also offers a hot shoe for an external video microphone or an external flash.
With the same steely, slick looks as Panasonic's popular Lumix point-and-shoot models, the slim, 12-megapixel DMC-GF1 may have the most widespread appeal of any Micro Four-Thirds camera yet. Despite its smaller size, it offers many of the enticing qualities that made the DSLR-size Lumix DMC-GH1 and the more-compact Olympus EP-1 attractive options for would-be DSLR buyers: a bigger sensor than a traditional point-and-shoot (17.3mm by 13mm); high-definition video-shooting capabilities with autofocus enabled (720p AVCHD and motion JPEG recording--a step down from the 1080p recording of the Lumix DMC-GH1); full manual controls in addition to Panasonic's excellent Intelligent Auto mode; and the ability to shoot in RAW mode for more-versatile post-production work.
The Lumix DMC-GF1 is slated for an early October release; it will cost $900 and come in two kit variations: one with the optically stabilized 14-45mm/F3.5-5.6 lens included with previous Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds cameras, and one with a brand-new pancake lens that was also announced today (more on that later).
The $900 list price is a nice step down from the GH1's $1500 cost. In addition, Panasonic has addressed another of the Micro Four-Thirds system's big drawbacks with this release: namely, the paltry number of Micro Four-Thirds system lenses available--two new such lenses were part of today's announcement.
These lenses include the first Leica lens developed for the system, the optically-stabilized Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm/F2.8 aspherical lens ($900, available in October).
Panasonic is touting the new Leica lens as extremely versatile for its compact size, with an ultraquiet focusing system for shooting video and the ability to toggle between 150mm and 500mm focus distances via a switch on the side.
The second addition to the Micro Four-Thirds lens arsenal is the previously mentioned pancake lens: the Lumix G 20mm/F1.7 aspherical lens ($400, due in October).
Once we're able to test the GF1, we'll focus our attention on three key features: its low-light performance, the angle of view on its 3-inch-diagonal LCD screen, and the quality of its on-board flash. Low-light performance and flash exposure quality were the DMC-GH1's two notable shortcomings; as for the LCD screen, the GF1 will be the first Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds camera without an articulating LCD screen or an electronic viewfinder.
This story, "Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1: The Non-DSLR Camera We've Been Waiting For?" was originally published by PCWorld.
With a compact frame, a pop-up flash, interchangeable lenses, HD video-shooting capabilities, and simple-but-versatile controls, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 is an excellent alternative to an entry-level DSLR.