Prosumers are really a bunch with an identity crisis. On one hand, they aim for an user friendly experience. Yet, they are also on the lookout for a camera that goes beyond the mundane point-and-shoot from digital compact cameras. Panasonic has aptly catered to this niche market when they revealed their Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G1.
What really defines the G1 is its Micro Four Thirds System. This means the effective halving of its mount distance and the absence of an optical viewfinder and a mirror box (as seen on DSLRs), which significantly shrinks the G1 to its current 124 x 83.6 x 45.2mm dimensions. Remember, this is a device designed to instill a sense of professionalism for the photographer, so the G1 sports a look more akin to a DSLR. But the differences are obvious once we held it in our hands. Its lighter body makes it easier to navigate, but the smaller size is a double-edged sword. Built for average-sized hands, its grip will be troubling for bigger ones which can't get a firm grip on the device.
Switching the camera on and off gave us mixed reactions. While we managed to easily activate the camera with our thumb flipping the lever, the reverse wasn't as easy. However, its slider is definitely well-designed with a second lever to switch between your various shooting modes. Being a prosumer camera, the G1 will come with the company's Intelligent Auto (iA) feature that makes its compacts such a hit amongst consumers. To throw in a degree of control for the user, you have aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual mode mixed in too.
We mentioned how the G1 omits the optical view finder and in its place, we have a live view finder. On its 3-inch swivel LCD screen, images were accurately represented, though you might want to tone down the LCD brightness to get a better idea of how your images will turn out. On its iA mode, we didn't need to fret too much with the settings. Images turned out above our expectations, even when its ISO values were pushed beyond the 800 range.
Its ISO1600 and ISO3200 settings, however, does render some discernible noise in the image, but it's minimal compared to most other cameras. Basic photographers will be more than pleased with its intuitive scene modes that manages to accurately capture most, if not all the pre-described modes.
Switching over to a more direct approach, we tinkered with its Manual, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority settings. For the new user, you'll probably spend more time with the Aperture and Shutter priority modes before you progress to its Manual mode that gives you more control over your shoots.
More importantly, lens interchangeability is available on the G1. Though there are only two other Micro Four Thirds lenses available currently, Panasonic has mentioned that two other lenses will be available by 2009. Adding in another degree of flexibility is the mount adapter (to be purchased separately) that allows you to mount your current Four Thirds lenses onto the G1.
Combining ease of use with its integrated iA function and scene selection flexibility, the G1 does cover the basic user pretty well. For the converts just stepping into the manual realm, it is just as well equipped with its interchangeable Micro Four Thirds lenses and more compact body size as compared to the bulkier DSLRs. Some will be wondering if they should go for an entry-level DSLR due to the rather similar and high sticker price of the G1 at S$1199. Steep as it may be, one must consider that with the price, comes more features that could make, instead of break your baby steps into professional photography. Consider it your tuition fees.