The Panasonic Lumix GF1 is a joy of a camera to shoot with. It gave us better shots than we could hope for with any compact, at an acceptable trade-off between size and convenience. It's dead-easy to use, with Panasonic's intelligent iA (Intelligent Auto) mode for point and shoot situations, and full manual settings for finer control. The body is finely balanced and controls are conveniently placed. The auto-focusing technology is fast and spot-on and makes shooting a breeze.
So is there a catch? Well, the GF1 promises to be a pricey proposition at US$899.95 (Panasonic hasn't confirmed the local retail price at the time of this review). Doing a rough currency conversion translates that to S$1280.47 (not too far away from the E-P1's S$1298). While that's just a rough ballpark figure, we speculate it could cost more when it actually arrives locally.
It seems clear that while the Micro Four Thirds manufacturers say they're marketing these cameras to consumers who'd like to own a DSLR but are scared off by a DSLR's size, weight and complexity, they clearly want those consumers who aren't scared off by a DSLR's cost, and are setting the bar for their exclusive technology at premium prices.
But is Panasonic too late to the market though? We imagine that if this was the camera that had been released instead of the GH1, Panasonic would have been laughing all the way to the bank this past year. Instead, Olympus swept in and released the world's first compact Micro Four Thirds camera, and in spite of its flaws, it has garnered hugely positive reviews and, we hear, brisk sales.
This gives Olympus a wide lead, because with the premium prices of these cameras, we can't imagine somebody buying both a PEN E-P1 and a Lumix GF1. But if price isn't an issue (and it doesn't seem to be for many judging by the E-P1's popularity), we think the Panasonic Lumix GF1, with its fine performance, handling and size, comes closest so far to fulfilling the Micro Four Thirds promise of having near-DSLR quality in a near-compact body (if low and mid-range ISO settings are adequate for your needs).