1. Full-Time Live View LCD: 1. SDHC Memory: As there’s no eye-level finder, the 3.0-inch LCD offers full-time Live View operation for composing shots and adjusting camera settings. 2. Movie Record Button: Movie Record Button: Some cameras with movie modes don’t make it easy to find the feature. The quick-start button on the GF1 puts HD movie recording front and center. 3. Ultracompact Lens: The 20mm ƒ/1.7 available as a kit lens with this camera is extremely slim and offers a constant maximum aperture of ƒ/1.7—excellent for limiting depth of field and shooting in low-light conditions.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
LIST PRICE: $899 (w/20mm ƒ/1.7 lens)
The newest Micro Four Thirds system camera from Panasonic is similar to the new Olympus E-P1 in its sleek, compact form. These two models are the smallest interchangeable-lens cameras currently available, so if you’re looking for the ultimate in portability, this is it.
Like the other Micro Four Thirds system cameras, the mirror and pentaprism are eliminated, making the ultracompact design possible. Full-time Live View in the GF1 helps to compensate for the absence of an optical viewfinder. If you miss your optical viewfinder, an optional Live View finder provides 100% field of view and snaps neatly into the accessory hot-shoe. This is a nice option for bright outdoor shooting conditions, when viewing an LCD can be difficult.
In addition to 12-megapixel still images, the GF1 can record 720 HD video, as well as standard-definition video. One noteworthy video feature is the Movie Program mode, which allows you to adjust the depth of field during video recording to blur backgrounds or foregrounds for creative effect. It’s a nice option to help make your videos more visually interesting.
SMALL, LIGHT DESIGN: Removing the mirror not only helps reduce the size of the camera body, but also the size of the lenses for the system.
FACE RECOGNITION: Not only can the GF1 detect faces for autofocus, but it even can learn the names of your three favorite subjects and recognize when they’re in the photo, giving them AF priority.
INTELLIGENT ISO: One of the challenges of shooting action is changing settings on the fly while things are happening in front of your lens. Intelligent ISO watches your subject, and if it moves as you take the shot, the camera automatically increases ISO for a faster shutter speed.
MEGA O.I.S. LENSES: For handheld photography without a tripod, use Panasonic’s O.I.S. image-stabilization lenses.
Cameras are increasingly including settings that reduce the amount of time you’ll spend at the computer with postprocessing. The GF1’s My Color mode includes seven preset effects for different creative looks, each of which can be manually adjusted for color, saturation and tonality. Working in Live View, you can preview the effects before you shoot. It’s always safer to shoot “straight” and make these types of enhancements in the computer so you’re not stuck if you decide you don’t like the effect later. With some practice, you’ll know exactly when and how to use these settings.
Another trend in new cameras is the inclusion of guides and alerts that help photographers better understand their camera settings and presumably learn to make more use of manual controls and overrides to achieve the “look” they’re after. The GF1’s Peripheral Defocus scene mode lets you set a focus point and “defocus” its surroundings. It’s a simplified approach to manually selecting a wide aperture. There’s also an on-screen meter that graphically displays the aperture and shutter speed combinations that will provide a good exposure under the current conditions to help new photographers learn to use more advanced exposure modes like aperture and shutter priority.
STANDOUT FEATURE: The Intelligent Auto (iA) suite of technologies practically guarantees good results with smart exposure and scene selection, face detection and other quality assurances in both still and movie modes. VERDICT: The ultracompact design, which includes a sleekly integrated built-in flash, makes this an ideal camera for photographers who want to travel light without sacrificing features.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1
Apart from size (the GF1 is smaller), one of the key differences between the GF1 and GH1 is that the GH1 has an electronic eye-level viewfinder, as well as a tilt/swivel LCD. The GH1 also adds a stereo microphone and a port to connect an external microphone, while the GF1 has only the built-in mono microphone. In most other respects, the two cameras are very similar. List Price: $1,499 (with lens).
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
The first Micro Four Thirds system camera from Panasonic lacks HD video, but adds a tilt/swivel LCD as found on the GH1. Additionally, 12-megapixel resolution, 3 fps burst shooting for up to seven RAW files and Quick AF prefocusing make this a very affordable alternative to the other G-series cameras if you don’t need HD video. List Price: $799 (with lens).