Of very similar dimensions and build quality to the Canon PowerShot G1, the 12.1Mp Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 offering is the only model here with interchangeable lenses. But in using the new Micro FourThirds system, it's technically not a digital SLR. Updated, December 1 2009.

Powering up in just over a second, the DMC-GF1 does away with the internal mirror mechanism to bring lens and sensor closer together. Its manufacturer is therefore claiming the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 as the world's smallest and lightest interchangeable lens digital camera, with both RAW and Jpeg capture offered.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 doesn't have an optical viewfinder (an electronic viewfinder costs an extra £165), so you must rely on the impressively clear 3in LCD for composing and viewing snaps. A pop-up flash is included, along with an accessory shoe. Artistic types will enjoy the colour effect controls - we particularly liked the ‘dynamic art' option.

There's also a Peripheral Defocus Mode that blurs potentially distracting backgrounds to draw attention to your sharply focused subject. Up to and including ISO 400, images are noise-free.

With a very narrow ridge to the front and the lack of any rear padding, we found it difficult to get a firm grip on the Panasonic when shooting handheld. Still, it's possible to use the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 as a glorified point-and-shoot - the intelligent Auto mode recognises given scenes and subjects and adjusts its settings automatically.

There's a dedicated button for HD video capture and you can also shoot in AVCHD Lite or Mpeg formats at a resolution of 1280x720. If you're attaching a zoom lens you'll need to manually adjust framing and focus when filming, however. An HDMI port is provided.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 presents a highly portable option for photo enthusiasts who want the option to switch lenses without the bulk of a digital SLR. Anyone who already owns a digital SLR will find this less appealing as a replacement, however, since they will have to invest in a whole new set of Micro FourThirds-compatible lenses.

NEXT: our first look, from September 2009 >>

EXPERT VERDICT ON PAGE 3 >>

For the fledgling Micro Four-Thirds System, it may be fourth time lucky with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1.

First look by Tim Moynihan.

Panasonic has announced the eyebrow-raising Lumix DMC-GF1, the fourth Micro Four-Thirds camera in the system's brief history. In common with previous Micro Four-Thirds system cameras, the DMC-GF1 offers the ability to swap out lenses (and thus the versatility of a digital SLR) 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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 is also the thinnest Micro-Four Thirds camera, literally by a hair: it undercuts Olympus's stylish EP-1 (120.6x69.9x36.4mm) by just one-tenth of a millimeter in depth. In addition to an onboard pop-up flash, the DMC-GF1 also offers a hot shoe for an external video microphone or an external flash.

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With the same steely, slick looks as Panasonic's popular Lumix point-and-shoot models, the slim, 12Mp 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 digital SLR-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 (17.3x13mm); HD video-shooting capabilities with autofocus enabled (720p AVCHD and motion JPEG recording - a step down from the 1,080p 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 £799 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.

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The £799 list price is a nice step down from the DMC-GH1's £1,299 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 will be made available.

Panasonic is touting the new Leica lens as extremely versatile for its compact size, with an ultra-quiet 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.

Once we're able to test the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 in depth, we'll focus our attention on three key features: its low-light performance, the angle of view on its 3in LCD screen and the quality of its onboard flash. Low-light performance and flash exposure quality were the DMC-GH1's two notable shortcomings; as for the LCD screen, the DMC-GF1 will be the first Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds camera without an articulating LCD screen or an electronic viewfinder.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1: Specs

  • 12.1Mp CCD
  • 20mm lens
  • Live MOS sensor
  • Micro Four-Thirds
  • 3in (460k) LCD
  • maximum resolution 4,000x3,000
  • Jpeg/RAW sill image capture
  • 1,280x720 video recording at 30fps
  • 2x optical zoom
  • SD/SDHC
  • miniHDMI
  • USB 2.0
  • PictBridge-compatible
  • 119x71x36mm
  • 285g
  • 12.1Mp CCD
  • 20mm lens
  • Live MOS sensor
  • Micro Four-Thirds
  • 3in (460k) LCD
  • maximum resolution 4,000x3,000
  • Jpeg/RAW sill image capture
  • 1,280x720 video recording at 30fps
  • 2x optical zoom
  • SD/SDHC
  • miniHDMI
  • USB 2.0
  • PictBridge-compatible
  • 119x71x36mm
  • 285g

OUR VERDICT

With solid build and a relatively compact shape and form, we like the ability to swap and add lenses and comprehensive range of features. Unfortunately the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1's optical viewfinder costs extra;, and it is weightier than equivalent compact with battery inserted and lens attached.

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