Panasonic GF-1

Panasonic GF-1
Panasonic GF-1

At last, someone has produced a four-thirds camera that doesn’t have an idiotic design flaw.

So far, we’ve seen the Panasonic G-1 (almost as big as a DSLR and — bizarrely — no video capability), the GH-1 (still big, and almost as expensive as a D300), the Olympus E-P1 (great form factor, reasonable price, but no viewfinder for shooting in bright light, except for a fixed optical viewfinder that only works for one lens, and — worst of all — lousy autofocus). Enter the GF-1.

Unlike the E-P1 it has an optional Electronic Viewfinder (but — cough — $199). OK so we need the price reduction fairy.

Unlike the GH-1 it’s actually small.

And unlike the E-P1 it can focus as fast as a DSLR (and focus while shooting video).

Only downside: 720p video.

Panasonic has also added a 20mm f1.7 lens to their lineup — very nice (no stabilization though, making it perhaps the lens of choice for the E-P1 — or E-Px if you prefer to wait for Olympus to learn to do autofocus), and a 45mm f2.8 Macro lens with Leica branding, as well as a stabilized 14-45mm zoom.

Oh, and it has a flash. Oh wait. I don’t care.

dpreview.com has posted a samples gallery that — in unusually brilliant form — includes zero high ISO shots* (I think the reviewer was a little bit too blown away by having a an f1.7 prime to play with — seems like half the test shots are close ups with max aperture), but it’s reasonable to assume that the GF-1’s low light performance will be at least comparable to the G-1’s (which was respectable and whose sensor it inherits), and I hope as good as the GH-1 or E-P1, which are probably as good as any APS-C DLSR short of the Nikon D5000 and D90. I guess it depends on how much of the newer cameras’ performance is sensor- vs. firmware- related.

* Usually they manage between one and three. OK, I know that not every photographer reading their reviews shoots 90% of their pictures in low light, but I’m guessing a large proportion do shoot a significant proportion of their shots in low light, and low light is where the differences in sensor and image processing quality actually make a difference. Even a point and shoot can take tack sharp photos at f16 in bright sunlight.

Oh yeah, and Canon announced the EOS 7D which is essentially an 18MP 50D which can shoot 1080 video. Yawn. Actually it looks like a pretty darn nice camera, except for Canon’s trademark “two dials where you can’t reach them” control layout.