Our somewhat arbitrary criterion for an ultrathin compact -- a body with a thickness of less than one inch -- is just the starting point with these models, which often seem as much about fashion as photography. This year many of these skinny cameras offer capabilities beyond snapshots and video clips, including wireless transmission, slideshows, video editing, and album creation -- in short, extended photo sharing. (Note: The Image Stabilization item in the Key Specs list only applies to optical and mechanical systems, not digital image stabilization.)
The emphatic message behind the G1 is that your photographs can be managed wirelessly, just like your communications. The sliding-clamshell G1 features Wi-Fi connectivity not just through hubs and public hotspots but directly to other devices that are compliant with the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) standard. DLNA isn't all that common yet, but many electronics makers have signed on to the standard.
But Wi-Fi is just one aspect of the G1's performance as an all-in-one photo-sharing device. The camera has 2GB of internal storage (that's gigabytes, not megabytes), so your picture taking will no longer be stymied for lack of a memory card. (Should you need more space, there's a slot for MemoryStick Duo/PRO Duo cards.) That also means the G1 can function easily as a digital photo album, a task at which it excels because of its big, super-sharp 3.5-inch LCD monitor. The monitor contains nearly a million pixels -- many times more than a typical point-and-shoot screen.
The screen also serves as a control interface; you just move the cursor to select the pertinent icon. Sorting through large numbers of pictures is made easier with a search tool that lets you find images by an affixed label (there are 50 presets), or even by color, face, or similarity to another photo. Once you've decided on just the right mix you can arrange them into a slideshow, adding transition effects and favorite music and displaying it on a TV screen via an AV-out cable.
You have to take the pictures first, of course, and that should be easy. The 38-114mm (equivalent) f/3.5-4.3 Zeiss zoom lens has optical image stabilization for sharper shots at slower shutter speeds; the nine-point autofocus lets you catch off-center subjects; and a surprisingly fast 3.3fps burst rate is good for seven shots at best quality or 100 at VGA resolution. You can even shoot MPEG-4 video.