With any new technology, it takes time to work out the kinks. And while the flurry of coverage-and humanity's ever-shrinking attention span-might make it seem as though Micro Four Thirds has been around awhile, it's still quite new. Panasonic's Lumix DMC-GF1 is only the fourth camera we've seen in this new format. It does a lot of things right, but its images are also noisier than its predecessors.
Of course, Micro Four Thirds cameras are in large part aimed at shooters who are less persnickety about noise than are advanced DSLR users. The main draw is their portability and greater functionality compared with compacts. And this Panasonic scores on both counts.
The GF1's body (without a lens) measures only 4.7x2.8x1.4 inches and weighs just over half a pound-about half the weight of the Canon EOS Rebel XS, for instance. Even with the 20mm f/1.7 kit lens, the GF1 is still less than 1 pound, while the 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom brings it up to 1.2 pounds.
And the GF1 autofocuses faster than most compact cameras. Plus, you can switch lenses.
There aren't many dedicated lenses to choose from yet, but since both Panasonic and Olympus are making Micro Four Thirds gear, new optics may come quicker than you'd expect.
In the meantime, your glass options are commendable. For example, the 20mm kit lens offers a pleasingly large maximum aperture to allow limited depth of field and low-light capture that's hard to accomplish with most compacts.
And you can expand the system's flexibility with lens adapters. Both Panasonic and Olympus make ones that enable regular Four Thirds lenses to be placed on Micro Four Thirds bodies, allowing you to use autofocus and control aperture from the camera body.
We even mounted a Pentax 28mm f/3.5 Auto-Takumar lens on this Panasonic, using one of Novofiex's Micro Four Thirds adapters. These let you mount any lens on the GF1-just turn on the Shoot Without Lens option in the advanced menu and you're all set. Of course, you'll have to focus manually and change the aperture with the ring on the lens.