For more creative control it has a full range of manual exposure options, with shutter speeds of 60 seconds to 1/4000th of a second, plus a ‘B' mode, and aperture settings in 1/3 EV increments. It has spot, centre-weighted and multi-zone metering, and an excellent multi-zone autofocus system.
One slight downside of the new design is that the G1 can't use the phase-detection autofocus system found in most digital SLRs, but Panasonic has compensated by equipping it with a very sophisticated 23-zone contrast-detection AF system. It is every bit as fast and accurate as any comparable SLR, and works very well in low light conditions. Comparing it side-by-side with two other current mid-range DSLRs the G1 matched them both for AF performance.
For more serious users the G1 has a Raw mode and Raw + JPEG with two quality settings, as well as normal JPEG mode in high or low compression. It also has a choice of sRGB and Adobe RGB colour space settings, something usually only found on more sophisticated DSLRs. The G1 has a wide range of custom colour and tone adjustments, with selectable film modes which can be pre-set with five steps of adjustment for contrast, saturation, sharpness and noise reduction, as well as a separate quick adjustment for colour, brightness and contrast.
One question that many potential buyers will have is whether or not an electronic viewfinder can ever be as good as an optical through-the-lens viewfinder. The answer is probably not, but the viewfinder on the G1 comes very, very close, and is certainly one of the camera's outstanding features. It is astonishingly sharp, with a resolution of an amazing 1.44 million dots. As well as this it uses a new type of field-sequential display technology developed for high-end professional video cameras, which hides the borders between the screen elements and also displays all colours at each pixel location at a refresh rate of 60Hz, so the resulting picture is incredibly smooth and sharp. You literally cannot see the individual dots. As is usually the case with field-sequential displays there is a slight degree of colour smearing when the camera is panned quickly, but this is a small price to pay for an electronic viewfinder that is actually sharp enough for accurate manual focusing.
The quality of the viewfinder slightly overshadows the excellent LCD monitor, which has a diagonal size of three inches in 3:2 aspect ratio, a very wide angle of view and a resolution of 460k dots, double that of most compact cameras. The screen can be rotates to almost any angle, including folding back flush with the body either way round. Like most recent Panasonic cameras the G1 can shoot in 4:3, 3:2 or 16:9 aspect ratios.
It is worth noting that while the G1 does have an HDMI output socket for connection to a suitably equipped HD TV, the camera doesn't have any video mode, but then neither do most DSLRs. However when I was invited to Panasonic's launch event for the G1, just before the Photokina camera show, I was shown a mock-up of what may be the next model in the series, which clearly sported twin microphones for a HD quality, stereo audio video mode.