Panasonic Announces First Micro Four-Thirds Camera And Lenses

New Lumix G1 features smaller lenses, 12.1 megapixel sensor and articulated monitor

Panasonic has announced the first model in what should prove to be a revolutionary new camera system. The Lumix DMC-G1 is the first camera to feature the new Micro Four-Thirds lens mount system, allowing most of the advantages of a digital SLR in a more compact body format.

The main differences to the existing Four-Thirds system, used by both Panasonic and Olympus in their current digital SLR ranges, are a 50 percent shorter mount-to-sensor distance (approximately 20mm) and a 6mm reduction in lens mount diameter. This means that lenses, particularly wide-angle and long-zoom types, can be smaller and lighter. The new mount also has more electrical connections, allowing more sophisticated in-lens systems, such as Pansonics’s MegaOIS optical image stabilisation system. The G1 can also accept existing Four-Thirds lenses by means of an adaptor.

The G1 camera itself is smaller and lighter than a conventional DSLR. It dispenses with the traditional reflex mirror and pentaprism optical viewfinder in favour of a fully articulated wide-view three-inch monitor, with a resolution of 460,000 dots and 60fps refresh speed. It can rotate 180 degrees horizontally and 270 degrees vertically and has 100 percent frame coverage, with the same 3:2 aspect ratio as the sensor. The camera also has an electronic viewfinder with a massive 1,440,000-dot resolution, 1.4x magnification and 100 percent frame view. It employs “RGB 3-independent sequential illumination to produce 180 fps for each of the three colours”, so it sounds like it should produce a good smooth, sharp view, essential for accurate manual focusing.

Despite the smaller lens mount the Four-Thirds sensor remains the same physical size as in previous models. The G1 has a 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor combined with Venus Engine HD image processing. The sensor is protected from dust entering the camera by a Supersonic Wave self-cleaning system.

The G1 is aimed at first-time users, so it has a feature set similar to Panasonic’s high-spec compacts, including Intelligent Auto with Intelligent ISO Control, Intelligent Exposure, Face Detection AF/AE, Intelligent Scene Selector and AF Tracking. For more advanced users it also includes My Colour mode, with adjustable colour, brightness and saturation. It also has a Film mode, which simulates the results from many different types of film. Although the press release makes no mention of it, it’s probably safe to assume that the G1 has manual exposure options as well. The camera features HDMI output, enabling connection to compatible HD TV sets.

As well as the new camera, Panasonic has also launched two new lenses to go with it, the LUMIX G VARIO 14-45mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH and LUMIX G VARIO 45-200mm/F4.0-5.6, both of which feature the Mega O.I.S. optical image stabilisation system. Also available are a range of accessories including three external flash units, a soft case, a remote shutter release and several shoulder straps. Unlike digital SLRs, the DMC-G1 will be available in a range of colours, initially black, red and blue. The DMC-G1 and its lenses will be available from November 2008, at a price to be announced closer to the launch date.

Of course this launch does raise an interesting issue of what to call this new type of camera. It’s not a DSLR, since the “R” part of that acronym refers to the reflex mirror, which the G1 doesn’t have. Since photographers and camera journalists all over the world will wince with pain every time someone in marketing or advertising refers to the new camera as a DSLR, we clearly need a new term. How about Interchangeable Lens Compact, or ILC for short? Make your suggestions in the comment section please.


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