The EX1 is a littler larger and heavier than the Lumix LX5, measuring approximately 114 x 65 x 45.5mm and weighing approximately 280g including battery and memory card. However it is substantially smaller and lighter than the Canon PowerShot G12.
As you might expect from a top-shelf product like this, the EX1 is well equipped with useful features. The main exposure modes are set via a dial on the top panel, and consist of program auto, aperture and shutter priority and full manual exposure, as well as a full auto setting, video recording mode, a high-ISO dual-IS mode, and a scene mode, with 12 scene programs. Next to the exposure mode dial is a drive mode selector, with single-shot, continuous shooting, two and ten-second self timer and an auto-bracket option. The centre of this dial also holds the on/off button.
Exposure values are adjusted by a roller control on the front handgrip, positioned just under the right forefinger, and by a rotary bezel around the D-pad. Other external control include a dedicated video recording button, a metering mode button, and exposure lock. All of the EX1’s controls operate with a reassuring solidity and responsiveness, and feel well mounted and durable.
The EX1 has both a conventional main menu and a quick function menu which should be used for commonly-used shooting adjustments. It does contain some of these such as image size and quality, white balance, focus area selection and the PhotoStyles tone control, but it also carries less useful options such as the gimmicky Smart Filter (miniature, vignette or fish-eye effects) and face detection options, while more useful options such as exposure compensation are relegated to the main menu.
Despite this slight oversight, and despite its complexity, the EX1 is surprisingly easy to use. The controls are sensibly laid out, the new animated high-res menus look great on the bright AMOLED screen, and the twist-and-flip articulated monitor adds some welcome versatility. No doubt the usual moaning Minnies will complain about its lack of an optical viewfinder, but with a monitor as good as this you don’t really miss it.
One minor disappointment is the video recording mode. While its main rivals can shoot 720p HD video, and some compacts can shoot full 1080p video with stereo audio, the EX1 is limited to 640 x 480 resolution at 30fps, with mono audio. However at least you can watch the recorded footage on your TV thanks to an HDMI output cable.