updated 09:25 am EDT, Wed September 2, 2009
Panasonic's first compact MFT camera
Panasonic matches the Olympus E-P1 with its own small Micro Four Thirds camera.
As expected, Panasonic today launched the Lumix GF1, its own take on the idea of a rangefinder-like Micro Four Thirds camera. In addition to being slightly smaller than the Olympus E-P1 it shares its system with, the GF1 has a surprise fix for the absence of built-in flash on its competitor: the corner opposite the grip has a hidden pop-up flash that properly distances the illumination from the lens. No viewfinder is built-in, but an optional electronic viewfinder provides 100 percent coverage regardless of lens.
In software, the camera shares the E-P1's 720p video recording (in H.264 or Motion JPEG) and let users adjust focus in the middle of a session. Unique to Panasonic are several color modes that include presets for specific effects or simulated film types while giving manual adjustments. Beginners also get a simplified bokeh mode through a Peripheral Defocus scene preset that uses a shallow depth of field and blurs either the background or the foreground while leaving the other in focus.
Actual still shooting occurs at 12 megapixels with up to ISO 3,200 light sensitivity. Although much of it is based on the same system as the at times slow G1/GH1, the camera has a much faster Live View that runs at 60 frames per second and a fast contrast autofocus system that, with the standard zoom lens, locks in within 0.3 seconds. The focus system itself can either use a 23-point system, a user-selectable focus point, or an intelligent AF system that starts focusing before the user touches the shutter.
Prices on the GF1 will be higher than for the Olympus counterpart as Panasonic doesn't have a body-only option and requires Panasonic's own lenses. Both a version with a 20mm, f1.7 pancake lens and another with a 14-45mm, f3.5-5.6 lens will cost $900 when they ship in early October. The viewfinder attachment (DMW-LVF1) will cost $200, while two adapters (DMW-MA2M and DMW-MA3R) will let users mount Leica lenses for $250 each.