• Price: 499

  • Company: Panasonic

  • Pros: Lightweight yet sturdy; good image quality; fast and responsive; electronic viewfinder or angled LCD for composition and review

  • Cons: No HD video; may frustrate experienced users; whole new camera system

  • Our Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

Panasonic’s 12-megapixel G1 looks like a mini digital SLR from the outside, but it has done away with the traditional SLR mirror mechanism to bring the lens and sensor closer together, making it more compact – and so technically isn’t a digital SLR. The G1 further differs from the norm by omitting an optical viewfinder in preference for full-time Live View.

While the G1 couldn’t claim to be a pocket camera, with the kit lens attached it feels much lighter than competing starter models. The 14-45mm lens can be swapped in use, and due to the size of the sensor, it provides the equivalent of 28-90mm on a 35mm film SLR. It’s good for landscapes and group photos at the wide-angle end, and portraits and character studies at the telephoto end.

Sample picture for this camera

Pictures are not only consistent – they’re better than those traditionally offered by an entry-level digital SLR and have a more filmic look. Auto modes work well in delivering correct exposures, and even if there’s some pixel fringing on close inspection, there’s a surprisingly high level of detail thanks to the combination of sensor and lens. Results at maximum ISO 3200 are as free of noise as those delivered at ISO 1600 by competing cameras.

If you’re put off digital SLRs by their bulk, the G1 means it’s time to reconsider.

This review is part of our group test on Digital SLR cameras. Please click here to return to the feature.