Not that I can afford it this year, but, on the heels of Olympus’ lovely but flawed EP-1 camera comes Panasonic’s response: the GF-1.
For everyone who did not rush out and buy the EP-1, who either lacked the cash or decided it was sensible to wait to see how these new kind of “micro4/3rds” cameras would evolve, we are seeing that evolution now. Panasonic’s new GF1 is essentially identical to the EP-1, but their PR department made sure to stick it to Olympus’ failure to include a flash in the EP-1 by mentioning “a built-in flash” in the very first sentence of their press release for the GF1.
Myself, I am waiting for Olympus’ response… for the EP-2 (or whatever it may be called), which will surely correct the mistakes Olympus made with the EP-1. Because even if the Panasonic GF1 may have trumped the EP-1 in terms of flash and focus speed, I have high hopes that the EP-2 will have the same beautiful retro-futuristic style that the EP-1 has, and that counts for a lot in my book. In contrast, the Panasonic GF1 is rather ugly — although it too will be offered in white. In summary, I’m waiting for Olympus, and am excited by the tit for tat process of this competition.
(If Olympus fails to deliver an improvement this December, then Panasonic wins with the GF1, because in addition to providing a flash (which is hidden inside the corner — it pops up when needed), the Panasonic has a higher resolution lcd screen on the back, a faster autofocus, and a better wide angle lens.)
The new Panasonic GF1 (available in several colors, including this Space:1999-esque white):
The recent Olympus EP-1 (below), with classy 1960s retro-futuristic style but no flash:
UPDATE: One nagging concern about the micro4/3rds cameras such as the EP1 and the GF1 is that even though the sensor is much larger than any previous compact camera, it is still only about 2/3rds the size of the sensor found in DSLR cameras. So there will always be the lingering awareness that you’ve sacrificed a bit of image quality. For those who don’t like that feeling, Samsung is due to introduce a camera line with a full-size sensor. But… it won’t be as pretty as the EP1.
The Samsung NX line will resemble a slimmed-down DSLR camera more than it will resemble a compact. The useless mound on the top that, on an SLR, contains a viewfinder you put your eye up against, has been reduced in size. (I wish it had been removed completely.) It still looks too much like an SLR to me, but, it is another indication that the effort to put large sensors into smaller bodies is well underway. No info on pricing yet, but previews abound. If they make a version without the mound, it may compete with the EP1 and GF1.
(Get with it Samsung — offer it in white! All the cool kids are making their cameras in white!)
Ricoh is also expected to debut something similar, very soon (possibly called the Ricoh GZ-1).
With Samsung, Leica and Ricoh about to prove that you can in fact fit an APS-C sensor into a compact body, the only way the micro4/3rds format will survive is by dramatically lowering their prices to compete with consumer compacts. And that is unlikely to happen this soon into the launch of the micro4/3rds concept. The investors will resist reality.
Please know, I was totally supportive of the Olympus EP1. I wanted one. But I only wanted one when the alternative was a full size, bulky DSLR.
That isn’t the situation any more. The micro4/3rds is going to become a niche product, very quickly, if it does not revise its strategy and pricing.
APS-C sensors in compact bodies is the real revolution. Micro4/3rds was a false start.