Panasonic has introduced two new 12-megapixel Micro Four Thirds cameras -- high-end compacts with swappable lenses, like dSLRs -- to replace the original Lumix G1. The G10 reviewed here is the cheaper, entry-level model (the is the other), but at a street price of around £470 it's competing head-on with a whole bunch of rather good low-cost digital SLRs from Canon, Nikon and Sony.
First impressions are good: the G10 is small, neat and light. The silky matte finish looks and feels smart, the controls are clearly labelled and everything has a precise and positive feel.
Round the back, the four-way navigational buttons double up as shortcuts for adjusting the ISO, white balance and metering mode. The fourth 'Fn' button can be configured to set the Film Mode (picture style), the aspect ratio (including a new, square 1:1 format) or any one of a number of other common adjustments.
Or you can press the 'Q.Menu' button on the back and change settings directly on the screen. The icons around the edge change into drop-down menus you can navigate around with the directional buttons.
The 76mm (3-inch), 460,800-pixel LCD display is particularly good. It has a 3:2 aspect ratio, which means there are narrow black bars either side when shooting in the normal 4:3 ratio, but it's probably the best compromise for a camera that also shoots 16:9 HD movies.
The LCD is used for live-view shooting and movies, and it's in these modes that the benefits of the mirrorless Micro Four Thirds system are most apparent. You don't get the mirror clanking up and down like you do in a dSLR, and the autofocus is much faster. The G10 will also focus as you film, keeping up quite smartly with changing camera angles and subject distances.
The picture quality is very good, and more than a match for any dSLR, except perhaps at the very highest ISOs. Although this is a low-cost model aimed primarily at beginners, it offers all the manual control an enthusiast could ask for too.