There's one clear downside to digital SLRs -- their size. Thanks to cameras and their ilk, however, you can enjoy the advantages of near-professional image quality and interchangeable lenses without having to risk a hernia. Not only that, but you can also take home the brand new Lumix DMC-G3 for the relatively affordable sum of £550 without a lens, and about £600 with a 14-42mm lens. Are there any chinks in the G3's armour, then?
The Micro Four Thirds system is relatively new. It was developed by Panasonic and Olympus in a bid to make smaller alternatives to a dSLR that offered similar image quality and features. Micro Four Thirds cameras do away with the mirror and light box that you'll find taking up space inside most viewfinder-based dSLRs, which helps to reduce the bulk considerably.
The G3 certainly looks like a shrunken dSLR. That's particularly true of the black version, with red and white models also being available. The moulded right-hand grip and top-mounted viewfinder housing add to the feeling of authenticity.
Pick the G3 up and, if you're used to wielding full-size dSLRs, it'll look like you have the hands of a giant. Having said that, we'd be lying if we suggested the G3 was in any way pocket-sized. The body weighs 336g, and, once you've added a lens, that will rise to well over half a kilo.
The other notable aspect of the G3's design is the inclusion of both an electronic viewfinder and a 3-inch fold-out LCD screen. The latter pivots so that you can twist and tilt it into a variety of positions, which is great for taking high- or low-angle shots, and even self-portraits.
The display is touch-sensitive, although the implementation of touch controls isn't as intuitive as we'd like. There's some use of on-screen sliders, for example, but the G3's touch panel isn't designed to respond to-like, natural gestures.
Also, Panasonic is reluctant to relinquish traditional controls altogether, so what you end up with is an odd combination of tappable on-screen options and old-fashioned physical button presses and dial turns. It takes a while to learn when you can and can't use touch commands. Touching the screen to focus on and track a specific object soon becomes second nature, however, and you'll wonder how you ever managed before.
It's worth noting that there's a surprisingly diverse selection of lenses to choose from, including compact pancake lenses, self-stabilised telephoto lenses, and even a 3D lens.
At the heart of the G3 is a Four Thirds-sized image sensor -- it's much larger than the sensors used by most compact cameras and the same size as those used in full-format dSLRs. Bigger is better when it comes to image sensors and the G3's newly minted Live MOS chip has the added benefit of a very high resolution -- 16 megapixels to be precise. Also present is a high-speed autofocus system that can lock onto a subject in as little as 0.1 seconds.