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Christmas Gift Guide

It looks like this interchangeable lens thing could catch on. Judging by some of the prosumers and photo nuts we spoke to at this week's Focus On Imaging show in Birmingham, compact cameras with swappable lenses are capturing the imagination -- and even some wallets. The latest addition to the line-up is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2, and we've tried it out.

It's the latest model to use the Micro Four Thirds lens format, developed by Olympus and Panasonic, which removes the moving parts from inside a traditional dSLR and makes for smaller cameras. Panasonic also launched the Lumix DMC-G10, making a total of five Micro Four Thirds cameras in Panasonic's catalogue.

The G2 packs a 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor and Venus engine HDII processor. It shoots 720p high-definition video in either AVCHD Lite format -- at 50 fps -- or Motion JPEG, at 30fps.

What makes the G2 unique is its touchscreen. It's the first lens-swapping compact camera you can control by tapping on the screen. There's all sorts of finger-friendly touchscreen options, whether tweaking shooting controls or changing the camera's settings.

When you're snapping, you can tap the screen to focus on that point. A slider lets you resize the area you want to focus on. You can even tap in different places to select multiple focus points, from the camera's nine points. Mash on a moving subject and the camera will track them. If you're focusing manually, touching the screen enlarges the image by 5x, helping you to get your image pin-sharp.

You don't even have to press the shutter button -- touch the screen and the camera can focus and take the picture automatically. Video doesn't miss out either: touch the screen in two places to smoothly and automatically pull focus from one to the other.

Other options include the adding and moving guidelines, and even moving the onscreen histogram so it doesn't obscure your image. You can also move through your pictures with a swipe of a finger, and zoom in and out.

And there's more. You get seven scene modes, including an interesting high-contrast silhouette mode. Intelligent resolution sharpens detailed areas of a photo, and face recognition saves three faces.

We tried the G2 out, which is almost as good as you trying it out. Click continue to see the G2 in action in our gallery of hands-on shots.

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The electronic viewfinder is clear and sharp. It includes a sensor that knows when you move your eye away. Unlike traditional optical viewfinders, electronic eyeholes let you view menu options and pictures you've taken.
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There's an HDMI connection to play your high-definition stylings on your HDTV.
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The G2 comes with a stabilised 14-42mm lens. An 8mm F3.5 fish-eye lens and a 14mm pancake lens are due in summer this year. The G2 will be compatible with full-sized Micro Four Thirds lenses with an adaptor.
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If you're not keen on touchscreens, the usual button layout is present and correct. That said, if you're not keen on touchscreens, you can buy one of the other G cameras in the range. The touchscreen does everything, so we could argue that the usual buttons are unnecessary. The automatic iA mode button has been moved to the top of the camera, alongside a dedicated video button at the top.
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Even though it's a touchscreen, the display flips out and twists over. You can close it and just use the viewfinder, fold it flat to the camera for live view, or angle it to watch the screen as you shoot above your head or down near the ground.
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Quick menu lets you control shooting options such as ISO speed and white balance on the touchscreen. Exposure compensation gets this nifty-looking onscreen dial. It's a fun way of altering settings, and the screen gives all the options plenty of space.
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The G2 comes in red, blue or black. This one's black. It's a great camera to handle: compact, but solid enough to get a grip on, and impressively small for the number of features included. The flip-out screen and high-resolution viewfinder are both winning features even before we get to the touchscreen, which took some getting used to, but was a lot of fun. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 will be out in June for around £650. That's a chunk of change, but you can't say the G2 isn't feature-packed.
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