The Panasonic DMC-GH1 is something of a wild card here. It doesn't have the traditional mirror, shutter and curtain arrangement of the other cameras on test. Instead, the sensor is on all the time, and the viewfinder is simply a very small LCD screen, complementing the pivoting 3in, 460,000-pixel screen on the back.
The sensor uses Panasonic's take on the Micro Four Thirds standard, a derivative of the Four Thirds sensor found in the Olympus E-450.
To read the marketing bumph, you could be forgiven for expecting an incredibly small camera with DSLR-like quality, but this isn't the case. The GH1 isn't significantly smaller than any of the other DSLRs on test.
It comes with the most impressive lens, though. The Micro Four Thirds sensor has a crop factor of 2x, which means the maximum focal length of any lens is doubled: the 140mm lens of this kit is equivalent to 280mm on a 35mm-frame camera.
The 10x zoom is the most powerful here, and the image stabilisation is a particular plus on a lens this long. It also shoots 1080p HD video at 24fps, and has a stereo microphone.
We liked the DMC-GH1's image quality. It wasn't the best on test, but with all the cameras so close we were prepared to forgive it the occasional outburst of noise on our ISO 1600, f/22 test. The lens resolved a decent amount of detail, and although we wouldn't want to print the DMC-GH1's high ISO images at large sizes, it's fine for most scenarios.
Impressively, the DMC-GH1 performs like a DSLR. Shot-to-shot time was negligible, except when processing long exposures. And in continuous mode it hit a maximum speed of 3.8fps, although over five seconds it ran at a less impressive 1.7fps.
The big problem is the price. At more than two thousand dollars, the DMC-GH1 is incredibly expensive. For this much money we'd want better performance and quality, and a true optical viewfinder. Unless you're desperate for 1080p video, there are better options.