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The basic concept of the Micro Four Thirds format, jointly developed by Olympus and Panasonic, is to create interchangeable-lens cameras without an SLR mirror mechanism, relying exclusively on Live View for both lining up shots and autofocusing the camera. Without the mirror, Micro Four Thirds cameras can be smaller, particularly in depth. The Panasonic Lumix G1 was relatively slim when it was introduced last year, though not a radical departure from existing small SLRs. The breakthrough achievement for the G1, though, was fast Live View autofocus. For the first time we could shoot subjects in motion in Live View mode and not worry about the focus keeping up, and we applauded, even with some hesitation over image quality.
What was missing from the G1, though, was the ability to shoot video, a void that has since been filled by several video-equipped SLRs. Now, with the Lumix GH1, Panasonic responds to the SLR video world with a bang, delivering a camera with the manual control and autofocus ability you'd expect from a high-def camcorder, sadly lacking in video-equipped SLRs to date. The 12.1-megapixel GH1 is priced at $1499.99, a hefty chunk of change in this economy, but that hasn't stopped fans from enthusiastically buying snapping up the first few production models too quickly for Panasonic to keep up with demand. In the following review, we'll explore the pros and cons of this groundbreaking camera, with the experts from our sister site CamcorderInfo.com providing an authoritative comparison not only between the GH1 and two SLRs, but also weighing it against a first-rate high-def camcorder.