The Panasonic DMC–L1
In late February Panasonic issued a press release detailing the specifications for its first entry into the blossoming digital SLR market, the Lumix DMC-L1, and a new Leica lens to go with it. It all looks very impressive. Indeed, the online digital photography world seems to be most enamored with it. Its the first dSLR with a full-time 'live view' feature, a 'Supersonic Wave Filter' dust reduction system to keep the MOS sensor clean when swapping lenses, and the lens even has a built-in optical image stabiliser. This as all very clever. However, I'm not overly impressed.
Why would you want to buy an L1 when Panasonic already manufacture the SLR-busting DMC-FZ30? This is a whopping camera, with a 12x optical zoom (the largest of any fixed-lense digital camera, did you know), 8MP (half a MP up on the L1, but that's an irrelevance), optical image stabilisation and a flip-out LCD screen (with the 'live view' as standard, of course 8-)). It's also got all the manual controls that you'll ever need. The only advantages the L1 seems to have over the FZ30 are a better sensor, compatibility with the new high-capacity SDHC memory cards, and, err, the ability to change lenses. All this will probably come at a minimum £200 premium over the FZ30 (which retails for just under £500) as well, which seems a bit unneccesary.
However, Panasonic's desire to move into the dSLR market is indeed a wise one. The Canon EOS 20D is everywhere, you see a lot of them around, and Panasonic rightly want a peice of the pie. I personally think that the FZ30 is a better product than the EOS 20D, but perhaps it gets overlooked for not being an SLR. Shame really, the only difference is that you can't screw off the lense and you can always see what you're taking pictures of ;-). I think that perhaps the perception of Panasonic's brand (in photography) is weaker because it does not have an SLR model to act a flagship for the range, despite the brilliance of the FZx0 series.
I can see why you'd want to buy that lense though…optical image stabilisation rocks, and to be able to retro-fit that to your dSLR is massive. However, isn't most dSLR work done using a tripod anyway, since they're more likely to be in the hands of professionals? Surely this makes O.I.S a bit of an irrelevance. I guess if you're a sports photographer then it will still be give you some considerable assitance, but I don't really know enough about pro photography to make an educated comment.
I guess the sort of people after an L1 will be these professionals – I have no desire to ever use a different lense, my trusty FZ20 has all the range you'll need (although I wouldn't say no to some more wide-angle) – who need the extra quality that the L1 sensor brings. Fair play. I guess that kind of answers my question. However, I'm only an rookie when it comes to photography, so have I underestimated the magnificance of the L1? Probably 8-).