The GF1 is obviously a close relation of the G1/GH1, with similar styling and a very similar control layout. The design (which has more than a dash of LX3 about it) is simple to the point of being purely utilitarian, with little in the way of ornamentation and only the small (but usable) hand grip breaking the straight lines of the boxy body. That said, though it doesn't wear its retro design cues on its sleeve like the Olympus E-P1, it's a handsome camera that (thanks to the almost full metal jacket) has a quality feel. Like the E-P1 it feels dense and solid, and the fit and finish are superb - overall it is, especially as here in the all-black version, a very classy camera, and one you can't help pick up and play with.
In your hand / grip
It might not look it, but the GF1 handles surprisingly well. The small grip does its job well and the controls are all easily accessible. You can use it for 'point and shoot' operation with one hand, but if you want to use the control dial you'll need to use both. Inevitably the handling is nowhere near as useful as a full size SLR when it comes to serious work, but it's a lot better than most similarly-sized compact cameras.
Side by side
Below you can see the GF1's dimensions compared to the smallest entry level DSLR on the market (the Olympus E-420) and the only other big sensor 'compact' cameras on the market; the Olympus E-P1 and Sigma's DP2 (which, aside from the lens, is almost identical to the DP1). Inevitably the GF1 and E-P1 sit somewhere between the DP1 and the SLR.
(W x H x D)
(inc. battery & card)
|Panasonic Lumix GF1||119 mm x 71 mm x 36.3 mm (4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 in)||348 g (0.76 lb)|
|Sigma DP2||113 x 60 x 56 mm (4.5 x 2.4 x 2.2 in)||280 g (9.9 oz)|
|Olympus E-P1||121 x 70 x 36 mm (4.8 x 2.8 x 1.4 in)||355 g (12.5 oz)|
|Olympus E-420||130 x 91 x 53 mm (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)||426 g (15 oz)|
The GF1, like its siblings, comes in a range of color options depending on which region you're in, there are three available in most of Europe; black, silver and red (or, in Panasonic marketing terms, 'true black, active red and sleek silver'). For our money the black is the clear winner in the style stakes though the white model available in Japan is also rather nice.