The first thing you notice about the G1 is that it really is quite small. In fact, it's smaller in every dimension than the 'world's smallest SLR' (the Olympus E-420), which is one of the benefits promised by Micro Four Thirds' elimination of the reflex mirror. From a design point of view it is, in almost every respect, very careful to mimic DSLR design, with a large grip and command dial embedded in the front of it. And the result is a camera that will be instantly familiar to users familiar with DSLRs and, perhaps more importantly, one that is consistent with the expectations of users aspiring to own a DSLR.
The soft micro-textured finish and overall build quality make the camera feel anything but 'cheap' (though a little more 'grip' or texture to the surface would be nice - there was some slight concern that the current texture felt slightly plasticy).
In your hand / grip
Despite being smaller in every dimension than the Olympus E-420 (the smallest DSLR on the market), the G1 features a respectably sized grip that fits well in the hand and puts both the shutter button and mode dial in easy reach. The 'push and turn' control dial avoids the need for any buttons to be held down when changing settings, meaning the AF/AE Lock button can be placed very conveniently. With the supplied lens mounted the G1 feels reassuringly 'dense' - it's heavy enough to feel solid and stable in the hand.
Side by side
Below you can see how the G1 lines up compared to the small-sensor Lumix FZ28 and the mid-level L10 DSLR, which is based around a sensor of the same size as the G1. Admittedly the L10 isn't exactly the smallest DSLR on the market but it does give an idea of just how much smaller the G1 is. Consider that both have variable aperture Image Stabilized lenses covering similar ranges mounted on them (14-45mm F3.5-5.6 on the G1 and 14-50mm F3.8-5.6 on the L10).
(W x H x D)
(inc. battery & card)
|Panasonic Lumix G1||124 x 84 x 45 mm (4.9 x 3.3 x 1.8 in)||440 g (1.0 lb)|
|Panasonic Lumix L10||135 x 96 x 78 mm (5.3 x 3.8 x 3.1 in)||556 g (1.2 lb)|
|Olympus E-420||130 x 91 x 53 mm (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)||440 g (1.0 lb)|
|Panasonic Lumix FZ28||118 x 75 x 89 mm (4.6 x 3.0 x 3.5 in)||417 g (0.9 lb)|
Another promised difference of the Micro Four Thirds system is that the lenses can be smaller than those designed for conventional DSLR lens mounts. The 14-45mmm F3.5-5.6 lens that comes with the G1 certainly appears to deliver on that promise, having a much smaller diameter than the most closely specified Four Thirds lens - the Olympus 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 (and the Lumix lens has image stabilization built in).