The G1 has a 3.0" wide screen display built onto a hinge that allows it to swivel and tilt. The LCD is made up of 460,000 dots, making it one of the higher-resolution examples available. It's not quite on a par with the screens starting to appear on the higher-end enthusiast and pro DSLRs but it's a step ahead of all the current entry-level DSLRs the G1 is competing with. The screen can be turned around completely ('face in') to protect it when not in use.
Possibly the biggest barrier to acceptance of the idea of a non-reflex 'SLR' has been the lack of an electronic eye-level display that can come close to offering the clarity of a traditional mirror, focusing screen and pentaprism/mirror system. The G1's newly developed electronic viewfinder uses single-panel LED-illuminated Direct-view LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) technology, and is based on Panasonic's latest professional high-end system video cameras. It is the first time this technology has been used in consumer-end products.
According to Panasonic LCOS technology can produce much higher resolution images than liquid crystal display or plasma display technologies. Compared to conventional LCDs in which the back light is projected through RGB filters and into the eye, in LCOS, liquid crystals are applied directly to the surface of a silicon chip coated with a highly reflective aluminized layer. RGB light is then reflected off this surface and into the eye, therefore minimizing overall color loss often associated with the low quality of color filters in conventional LCDs. This allows the G1's Live Viewfinder to achieve over 90% of the NTSC color gamut (this, apparently, is unusually high).
The G1's single panel display chip shows the red, green and blue components in succession (field sequential display) - your brain does the combining to produce the full color image. This means you can't see the individual pixels - there's no gap between them (there's no mesh surrounding the color filters such as in conventional LCD displays). The viewfinder is able to refresh the three RGB colors at a rate of 60Hz, therefore achieving the 60fps Full-Time Live View.
We've certainly been impressed by the unit. There's still the slight color 'tearing' if you move your eye too quickly (something common to all field sequential viewfinders we've tried), but the sharpness, resolution, refresh rate, brightness and color are excellent. The real revelation is when you try it next to the Olympus E-420 (using our tried and tested method of putting a camera up to each eye); the G1's viewfinder image looks huge (it's at least 50% larger), and a lot brighter with a standard zoom attached. There's no doubt that electronic viewfinders aren't going to replace optical reflex finders for all applications in the near future (the display gets quite noisy and the refresh rate drops to a rather 'jerky' level in very low light, and it will inevitably impact on shutter lag), but this is a real move in the right direction - it's perfectly possible to check critical focus using the EVF, and there seems to be very little video lag.
Next to the eyepiece there's a sensor that automatically switches between the main screen and the EVF when you put your eye to the viewfinder (there's a slight delay - but we're only talking a fraction of a second).
Camera settings display
There are three different types of display that can be brought up while shooting images with the G1. "LCD monitor" mode looks most like a compact camera display, with icons overlaid on the image. "Finder mode" is very similar but places a black bar across the bottom of the screen, to make it more familiar to DSLR users used to using an optical viewfinder with a status bar along the bottom. Finally, there's a status panel of the type that has become common on entry-level DSLRs.
|The 'Finder' style view retains a black strip along the bottom of the screen to mimic the behavior of an optical viewfinder. Unlike an optical finder, however, it can re-size the view to match the aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2 or 16:9)||Status panel mode behaves just like the other modes, with the Q.Menu button being used to access the different settings.|
In keeping with the G1's aim of behaving exactly like a DSLR, the EVF very closely mimics the appearance of a DSLR. And, unlike DSLRs with Live view, the layout of the information is consistent between the viewfinder and the rear LCD (unless you're using the Status Panel mode on the rear screen). The result is no hunting around for settings - they're always shown in the same place. And, unlike a DSLR, the G1's viewfinder can show you the options for each setting, rather than just reflecting the current settings.
|1||Flash setting||11||AF mode|
|2||Film mode||12||Metering mode|
|3||Optical Image Stabilization mode||13||Recording mode|
|4||Drive mode (blank in single frame mode)||14||Aperture|
|5||Digital zoom||15||Shutter speed|
|6||Picture size/ aspect ratio||16||Exposure indicator|
|7||Quality setting||17||Sensitivity setting|
|8||Power LCD mode||18||White Balance|
|9||Intelligent exposure||19||Frames remaining|
|10||Battery status||20||Focus confirmation|
Battery Compartment / Battery
The G1 has a 1250mAh, 7.2V battery, meaning it can deliver 9.0Wh, in excess of the power output we've seen from recent entry-level DSLRs with small batteries (though, of course, it's reasonable to assume the G1 will draw more power than those cameras, unless they're used in their Live view modes). Battery life is around 330-350 shots (CIPA standard), depending on whether you use the electronic viewfinder or the slightly more power-hungry LCD screen - this is similar to most digital SLRs used in live view mode (though of course here you don't have the option of an optical finder to extend battery life). In these days of 8GB SD cards it's easy to shoot that many pictures in a day, so a spare battery might be a good idea.
The G1 uses a new battery, the memorably named DMW-BLB13PP. The DE-A49 charger is also new and offers a 9.3V DC output that the optional DC cable/dummy battery (DMW-DCC3) can be plugged into.
Secure Digital Compartment
Like most of cameras at this end of the market, the G1 accepts the popular SD format of memory card (including the larger capacity SDHC variety). The card slot sits under a sturdy slide-out spring-bound door (there's no lock but the door is stiff enough to avoid accidental opening).
On the left hand side of the camera is the familiar micro USB digital/video connector and a c-type Mini HDMI connector for connection to your HDTV. No HDMI cable is included with the camera, however, so that's something you may need to invest it.