PMA 2006: Yesterday we got our hands on the Lumix DMC-L1 and had a detailed discussion with Panasonic executives and product planners about their exciting new digital SLR. The DMC-L1 is Panasonic's first digital SLR, its design ethos is clearly clean, simple, functional and very 'Leica like'. There are lots of touches in the design of this camera which make it more appealing that most other digital SLRs, these include the shutter speed dial and aperture ring (on the lens) which give very quick access to manual exposure creativity and encourage the photographer to experiment more. We also got the low down on just how much of this camera is shared with the Olympus E-330.

As it turns out while the DMC-L1 shares some components with the E-330 it is going to be very much a Panasonic camera with their own 'backend' image processing, features and user interface. The only components shared between the E-330 and the DMC-L1 are the lens mount, mirror box, viewfinder assembly (which also includes the AE and AF sensors, see below), SSWF (dust filter) and of course the 'Live MOS' sensor which is a Panasonic component (developed in conjunction with Olympus). The camera we saw was an early pre-production unit but was already functioning relatively well in all areas.

We asked a few of the questions raised in the forums over the last couple of days, and though many of the answers can't yet be published (because the details haven't been finalised or are embargoed), one interesting point regards the lack of a tilting screen, which apparently was left off purely for aesthetic / design reasons, to keep the clean lines and to avoid making the body (which is a little smaller than the E-330) any deeper.

The rest of the camera including all of the important 'image development' pipeline has been developed by Panasonic for this camera and we will be very interested to see just what this will mean in terms of differences in image quality between the DMC-L1 and E-330. Having handled the camera it's fair to say that it feels very unlike other digital SLR's with its lightweight yet robust metal body and clean lines. Sharing as much of the limelight is the new Leica D 14-50 mm lens which has a fast maximum aperture of F2.8 to F3.5, this lens is clearly a quality piece of engineering and will definitely afford the DMC-L1 with a significant optical advantage over other D-SLR kits. Of course the lens also features Panasonic's 'Mega OIS' image stabilization.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 hands-on images

Phil: Apologies for the grainy images, I shot at ISO 1600 but underexposed (manually) by at least one stop (accidentally of course), so the images had to be brightened quite a bit in post-processing.