Pros Easy interface, Great Lens with focus and aperture ring, Shutter Speed on top dial
Cons Can't see out of lens without power, can't pause when shooting action, can't get good info without LCD on
Summary This is my first SLR camera and I chose Panasonic because my first digital camera I ever owned was a Panasonic FX9.
I'm happy to report that I'm not disappointed and in fact quite delighted with the overall package. With the old school looks and easy to get to features such as shutter speed, aperture and focus, I take pictures alot faster and better than say someone using say the Canon Rebel.
However, thats an unfair comparison since the value of the two cameras is at two different price points. A fairer comparison would be the DMC-L1 with say, the Canon EOS 30D. The EOS doesn't have built in Dust Reduction System or a Leica Lens out of the box. However, besides those two things, its hard to figure out what other advantages there are to the Panasonic.
The Canon 30D has 8.2 Megapixels, while the DMC-L1 has 7.5 Megapixels. The 30D has a slightly faster start up time, I don't even notice since both are so fast. But the big thing is, is that the 30D is priced at $1,399 US while the DMC-L1 is at $1,999.
So basically, if you like the old school look with the DMC-L1 reminiscent of the Rangefinder bodies, easy to get to main features, such as aperture, focus, and shutter speed, and of course a Leica lens, then you just might to pick up the new Panasonic DMC-L1.
Pros ? Camera still in development stage
Cons ? Hard to say; camera is in development stage
Summary While both the DMC-L1 and Olympus E-330 provide a live preview on the LCD monitor, the cameras are quite different in this respect.
The E-330 has a Full Time Live View mode (using a second sensor in the body) not available with the DMC-L1.
The cameras do share one Live View mode (using the new Panasonic nMOS sensor), called "Macro", not described in the CNET Preview. (Uses mirror lock-up; manual focus only.)
Since the Panasonic camera is in the development stage, it's impossible to rate it.
Pros Build quality and feel. Lens quality. Analog controlls. Minimal but complete feature set.
Cons Dim viewfinder (although live view can mitigate that).
Summary While less expensive "plastic" cameras can take great photos, the build quality and feel, analog controls, and soul of this camera is superior to even the higher end metal bodied competitors. The lens is better than all the other "kit" lenses (in this kits price range) and better than several manufacturers offer in thier entire lens line.
The pre-production issues have been corrected. This camera takes great photo's and is a pleasure to use.
Pros Retro look, relatively high quality components
Cons No swivel screen, tiny dim viewfinder, no CF card, thick body, cheap feeling lens
Summary After using this camera for about 3 months, I really credit Panasonic (also Leica) for attempting a nice new camera. However, there are so many missed opportunities to make this a great camera that one has to ask what Panasonic was thinking when they decided on the specs. For one, the lack of a swivel screen is just unforgivable. The Live View mode is nearly useless without one. The viewfinder is dim and not very clear.. lack of a CF card was an odd choice, but I can live with that.. Look at all that room around the tiny viewfinder - buddy, can you spare a dime? Give us a bit more glass to look through!
Regarding ergonomics, I like retro, simple designs - and this is a great attempt at that. However, Panasonic needs to hire some ergonomic/interaction designers to deal with button locations. The power switch is easy to hit with the right thumb.. The ISO selector, while very nice and analog, STOPS instead of allowing one to rotate through to other modes.
Regarding quality "feel", I was mixed on this. Honestly, I like really solid feeling equipment. This is 3/4 of the way there, but still felt like there was a lot of wasted space and air in that huge case. Thinner, a bit more dense, and better weather sealing would have made this a better device. Also, the Leica lens feels rather cheap and plasticy to me. Zooming is smoothish, but not very smooth.
Regarding photo quality, I find the photos (jpeg) to be too bright and overly contrasy. Black and whites are too blown-own for my taste.
The shutter noise isn't bad at all - rather quiet to my ear.
Panasonic, add a swivel screen, thin the body down a bit, and have Leica (or whomever manufactures the casing on this lens) pony up for something better than plastic, and you're there. The optics are great, but the casing is poor.
Overall, a neat camera, but it falls short of being a rugged Olympus E330 killer, and it's just not in the same (build quality) league as a Nikon D200. It's a decent attempt, but fails on the whole.
Pros Value ($1299 at Costco.com), best kit lens available, powerful features, tough-as-nails body, intuitive ease of use, live view, classic aesthetic, bounce flash
Cons Some noise in low light at high ISO; support website for firmware update has a serious typo causing confusion and splitting headache
Summary It's a great dSLR, but it's not for everyone... the styling and ergonomics might be too retro for some. It's not really a sports shooter. It's lay-out may be too reminiscent of a manual SLR.
The thing is, a camera is a tool, and whatever makes you feel most comfortable will help you shoot better. The L1 is pure mastercrafted old-school simplicity. For those who love the feel of the Leica M, who hate buttons and menu mazes, and are most at home working with an aperture ring and a shutter-speed dial, this is absolutely the camera for you.
As for the 4/3 system, there are a lot of haters out there who can't stand the thought of anything new, different or innovative. If you're worried about low light high ISO noise on account of the smaller 4/3 sensor, get a tripod and shoot at lower ISO, or just buy a Canon 30D if shooting pillow fights by candle light is your thing. Otherwise, the L1 is the best mid-range DSLR value out there.