Panasonic DSLR offering is a heavyweight contender
Price: €1,600 (body only) or €2,200 (body plus 14-140mm powerzoom lens)
The days of Panasonic DSLRs being a novelty alternative to 'full' Nikon or Canon cameras are long gone: Panasonic's GH range, in particular, is now a heavyweight contender.
The manufacturer's latest 16-megapixel GH4 model illustrates the point well. This is a camera that is clearly built for semi-professional use, with a tough, rugged build, oodles of manual options and excellent picture quality. It sports blisteringly fast autofocus speeds, and if video is your thing (although it's not particularly my thing), the GH4 is more than a match for anything other than the very top-end Canons and Nikons, with superb colour reproduction and 4K recording.
I liked its use of a flip-out touchscreen as it genuinely helps a live-view focusing process, while advanced features such as time-lapse and stop-motion settings within the camera allow you to produce some stunning photo-reels. It's also around a third smaller than 'full' DSLRs, making it lighter and more portable.
It's true that it remains a challenging choice for an ambitious amateur photographer to choose Panasonic over Canon or Nikon as there are still far more lenses in circulation (and from far more manufacturers) for the 'big two' than there are for any smaller DSLR camera.
That said, Panasonic has the biggest range of lenses among the 'mini-DSLR' alternatives to Canon or Nikon – its collaboration with Leica has produced some particularly fine lenses.
This camera is not priced to be a toy and would suit one of two users: (i) someone who wants substantial power and photo quality but has little interest in building up a large lens collection or (ii) someone who is a serious amateur or semi-professional videographer. The only niggle I had with it was a slightly glitchy focusing quirk, which resolved itself after a while.