The big news in cameras is actually pretty small. A new format with the wonky name “micro four thirds” (referring to the image sensor’s size and 4:3 aspect ratio), combines the interchangeable lenses of an SLR with the compact body of a point-and-shoot. The first model, Panasonic’s G1, is about the size of the most petite SLRs but uses even smaller lenses. A design concept from Olympus shows the potential for more-diminutive future models.
To shrink the cameras, the companies removed a key part of SLRs—the mirror that sits behind the lens and reflects images into the viewfinder. The downside is that you have to compose shots using an LCD screen, which isn’t as accurate as looking right through the lens of an SLR.
On the upside, you get the other benefits of an SLR in a compact package. The G1’s 12.1-megapixel image sensor, though smaller than most SLR’s, is about six times as large as a high-end point-and-shoot’s. Bigger sensors absorb more light to capture richer details and colors, especially in dim settings. And the ability to change lenses lets you shoot anything from extreme close-ups to wide shots to a warped fish-eye view. Best of all, you’ll finally have room to pack all those lenses in your bag.