With the upcoming GF3, heavily leaked this weekend, Panasonic seem to be slowly coming towards a coherent product line that will provide different models for different kinds of photographers. With a range that includes the GF3, G3 and GH2 there are now cameras that will provide for both point and shoot upgraders and DSLR users wanting to downsize without loosing quality.
Though there are still inconsistencies, such as when you add a kit zoom to a GF3 it suddenly gets a lot bigger (though this doesn't seem to be a problem for the Sony NEX), this does seem to be settling down into a more balanced selection of cameras. Panasonic also seem to be quite ruthless in their determination to succeed with this, with the axing of the only recently released GF2.
From all available information, it seems Olympus may be going the same route too.
So we have a range of cameras, and between the two companies a pretty decent set of lenses. The soon to be released 25mm f/1.4 from Panasonic and the probable? 12mm f/2 from Olympus will add more high quality primes to the collection of (mostly) very capable zooms. Panasonic have also proved that they can get excellent results from a 4/3 16MP sensor.
All of this is good news. When the system first appeared, there were basically several versions of the same camera. In a month or two I suspect we will see much more choice, from the very small and pocketable to the more well-specified, but all retaining the idea of small and light without compromising on image quality.
I don't think anyone as yet is in a position to know where this is going to go next. Panasonic and Olympus no longer have the field to themselves. Sony and Samsung are already taking a slice of the market, and others may be preparing to give it a go as well.
To a large extent this will depend on the answers to some questions.
Can Panasonic push the sensor even higher? Sony are obviously ambitious to get their MP count higher for APS-C, and whether they succeed, we'll see soon. So can Panasonic keep up pro-rata? If Sony do produce the rumoured 24MP APS-C can Panasonic come up with a 20MP 4/3 sensor?
Will cameras like the GF3 and the rumoured Olympus "Mini" make serious inroads into the compact point and shoot market? Will Panasonic / Olympus keep the "enthusiasts" happy with their ever diminishing camera design?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then we may expect a bright future for the system. If no then we may get a marginalised product line similar to what 4/3 has become.
Both the m4/3 companies are now in a very real game of leap-frog with their competitors, and they can surely no longer just go their own way. They have to respond to what other manufacturers bring out. This competition will hopefully push them to better products for us all to enjoy. Ultimately, unless we're shareholders in the companies, we can just select what's best for us from whatever is available, and to a certain extent it may not matter whether the system survives or slowly fades away.
If its m4/3 or APS-C does it really matter?