The more compact version of Panasonic's G series of interchangeable lens cameras is now in its third generation with the GF3, and things have changed a lot. This isn't truly what you could call a successor to the GF2, given that it's much smaller, loses some key functionalities and is targeted towards a point-and-shoot up-grader rather than a dSLR down-grader.
Design and features
Like the GF2, this camera uses the same 12.1-megapixel sensor and image processor, but the whole camera has been given a nip and tuck, and has been put through the dryer on the hottest temperature. It's lost the hotshoe, added a hump over the lens and is 16.7 per cent smaller than the GF2, Panasonic claims.
The GF3 is quite pleasant to hold in the hand, although with the 14mm pancake lens attached it does feel rather dainty — a definite "try before you buy" situation. While the Panasonic doesn't feel as swamped by a larger lens as its competitor, the NEX-C3, we wouldn't want to be putting anything too zoomy on it, given its small stature. The button configuration differs slightly from the GF2, with the main control buttons squished up along the top panel, and the mono microphone relegated all the way to the other side of the camera. The 3-inch touchscreen houses most of the remaining shooting controls, although there is still a physical scroll wheel and a four-way directional pad at the back, should touching not appeal.
Panasonic includes a range of automatic and manual modes to make the transition from compact to ILC (interchangeable lens camera) easy, including its regular intelligent auto-mode (activated either via the touchscreen or just by pressing the dedicated button at the top — helpfully, it glows blue when active). Intelligent auto plus, a mode carried over from the G3, allows the user to adjust exposure, white balance and the defocus area. There's also full PASM control, as well as scene modes and creative control mode that applies different colour effects, including a new "miniature" addition (or tilt-shift effect).
A new pinpoint AF mode allows for more precise focusing by enlarging the focus area when using the touchscreen. One thing that the GF3 does miss out on, compared to earlier versions, is the accessory port. This means that there's no way to attach a viewfinder or any other accessories for the G system. The GF3 is compatible with the optional 3D lens. Connectivity options include an HDMI port and A/V-out port, which uses a proprietary connector found in the box.
Hands on gallery
Click through for a complete photo gallery.
|Panasonic GF3||Sony NEX-C3||Olympus E-PL2||Samsung NX100|
|12.1-megapixel Live MOS (Four Thirds type)||16.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS||12.3-megapixel Live MOS (Four Thirds type)||14.6-megapixel APS-C CMOS|
|3-inch, 460,000-dot touchscreen||3-inch, flip-down 921,600-dot screen||3-inch, 460,000-dot screen||3-inch, 610,000-dot AMOLED screen|
|Pop-up flash||Optional flash attachment||Pop-up flash||Optional hotshoe flash|
|Full HD video (1080i, AVCHD)||HD video (720p, H.264)||HD video (720p, Motion JPEG)||HD video (720p, H.264)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Panasonic Lumix GF184.108.40.206.2
- Panasonic Lumix GF21.01.30.80.2
- Samsung NX1001.13.71.30.3
- Sony NEX-C220.127.116.11.5
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Panasonic GF33.8
- Panasonic GF23
- Samsung NX1002.5
- Sony NEX-C32.5
Panasonic rates the battery at approximately 320-340 shots.
Like the earlier compact G series cameras, the GF3 does a very good job of turning out pleasing photos in the majority of situations. Colours on default settings are bright and vibrant without being cartoonish, though there are some occasions when the camera will blow out highlights. As we mentioned earlier in the GF2 review, the minimum focusing distance of the 14mm lens isn't great, so avoid using it for any macro work. The lens is sharpest at the centre of the frame, with some drop-off farther out towards the edges.
While the autofocus system is definitely fast (Panasonic claims it's the world's fastest level of Light Speed AF), sometimes it's not accurate. We found a particular issue in dark, indoor situations where the subject wasn't in the centre of the frame and the flash wasn't used to illuminate the scene, with the AF often picking the wrong target to focus on. The touchscreen can take a little coaxing to respond to a light touch, which is why we resorted to using the physical buttons where possible. There are a number of other usability quirks, too; it's really easy to cover the microphone when recording video and common shooting options are hidden beyond what appears on the touchscreen. You'll have to decide if these are make-or-break issues for you.
A 100 per cent crop showing the difference between RAW and JPEG processing on the GF3.
The flash does a good job of illuminating subjects in dark situations, and skin tones appear natural rather than washed out.
A word of warning for those people who buy the GF2 as a kit with the 14mm lens: as there is no image stabilisation built into the camera body or this particular lens, images may be susceptible to camera shake.
We conducted this review concurrently alongside our evaluation of the Sony NEX-C3. Stay tuned for a comparison between these two cameras soon.
Exposure: 1/320, f/2.5, ISO 160
Exposure: 1/60, f/2.5, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/500, f/13, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 160
The GF3 is a fun little addition to the Panasonic G series range. As a first step into the world of interchangeable lens cameras, it does a decent job of bridging the gap between compact and SLR. That said, it's a little too small for serious use, and has a number of limitations that will detract from its appeal to those already invested in the Panasonic or Olympus Micro Four Thirds ecosystem.
Tossing up between this camera and the GF2? If small size is an absolute priority, the GF3 is the camera to get. Otherwise, consider the GF2, with its array of extra features and connectivity options, including the ability to use an external viewfinder.
The GF3 will be available in August. Also announced at the same time was a Leica-branded 25mm f/1.4 prime lens that looks to be promising, using Panasonic's Nano Coating to reduce flare and improve contrast. The GF3 will be available with the 14mm pancake lens (AU$899), single kit with 14-42mm lens (AU$899) or as a twin lens kit with the 14mm and 14-42mm (AU$1049).