Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3

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.


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Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


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

Panasonic GF3Panasonic GF3Panasonic GF3Panasonic GF3Panasonic GF3Panasonic GF3Panasonic GF3Panasonic GF3

Click through for a complete photo gallery.
(Credit: CBSi)

Compared to

GF3 comparison
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)
AU$899 AU$849 AU$799 AU$899

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Panasonic Lumix GF30.91.50.90.2
  • Panasonic Lumix GF21.01.30.80.2
  • Samsung NX1001.13.71.30.3
  • Sony NEX-C31.21.10.90.5

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.

Image quality

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.

GF3 RAW vs. JPEG

A 100 per cent crop showing the difference between RAW and JPEG processing on the GF3.
(Credit: CBSi)

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.

Image samples

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

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

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).

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Perth posted a comment   
Australia

Hi Alexandra,

Yes, the price difference is about $300.00 and I am only using it once in awhile.

well maybe I might use it more :-)

Therefore I am looking something good and inexpenive and produce good images.

Thanks Alexandra.

 

Perth posted a comment   
Australia

Hi Alexandra,

Happy New Year! thank you for your reply.

My next question is there much different on the image quality between these two cameras ( Sony NEX 5 and Panasonic GF3)

Thank you Alexandra.

 

Lexy Savvides posted a reply   
Australia

Hi Perth,

The NEX-5 has been superseded by the NEX-5N now, so I would be looking at the newer model (unless you're limited by price?)

Regardless, it again comes down to the size of the sensor on both these cameras. As the NEX-5/5N have a much bigger sensor, image quality is generally better than that from the GF3, particularly in low light.

 

Perth posted a comment   
Australia

Hi Alexandra,

I am just an amateur photographer. I am thinking to buy a camera for my self.

My question is: which one is better on image Panasonic GF3 or Sony NEX5 or Samsung NEX11?

I prefer small camera which I can put in my bag or pocket but have a very good quality images and fast too..

Thank you for your kind attention and looking forward to hearing from you soon.

 

Lexy Savvides posted a reply   
Australia

Hi Perth,

On image quality alone, the Sony NEX-5 and Samsung NX11 are the best thanks to the larger image sensor.

Both cameras aren't exactly what I would call small, the GF3 is definitely the tiniest of the three options. To minimise the size of the other two cameras it is possible to mount what is called a "pancake" lens on them, this means a fixed focal length lens which is very thin and makes the entire profile quite small. However, this might be an additional purchase of a lens on top of the body, depending on which camera you go for and which kit configuration you choose. You might also want to look at the NEX-C3 which is slightly more compact than the NEX-5 (but it is a little slower).

nickpawley
10
Rating
 

"great little quality camera"

nickpawley posted a review   
Australia

The Good:small size, photo quality, 1080video

The Bad:touch screen not the best

i got mine the other day after ordering online ($836 with the twin lens kit shipping instead, of $1046 quoted here)

This review sums it up pretty well. i didn't want the bulk of a DSLR as i knew i wouldn't carry it around with me half the time. i already have a pretty decent point and shoot but wanted to upgrade to something to introduce me to the world of more manual controls.

i haven't had too much of a chance to play around with this yet but from a party last night and mucking around taking photos of my dog its been fantastic so far.

I was tossing up between this and the Sony Nex C3 but the pop up flash and 1080 video made the choice easy (Iphone 4 already does 720p)

If you want better quality photos but aren't too familiar with all the DSLR settings and don't want to carry a big bulky cam around all the time then i say get one.




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User Reviews / Comments  Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3

  • Perth

    Perth

    "Hi Alexandra,

    Yes, the price difference is about $300.00 and I am only using it once in awhile.

    well maybe I might use it more :-)

    Therefore I am looking so..."

  • Perth

    Perth

    "Hi Alexandra,

    Happy New Year! thank you for your reply.

    My next question is there much different on the image quality between these two cameras ( Sony NEX 5 and Panasoni..."

  • Perth

    Perth

    "Hi Alexandra,

    I am just an amateur photographer. I am thinking to buy a camera for my self.

    My question is: which one is better on image Panasonic GF3 or Sony NEX5 or Sa..."

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