With the launch of Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GF3, the company’s smallest interchangeable-lens camera just got even more compact and lighter while maintaining a strong set of features. Surely there has to be compromises?
In its attempt to hold the title of the world’s smallest interchangeable-lens camera with built-in flash, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 is 17% smaller and 15% lighter than its predecessor, the GF2. Although Pentax has since released details of its Q-mount CSC, which is both smaller and lighter than the GF3, it makes use of a 1/2.3in sensor – the type found in compact cameras – so they are not truly comparable. The world’s smallest interchangeable-lens camera with four thirds sensor and built-in flash, therefore, is indeed the GF3!
Any camera carrying the Panasonic Lumix G four thirds mount will benefit directly from 12 lenses, including a wide zoom, three standard zooms, two telephoto zooms, three primes, one macro, one 3D optic and the new 25mm f/1.4 Asph. This last one is a lens that we have been waiting to see, and I am excited about using it.
One general gripe about CSCs is that their lenses are disproportionately bulky compared to the bodies. Because of the smaller sized sensor and flange depth (the distance between the lens ring and the sensor) of the GF3, lenses can in theory be manufactured smaller and lighter than those for APS-C-format cameras, such as with the Sony NEX and Samsung NX series.
Like for like, the Panasonic Lumix G four-thirds-mount lenses complement the compact-style body a little better than direct competitors, albeit marginally. The compact size works especially well when paired with a pancake lens, such as the 14mm kit lens, to make a camera that is comfortably pocketable and a great option for discreet street photography.
Like the GF2 before it, the GF3 uses a 12.1-million-effective-pixel MOS sensor. Images can be recorded in Panasonic’s RW2 raw format and JPEG, with a range of aspect ratios available at the touch of a button.
The four thirds sensor has a maximum file size in 4:3 format of 4000×3000 pixels, but the 3:2 format used as standard by APS-C-sized sensors is available at 4000×2672 pixels. The 1:1 format is a useful tool with which to develop an eye for square-frame photography. Many internal aspects remain the same.
The GF3 makes use of the Venus Engine FHD processor, which provides speedy operation of the AF system, and noise control across the ISO 100-6400 sensitivity range. In this case, however, there is an improved frame rate of 4fps.
Thanks to the last generation of Panasonic cameras, we now have high expectations of the company’s AF system in its micro four thirds range. The firm claims the GF3 can focus from 2m to infinity in 0.18secs when used with the 14-140mm lens and loaded with firmware version 1.3 or later. Like the GF2, the GF3 has single, continuous and manual (with the option to enlarge the focus area) focus modes, and AF modes include 23-point, single point, tracking AF, face-detection AF and pin-point AF (which makes use of the 3in touchscreen).
Video users are likely to be happy with what the GF3 has to offer. It shoots at up to full HD (1080p) resolution, and all the camera’s effect and colour modes are available, which is great for creative shooting.
iA+ is a second intelligent auto mode that operates in a similar way to iA, but incorporates a slider on the touchscreen to adjust aperture, colour or brightness via an on-screen illustration rather than using jargon.
Another new aspect to the interface is the GUI menu screen, which provides access to the shooting modes. Found under Creative Control, these include mini effect, high key, retro, sepia, high dynamic and expressive. It seems that several of the new handling features demonstrate that the GF3 is geared to the more entry-level user.