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?
Build and handling
The external dimensions of the GF3 measure 107.5×67.1x32mm, excluding protrusions. When used with the 14mm pancake lens, the size difference between this and Panasonic’s flagship compact camera, the Lumix DMC-LX5, is barely distinguishable. The GF3 is larger by the smallest of margins, which is no mean feat considering the GF3 holds a much larger sensor. Between the GF3 and the Sony NEX-C3, the NEX-C3 is slightly smaller.
It is clear that the main talking point of the GF3 is its tiny size. It is so small, in fact, that the circumference of a lens like the 14-140mm is larger than the height of the camera body. As such, the body curves elegantly around the mount to fit such a lens in, and therefore make the camera’s use with a tripod possible.
The body feels solid enough, housed in a tough and lightweight aluminium casing, with grooves for thumb and hand moulded to a natural holding shape. It rests beautifully in the hand, and it is only when larger lenses such as the 14-140mm optic are mounted that the other hand is needed for extra support.
As well as the reduction in size and weight and the change of shape, there is a new control wheel. This complements the touchscreen very effectively, giving two options for navigating menus and shooting settings. The shooting mode can be selected via the new GUI menu. This is like having a shooting mode dial, but it is on the touchscreen instead of the top-plate, as with advanced camera bodies. Modes can be selected by touch or via the control wheel. Consequently, the GF3 is very quick to handle.
It comes as no surprise that certain sacrifices have been made. The most obvious is the omission of a hotshoe mount, meaning there is no option to use an external flashgun or viewfinder. It is a bold step for Panasonic, and a tricky one, as this may well be enough to put some people off the GF3 – especially those who desire creative off-camera flash or a viewfinder in bright conditions. A flash has not been sacrificed completely, though, as a pop-up unit is positioned centrally on the body above the lens, with a GN of 6m @ ISO 100.