With its 15.8-million-pixel sensor, improved AF system and a smaller body than its predecessor, the Panasonic G3 could be the upgrade that micro four thirds users have been waiting for. Our Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 review finds out more...
Panasonic states on its website that the G3 has a 16.6-million-pixel Live MOS sensor with 16 million effective pixels. However, its maximum resolution of 4592×3448 pixels means that the true resolution of the G3 is 15.8 million pixels. This is a higher resolution than the 12.1 million pixels found in the G2 and, in fact, has more in common with that of the GH2.
However, the GH2 uses a physically larger Multi-Aspect sensor that makes use of more of the micro four thirds imaging circle to keep image resolution high even when the image aspect ratio is changed. That said, pictures taken on the GH2 with the native 4:3 aspect ratio are a fairly insignificant 92,032 pixels larger than those taken on the new G3.
While the G3 seems remarkably similar to the more expensive enthusiast-level GH2, it is not its equal, as Panasonic has held back a few features – presumably to help distinguish the target market for each camera. For instance, because it is aimed more at enthusiast photographers, as well as videographers, the GH2 has extra processing power, which means that the AF, shooting rate and video capabilities are all moderately faster than those of the G3. The G3 also lacks a microphone input socket.
However, the G3 is certainly no slouch. Although its 4fps shooting rate doesn’t quite match the 5fps of the GH2, it is still a step up from the 3.2fps of the G2. Another improvement is the impressively fast 20fps super-high-speed shooting mode, although it is at a reduced four-million-pixel resolution. This high-speed mode isn’t featured at all on the G2, although it is an even faster 40fps on the GH2. This would imply that the GH2 has a more powerful Venus FHD processing engine than that in the G3, or that the rate has been capped on the G3 to distinguish it from the GH2.
Images from the G3 can be saved in either raw or JPEG format, or both simultaneously, with Silkypix Developer 3.1 raw conversion software included in the package. Raw images converted using the software look good, and for those not used to working with raw files there are a number of presets for sharpening and noise reduction that should make it easy to edit images. Adobe Camera Raw 6.4 doesn’t yet support raw files from the G3, although support is expected to come with version 6.5.
One rather unhelpful change is the reduction in the size and capacity of the battery. The DMW-BLD10E 1010mAh battery in the G3 is estimated to take around 260-270 images when using the kit lens. Compare this with the 330-340 images with the 1200mAh battery used in the GH2 and 360-390 images using the 1250mAh battery in G2, and the new camera falls significantly short of its predecessors.
In day-to-day use the battery life shouldn’t be too much of an issue, as 250-plus images should be fine for a day’s shooting. However, during the test, after using the 100-300mm f/4-5.6 Mega OIS lens and spending some time reviewing images, I found that I managed to take barely 200 photographs. You would certainly need to take an additional battery or charger with you if you planned to take the G3 on holiday.
Features in use: Pinpoint AF
The new Pinpoint AF feature gives the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 automatic precision focusing. You can select an area to focus on either by touching the rear screen or by using the camera’s directional control. Once selected, the area is magnified on the rear screen, which allows for the point of focus to be automatically fine-tuned with more accuracy.
While Pinpoint AF improves focus sharpness, it isn’t suitable for every subject. Even slightly moving subjects, such as a flower moving in the breeze, can prove to be a little awkward as the magnified view means that the subject will quickly fall in and out of focus. Although Pinpoint AF is useful for landscape and still-life images, it doesn’t offer anything more than manual focusing does. When set to manual focus, the view is magnified to 100% through the viewfinder or rear screen, allowing the lens to be focused with just as much precision as Pinpoint AF.