Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 review

Superb quality Micro Four Thirds camera that's a step up from the average compact digital
Photo of Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3
£549.99

Many photography enthusiasts want more than the basic do-it-all-for-you compact, but aren’t quite brave enough to launch into the complexities of a full-on DSLR. For some, it’s enough to add a selection of mode dials and increased manual options – but others want the flexibility that DSLRs allow with their interchangeable lenses.

As a result, Panasonic’s Lumix G-range has joined the ranks of the Olympus PEN cameras and the Sony NEX-C3 as a sub-genre of compact digital cameras with interchangeable lenses and the DMC-GF3 is intended as an improved evolution on the preceding DMC-GF2 which was acclaimed on its release as the smallest system camera on the circuit.

The hotshoe vanishes
The DMC-GF3 has now usurped that crown, as it’s a shade slimmer (108x67x33mm) and noticeably lighter (222g versus 265g for the body only) than its forebear. However, they both share the same Micro Four-Thirds lens mount, 12.10MP 17x13mm Live MOS sensor and Venus Engine FHD processor, both have use of a 3in LCD touchscreen with a resolution of 460,000 pixels dots, and both can record 1920×1080 Full HD movies in AVCHD format.

A glance at the outside, though, reveals one major difference – the GF3 has dispensed with the GF2′s hotshoe and moved the flash unit into that central area on the top of the camera – so those wanting any form of electronic viewfinder as an alternative to Live View via the LCD will be disappointed. Another side-effect of this change is that the control buttons have had to be slightly re-arranged, leaving room only for a mono mic rather than the stereo pair on the GF2.

Superior autofocus and noise reduction
The regular D-pad controls at the back of the camera have now been enhanced with a scrollwheel for swifter operation, but it’s debatable whether the decision to replace the ISO button with Exposure compensation will prove a popular choice. Focus has definitely seen a big improvement, though, with new Pinpoint and Contrast AF settings as well as picture-in-picture magnification for manual focusing, and faster AF speeds.

Where the GF3 scores highest is in significant noise reduction resulting in exceptional clarity, sharpness and accurate colour saturation in the mid-range ISO settings. As well as the Scene modes inherited from the GF2, you now have a shutter icon on the LCD plus a Creative Control palette for arty options (Expressive, Retro, High key, Sepia, High Dynamic and Miniature) – and of course in addition to Full HD movies you still have RAW picture file format support.

Company: Panasonic

Website: http://www.panasonic.co.uk/html/en_GB/index_GB/index.html

Contact: Panasonic on 0844 844 3852

Positives
  • Excellent image quality; interchangeable lenses.
Negative
  • No electronic viewfinder capability.

Verdict

If you're ready to make that leap from compact digital cameras to the bigger league, then the compact and lightweight Lumix DMC-GF3 with its extremely impressive images and interchangeable lenses might do the trick, despite a few key omissions.