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In spite of industry leaders Canon not following the trend, Panasonic and Olympus are certainly making hay with their Micro Four Thirds models as we watch Nikon’s exciting entrée with interest.
There is a demand for a faux DSLR that doesn’t break your back nor your budget and still allows access to a fine range of lenses by such companies as Carl Zeiss, Schneider, Sigma … and others.
The aluminium bodied Panasonic DMC-G3 is light and it’s small, ‘suffering’ a 25 per cent reduction, compared with the previous DMC-G2 model. That means you could easily carry the camera body and two lenses in a coat pocket. I know I did, happily stowing into my jacket pocket the review camera, the 14-42mm zoom plus the gorgeous f1.4/25mm aspheric lens … all supplied for this review.
The Live MOS sensor carries 16 million pixels and can capture a maximum image size of 4592×3448, or 39x29cm as a print.
Movies are taken care of, with the ability to shoot Full HD 1920x1080i movies in AVCHD or 1280×720 in MPEG4, triggered by a dedicated button just beneath the mode dial. The even better news is that AVCHD shooting is performed with full-time AF tracking and exposure control. And … you can shoot a still whilst recording video.
You have two viewing options: the turret LCD finder and the rear articulated 7.6cm LCD screen that swings out, up and down, rotating 180 degrees sideways and tilting 270 degrees up and down. I have to admit that the turret finder did give a flared view at certain angles but, once your eye adjusted to the correct angle the view was bright and sharp and very useable in bright light.
The control layout is elegant and simple: you can directly access ISO settings, AF mode, white balance and single or burst shooting from the rear four-position dial; the top dial carries positions for Program AE, aperture or shutter speed and manual settings as well as scene modes and two custom settings; creative control setting gives you direct access to colour control in the fashion of ‘retro’, sepia, high dynamic range etc.
There’s only one button that perhaps needs a little explanation for the newbie: tucked away at extreme right of the top panel is iA (intelligent Auto mode) … there is no auto setting on the mode dial. This iA function is available in both stills and movie shooting.
Once this button is touched an internal blue light shines, indicating that the camera is taking control and making the most appropriate settings for the subject before the lens: scene and face detection, backlight compensation and auto balance are all in play here. Another trick is intelligent Auto Plus, which offers adjustment of focus (it even lets you defocus part of the scene), exposure compensation and white balance.
Touch focusing is a nice attraction: simply touch the screen where you want sharp focus to fall and the system obliges. If you need more precision you can enlarge the focusing area and set focus, even on an eye of a subject. You won’t need to be told this is a useful feature in movie shooting!
In manual focus mode, touch a section of the image on the LCD and the G3 shows an enlarged view of that area up to 10x.
In replay, touch the screen and you can scroll through the stored images or even enlarge them to 16x.
The G3 is available in three colours: black, red and white. For the stereo crowd the camera is compatible with Panasonic’s 3D lens, the H-FT012E.
The G3 is very responsive: fire it up and you can shoot immediately; keep hitting the shutter button and the shots keep a’rollin’ in.
Quite smooth all the way up to ISO 1600. At ISO 3200 a little noise kicks in and by ISO 6400 noise ‘just’ starts to become a problem.
Quality: excellent colour capture with images as sharp as a tack.
Why you’d buy the G3: you want a precision, interchangeable lens camera that doesn’t cost the earth.
Why you wouldn’t: you’re wary of upstarts like Panasonic or Sony!
As for me: I want it! Has everything I need.
Image Sensor: 16.0 million effective pixels.
Metering: Intelligent multi zone, centre-weighted, spot.
Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds.
Exposure Modes: Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Effective Sensor Size: 17.3×13.0mm Live CMOS.
35 SLR Lens Factor: 2x.
Shutter Speed (stills): 120 to 1/4000 second and Bulb. Video 1/25 (PAL) 1/30 (NTSC) to 1/16,000 second.
Continuous Shooting: 2 to 20 fps (various sizes).
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 4592×3448 to 1712×1712.
Movies: 1920×1080 (AVCHD); 1280×720 (MPEG4).
Viewfinder: Live (1,440,000 pixels); 7.6cm LCD screen (460,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW, JPEG+RAW, MPEG4, AVCHD.
Colour Space: sRGB, Adobe RGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 160 to 6.400.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, AV.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 115.2×83.6×46.7 WHDmm.
Weight: 544 g (inc 14-42mm lens, battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Panasonic DMC-G3 at: