Panasonic DMC-GF3 Review

Panasonic DMC-GF3 Review


If this is the way it’s going, I’m all for it: smaller, interchangeable lens cameras, with decently-sized sensors and sophisticated image processing internals.

Panasonic and Sony seem to be waging the war with their Micro Four Thirds models and this is another missile hurled at (IMHO) the oversize DSLRS, with or without flipping mirrors!

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The GF3 leads the bunch in size — or lack of it! No question!

Claimed to be the world’s smallest and lightest system camera, it’s approximately 16.7% smaller and 16.2% lighter compared with the GF2 at just 325 grams (including 14mm lens, card and battery), built into a polycarbonate/aluminium body. The review lens supplied was the superb f2.5/14mm.

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The GF3 is indeed a joy to handle, hold and stow. External controls are minimal. I particularly liked the on/off control, set in the form of a switch … and very positive.

If you need to select Program AE, shutter or aperture priority and manual, scene modes etc simply hit the menu button and choose from the screen display; you can also touch the screen to make your selection.

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Panasonic DMC-GF3 Features

Maximum image size is 4000×3000 pixels; this means you could make a 30x25cm print at 300 dpi. Movies at Full HD 1920×1080 resolution can be shot in AVCHD format or 1280×720 in MPEG. While the AF worked effortlessly when shooting video, I did find the auto exposure a little tardy when correcting for brightness extremes. And, of course, you can’t take stills while recording video but you can of course select stills from a video sequence.

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If you like the simple life you can rely on Intelligent Auto for both stills and video recording; additional iA features include AF Tracking, Face Recognition, Intelligent D-range Control, Intelligent Resolution, MEGA O.h3built into the lens), Intelligh3O Control and Intelligent Scene Selector.

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The built-in flash pops up at a button touch and presents a decent 55mm of lens-to-flash separation, helping to lessen red-eye in portrait shooting.

I liked the AF function: when the screen is touched the system creates a green rectangle around that section and targets focus exactly there; you could aim it at a person’s eyes or, say, a bee on a flower!

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There h3otal of 23 AF areas, with the camera dividing these into nine groups; touch one of these groups and the camera auto selects an optimal area within that group.

The popular defocus control function in iA mode is now easily operated with a slider on the touch screen, allowing users to adjust the defocus area for a sharp subject and softly focused background.

In My Colour mode you can enjoy fuss-free experimentation with colour modes like Expressive, Retro, High Key, Sepia and High Dynamic and (not my favourite!) Miniature Effect.

Panasonic DMC-GF3 ISO Tests

Fairly clean and useable right up untilI SO 1600. By ISO 3200 noise is fairly noticeable. IMHO ISO 6400 is unuseable.

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Panasonic DMC-GF3 Verdict

Quality: I enjoyed the quality of the GF3’s shots, sharp and accurately coloured.

Why you’d buy the GF3: it’s real, real small; easy to fall in love with the AF function; you want to use Leica lenses.

Why you wouldn’t: you want to shoot stills while recording video; you want to attach an eye-level viewfinder.

This camera quite took my fancy, not only because of its tiny size, but because it has reduced the operational maze considerably: you can shoot in all the usual modes, enjoy the image options of RAW or JPEG or use it as a well-endowed point-and-shoot camera.

Panasonic DMC-GF3 Specifications

Image Sensor: 12.10 million effective pixels.
Metering: 144 zone multi pattern, centre-weighted, spot.
Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds.
Exposure Modes: Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Sensor: 4/3 type Live MOS 17.3x13mm. 35 SLR Lens Factor: 2x.
Shutter Speed (stills): 4 mins to 1/4000 second and Bulb. Flash sync: 1/160 sec.
Continuous Shooting: up to 3.8 fps. Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 4000×3000 to 1440×1440.
Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720 (AVCHD); 1280×720, 640×480, 320×240 (MPEG4).
Viewfinder: 7.6cm LCD screen (460,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW, JPEG+RAW, MPO (3D), MPEG4, AVCHD.
Colour Space: sRGB, Adobe RGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 160 to 6400.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, AV, ext micxxxx.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 107.7×67.1×32.5 WHDmm.
Weight: 264 g (card and battery).
Price: Get a price on the GF3 in the following configurations:

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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • kasor May 22, 2012 01:59 am

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  • Roger Wilson February 7, 2012 08:51 pm

    i"ve been looking for a smaller camera to carry around for every day usage (instead of the D200 that I have right now). not sure i'm quite sold on this one though...guess i gotta go check it out at the store.

  • Dave February 3, 2012 03:56 am

    I don't understand the excitement over these cameras. As Bob said, NO VIEWFINDER. Isn't that what we are all complaining about with the high end pocket size cameras? And no mirror, so no live view. As far as I can see the only advantage over a quality pocket camera is a little bit bigger sensor. I'd take my Canon 60D over this ANYTIME.

  • Bob White January 30, 2012 05:01 pm

    how in the world can i take any camera seriously if it doesn't even have a viewfinder?

  • Kathie M Thomas January 30, 2012 08:32 am

    I've been looking for a really small camera. I have a daughter getting marrried soon, I've been told I cannot carry my large camera around my neck - wouldn't look right for the mother-of-the-bride but something small in my bag would be ideal. I still want to be taking photos on the big day.

  • Barrie Smith January 30, 2012 07:58 am

    To Alex

    The Yazaki board had failed, removed from my car's speedo (Volvo 940 GL) and replaced with a new one, made by a company in Melbourne.

    How astute of you to recognise it ,as they are no longer available.

  • Brian January 30, 2012 01:50 am

    "Panasonic and Sony seem to be waging the war with their Micro Four Thirds models"

    I stopped there.

    Panasonic and Sony both make compact interchangeable lens cameras but Sony uses an APS-C sensor that is much larger than the Olympus and Panasonic Micro Four Thirds sensors.

  • BrianG January 29, 2012 04:06 pm

    Sony doesn't have a micro four thirds camera. Their NEX line has APS-C sized sensors, not micro four thirds.

  • Dave Kosiur January 29, 2012 07:41 am

    Kindly get your facts straight. Sony does not make a micro 4/3rds camera, their sensors are larger. If you're going to make comparisons among these different cameras, it's better to refer to them as mirror less interchangeable lens cameras, or some thing like that.

  • Alex January 29, 2012 07:06 am

    What was the Yazaki printed circuit board from and what does it do?