Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 review
Extremely compact and luxurious, takes gorgeous photos and videos but currently looks overpriced next to the Sony NEX range
Review Date: 8 Jul 2011
Price when reviewed: £550
Reviewed By: Ben Pitt
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Big-sensor compacts are the most exciting development in camera technology in a long time. The gulf in image quality between conventional compact cameras and SLRs has never been bigger, but these hybrid models deliver the best of both worlds, with genuine SLR quality in a pocket-sized format.
The GF3 is Panasonic's smallest, lightest G-series camera to date, shedding 46g compared to the GF2. There are a few casualties, most notably the accessory shoe that enabled using either an external flashgun or the optional electronic viewfinder. It's disappointing, but these are niche features that few people will miss. The microphone has been repositioned, which meant we often accidentally covered it with a finger, obliterating the soundtrack. It's also a mono mic, whereas the GF2's is stereo. The battery is a little smaller but battery life is up by 20 shots, so we've no complaints there.
Panasonic appears to be on a mission to remove physical controls from its G-series cameras, but we're glad to report that the changes this time are minimal. The GF2's command dial is replaced by a wheel that encircles the navigation pad, in much the same way as the Olympus PEN range, and we found this just as quick to use. The command dial's clickable action has been lost, though – that role is taken over by the up button on the navigation pad, which in turn relegates the ISO speed control to the menu. Thankfully, the Q.Menu button jumps to the last-accessed setting, which means it effectively acts as an ISO control for those who access it regularly.
It's something that's worth doing when shooting in low light. Bizarrely, the automatic ISO mode was unwilling to venture beyond ISO 800, which often resulted in blur-inducing long shutter speeds – the lack of optical stabilisation in the kit lens didn't help. There's a menu option to set the maximum ISO speed from 200 to 1600, but switching to Intelligent Auto mode overrides this setting. It's daft that a big-sensor camera like this can only shoot at ISO 3200 when the ISO speed is set manually.
Turn to page 2 for more on image quality and video ...
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