For people who like a camera with more heft--a good grip compared to the more compact alternatives but smaller and lighter than a dSLR or dSLR-size ILCs like the GH2 or Sony's SLTs--the G3 works well. It's very comfortable and well balanced, with a grip that's just the right size (at least for my hands).
The EVF is large and bright with a sufficient refresh rate, though like all it gets sluggish in low light. I'm also a big fan of the bright, sharp articulated touch-screen LCD. There's no automatic switching between the two, which doesn't bother me but some people may find the lack annoying.
As I've mentioned with previous Panasonic models, the touch-screen user interface works for two reasons: because the big virtual buttons are easy to hit precisely and the screen is sufficiently responsive. It also works because if you don't like it, you don't have to use it. And a feature I've been asking for has finally been implemented: you can turn off the touch focus to prevent accidents. That said, I'd rather you be able to toggle the capability or simply lock the selected focus area than have to completely live with it or live without it.
|Olympus E-PL2||Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3||Samsung NX100||Sony Alpha SLT-A35|
|Sensor (effective resolution)||12.2-megapixel CMOS||12.3-megapixel Live MOS||16-megapixel Live MOS||14.6-megapixel CMOS||16.2-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS|
|22.2 x 14.8mm (est)||17.3mm x 13mm||17.3 x 13.0mm||23.4mm x 15.6mm||23.5mm x 15.6mm|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 100 - ISO 6400||ISO 200 - ISO 6400||ISO 100 - ISO 6400||ISO 100 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded)||ISO 100 - ISO 12800|
|Continuous shooting||3 fps JPEG/2 fps raw
unlimited JPEG/ 7 raw
10 JPEG/ 3 raw
18 JPEG/6 raw
magnification/ effective magnification
|Optional plug-in articulating EVF
1.4 million dots
|Optional plug-in EVF
(98 percent coverage)
0.46 inches/1.4 million dots
|11-area contrast AF||23-area contrast AF||15-point contrast AF||15-pt phase-detection
|Shutter speed||30-1/4000 sec; bulb; 1/200 x-sync||60-1/2000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes||60-1/4000 sec; bulb to 2 minutes||30-1/4000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes||1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync|
|Metering||63-zone iFCL||324 area||144 zone||247 segment||49 zone|
|Image stabilization||Optical||Sensor shift||Optical||Optical||Sensor shift|
|Video||H.264 QuickTime MOV 720/25p/30p @ 38Mbps (est)||720p Motion JPEG AVI||AVCHD 1080/60i/50i @ 17 Mbps||720/30p H.264 MPEG-4||AVCHD 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440x1080 /30p @ 12Mbps|
|Audio||Mono||Mono; mic input||Stereo||Mono||Stereo; mic input|
|LCD size||2.7 inches fixed
|3 inches articulated
|3-inch fixed AMOLED
|3 inches fixed
|Battery life (CIPA rating)||700 shots||280 shots||250 shots||420 shots||420 shots|
|Dimensions (inches, WHD)||n/a||4.5 x 2.8 x 1.6||4.5 x 3.3 x 1.8||4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4||4.9 x 3.6 x 3.3|
|Body operating weight (ounces)||17.5||12.7||13.4||12.2||16.1|
|Mfr. Price||n/a||n/a||$599.99 (body only)||n/a||n/a|
|$599.99 (with 18-55mm IS II lens)
||$599.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 msc lens)||$699.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens)||$499.99 (est, with 20-50mm f3.5-5.6 i-Function lens)||$699.99 (with 18-55mm lens)|
|n/a||$799.00 (est, with 14-42mm and 40-150mm lenses)||n/a||$599.00 (with 50-200mm lens)||n/a|
|Ship date||March 2011||January 2011||June 2011||October 2010||August 2011|
Almost every function is duplicated by direct-access controls. The four-way navigation buttons bring up focus area, white balance, drive mode and ISO sensitivity. The Quick menu and display buttons can be mapped to user-defined options. In its default configuration, the Quick menu displays options for metering, AF mode, ISO sensitivity, white balance, drive mode, focus mode, image/video size and quality, and flash settings. A jog dial controls exposure compensation as well as shutter and aperture adjustments. You can also customize the Quick Menu with the settings you use most.
From the G2, Panasonic moved the movie record button from the top to the back, where it sits under your thumb--a much better location--and has done away with the movie mode on the dial. Panasonic simplified the top controls as well as the mode dial, but you don't really lose any capabilities. There are now two custom slots on the dial, one of which holds three sets of options. The portrait, landscape, action and macro scene modes (which most people tend not to use) are hidden with the less well-known scene modes, and Panasonic has replaced its Film looks with underwhelming handful of Creative Control mode special effects: expressive, retro, high key, sepia and high dynamic.
In addition, Panasonic offers both iA (intelligent auto) and iA+ modes. The latter adds user color, brightness adjustments, and defocus to full auto. Rather than being an electronic effect, the defocus physically adjusts the lens aperture, and you can hear it changing as you scroll the effect.
Other notable features include remains the bracketing, which supports up to 7 frames in one-third stop increments, for a new high of up to three stops.
If you're looking for a camera that's not quite as big as a dSLR but doesn't skimp on hardware controls or features like an articulated LCD, EVF and stereo full HD video, the G3 is one of my favorite options. But performance is hit-and-miss for shooting action, so you may end up having to go with something just a bit bigger, anyway.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Raw shot-to-shot time||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim light)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)