Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 review:

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3

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Typical Price: £550.00
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4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

5 stars 1 user review

The Good Much smaller than a dSLR; interchangeable lenses; great image quality; viewfinder plus fold-out LCD panel.

The Bad You have to flit between the touchscreen and physical controls.

The Bottom Line The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 Micro Four Thirds camera is easy to recommend. It offers the performance and versatility of a digital SLR in a scaled-down form, without ramping up the price.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.8 Overall
CNET Editors' Choice May '11

There's one clear downside to digital SLRs -- their size. Thanks to Micro Four Thirds cameras and their ilk, however, you can enjoy the advantages of near-professional image quality and interchangeable lenses without having to risk a hernia. Not only that, but you can also take home the brand new Lumix DMC-G3 for the relatively affordable sum of £550 without a lens, and about £600 with a 14-42mm lens. Are there any chinks in the G3's armour, then?

Micro machine

The Micro Four Thirds system is relatively new. It was developed by Panasonic and Olympus in a bid to make smaller alternatives to a dSLR that offered similar image quality and features. Micro Four Thirds cameras do away with the mirror and light box that you'll find taking up space inside most viewfinder-based dSLRs, which helps to reduce the bulk considerably.

The G3 certainly looks like a shrunken dSLR. That's particularly true of the black version, with red and white models also being available. The moulded right-hand grip and top-mounted viewfinder housing add to the feeling of authenticity.

Our standard test shot, in well-lit conditions, offers evenly balanced colours, with strong contrast and nuanced tones. There's some softness, but there's plenty of detail and barely any noticeable grain (click image to enlarge).

Pick the G3 up and, if you're used to wielding full-size dSLRs, it'll look like you have the hands of a giant. Having said that, we'd be lying if we suggested the G3 was in any way pocket-sized. The body weighs 336g, and, once you've added a lens, that will rise to well over half a kilo.

The other notable aspect of the G3's design is the inclusion of both an electronic viewfinder and a 3-inch fold-out LCD screen. The latter pivots so that you can twist and tilt it into a variety of positions, which is great for taking high- or low-angle shots, and even self-portraits.

The display is touch-sensitive, although the implementation of touch controls isn't as intuitive as we'd like. There's some use of on-screen sliders, for example, but the G3's touch panel isn't designed to respond to iPhone-like, natural gestures.

Also, Panasonic is reluctant to relinquish traditional controls altogether, so what you end up with is an odd combination of tappable on-screen options and old-fashioned physical button presses and dial turns. It takes a while to learn when you can and can't use touch commands. Touching the screen to focus on and track a specific object soon becomes second nature, however, and you'll  wonder how you ever managed before.

The camera's flip-out touchscreen is handy for taking otherwise awkward high- and low-angle shots.

It's worth noting that there's a surprisingly diverse selection of lenses to choose from, including compact pancake lenses, self-stabilised telephoto lenses, and even a 3D lens.

Chunky chips

At the heart of the G3 is a Four Thirds-sized image sensor -- it's much larger than the sensors used by most compact cameras and the same size as those used in full-format dSLRs. Bigger is better when it comes to image sensors and the G3's newly minted Live MOS chip has the added benefit of a very high resolution -- 16 megapixels to be precise. Also present is a high-speed autofocus system that can lock onto a subject in as little as 0.1 seconds.

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