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First Look: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3

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First Look: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3

3:29 /

After spending a few quality hours with the camera, we think it should deliver better image quality and performance than its predecessor, and we welcome the updates to the design.

Hi. I'm Lori Grunin, senior editor for CNET, and this is a preview of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3. Succeeding the G2, the long-rumored G3 is Panasonic's reaction to finally getting the fact that most of the people buying these interchangeable lens cameras are stepping up from a point and shoot rather than stepping sideways from a DSLR. They're not the first company and they're not the last company to make that realization this year. The G3 is substantially smaller than the G2 and it's become, in many ways, just a version of the GF2 with the built-in electronic viewfinder and a physical mode dial as well as with a deeper and personally I think more comfortable grip. It retains the same flip-and-twist LCD and relatively well thought out interface, too. And I have to mention that a feature that I've been asking for has finally been implemented: You can turn touch focus off to prevent accidents. That said, I'd rather you be able to toggle the capability or simply lock the selected focus area rather than have to live with it or live without it. The video has been boosted from 720p to 1080/60i AVCHD and now the camera has a stereo onboard mic, but gone are the microphone and headphone jacks. Full-time autofocus and AF tracking are back, too. The G3 has a new 16-megapixel sensor. It's less sophisticated than the one in the GH2. For the sensor, Panasonic has added on-chip noise reduction, similar to the scheme Sony uses in its Exmor chips. Along with the Venus engine FHD image processor that's in the GH2, it also incorporates Panasonic's Light Speed autofocus system from its more recent cameras. During focusing, that AF system drives the sensor at 120 frames per second in order to more quickly iterate down to the contrast autofocus decision making process. Panasonic specs the burst shooting at 4 frames per second compared to 3.2 for the G2 as well. There's also a new focus tool called Pinpoint Focus. It basically allows you to autofocus with pixel-level accuracy. The camera pops up a magnified area as a visual aid. It can also provide a picture-in-picture magnified view for easier navigation, but I can't find it, and that problem remains for the G series. There's so much here that you'll miss half of the capabilities if you don't read the manual. The company has also changed the names of a couple of features to make them more approachable. Film Mode, which mimic old films, is now Creative Mode, and My Colors has become Photo Style. I haven't formally tested the camera yet, but the AF system from the pre-shipping version feels to be enough. The ISO 3200 shots I took definitely looked better than those from the G2, and there seemed to be far fewer JPEG artifacts than Panasonic's usual, but that's just based on the 50 or so shots I was able to take this afternoon, and a real judgment will have to wait for more formal testing. One disappointment off the top of my head is that battery life seems to have dropped down to about 250 or 270 shots from 390. In addition to this lovely red, the camera will also come in black, white, and brown. It's supposed to ship in June, and the kit, with the 14-42 mm lens, will run about $700. I look forward to testing it. I'm Lori Grunin and this is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3.

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