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First Look: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3

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First Look: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3

3:41 /

Panasonic's new Lumix DMC-GF3 is the company's smallest interchangeable-lens camera to date.

Hi! I'm Lori Grunin, Senior Editor for CNET, and this is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3. It seems like only yesterday that Panasonic rolled out the GF2. In fact, it's only been about 6 months here in the U.S. though the older model debuted overseas a few months earlier than that. Regardless, Panasonic is ready with the new, even more compact interchangeable lens model. The GF3 doesn't replace the GF2, but its price to say which usually suspect is gonna make for some confusing buying decisions. The GF3 is about the same size as the Sony NEX family and it uses the same 12-megapixel Live MOS sensor and Venus Engine FHD, as the GF2 did. But it incorporates some of the enhancements from the G3, including the LightSpeed AutoFocus system and focusing options like a Pinpoint and a picture-in-picture navigator for manual focus. Panasonic also includes the more advanced auto mode from the G3, which allows for color and brightness adjustments. Like the GF2, the G3 has a combination of touch screen and traditional button interface. But Panasonic has replaced the discrete four way knob buttons and jog dial with a more point and shoot like a combination button dial. To prevent accidentally scrolling your way into bizarre settings, we will ignore the first couple of turns before activation, torn about this implementation. I think it's necessary to acts and improve the scroll wheel. The Lord knows I have enough of those accidents but when you're trying to adjust the shutter speed or aperture that logging gets disorienting and make you overshoot. It's gonna require a bit of field testing when I finally get the production model. While the controls look different, they mostly operate the same ways on the GF2 but because the jog dials is gone, Panasonic had to move the exposure compensation to the up button pushing ISO sensitivity into the quick menu that may bother some people. Overall, I like the interface. It's straightforward with large virtual buttons that are easy to hit and the touch screen is sufficiently responsive. But I think there's still a bit of a discoverability problem with the features. For example, I ended virtually turn off that picture-in-picture feature I mentioned earlier and then the absence of a manual, I can't figure out how to turn it back on. What makes it so confusing is that for the same price as the GF2, about 600 dollars for the kit with the 14 to 42 millimeter lens and 700 with the 14 millimeter prime. You get a slightly smaller camera, where you gain better focusing features, possibly slightly better performance and a new but not unique miniature special effect. But you lose the hot shoe as well as the option for a viewfinder and Panasonic has dropped stereo, audio and movie capture in favor of mono. Based on the few tests images from these pre-production model, I don't think the image quality is gonna be much different, though a lot can change in firmware before it ships in July. Note that the two kits have different shipping dates. The 14 millimeter will ship in July while the zoom will be in August. Along with the camera, Panasonic is introducing a new Leica-branded 25-millimeter F1 for prime lens that will also ship in August. It's a nice feeling lens, with smooth manual focus ring in silent operation for video capture. I also shoot with the pre-production version of the lens and loved the build and speed for both focusing and the aperture, but it displays a lot more fringing than I expected. I hope that's fixed before its final. I'm Lori Grunin and this is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3.

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