CNET First Look
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 offers the type of performance and photo quality in a relatively small design many point-and-shoot graduates will like.
Hi, I'm Laurie Grunin, Senior Editor with CNET and this is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3. The GF3 is the first of what I hope is the Goldilocks generation of interchangeable lens cameras. Small and fast with good to great photo quality that finally merits attention from point and shoot users looking for a compelling upgrade. The camera feels solid and well built, even a bit heavy, though it is the lightest in its class as far. It is substantially smaller than the GF2. And Panasonic achieved that primarily by dropping the hot shoe and the EVF connector and moving the pop up flash to seat directly over the lens. Some people may find the GF3 a little too small, but it feels reasonably comfortable to me. Thanks to the relatively thick body and small grip. You should definitely try it before you buy that to make sure that you like them. The flash is cleverly designed. You can tilt it back and hold it to bounce or simply as it quickly reduce the intensity. The GF2, the GF3 has a combination touch screen and traditional button interface. On top of the camera is an intelligent auto button which provides the quick way to jump in and out of auto mode. You use the virtual mode dial to switch between that and the slightly more advanced, intelligent auto plus mode which gives you a few beyond basic controls over exposure and depth of field. If you are upgrading from a point and shoot, the IA plus mode will serve you well, but this was all auto focus systems, it's completely automatic AF 23 area. makes poor guesses about the subject of the photo. The back has a defined indentation for your thumb which could use a bit more gripiness. And the small grip to feel a little too slippery. As with its contemporary Panasonic models the GF3 has a well designed interface that can function via the touch screen or using the navigational controls. I, especially like how you can customize which options appear on the click menu, either an advanced or on the fly. There's a complete set of useful manual features for shooting steels but there's nothing particularly note worthy or unique in this feature set. The GF3 is the same 12-megapixel live MOS sensor and Venus Engine FHD processors, as the GFT. But it incorporates some of the enhancements from the G3, including the LightSpeed AutoFocus system. The result is very good photo quality that boarders just enough on excellent to push the rating over to that side. The GF3 has a little trouble accurately reproducing intense colors and bright light especially purples and reds. The colors are pleasing overall, the total reproduction looks good, if a bit clipped in the highlights and you can always shoot raw or try the neutral photo style for better accuracy. The video quality is suitable for consumer shooting. The auto exposure and AF worked well and there aren't a lot of artifacts. But giving the lack of manual exposure controls, the facts that its monosound and there is no external mic support and the video has a little bit rate. It is not really a camera you want to buy for cheap video experimentation. It is really fast for its price and size class. In fact, for non-burst shooting, it's faster than the larger, more expensive sibling the G3. And this is effectively as fast or faster than the larger Sony Alpha SLT-A35. And it is just playing faster than almost all of the non-DSLR cameras we have seen In a couple of years. With the 3.9 frame per second continuous shooting rate, you will not catch any really fast sports action, but the auto focus system in 3 point will certainly get you a lot more than you could have with the comparably sized point and shoot or a similarly priced DSLR. The lock of a view finder or even the option for one makes life a little difficult. The touch screen LCD gets hard to view a direct sunlight. I really like the GF3 as a step up model. Long time DSLR users will probably find it too small and constraining without an EVF. But for point and shoot graduates, the size should feel comfortable and you will gain the speed and quality boost you have been looking for. Though it is bigger with the zoom kit lens, it is still a lighter and ultimately smaller combination than Sony's NEX models. However, the NEX in forth coming Olympus EPL3 stilting LCDs may make those options compelling alternatives. I'm Laurie Grunin and this is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3.