Touch and go
There’s little to complain about with the Lumix DMC-G3, you can just pick it up and run with it. Start up is swift at well under a second. Everything seems to be in its place, with the centre menu button surrounded by dedicated keys for AF mode, ISO, white balance and burst shooting. You also get a couple of assignable function buttons and an embedded wheel dial as part of the thumb rest.
The Lumix DMC-G3 has all the extras
The top plate features a PASM modes dial with two custom settings. I would have liked a dedicated exposure memory lock on the body, which was on the G2, but the movie record button has taken its place. Apparently, there’s an option to assign this to a function key buried in the menus.
Nifty phase detection AF remains the preserve of DSLRs, so the Lumix G-series relies on contrast detection which features on cheaper compacts and is typically slower. Yet, Panasonic has managed to eke out a respectable performance with response claims of a mere 0.1s on some lenses. Indeed, the G3‘s AF worked swiftly and silently on the lenses tested. Only a few opportunistic off-centre challenges foiled it – with focus favouring the background – but with AF tracking available, there are workarounds on-board.
Swapping over to the Lumix DMC-GF3 was a bit of a jolt. To frame shots, the 3in touchscreen LCD panel is all you have to go with and it’s fixed too. With few exceptions, the majority of the G3’s dials and buttons have disappeared. There’s no top plate mode selector and the back panel offers D-pad/dial arrangement to navigate the functions. Even here, the dedicated ISO found on the DMC-GF2 has been replaced by the EV option. Indeed, to say that the GF3 is a menu driven camera is an understatement.
The minimal approach may take some getting used to if you tweak regularly
In the hand, the GF3 gives the impression of being the sort of compact few would take out of auto. Having only shutter release, video capture and iA (intelligent auto) buttons on the top plate does suggest the essence of the GF3 seems to be point and shoot with interchangeable lenses.
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"The trouble with micro 4/3 (and compact digicams)"
You say that as if their sensors are in any way close to the same size. You can fit up to ten compact camera sensors on one 4/3 sensor.
Depth of field control on 4/3 obviously isn't as versatile as on 35mm, getting twice the DoF for the same f-number, but the idea that "pretty much everything is in focus, all the time" or equating it to compact camera sensors is simply wrong. So, so wrong.
... is the one which you can take the picture with - because it's with you. So it doesn't really matter how good other cameras are, if they are too big to be carried along. Some amateurs won't bother carrying anything bigger than average compact - micro 4/3 is just the right size for such target audience. Yet the sensor is big enough to give good picture in good light (i.e. low enough ISO). I've seen RAWs from GF2 and they are quite good, opposed to JPEGs straight from the camera (too many typical compact-like artifacts). Assuming you pair it with small lens (e.g. Panasonic 20/1.8) it is one sweet kit.
And of course, shooting with fixed focal lens has other benefits I won't elaborate on - few would understand. Mine is the one with camera in the pocket.
I've never been quite sure who the market is for a camera like this. Interchangeable lenses, but a severe lack of controls? Who goes to all the trouble of carrying a bag full of lenses, but doesn't want to make manual tweaks to their settings?
I've been in the market for a small mirrorless interchangeable lens camera for some time, to sit in my jacket pocket when I can't be bothered lugging my SLR around. But just because the body is small, it shouldn't mean any less flexibility than an SLR.