Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 Micro Four Thirds Review - Panasonic put the Micro in Four Thirds with the smallest Micro Four Thirds camera currently available! Find out if Panasonic has gone too far - is it too small for it's own good?
The Panasonic Lumix GF3 is an update to the Panasonic Lumix GF2, the GF3 compacts the camera by 16.7% and reduces the weight by 16.2%, and now features a more compact battery, and design, removing the flash hot shoe, but keeping the pop-up flash. Have Panasonic gone too far this time, is the GF3 too small for it's own good? Find out in our review.
Panasonic Lumix GF3
Panasonic Lumix GF3 Features
The GF3 features the same touch screen as the GF2, with a dedicated "iA" (intelligent Auto) button, 3D photos, Full HD video, ISO range (upto 6400), and increased shooting speed giving you 3.8fps continuous shooting, a new intelligent auto + mode, as well as a more stylish body with a larger front grip. But the GF3 also has removed the flash hot shoe, instead moving the pop-up flash to this position, giving the camera a cute rounded design. Also removed is the control dial from the back of the GF2, as well as the stereo microphones, instead leaving the GF3 with mono sound.
The handling, design, and build quality of the Panasonic Lumix GF3 is very good, with a metal body, and the front grip is more pronounced compared to the GF2. The buttons are quite good, although there are less buttons than the predecessor, due to the touch screen giving access to these controls instead. The layout of the buttons on the back is pleasing with the camera feeling very easy to use, the four way control giving access to some of the most commonly used features such as exposure compensation, WB, continuous shooting, focus, and the Quick Menu button can be setup as a custom function button. Another neat feature of the way the flash is designed to pop out of the camera, is that you can use it as a bounce flash, simply by tilting the flash to point straight up. Although the lack of flash hot shoe may disappoint some.
Menus - The touch screen gives quick access to a number of controls, and also lets you switch the modes. Alternatively you can enter the full menus with the Menu button on the back, and then use the 4 way controller to go through the options and select what you want. The quick access buttons on the back of the screen can be customised to show your favourite options, and you can drag and drop the icons from the top of the screen to the bottom if you don't like the default options presented. The touch screen also has the added benefit of letting you precisely control what area you want to focus on.
Panasonic Lumix GF3
Battery life - Battery life is rated at 340 shots according to CIPA standards, we were able to take 310 shots before the battery went flat, this is lower than expected, although your mileage may vary depending on use, the lens used, and whether you shoot with continuous shooting, or regularly switch the camera off and on.
Speed - we tested the Panasonic Lumix GF3 and compared it to the Samsung NX11, Olympus PEN E-P3, and Sony NEX-5 with updated firmware. You can also compare the results to the new Panasonic Lumix G3 as well.
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot (without flash)
Shot to Shot with Flash
(full resolution, before slow down)
Performance was very good with extremely quick focusing, shutter response, and excellent shot-to-shot time even with flash. Continuous shooting is very good at 4fps, and the performance with a high speed card is excellent allowing 13 shots before the camera slows down when using a Samsung Class 10 SD card.
Panasonic Lumix GF3 Performance
Here you can view sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix GF3 under a variety of conditions, with further sample photos available in the equipment database.
Panasonic Lumix GF3 Sample Photos
The portrait flash shot has very low red-eye. The camera lets you bounce the flash, and has built in red-eye reduction. The GF3 produces images with very good detail and good colour.
Panasonic Lumix GF3 Other sample images
Dynamic range can be enhanced using the iContrast options, which are Off, Low, Standard, and High.
Panasonic Lumix GF3 Lens test images
These example photos show the camera is capable of producing pleasing images with good colour and detail.
Macro performance - with the 14mm f/2.5 lens the camera isn't ideal for macro photos, although the lens does focus with the subject 18cm away from the lens. The 14-42mm kit lens from Panasonic or Olympus is much better for macro shots, and we've used the Olympus kit lens for some of the macro shots shown.
Panasonic Lumix GF3 ISO test images
ISO Noise - There is very low noise at ISO160 and ISO200, with stronger more saturated colours and higher contrast than the GF2. Chroma noise (coloured blotches) start to appear at ISO400, but noise is well controlled and detail is sharp. Noise is still low at ISO800 and colours are strong. ISO1600 result are good with lower noise than the GF2 at this setting, and the GF3 manages to maintain colour saturation. At ISO3200 the images show strong artefacts, and the camera appears to be struggling to keep the noise under control, images at ISO3200 are most likely used resized on the web. ISO6400 shows more noise, but manages to keep colours saturated, again these images are best used resized.
Panasonic Lumix GF3 White-balance test images
Auto White Balance performance - Auto White Balance performs well under both tungsten and fluorescent lighting, with the tungsten preset giving a warmer result. There isn't a preset for fluorescent lighting on the GF3 or Panasonic cameras in general, as the auto white balance does a good job (and often does a better job than presets on other cameras as well). Some moiré is visible in the Crumpler bag in the first two shots, although we did not see this effect in any other shots.
Panasonic Lumix GF3 Digital filters
Lenses available: The GF2 and GF3 are sold with the 14mm f/2.5 kit lens as the preferred lens as this maximises the small size of the cameras, and unlike Olympus, Panasonic don't have a collapsible zoom lens, so the 14-42mm lens looks quite large on these cameras, taking away a lot of the pocket-ability. The 14mm f/2.5 lens is a good lens generally, but does has softer corners than the Olympus 14-42mm II R kit lens, but has very sharp detail in the centre. Giving a 28mm wide angle view it might be a bit limiting for some and to give the camera more versatility a zoom lens is recommended. As it's part of the Micro Four thirds system, there is an abundance of lenses to choose from, from both Olympus and Panasonic, and others! There is also a number of adapters available to allow you to use DSLR lenses, as well as a lot of third party "toy" lenses like the Pinhole PenWide, Holga, and others. Video
The Panasonic Lumix GF3 records full HD video with mono sound, and has a number of useful options such as continuous or manual focus, digital telephoto converter, wind reduction, microphone level display, and flicker reduction for TVs.
Value for Money
The Panasonic Lumix GF3 is good value for money, available for around £440 with 14mm kit lens, this prices it at around the same price as the Samsung NX11, and Sony NEX-5, and costs less than some of the Olympus PEN models, such as the Olympus PEN E-PL2. The Panasonic Lumix GF2 may be available for less, as it is the predecessor to this camera, although the GF2 is not as small as the GF3.
Panasonic Lumix GF3 Verdict
The Panasonic Lumix GF3 is currently the smallest Micro Four Thirds camera with built in flash, and offers great image quality in a, dare I say it, ultra compact camera that fits in your pocket. High speed focusing, fast continuous shooting, and full HD video make this a responsive camera to use. The camera features full manual controls, and the small size makes it easy to take on a casual day out, when you normally wouldn't want to carry a large camera with you. The enhanced hand grip on the front of the camera, and solid build quality make it easy to hold, however we wish it was still as feature packed as the GF2. At least the camera is still capable of delivering excellent image quality.
The Panasonic GF3 offers excellent image quality in a surprisingly compact camera.
Panasonic Lumix GF3 Pros
Extremely fast focus, continuous shooting
Good build quality with metal body
Great image quality
Low noise up to ISO1600
Flash direction can be altered
Smallest mirrorless camera with built in flash
Maintains colour as ISO setting increased
Touch screen helps make up for the reduction of buttons
Panasonic Lumix GF3 Cons
Reduced features compared to GF2 (Mono sound)
14mm kit lens not great for macro
No mode dial, lacks flash hot-shoe
Lacks orientation sensor
IS is lens based