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Panasonic Lumix G3 M43rds First Impressions Review

Panasonic Lumix G3 M43rds First Impressions Review - We had a hands on look at the new Panasonic Lumix G3 Micro Four Thirds camera, the latest model from Panasonic features a new 16 megapixel sensor, but is it any good?

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Category : Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
Product : Panasonic Lumix G3
Price : £1
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification



The new Panasonic Lumix G3 is an update to the G2, and features an all new 16 megapixel Live MOS sensor, lower noise, high speed focusing (as fast as the GH2), with faster shooting than the G2, 4fps vs 3fps, and 20fps at 4mp. They have also dropped the number from the front of the camera to help the brand stand out as a Lumix "G" series camera. The camera will be available mid June, priced at £549 body only, or £629 with 14-42mm kit lens. Read the Panasonic Lumix G3 Announcement.



Panasonic Lumix G3 Features


One of the key features is a completely new 16.3 megapixel Live MOS sensor, with 16.0 megapixels effective, the sensor promises lower noise than any preceding Panasonic Lumix camera. The sensor gives lower noise thanks to a "low noise pixel signal readout circuit" and a new "low noise signal amplifier circuit / noise elimination circuit" - as shown on the presentation slide below:



The new sensor promises to deliver a Signal to Noise (S/N) improvement of 6 dB at ISO3200, and an improvement of 9 dB at ISO6400. What this means in laymen terms is that you should be able to get much smoother images with lower noise, increasing overall image quality. 

An improved focusing system promises the world's fastest auto focus, with 0.1 second AF, thanks to the camera increasing the sensor drive to 120fps, compared to 60fps, during AF. This gives the camera the same ultra fast focusing speed as the Panasonic Lumix GH2. 



Panasonic Lumix G3 Key Features

  • New 16 megapixel Live MOS sensor
  • 3" touch screen, 460k dots
  • Improved viewfinder, 1.44 million pixels
  • Improved AF, switches to 120fps instead of 60fps, 0.1 seconds (with 14-42mm lens)
  • 4fps continuous shooting (full resolution), 20fps at 4mp
  • Full HD video 1080i (60i/50i), AVCHD video, 1920x1080 60i/30p 50i/25p, stereo mic
  • ISO160,200,400, 800,1600,3200,6400
  • Intelligent Dynamic-Range control
  • New intelligent auto plus allows brightness (exposure compensation), and colour (WB)
  • New framing/focus mode for manual focus, plus AF+MF mode
  • New compact aluminium body, 25% smaller than the G2
  • New colours: black, red, white, (brown outside the UK)
  • Size: 115.2 x 83.6 x 46.7 mm (excluding protrusions)
  • Weight: 336g (body only)


Compared to the Panasonic Lumix G2, and GH2:



Since the G3 fits somewhere in the middle of the Panasonic Lumix G2 and Panasonic Lumix GH2, we thought it would be useful to compare the main specifications of each camera here:

Panasonic Lumix G2 Panasonic Lumix G3 Panasonic Lumix GH2
12.1 megapixels (effective) 16.0 megapixels (effective) 16.05 megapixels (effective)
3inch, Touch screen, 460k 3inch, Touch screen, 460k 3inch, Touch screen, 460k
3.2fps 4fps at 16mp, 20fps at 4mp 5fps at 16mp, 40fps at 4mp
23-area-focusing 23-area-focusing 23-area-focusing
1280 x 720, 50p, 25fps Full HD 1920x1080, 50i, 25fps Full HD 1920×1080, 24p
Mono microphone Stereo microphones Stereo microphones
ISO100 - ISO6400 ISO160 - ISO6400 ISO160 - ISO12800
100% view, 1.44m pixels 100% view, 1.44m pixels 100% view, 1.44m pixels
370 (LCD) 270 (LCD) 330 (LCD)
124 x 83.6 x 59.5/74*mm 115.2 x 83.6 x 46.7/62.2*mm  124 x 89.6 x 75.8*mm
371g (body only) 336g (body only) 392g (body only)
£419 with kit lens £549 body, £629 kit lens (RRP) £739 with kit lens (14-42)

* including viewfinder



The top of the camera features a more compact mode dial with less options on the dial, and instead of featuring an Auto or iAuto selection on the dial, the camera's auto mode is accessed via the [P] Program mode - simply press the iA button on top of the camera to switch between Program and iAuto.



The battery compartment is also used for the memory card on the G3, meaning it's not as easy to access the memory card, when compared to the GH2, which has the slot on the side.
 


 

Panasonic Lumix G3 Handling


With a reduced size compared to the G2 the camera has a smaller hand grip. the camera's features two tone colour, black and black side, red and black sides, with black lenses, white and silver sides, and silver lens. The grip on the pre-production model varied depending what colour camera you used, with the black feeling as though it had the grippiest surface, as the hand grip and sides were rubberised, likewise with the red model, whereas the white/silver model did not appear to be rubberised. This may be altered on production cameras, however it is something to bear in mind. 



An easy to use touch screen, works as well as you would expect a decent touchscreen phone to work, and like the iphone it allows you to swipe through your photos in playback mode. The touch screen allows you to focus on any area of the screen (increased area compared to the GH2), and will also allow you to take photos by touching the screen (if you want to). The camera, much like the GH2, does not force you to use the touchscreen, and you can quite happily use the camera fully without using the screen if you are not a fan. 



The camera lets you view a live histogram, and interestingly lets you choose where to put the display, either using the 4-way controller / direction arrows or simply dragging it around the screen until you're happy with it's position. Whilst not necessarily a deal breaker, it's simple and clever little features like this that someone out there will really appreciate (if that's you please let us know in the comments!). You can also view a live view of the microphone levels on screen, and in a lot of ways this camera feels like a "mini" GH2, although it features a 4:3 aspect ratio sensor, compared to the multi-aspect ratio sensor in the GH2. The G3 still gives you the choice of the same aspect ratios, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1 however these are cropped from the 4:3 sensor. 



The camera has a good number of buttons on the back and top of the camera - this lets you access your most favourite settings quickly and easily. The controls can further be customised, thanks to two Function buttons. the build quality appears to be very good, with an aluminium body, although the white model didn't exactly feel like aluminium due to the shiny coating on the body. screen worked well outdoors, although in extreme sunshine it became difficult to see, and I switched to using the electronic viewfinder. the electronic viewfinder with 1.44 million pixels was very good, easy to see, and very clear, even for someone wearing glasses.

Whilst the G3 has a number of customisable buttons on the back, it does have less buttons and switches when compared to the G2 and GH2, most likely due to the size constraints of a smaller body. One other feature missing from the G3 is an eye sensor, meaning to switch to the EVF you will need to press the button on the back - this could be an issue for anyone coming straight from a DSLR with an optical viewfinder. 



Speed: Switch on time is good, focusing speed is very good, continuous shooting at 4fps is above average for an entry level system camera. There is some delay after taking several continuous shots when set to RAW + JPEG (maximum 7 shots), however there was very little lag in the actual display; tracking and photographing subjects was very easy.



Battery life: Rated at 270 shots when using the LCD, according to Panasonic / CIPA standards, I took around 250 shots and battery life was still showing as full.



Menus: The Panasonic menus are well laid out into a number of sections: photo, video, custom, playback, and setup. The video menu has a wealth of options including: photo style, record mode, record quality, focus mode, picture mode, wind cut, digital tele converter (allows digital zoom without the loss of video quality), digital zoom, to name a few of the options. 

Panasonic Lumix G3 Live view screen Panasonic Lumix G3 Custom Menu
Live view mode (Histogram, and Microphone levels switched on) Custom menu

The custom menu lets you change the function buttons and if you do change the shared display / fn1 and quick menu / fn2 buttons you can still use these as virtual buttons by pressing them on the screen. Playback gives you one video edition option, splitting a video, but no further video editing options.




Panasonic Lumix G3 Performance


Panasonic were keen to demonstrate the improvement in noise performance at high ISO such as ISO3200 and above, and showed slides showing lower noise than the G2, GH2, as well as similar or better results than the Canon 600D and Sony NEX-5. Unfortunately as we were shooting with an early pre-production version we are unable to show full size samples.

London from above River Thames
River Thames Millennium Bridge (16:9)

The model shown was pre-production running firmware 0.2 and as such is not entirely indicative to the final quality. However the camera performed rapidly and produced pleasing images with great colour and detail.

Macro AWB
Tungsten Preset Custom WB

White balance: Auto white balance may give the best results, although using the preset or custom white balance can improve the results, and warm up the image.

Creative control (previously called "My Colour" mode) lets you set the colour as: Expressive, Retro, High Key, Sepia, High Dynamic.

Normal Expressive Retro
High Key Sepia High Dynamic

Photo mode (previously Film mode) lets you set the colour as: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait, or Custom.

Standard Vivid Natural
Monochrome Scenery Portrait

Aspect ratios:

16:9 3:2
4:3 1:1 aspect ratio


ISO performance: The camera has very low noise at ISO160, ISO200 and ISO400, and even upto ISO800 images appear to be noise free. At ISO1600 a hint of noise starts to appear, with ISO3200 images still showing low noise levels, although it does become more visible. At ISO6400 noise is noticeable, but the results are still very impressive. It appears as though the new sensor is really delivering impressive improvements to image quality. (Although, until we can show full image samples, you'll just have to take our word for it).

ISO160 ISO400
ISO800 ISO1600
ISO3200 ISO6400

Additional sample photos:

Panasonic Lumix G3 in Red and White Close up
London skyline London skyline and ferry

Video sample:


Flicker reduction video option - 50/60/100/120hz works well to reduce or completely remove flicker picked up from TVs/LCD screen etc. Full HD video sample shown above.

Value for Money


The 14-42mm kit lens features built in IS, called MEGA Optical Image Stabilisation (although does not have a switch on the side, like the 14-140mm lens), and this should enable sharp shots even in low light situations. The introductory price, of £549 body only, or £629 with kit lens is very competitive and I expect this will stay competitive with the competition as it drops over time.


DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.

Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Panasonic Lumix G3.

Panasonic Lumix G3 Verdict


Initial impressions of the Panasonic Lumix G3 are very positive, particularly for the black model, with enhanced rubberised grip, the camera features new easier to use creative modes (high key, sepia, etc), film modes (vivid, landscape etc), and most importantly appears to further enhance image quality with a new sensor capable of improved noise performance. The other improvements such as improved focusing and continuous shooting speed, and a more compact body make an appealing system even more interesting, particularly if you want SLR style quality without the typical size associated with SLR sized cameras. The improved focusing speeds, really are impressive, and it makes you wonder when traditional SLRs at this price point are going to catch up, likewise with the easy to use and impressive touchscreen.

Panasonic Lumix G3 Specification

Price £549 body only, £629 with 14-42mm kit lens.
Contact www.panasonic.co.uk
Viewfinder Live View Finder (1,440,000 dots equivalent)
Resolution 16.0 Megapixels (effective)
Sensor size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 
Sensor type Live MOS Sensor
Max. Image size 4592x3448 (4:3), 4576x3056 (3:2), 4576x2576 (16:9), 3424x3424   (1:1)
Aspect ratio 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1
Monitor 3inch, TFT LCD with Touch panel, 460k
Shutter speed Still Images: 1/4000 ~ 60 and Bulb (up to approx. 2 minutes)
Focusing system Contrast AF
Focusing modes "Face detection / AF Tracking / 23-area-focusing / 1-area-focusing / Pinpoint Touch (1- area-focusing in Face detection / AF Tracking / Multi-area-focusing / 1-area-focusing / Pinpoint)"
 
Exposure Compensation 1/3EV Step ±5EV, Auto bracketing: 3,5,7 frame, in 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV Step, ±3 EV
File types Still Image: JPEG(DCF, Exif 2.3), RAW, DPOF compatible MPO (When attaching 3D lens in Micro Four Thirds standard) / Motion Image: AVCHD / QuickTime Motion JPEG
ISO sensitivity Auto / Intelligent ISO / 160 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200 / 6400 
Exposure Metering  144-zone multi-pattern sensing system
Metering Method Intelligent Multiple / Center Weighted / Spot
Exposure Modes Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual
Continuous SH: 20 frames/sec (4Mp), H: 4 frames/sec
Movie mode NTSC: [Full HD] 1920×1080, 60i (sensor output is 30p) (FSH:17Mbps), [HD] 1280 x 720, 60p (sensor output is 30p)(SH:17Mbps)
PAL: [Full HD] 1920×1080, 50i (sensor output is 25p) (FSH:17Mbps), [HD] 1280 x 720, 50p (sensor output is 25p)(SH:17Mbps)
Media type SD / SDHC / SDXC
Interface USB 2.0 High Speed, miniHDMI TypeC / VIErA link, AV: Stereo Type, NTSC/PAL, φ2.5mm. stereo mini jack
Power ID-Security Li-ion Battery Pack (7.2v, 1010mAh) (Included) / Battery Charger
Box Contents Camera, Battery Charger, Battery Pack, Body Cap, AV Cable, USB Connection Cable, Shoulder Strap, Stylus pen, CD-ROM
 
Size 115.2 x 83.6 x 46.7mm / 4.54 x 3.29 x 1.84 in (excluding protrusions)
Weight Approx. 544g / 19.20 oz (SD card, Battery, 14-42mm lens included), Approx. 761g / 26.88 oz (SD card, Battery, 14-140mm lens included), Approx. 336g / 11.84 oz (Body only)

Explore More

Photographs taken using the Panasonic Lumix G3

Prelude to Autumn IIPrelude to AutumnAll Tied UpBracket FungusWeekly macro challenge - blueI'm Not Posing Anymore Today.Meeting a MermaidshadowsWeb SenseAll Strung Out.Buddha, My BuddhyViaductHigher Walton MillSunseekersAbstract something-or-other
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Comments


lemmy 7 1.9k United Kingdom
12 May 2011 9:57AM
This is interesting. I have a Pentax K5 and Panasonic GF2 with 14, 20 and 14-140 zoom. For the Pentax I have an array of lenses, 12-24, 35mm, 60-250mm, 105 macro. I use the GF2 as a carry everywhere camera.

It interests me to have instead of 2 systems, a G3 and the GF2 because they both use the same lens systems. What a money saver.

For me it would all depend on the high iso noise performance and the usability of the screen.

So after a full test of this camera, how about a side by side with a K5 or Canikon equivalent. Could the G3 replace one of these? If not, why not?

How about it?

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12 May 2011 6:58PM
I couldn't believe that the G3 has an old battery type see picture of the battery DMW-BLD-10E and not like when the GH2 came out that the battery wasn't the same as the G2 and this battery is still hard to get and Most of Panasonics Accessories are Very Hard to Obtain. Will Panasonic put out another G3 type camera in four months after the G3 is release like they did with the G1 to GH1 and G2 to GH2, so should we wait for the next G3 to come out and not buy this G3????!!!! I know this new G3 already has Full 1080 HD so the next new G3 will not be GH3, but will be another type like GX3, etc??? Does anyone Know when the New Panasonic Lens of the new 25mm f/1.4 lens is coming out and where can I buy the Lens ??? You see I was just ready to buy the 20mm f/1.7, but then just in time I read about this new lens coming out.
JohnHoppy 5 5 United Kingdom
12 May 2011 7:14PM
A step sideways perhaps, I think we have to see the G3 as being to the G2 what the GF2 was to the GF1 - essentially an updated but stripped-down, slimmed down version targetting the high-end compact user. The successor to the G2 had to be something that didn't upset the position of the GH2. And it doesn't. Initial price is high but will fall quite quickly, I fancy. I don't care for the vestigial handgrip which has replaced the G2's very adequate grip. Nor do I think it's clever simply to label the camera as a "Lumix G", I suspect keen photographers will not like the idea of such anonymity. Trimming manual controls from the body gives it more of the status of an up-market compact at an inflated price.
Performance is something else. From your data, both speed of performance and quality of results give Panasonic the confidence to say it can rival similarly priced DSLRs. That would be fascinating, and your figures suggest they have a case. If it advances the status of CSCs, terrific, though I for one won't be trading my G2.
The G3 looks like a GF2 that has grown a few curves and bumps and plonked a mode dial on top. For its promise of highly competitive performance, it's very welcome, but I think enthusiast photographers were hoping for something else.
franfoto 6 2 32 England
14 May 2011 3:44PM
Interesting review of the G3 but it doesn't mention whether the shutter lag has been improved from the G2.
SHUTTER LAG is my biggest grouse with my G2.
lemmy 7 1.9k United Kingdom
15 May 2011 9:51AM

Quote: SHUTTER LAG is my biggest grouse with my G2

There's no lag to speak of on my GF2, so I imagine they will have the same mech in this new one.
JohnHoppy 5 5 United Kingdom
15 May 2011 4:54PM
No shutter lag with my G2 either, it compares very well with any Canon or Olympus I've had, you may want to get that checked over. Brilliant little camera in my book (but - use the 14-45mm from the GF1, it's a better lens).

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