Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 review
Extremely rewarding to use, but noise levels in low light aren’t up to today’s standards
The GF1 was a compact-shaped camera aimed squarely at enthusiasts. Two generations on, the GF3 uses the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount and a similar 12-megapixel sensor, but it’s much more of a point-and-shoot camera. There are fewer dials, buttons and levers for quick access to manual settings. The touchscreen isn’t integral to operation – all settings are available via the buttons, too – but touchscreen control is faster.
It looks extremely svelte and classy, but with a reassuringly solid feel. There’s an integral flash too, although it doesn’t pop up high enough to avoid larger lenses casting a shadow at wide-angle zoom settings.
This isn’t a problem for the 14mm pancake lens we tested, though. With this lens fitted, the GF3 is small and light enough to be considered pocket-sized. If you can’t live without a zoom, consider getting the 14-42mm kit lens instead (around £419), or as well (around £550).
Performance is up to DSLR standards. Autofocus speed is the highlight, locking onto vague subjects in gloomy conditions in a fraction of a second. It surpassed the claimed 3.8fps continuous speed in our tests, managing 4fps for 13 JPEGs or six RAW frames, but performance then fell sharply to around 0.5fps.
Video is another highlight, with sharp 1080p capture, smooth, silent autofocus, and sophisticated autofocus control via the touchscreen. The mono microphone is a step down from the GF2’s stereo mic, though, and there’s no way to lock the exposure – a key feature for creative videography.
Photo quality was generally excellent, with incredibly sharp focus from the 14mm lens, balanced automatic exposures and better handling of skintones than we’ve seen from other Lumix G cameras.
However, noise levels at high ISO speeds are significantly worse than with most DSLRs. They’re still much lower than any conventional compact, but ISO 3200 shots looked scruffy on close inspection.
It’s also frustrating that the Intelligent Auto mode doesn’t venture beyond ISO 800 – with no stabilisation in the pancake lens, automatic exposures were often blurry in low light.
Still, those who are willing to venture beyond automatic settings and into RAW processing will get excellent results from this superb little camera.
|Price ex VAT||£375|
|Price inc VAT||£450|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||5|
|Camera megapixel rating||12.0mp|
|Camera screen size||3.0in|
|Camera optical zoom range||1x|
|Camera maximum resolution||4,000 x 3,000|
Weight and dimensions
|Dimensions||108 x 57 x 66mm (WDH)|
|Battery type included||Lithium-ion|
|Battery life (CIPA standard)||340 shots|
|Aperture range||f2.5 - f2.5|
|Camera minimum focus distance||0.18m|
|Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent)||28|
|Longest focal length (35mm equivalent)||28|
|Minimum (fastest) shutter speed||1/4,000|
|Maximum (slowest) shutter speed||1 mins|
|Bulb exposure mode?||no|
|RAW recording mode?||yes|
|Exposure compensation range||+/- 3EV|
|ISO range||160 - 4000|
|Selectable white balance settings?||yes|
|Manual/user preset white balane?||yes|
|Progam auto mode?||yes|
|Shutter priority mode?||yes|
|Aperture priority mode?||yes|
|Fully auto mode?||yes|
|Burst frame rate||3.8fps|
|Secondary LCD display?||no|
|Body construction||Aluminium, plastic|
|Tripod mounting thread?||yes|
|Data connector type||proprietary USB|
Manual, software and accessories
|Full printed manual?||no|
|Software supplied||Silkypix Developer Studio 3.1 SE, PhotofunStudio 6.2 HD Edition|