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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 review

Verdict

Extremely rewarding to use, but noise levels in low light aren’t up to today’s standards

Review Date: 18 Nov 2011

Reviewed By: Ben Pitt

Price when reviewed: £375 (£450 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £211
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

Image Quality
3 stars out of 6

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).

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 - front

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.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 - back

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.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 - sample shot

Author: Ben Pitt

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User comments

"However, noise levels at high ISO speeds are significantly worse than with most DSLRs. They’re still much lower than any conventional compact"

Better than a compact, but worse than a DSLR. Doesn't really seem worth carping out IMO.

By Lacrobat on 18 Nov 2011

I'm looking forward to the day when someone puts the spec of an EOS 5D Mk2 into a sealed compact Titanium body with a 12 x zoom lens.(excluding of course the Special edition Leica M9 which was silly money)

By Jaberwocky on 22 Nov 2011

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