Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 review

18 Nov 2011

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

Price when reviewed: 
450(£424 inc VAT)
Buy it now for 
5

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

Details

Price ex VAT £375
Price inc VAT £450
Overall rating 5
Performance 4
Features & Design 5
Image quality 3
Value for Money 5

Basic specifications

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

Weight 319g
Dimensions 108 x 57 x 66mm (WDH)

Battery

Battery type included Lithium-ion
Battery life (CIPA standard) 340 shots
Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
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
Exposure bracketing? yes
White-balance bracketing? yes
Memory-card type SDXC
Viewfinder coverage N/A
LCD resolution 460k
Secondary LCD display? no
Video/TV output? yes
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
Accessories supplied none

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