Top positive review
16 people found this helpful
on August 23, 2012
I recently acquired both the GF3 and a FH25K point and shoot and was curious which would provide the best vacationer experience. I had damaged my Casio EX-S5 by inadvertently turning it on while it was in a case and my wife had managed to misplace her Canon PS-A2200 so I needed a point and shoot replacement. I was torn between the Lumix FH25K and the Lumix GF3. I initially thought that since I already had a Lumix G1 and a (somewhat unfairly excessively maligned) Lumix 14-42 kit lens, I might as well give the GF3 body a try, hopefully it might provide better performance than a pure P&S like the FH25K. Here are my impressions:
The GF3 is most definitively a tweener and it's compromises are likely to rankle both P&S shooters and more advanced enthusiast. With the kit 14-40mm mounted it is too large to slip into ones pocket and too limited in external controls and features to appeal to most enthusiast. I personally really miss having a view finder or a dedicated hot shoe, especially considering the P&S style, red eye inducing P&S type flash. The camera body is very small and it is difficult to find a proper grip, I find myself supporting the cameras weight more from the lens than the body, but once one gets past those limitations and learns where all the menu feature controls are, it's a pretty fun camera. It's electronics work well notably the iA setting, the point of focus tracking and the lock feature as well as the depth of field control works pretty well. The touch screen is not as sensitive as one might hope but I see that not so much as a negative because I already inadvertently set features on and off too often accidentally. The menu is pretty intuitive insofar as how the main controls are arranged although there are a few features that I'm still grappling with and others, such as manual focus on/off which appear buried too deep in the menu, the manual setting does not disable auto-focus.
Several people have complained about the lack of a dedicated movie mode recording button but that feature is very easy accessed from the menu. The video recording is OK, you can zoom while recording but you pick up a lot of extraneous noise like with most other P&S cameras. The sound is mono and there is no provision for external mics but realistically, did anyone expect there to be? The image recording quality seems pretty good although I admit that I have not spent a lot of time tweaking and fidgeting with the video features. Still, I think most casual users would be satisfied and especially getting both an interchangeable lens still camera and video camera at a bargain price. I don't however think video enthusiast would be satisfied with the compromises.
Curious about several contributors assertions, I tried shooting duplicate photos using my cell phone, (a Samsung Galaxy II), the Lumix FH25K and the GF3. I tried this in several situations shooting approximately eight pictures in each setting. I got some surprising good shots with my cell phone but never did it perform up to the IQ standards of the FH25K or the GF3 although it did surprise me how good of a picture you can get from a cell phone camera. The quality between the well regarded (Leica badged lens) purely P&S FH25K and the GF3 were not always so clear cut. I don't think there was a single shot where the GF3 did worse and in most shots it was superior although in not so obvious ways, most notably when taking pictures of my parrots, two vividly colorful conures and a radiant green, Severe Macaw, the FH25K did an excellent job with detail and color rendition but in almost every shot the birds eyes were not sharply focused and most suffered significantly from green eye. The GF3 did an excellent job of holding focus on the birds faces and it's iA seemed to choose a smaller aperture rendering a greater depth of focus with less green eye. In this sequence of about 16 shots, both cameras were set to iA and the GF3 was clearly the winner. Outside natural light shots, general architectural type shots and friends around the table type snapshots were about nip-n-tuck. If I enlarge the photos looking for something to quibble with there may be a bit more purple fringing (CA) and barrel distortion and a little worse red eye with the FH25K but it's fixed lens zoom has greater reach and it has a greater convenience factor. The touch screen on the GF3 works much better than I expected so I might have preferred the FH27K to the FH25K now that I see the touch screen and program really does provide a P&S advantage.
The GF3 is a fun camera that functions very well. My personal form factor preference remains the Lumix G1 and regard the efforts to make the G and GF models increasingly smaller with totally menu and electronically controlled features a regression but I understand Panasonic's goals and target market. The GF3 really is a nice camera capable of producing excellent results and most of my gripes are about what it isn't instead of what it is and I knew exactly what it was before buying it. I'm keeping it though, both it and the Lumix FH25K.