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Customer Review

129 of 133 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great option for point and shoot upgraders who are willing to invest into the system, December 28, 2011
This review is from: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3KK 12 MP Micro 4/3 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 3-Inch Touchscreen LCD and 14-42mm Zoom Lens (Black) (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Electronics)
I think how you feel about this camera is really going to depend on where you're coming from. If you're a DSLR shooter and are looking for a portable body you're likely going to be frustrated by the lack of control points on this camera.

On the other hand, for those upgrading from a point and shoot camera like myself, this camera can be ideal. I came from a Canon S90, which I purchased a couple of years ago looking for a camera that does a better job in low light than the typical point and shoot. The S95 was definitely a step up from what I had before, but more recently I've become frustrated with the limitations of the sensor and was also interested in exploring the world of interchangeable lenses.

What I didn't want, however, was to get a full DSLR. Portability is extremely important to me, any camera that can't be slipped into a coat pocket or small bag is simply useless to me. No, the GF3 can't fit into a pants pocket like my S95 did, but it's still massively smaller than even the smallest DSLRs and it's amongst the smallest models in the mirrorless camera class.

With small size taken care of, the next question is how good is the image quality? If you're stepping up from a high-end point and shoot like I am you're probably not going to notice a major difference in good lighting conditions, but where the GF3 blows my old S95 away is in low light situations. This performance does come with a caveat, however, which is that you need the right lens on the camera in order to get the low light performance you want. If you are not going to buy any additional lenses beyond the kit you're not going to see any benefit over a high end point and shoot and you should probably consider one of those cameras (Canon S100, Olympus XZ-1, Fuji X100).

In my case I was happy to go out and purchase the 20mm f/1.7 Panasonic lens for low light photography. This lens allows me shoot at shutter speeds ranging from 1/40 to 1/100 of a second in very low light situations, at ISOs that would have ended up unacceptably grainy on my S90 (1600 or 3200). The result is that I'm getting indoor shots of pets and kids that I simply wasn't able to get before.

Now, some people coming from a pro level camera will probably tell you that I'm crazy to shoot at ISO 3200 with this camera, but if you're coming from a point and shoot you'll find the noise so much better that it will be hard to notice. Yes there is a slight grain to shots, but it's very fine and if all you're doing is sharing photos on Facebook or via email it's barely noticeable. I wouldn't push it to 6400 ISO, however.

What about controls? In my case I find that the combination of the four-way controller, rotating dial and touch screen give me all the control points I want or need. I've got the FN button assigned to ISO control, and access Metering, Image Size and Flash controls via the touch screen Quick Menu, which can be customized to include a wide variety of controls. The four-way controller then gives me access to all the other controls I want: drive mode, white balance, focus point and exposure compensation. I shoot mostly in Program or Aperture Priority mode and am very happy with how quickly I can adjust my settings.

So, bottom line, if you're upgrading from a point and shoot and are willing to take advantage of the fact that this is an interchangeable lens camera to buy the lens(es) that fit your needs, this can be a great upgrade camera for point and shooters. Don't forget that the real long-term investment is in the lenses, you can always upgrade to a better body in the future and continue to use whichever great lenses you purchase on those future bodies, one of the great features of a camera system like this.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 24, 2012 3:08:32 AM PST
J. Frankford says:
Thanks so much for the f value/20 mm additional lens purchase suggestion. I was looking for low light video shooting on my ramen noodle budget and am now very happy with this camera.

Posted on Sep 18, 2012 2:43:59 PM PDT
Giuseppe C. says:
Despite the claims, esp from the makers of the point and shoots with the super long lenses, you're absolutely right. Don't expect optimal low light shots from a lens than stops down to no more than f3.5. Look for f2 or an even better lens (such as f1.7) if available light shots are your object. Otherwise, lots of SLR pros have gotten great shots with their Canon S95 auxilliary camera. Thanks for the spot-on review.

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 5:01:06 AM PDT
Thanks for a consumer-grade ("prosumer") review. I don't want someone who has the $$ to spend just for status sake, but I don't need a pro criticizing pixels I'll never see on my 46" TV, either.

I've tried XZ1, S95, P310 and several others for low-light no flash, and I believe that a 20mm ILC or just maybe a RX100 might be the only choices short of a big DSLR.

Some people think they are getting "good" or "very good" low-light with a S95, but they are doing so at much slower shutter sppeds compared to ILC's ans DSLR.... And in low light, even a tiny movement can be disaster at 1/8 or 1/15 shutter.
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