Customer Review

48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally the True Heir to the GF1. Another winner from Panasonic, September 8, 2011
This review is from: Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G3 16 MP Micro Four-Thirds Interchangeable Lens Camera with 3-Inch Touch Screen LCD (Body Only) (Electronics)
If you look at the controls on the G3 they look remarkable similar

If you have looked on with dismay as Panasonic abandoned the enthusiast small M4/3 and instead chases a smaller and smaller and dumber and dumber form factor with the GF line, then you now have a reason to be happy. It appears Panasonic is positioning the G3 as the successor to the GF1. They might not know that but that is how I view it. Viewed as a replacement to the G2, the G3 is a bit of a let down. Much the way the GF2 was compared to the GF1. However, the G3 is a great replacement to the GF1. It is a little bigger but not that much. The physical controls are the same but now there is touch screen controls and to make up for many of the missing physical controls there are the C1 and C2 modes on the mode selector. a Before continuing something that very few people seem to understand with these camera systems is the lens, not the camera body, determines how big the camera is. I will use extremes to illustrate the point. Put a 14mm f/2.5 on a GH2 and it seems very small. You can't put it in a shirt pocket but it will fit inside a jacket pocket. Also, you can get it in a very small carry case. It is so small and light I use a wrist strap and not a neck strap. Put a 100-300mm on a GF3 and it is going to be huge and because of the form factor really unusable.

The first thing to note about the G3 is the price is $699. That is $100 cheaper than the G1 or G2 at launch and $200 cheaper than the GF1. In addition to being $200 cheaper than the GF1, the G3 has a built in EVF (would have been nicer rangefinder style) and a swivel screen.

Another nice change from the G2 and the GF line is the new sensor. Panasonic and Olympus have been using a 3 generation old sensor in every m4/3 line except the GH line. The G3 now has a new 16mp sensor and updated image processing engine. The G3 takes slightly better pictures than the GH2.

As far as IQ goes, the m4/3 are not as good as DX sensors and they never will be as good. The same way as DX sensors will never be as good as FX sensors. All else being equal. With that said, IQ merits some discussion as most people don't really understand it and most "professional" review sites confuse the whole issue. Here is everything you need to understand on the issue. First every generation of sensors the differences between m4/3, DX, and FX decreases. At some point the difference become negligible. Where that point is depends on what you want to do. IQ is very dependent on the size of what you are going to do with the image. I think for the vast majority of what people are doing, the differences are already negligible. Here are a couple of examples of what I mean. The biggest of computer monitors is right at 3.6mp. Most are around 2mp. That means to view a medium format 40mp image on a (2mp) monitor you are only using 5% of the image data. The rest is getting thrown away. For a 16mp image you are using 12.5% of the data. So that means noise, detail etc is getting thrown away as you deres the image. The same goes with printing. The human eye can see 200-300 dots per inch (A useful piece of information is monitors used to be 72 dpi and are somewhere around 96 dpi. That means if you blow an image up to 100% on your computer screen you are effectively magnifying by 2 to 3. Therefore, the images at 100% on the computer monitor are not going to look as good as on paper) Using 200 dpi, that means you need 2000x1600 pixels to print a decent 8x10. If you do the math that means you need 3.2mp to print an 8x10. (At 300 dpi you would need 7.2mp) That means for a 16mp image you are using 20% of the data. If this fits what you are doing, then any IQ differences are not important for you. As you start printing larger than this, the difference can be noticeable.

Where these m4/3 cameras excel is handling. The GH2 is the king, in my opinion, for handling. The controls are so well laid out it is a breeze to do anything you want quickly. Additionally, the contrast based auto focus is so fast, that live view is exceedingly useable. The swivel screen gives you huge options over a hold up to the eye only or a fixed back screen. You can hold the camera way over your head or way down by your feet and still frame the image.

On top of that is the light weight. It has gotten to the point that I don't travel with my Nikon D7000 at all. I only keep and use that for portrait/wedding/event type photography (I did however just shoot a wedding with m4/3 only. The 100-300 was my primary lens. It is a little slow but still grabbed some amazing shots). I usually travel with 2 GH series bodies, 5-8 lenses, and an iPad all in a Domke F4 bag. (With my G3 I will now travel with 3 bodies) All of this weighs right around 10 lbs. You could also just carry the 7-14, 14-140, and 100-300 lenses and cover from 14mm to 600mm equivalent with 3 lenses. All of these lenses can be attached to 3 camera bodies and in the F4. You could even add a 4th body and add the 20mm f/1.4. That would still fit in the F4 and weigh in around 10lbs.

I don't really do that much with video so I am not really going to comment that much on it. However, video on the G3 is far easier and more useable than any DSLR except for the Sony A33/55. Also, there is a built in stereo mic but no external connector. I don't think the latter is big deal for most people.

Construction on the G3 is very nice. It is the first of panasonic m4/3 which uses aluminum in the construction instead of all plastic.

Handgrip. I am a little disappointed at the loss of the handgrip as it is essentially free. I am still not sure how I feel about the new hand "bump" especially for the bigger lenses. I will have to report on that one later. If you are coming from a GF1 then this is a step up. Since the old handgrip was shorter than the shortest lens, I am not sure what we are really gaining by this. It also means the loss of space for the battery so Panasonic had to use a smaller battery. I believe it is the same as the GF2. The smaller batteries means less pictures so make sure you have a spare. It is rated at 270 shots but a secret with Panasonic m4/3 is to turn your camera off after shooting. Doing that I get around 750-800 shots. I also have the auto review switched off.

For anyone who is new to a more complicated camera, Panasonic has two very cool features to make it a little easier to use. The first is Program shift mode and the newest one, only on the G3 right now, is iAuto+. The program shift mode obsoletes the Aperture priority mode. As you press the button half way down to get the exposer numbers. You can then rotate the thumbwheel to goto a bigger aperture (smaller DOF) or larger aperture (larger DOF). The iAuto+ now allows you to adjust white balance, exposure compensation, and aperture (defocus control). This is a very handy feature and is good for the expert and beginner alike. For the expert you can now stay in iAuto more often when in a fast moving shooting situation. The camera will recognize the scene and make hundreds of changes to make the scene look best as possible. You can now easily change the exposure and work the aperture. For the beginner, you can start in iA. After getting comfortable with that you can now start playing with aperture and exposure (the 2 most important controls in my opinion) while still having the "safety" of iAuto. When you get more comfortable with that then moving to P mode is an easy jump. With program shift there are not many reasons to shift over to A or M mode but when you need to it is there for you.

Auto ISO and iAuto ISO. Auto is based on light level and iAuto is based on light level and movement of subject.

MF Assist The manual focus for m4/3 lenses is fly-by-wire. That means there are no stops. On the first generation G bodies it was horrible. On second generation Panasonic added a scale marker which was really nice. On this generation, Panasonic added picture in picture for manual focus assist. This is a really nice feature as I can focus and frame at the same time. The m4/3 allows the use of just about any lens made. However, you lose auto focus. So for those with old film lenses there is probably an adaptor that can allow it to fit on the m4/3. For that purpose and when auto focus has trouble the new manual focus assist is very nice.

I mentioned before the loss of physical controls on the camera. For enthusiast this is a step backwards. For newbies this is probably a good thing. The touch screen implementation is very nice but I am still not convinced I like it better than physical controls. However, for enthusiast the loss of these controls is partially made up for with the C1 and C2 modes. Now before you get into the fray, you can set the camera up for 2 custom modes and then just switch between the modes. Therefore, you don't need to do as much fiddling. Also, Q menu and Display buttons are now programmable functions buttons. Therefore, if there is some function you use a lot and can't get to easily, now you can put it on one of these buttons. Panasonic's menus aren't that great. So I recommend leaving the Q menu button as is. It relieves a ton of scrolling through menus. I rarely ever use the Display button, I think the most I use it is when I am trying to go back to the display I want after it was accidentally touched.

A big loss is the auto switch between EVF and screen. On the previous Gs and GHs, there was a sensor to determine if your eye was up to the EVF. If so it switched off the back screen and switched on the EVF. Now you will have to use the button to switch. Bad move from my perspective. However, if you are coming from a GF1 or P+S, the fact that it has an EVF is a big plus.

Overall, this camera has amazing capabilities in a small light and easily accessible package. The handling on these cameras is amazing and the camera gets out of the way to let you do what you want to do. This camera has so many capabilities there is no way to review them all in one of these reviews. If you have any specific questions, please ask in a comment and I will get back with you as soon as possible.

I have the Red version. My wife says with the RED version of the G3 you can't help but smile when you see it. So I am hoping for some great pictures.

Pros
Amazing handling - Not as good as GH2 but almost - For me GH2 is best in the business for handling
Small- Not pocketable but then again neither is the G12, LX5, OZ1, or P7000 and this camera spanks all of the above mentioned cameras for IQ and features.
Light
Nice construction - Some aluminum
Nice new feature set (focus assist, iAuto+, C1+2, F1+2, etc)
Nice new sensor
Best high ISO of any m4/3 so far - ISO 1600 JPGs good and ISO 3200 usable for on screen
Very good GF1 replacement

Cons
No auto switch between back screen and EVF. This is almost unforgivable and is a huge pain. However, seeing that DSLRs don't have auto switch and neither does most anything else besides the Panasonic line, it should not be a deciding factor. Just a big irritation for no reason.
Disappointing G2 replacement - Panasonic still has yet to make a high end enthusiast/pro stills focused camera.
Same mediocre shutter specs - 1/4000 and 1/160 or worse flash sync
No electronic shutter
IQ not as good as DX or better (However, better than my 3 year old DX Nikon D300)
Smaller battery due to loss of grip
No social networking features

Buying Considerations

Someone Stepping Up to a "DSLR" category camera
Of the Panasonic m4/3 this is a great one to start with. Lots of features but accessible. The only other m4/3 I would currently consider is either of the GH cameras. (GH1 is $399 for body only). Olympus still has 3 generation old sensor and molasses slow focus. (From what I have seen, Olympus is about to announce a new PEN camera that uses a new 12mp (I am glad they are stopping at 12 as that is more than enough) and new lenses that feature blazing fast autofocus (faster than the G3). If it pans out it could be the new camera to own. Of note, Olympus made the Pro lenses for the 4/5 cameras and they were great. They are bringing out a 12mm f/2.8 for $800. So this is going to be for enthusiast or pros.)

Someone who already Owns a M4/3
For the G1 and GH1 this is a very good trade up. Skipping each generation is actually a good technique. The G2 was a huge disappointment for me so this even makes sense as an upgrade over the G2 since that camera had the same sensor as the G1. None of the Olympus has an EVF built in or a swivel screen. They do have better IQ generally and internal image stabilization. The autofocus is also really slow. To me the handling and auto focus speed trump the other considerations so I think the Panasonic is better. Others prefer the cache of the PEN. If it is form over function, then stick with PEN otherwise G3. Do take note of what I wrote above about new PEN.

Someone who owns a DSLR and is tired of lugging the weight and wants a portable high quality camera.
This is a great choice. The price is only $200 more than the advanced compact cameras. None of them can approach the G3 for what it can do. It is not pocketable but neither are they. A G3 with the 14mm, 25mm, and 45mm primes makes for a very lightweight and portable system that can cover just about any situation.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 31, 2011 7:56:34 PM PST
G. Grant says:
Excellent and informative review. I have a GX1 and I learned something from this review that I did not know. Thanks.

Posted on Jan 7, 2012 4:38:12 PM PST
Terry Doyle says:
Thanks for the detailed review! I've got the GH1 and will eventually upgrade. Nice to know Panasonic is sticking with M4/3, so my growing lens collection is not going to become obsolete.

You are correct in assessing what is important to YOU. Me, a nature photographer have different desirements than a wedding photog or a portrait taker or a news reporter, etc. Also where you're going to show your pics is super important. I go web and am happy. If you're doing 16x20 prints, you've got other considerations. Thanks!
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