Customer Reviews: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3CK Kit 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 14mm Pancake Lens
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on August 10, 2011
This Panasonic GF3 is a rather impressive camera that can take VERY sharp pictures with really good IQ/Dynamic range, and color overall. Besides my love for Photography I also enjoy using the best of the best cameras in their category if I can afford them. I have owned, or own the Canon S95/Fuji X100/ Sony NEX-5, Had the original E-P1, Had the GF1 prior.

I have been searching forever for a VERY SMALL camera that can take DSLR like pictures. Though the GF1 did have a little bit more manual control than the GF1 does, for instance even flash compensation..I can't seem to find that adjustment on this GF3. Even cheap point and shoots often let you change the amount of flash you will use, That's one con here.

Overall though, though using the same sensor as the older GF1 and GF2 my pictures from my GF3 look BETTER overall as to color, noise, IN focus, virtually no Moire pattern problems..the GF1 had a lot of Moire pattern noise, the GF3 seems much cleaner.

The GF3 has something called pinpoint focus. It works GREAT and so super fast. You choose ANY point on the lcd you want to focus on, drag the POINT where you want it. Press the shutter 1/2 way can focus on just an eye or any small spot you like. The screen will first show you an enlarged view so you KNOW you have perfect focus..that's a great plus being able to have picture after picture IN focus. Also depending upon what focus mode you choose the focus speed is rocket fast on this camera and usually quite accurate. Pictures outdoors look as good as a high quality DSLR as to overall dynamic range, very little highlight clipping, color..and the 14 mm lens has virtually no purple fringing. The reason for just four stars is though the GF3 is pretty good up to 800iso still see a bit too much noise and yellow splotches on jpegs indoors unless the light is rather bright or you use 400 iso and under. It's too bad there's no in camera image stabilization like Olympus does..another con if you are using the 14mm lens or the 1.7 aperture lens here. My Fuji x100 can use iso 2000 in poor light and still look amazing. BUT the x100 has a full sized sensor and is a fixed lens camera..and it's much more expensive and larger than the GF3, so not a fair comparison.

Overall as to overall picture quality, SMALL FORM factor, this camera with LARGE sensor is almost the exact same size as the Pana LX5 which I also just can't beat the GF3 overall,as far as the camera you CAN take with you..vs some bulky heavy camera that will drag you down.

I have not used the video function as it is not important to me so I can't comment about that.

I like the pictures from this GF3 overall a bit more than my NEX-5 because the NEX-5 pics to me all look all a bit too mis focuses too often..and NEX color seems a bit too saturated..(Just not right). That said, the NEX5 blows away the GF3 on high iso..hence it depends how you are going to use your camera most.

Overall..I think most people will really like the GF3. Sure if you NEED a hot shoe..obviously it doesn't have one. For me if I'm going to use a hot shoe..It's going to defeat some of the SMALL factor, so why bother with a small camera like this in the first place. I applaud Panasonic for getting most things right here. The touchscreen works just fine, you just need get used to it. It's 2011..maybe this will be the way of the future, change is often painful..:)
Overall..this is an excellent camera..maybe a tad overpriced I feel..but an excellent camera on most points.
3535 comments| 131 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The Panasonic GF3 is a compact, easy to use camera that takes excellent photos.

Design wise the Panasonic is very sleek and compact. It's not going to fit into a jean's pocket, but will slip into a jacket pocket with ease, especially with the small 14mm pancake lens. It's light in weight and is easy to carry around all day. The camera is very discreet and draws little attention. There is a small rubber grip on the back and a nice sized grip on the front. I had no trouble getting a good hold on the camera and it fits nicely in my average sized hands. Build quality of both the lens and the camera is extremely high, with a nice metal body that feels solid and well assembled. Lastly, there is a small pop-up flash that can also be pulled back to function as a bounce flash.

Using the Panasonic is simple. For beginners, there is a button on the top of the camera to activate Intelligent Automatic mode. In this mode the camera will do all the thinking for you. For those who wish to have more control, the camera offers the full suite of manuals controls, including aperture and shutter priority modes. While the exterior of the camera has very few buttons, there are just enough to give you direct access to important setting (focus mode, exposure compensation, continuous shooting, and white balance). Additionally, the camera is very customizable and I like the fact that you can set the Quick Menu button to operate any number of features, including ISO speed. There is a movie record button on the top by the shutter. The 3" touch screen on the back is bright and sharp, and responds instantly and works well. You can even customize the features that pop-up when you use the touch screen's quick menu. For instance I added the metering setting so I'd have quicker access to them. I really enjoyed shooting with the camera and found the lack of external buttons to be a non-issue.

In operation the Panasonic GF3 is very speedy. It turns on and is ready to shoot in about 3 seconds. Focus speeds are quick, especially in the 1 area autofocus mode. Continuous shooting is fast as well and gives you a choice of three speeds; the highest however will not update the screen in real time. When reviewing/deleting photos and navigating the menus the camera responds instantly. Shot to shot times are instantaneous as well. Battery life is high and I was able to take over 200 pictures with lots of reviewing and menu navigating before the battery died.

The 14mm f/2.5 kit lens is compact and nicely made. It is sharp from corner to corner, even wide open. If you shoot JPEG and turn on the camera's shading compensation vignetting is not much of an issue, and you'll might notice it in 1% of your photos. Additionally the combination of the GF3's large sensor and the lens' bright f/2.5 aperture allow for a shallow depth of field for nicely blurred backgrounds and foregrounds. Without an image stabilizer the slowest shutter speed I can hand hold is 1/20".

Photo quality is terrific, and while it's not as good a high end SLR (like my Canon 7D), it is a definite step up from a point and shoot camera without much added bulk. Colors, exposure, sharpness, and detail are all very good. At low ISO speeds the photos are devoid of noise. Moving up the ISO scale, I can confidently shoot up to ISO 1600 before I start to see noticeable noise in the camera's JPEGs. ISO speeds above 1600 are decent, but I save those for emergencies only. The camera allows you to adjust contrast, sharpness, saturation, and noise reduction for the photographs. Movie quality is also good with smooth action and good sound, but it is recorded in mono.

All in all...a great little Micro Four Thirds camera that is a joy to use, and delivers excellent photo quality.

07/17/2012 Update: I recently took the camera to a wedding reception and it performed like a champ in full manual mode. I shot at f/2.5, shutter speed 1/125", and ISO speed 2000, and was able to get great images of couples dancing.

P.S. If you have any questions please leave me a comment and I would be happy to respond.
1313 comments| 39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 23, 2011
For some time I've been looking for a camera with better image quality than a point & shoot that I could carry whenever I didn't feel like lugging my EOS 7D or 60D around. When a competing camera business offered the 14 mm kit bundled with the 14 - 42 mm zoom, I couldn't resist and jumped in. The GF-3 feels very well built and so does the 14 mm pancake. Not so much the kit zoom, but never worse than the standard kit glass offered with the Rebel line from Canon. The camera with the 14 mm prime is very small and certainly filled the profile of what I was looking. External controls are sparse but no surprises here, as simplicity is the predominant philosophy preconized buy Panasonic. In its favor, the touchscreen interface is very intuitive and you do get full control access after some Q-menu tweaks. Therefore, in my opinion, the GF-3 gets high marks in usability but not so much in image quality. Although I wasn't expecting DSLR quality given the limitations (and advantages) of the micro four/thirds format, I do think that IQ is closer to high end point and shoot than entry-level DSLRs. Specially at above ISO 800. ISO 1600 is usable but very blotchy at regular jpeg output and requires some processing for raw images. Love the size of the pancake but unfortunately this lens is SOFT at the open 2.5 setting. And I mean soft at even regular viewing magnifications. Also, it might be a mislead impression, but it behaves slower than you might expect from a 2.5 maximum aperture prime. I guess you can't cheat physics. The kit zoom offers visibly better IQ at the wide (equivalent) end but it is painfully slow. Not sure how much the mega O.I.S. helps in low light in a camera that is more difficult to hold still than a DSLR. I final note goes to the bundled software. I haven't tried the raw converter, but Silkypix crashes every time I connect the camera through the supplied USB cable. This is the case in two separate machines although I have to mention that it coexists with other camera manufacturer software. So far, direct SD card downloads and uninstalling the software has solved the issue. To summarize, even with the lack of external controls, I like the ergonomics for what it is (compact mirrorless camera) and the handling is good but noise at high ISO settings is above my generous expectations.
People interested in the m4/3 format should consider offerings from Olympus or the newer GX-1 for better low light image quality.
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on February 9, 2012
I am very happy with every aspect of this camera. I own (and still use & enjoy very much) the Nikon D90, and for it have purchased a flash and a few extra lenses. I have invested in that system and should be able to use it for years to come. The downside for the D90 is that it is a pain to lug around town or on the trail.

I purchased the GF3 with its 14mm F2.5 lens and now have a carry around camera - and I always have it with me. It's size, speed and ease of use makes it a perfect street/trail camera. I love the different focus options available, and I switch between the automatic (iA), touch focus, and manual focus quickly & often. My day job is working at a photographer for a technical college (using Canon DSLR equipment) and over the years I have come to regularly use the automatic settings available on all the camera models I use. It is pretty amazing what the presets that the engineers of Nikon, Canon & Panasonic have developed - automatic works wonders. I do use the aperture, shutter, programmable & manual settings when I need to - but auto sure is nice, and Panasonic's iA and iA plus settings really are a marvel.

The GF3's lack of a hot shoe for a flash or a port for a viewfinder don't bother me at all, as I am not going to load up on accessories for another camera system. I shoot available light 95% of the time anyway. When I have used the flash, I bounce flash it (when there is a standard height white ceiling), as it is easy to tilt it up using a finger. (There is a spring that holds the flash straight forward, but it lets the head bend upwards.) Shooting at up to iso 800 performance is great. 1600 is not as good as on my D90, but shooting RAW and processing the images gets results I am very happy with.

I ordered a lens adapter to use a "vintage" Minolta 50mm macro lens I own. I may purchase the small profile zoom lens available or the 20mm 1.7 pancake.

Ultimately, the camera's low price compared to other mirrorless models available was the clincher for me. The camera/lens was on sale for under $400. I know there are other "better" cameras out there, but "bang for the buck" the GF3 hits the sweet spot for . . . small size . . . performance . . . and ease of use in its price range. I can get digital SLR quality images from a camera close to the size of the enthusiast raw-shooting compact cameras (Panasonic LX5 & Canon G12), a category that I "was" looking at for my little street/travel camera.
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on July 31, 2012
After our 2nd kid, carrying a DSLR became extremely difficult. Bought GF3/14mm+20mm for $315+$365 on Amazon to complement my Canon 5d MkII. Perfect, pocketable size. I can bring it anywhere, and get great image quality in almost any condition. I'm very happy with the camera and lenses.

* The camera doesn't give you too much latitude about under-exposure (shadows can't be lifted well even in raw). Try to expose correctly. When exposed well, the images are DSLR quality.
* Be sure to shoot in high speed mode. In single-shot mode, the camera feels sluggish (blackout time is too long). Otherwise, the camera is pretty responsive.
* Versatility of AF beats even 5d MkII (you can touch anywhere on the screen to make it the AF point). Coming from 5d MkII (or from any DSLR for that matter), touch-AF is a joy to use.
* Auto white-balance and color in artificial light are not up to Canon's standards. That's one area of potential improvement.
* With 14mm lens, I can finally take self portraits (usually, with the kids). That's next to impossible with a large DSLR.
* I put on 14mm during daytime (when the light is good), and the 20mm otherwise. Kit lens is too slow and too large, hence the primes are preferable if you can afford them.
* JPGs are pretty darn good. I don't process raws unless I have to (due to poor exposure or AWB).
* Tiny flash on GF3 is very useful. However, a DSLR + external flash combo works much better indoors if you have it/can bring with you.
* Card write times are somewhat long (in raw+jpg mode). But, you can take 5-6 shots successively while the images are written. The downside is you have to wait until the last image is written before viewing any of them.
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on June 25, 2012
I was looking for a small interchangeable lens camera and this worked out perfectly. At low ISOs it takes great pictures; it only begins to suffer above ISO 800.
The camera is small and light, too big to fit into a regular pocket but will fit into a cargo pocket.
The touchscreen interface is different, but Actually turned out to be very useful. Focus is amazingly quick even in low light, and with touch-to-focus it couldn't be better.
The 14 ml pancake lens is as small as they come and works out to a perfect wide angle lens. It's great for situations where you need a small lens and you can't back up to fit everything into the picture.
With the option to attach a variety of other lenses, this camera is far more useful than a point-and-shoot, takes better quality pictures, and is just slightly larger. If you want a PASM camera that is small enough that you'll likely have it with you, I would say this is the one. No complaints so far, other than the picture quality at ISO 1600 and above.

NOTE: I suggest purchasing an inexpensive MULTI-COATED UV lens filter to protect the lens - I got an AGFA one that works fine. If the lens isn't multi-coated there will be glare and reflections on the pics in bright light because of the short pancake lens.
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on June 6, 2012
I purchased this camera because I wanted a step up from the point and shoot cameras. The price for this camera was right and I have to say that after utilizing it for about a month that the purchase was a wise one. Since buying the camera I've learned more about photography and how to take proper pictures. The touch screen interface is unbelievably easy to use; it appears that Panasonic had the novice in mind when engineering this camera.

One of my favourite features is the fast auto-focus which is said to be almost as fast as DSLR's. This is great for those fleeting moments that can pass if not for the quick auto-focus. The 14mm pancake lens also makes it very small and compact, however, novices to photography might be dissapointed in the fixed lens of the 14mm. There is the other kit that brings the 14-42mm lens, this might be a better choice for those who still want to zoom into their subjects. I was at first dissapointed in lack of zoom as well, but I've come to appreciate the small size and fast, wide angle lens that the 14mm provides.

There are some who complain about the lack of hotshoe, viewfinder, and physical dials; but for my needs, none of these omissions are deal breakers. I was disappointed with the omission of the image stabilizer in the body of the camera, and also the lack of features and filters that are common with many other cameras. However, it does have the nice IA+ mode that allows you to shoot under automatice mode while being able to manually control the EV and WB.

The image quality is very good, although, under some situations can render some pics that are soft compared to my wifes Canon sx40. But the GF3 shoots in raw as well, so, for those who are interested in learning how to further manipulate photos they can take advantage of this feature on the camera.

I would say that this camera is not the best compact camera out there, but is rather in between the average and the best. Taking into account the price factor, you can really see the value of purchasing this well built camera.
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on March 13, 2013
This is a micro four thirds system (MFT)It is designed to use a larger sensor than the typical point and shoot and so gives better pictures plus it has interchangeable lenses that work on all MFT cameras. Currently Olympus and Panasonic offer camera bodies so you can mix and match to your liking... I bought this on a closeout sale cause the price was so great and I'm glad I did!. Is it the best possible MFT camera ? - no but it's pretty darn good and it is the smallest.
Starting with the 14mm pancake lens is a good idea and since MFT lenses are interchangeable you can build from there. Panasonic has a new compact 14-42 manual zoom that will be a great addition to your kit. Since a new GF series camera is expected soon it makes sense to get this with the 14mm lens now at a closeout price (check out what the lens alone sells for on Amazon) and then decide if the new version fits your needs better and want to upgrade. I love the feel of it as it is very solid and construction is very good. This is the perfect quality compact travel camera!
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on January 14, 2012
Let's agree on one fact: there is no single best camera. Each one gives you unique capability handling and compromises.

An interchangeable lens camera is only capable of capturing images that lenses that you mount on the camera capture. In that regard, MFT rules. You can mount everything from Leica M, Leica R, Leica screw mount, Olympus, Nikon F/G, Canon FD, Minolta and untold others on this camera. It's the universal digital back! On top, you get noise free pictures at all the way to ISO 800. You get a tiny compact body, access to lots of tremendous native MFT lenses. Lumix 14mm f2.5, 20mm f1.7 and Leica 25mm f1.4 are each amazing, small and better than most primes in Nikon, Canon and Sony lines.

Of course, the way to really maximize image quality is to pair this camera with Leica M or screw mount lenses via simple adapters. The camera makes it super easy to manually focus and expose right from the touchscreen. In a very unfair comparison, this little camera (body only: $399, Leica adapter $179) is a much cheaper alternative to the $7000 Leica M9. Of course, this is only 1/2 frame not full, but it's amazing for what you get in a tiny body.

When you just want a simple p&s, just put on the 14mm 2.5 and just let it do everything in iA mode. When you are ready to go off-road with manual lenses, you can do that. What's your pleasure?
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on January 4, 2016
The GF3 isn't a particularly refined example of what micro-four thirds can do for you. It lacks a viewfinder, and its controls are a bit gimmicky. There are better options in the GF series and certainly the GH series from Panasonic, as well as excellent options from Olympus. If, on the other hand, a person found this camera body packaged with the 14 mm lens, as I did, for far less than the cost of the 14 mm lens, well, then a person should probably consider it. The 14 mm lens is pretty good for what it is. And getting a free camera body with it is a nice bonus.
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