Top positive review
264 people found this helpful
Happy so far. Compared to Olympus Pen Mini E-PM1
on December 3, 2011
Forgot to check Amazon reviews before buying this, but glad I didn't because the camera is quite good for my needs and I might not have bought it based on the mixed and sparse reviews on Amazon. I did look at "professional" reviews on photographyblog and dpreview, which were much more positive.
I was deciding between the new Olympus Pen Mini E-PM1, Sony NEX C3, and GF3. Tried out the Olympus and GF3, and decided on the GF3. I got a better price on the GF3 than I could for the Pen Mini, but that was just icing on the cake, because the features on the GF3 meet my needs better.
Similarities between GF3 and E-PM1:
--body size about the same
--similar price range
--Micro Four-Thirds sensor
--both are the budget, easy-to-use version of their respective camera families
--instant-record movie button
--kit zoom lens 14-42mm
--to my layman eyes the photo quality was about the same, as was auto-focus speed, though E-PM1 is billed as having the fastest auto-focus in this category.
The features that put the GF3 over the top for me:
--Price. I got a great deal on the GF3. Sony was just too expensive, though I've read great things about photo quality
--GF3 touchscreen, while not very responsive (resistive screen you have to press down on, rather than capacitive screen like iPhone), is very useful for quick adjustments. It just makes the camera easier to use, much like an iPad is easier to use than a laptop. Deleting batches of photos is much easier than using buttons. So is scrolling around a photo you're reviewing in close-up. You can also touch to change the subject of focus, like on an iPhone.
--Flash is built in--not so on the Pen Mini or NEX. I'm not an "enthusiast" and have no intention of ever buying an external flash or viewfinder, so lack of a hotshoe was not an issue. Flash can also be tilted up to the ceiling (with some finger dexterity) to do a bounce-flash that brightens up indoor photos without that nasty flash look. Other 2 cameras come with a small add-on flash, but that's just too much trouble.
--I like the physical on-off switch rather than the Pen Mini's button
--Menus and options were slightly more intuitive, though I admit my previous camera was a Panasonic as well, so I may be used to their menus.
--In addition to dedicated movie button, there's a dedicated "iA" full-auto button, which my wife can press to go to full-auto mode without digging into menus (it lights up).
--Big lens cap seems easier to handle.
--Comes with lens hood, which I might not use but is nice to be included.
--Battery charger is a one-piece mini brick with prongs built in, making it very portable. E-PM1 comes with a brick with power cord attachment.
I can't speak to other reviewers' issues with the pancake lens (since I don't have it) nor the flash durability (since I've only had the camera a week).
About the Pen Mini:
--Body is about the same size as the GF3, but the kit zoom lens is smaller (shorter and narrower)
--Stabilization is in the body, not the lens like GF3. From what I read this is supposed to be an advantage, but I think it was adding noises to the videos I took (turning off stabilization stopped the noises). I haven't noticed similar noises in GF3 videos with stabilization on.
--Lock on the lens to close it (but not open it) started to get annoying quickly.
--Flash was impressive--power is adjustable, and I think it auto-adjusts based on subject distance. From what I can see of the GF3, it fires full-power all the time, which can make photos look washed out. Fortunately the bounce-flash trick mentioned above avoids that problem.
--Neck strap attachment loops are hinged and tends to kind of make click-clack noises when handling the camera.
About me: my main photo subject is my 2 yr old daughter, so I was looking for a camera that would focus quickly, take decent pics in indoor light without flash, and still be small enough to throw in the diaper bag with room to spare for, well, diapers and stuff. These criteria rule out bulky SLRs, and most point-and-shoots. For my daughter's first 2 years I had the Panasonic LX-3, a "high-end point-and-shoot". The LX-3 produces great pics in good light, and decent pics in low light, but I find the focus is too slow (esp. in low light) now that my daughter is moving around (a LOT).
Long review and naturally biased toward the GF3, but I hope it helps your decision process!