Digital Cameras Guide

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 review

Panasonic Lumix GF3 - Micro Four Thirds for Everyone (Updated!)

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Overall rating 9/10
Easy to use, with features like iA+ and touch-screen controls
Small size will appeal to compact camera upgraders
ISO performance has been improved from the GF2
Harder to access manual modes without physical Mode dial
Audio recording is in mono only

Design & Handling

Design & Handling

The GF3 is perfect with pancake lenses. Together with either the 14mm f/2.5 or the 25mm f/1.7, the GF3 is delightfully light, compact and can be used single-handed. When a 14-42mm lens is attached, the camera's heft shifts and it can feel a little front-heavy. The longer lens also requires two handed handling, but nothing we found we couldn't get used to - it's just like shooting with a standard DSLR camera, but with a much smaller 'DSLR'.

A distinctly raised thumb-rest and contoured front finger grip help give your hand a more secure and comfortable grip on the camera. Still, it's likely that the 14-42mm lens is the upper limit for comfortable use with this camera, though we haven't tried mounting a larger lens and can't say from experience.

(The 14-42mm lens is a 24-84mm lens in 35mm equivalent due to the sensor crop of the MFT (Micro Four Thirds) mount, and is almost identical to the 18-55mm kit lens included with most entry-level DSLR cameras which is roughly 28-88mm in 35mm equivalent.)

Like the GF2, the GF3 has no physical Mode dial, but it clearly wasn't built for the audience that would crave one. On top of the camera, you'll find the four most important controls for an entry-level G-camera, the dedicated video Record button which lets you record video no matter which mode you're in, the shutter release, the power switch and the dedicated iA button, which jumps you straight into the new iA+ mode. The controls are strategically placed and give you a convenient way to shoot either video or stills.

If you want to access the digital Mode dial, you can do so the same way as with the GF2, either by pressing the Menu button in the middle of the d-pad or tapping on the mode icon on the top left of the screen. The digital Mode dial menu has redesigned, instead of square blocks in a rectangular array, it's now a circular wheel which you navigate around using the wheel dial. It's safe to say that most users who get the GF3 probably won't access the manual priority modes much, but it's nice to know that the options are there, only a couple of taps away.

Like the previous G-series cameras, the GF3 also comes with a Quick Menu, which gives you direct access to the most commonly changed settings like AF Area and ISO settings. We've waxed lyrical before about how convenient the G-series menu setup is, so we won't gush too much about it again; suffice to say the GF3's menu system works and works well.

So how does the wheel dial replace the old DSLR-like control dial? We thought we wouldn't like it, but in fact it's quite smooth to respond. While the build quality could have been sturdier, we found it had the right amount of give and resistance to be pleasant enough to use. It's not as convenient as the control dial for sure.

For one, the old control dial had the brilliant feature of being able to toggle between aperture and shutter control in Manual mode simply by pressing down on the dial. With the new wheel dial, you have to press up (Exposure control selection) to switch. It's quite convenient when you get used to it, though not as convenient as the old way used to be.