Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 review

The aluminium-clad DMC-GF3 is Panasonic’s most compact CSC to date; it just about fits in a jacket pocket, though it’s a squeeze. And Panasonic has been careful to market the camera with a matching compact lens in the 14mm prime (28mm equivalent in 35mm terms) rather than a physically larger zoom.

While resisting the urge to label the 12.1-megapixel GF3 a ‘dumbed-down’ GF2, that’s not actually far from the truth. What we’ve lost here is its predecessor’s hotshoe for accessory flash – a built-in flash now sits in its place – stereo sound, and the accessory port for adding extras like an electronic viewfinder or additional microphone.

The GF3 doesn’t feature built-in image stabilisation, nor does the included lens, so it’s good there’s a handgrip, though small, and that the lens itself offers a bright f/2.5 aperture for low-light work. On the backplate is a scroll wheel for flipping through settings faster – though we’re not big fans – and a video record button for Full HD clips. This being a Panasonic, there’s an intelligent Auto (iA) button, so users can slip effortlessly into scene- and subject-recognising point-and-shoot mode if desired.

Everything falls readily to hand and part of the reason for the simplicity of the layout is because the 3in LCD is a touchscreen with decent clarity, though it’s no match for the E-P3. The screen is responsive and it’s easy to fire off a shot simply by tapping it – almost too easy. We preferred to use a combination of physical controls and touchscreen, deferring to the strengths of each. Battery life is 340 shots from a full charge, so the screen doesn’t noticeably drain power.

The DMC-GF3 is a downsized version of the acclaimed GF2 hoping to hit a wider market by jettisoning some features and bulk

Like Olympus, Panasonic claims the world’s fastest auto-focus for the GF3, and it’s as quick to start up as the Olympus models, at just over a second. Auto-focus really comes into its own when shooting video. Focus adjusts silently and smoothly as you pan from one subject to the next.

OUR VERDICT

Otherwise, a full-size JPEG is saved in two to three seconds; shoot a maximum-quality Raw file alongside and wait a further second before the screen snaps back to live view. We particularly enjoyed the Expressive shooting mode, which boosts JPEG colour saturation to deliver more punch and contrast than the standard default.

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