Panasonic G3 Review



Panasonic G3 review

 

Panasonic DMC G3

Panasonic DMC G3 compact system camera and 14-42mm lens

I recently bought the Panasonic DMC Lumix G3 lens system camera and so this is my Panasonic G3 review based upon my observations of the last few month of use.  Overall, I think that the Lumix G3 is a great camera that performs almost as well as a DSLR does, only on a much smaller scale.

 

My First Impressions

 

Panasonic DMC G3 compared to Canon EOS 40d

Panasonic DMC G3 compared to a Canon EOS 40d

G3 & EOS 40d side view

The first thing that I noticed (and it has to be said one of the reasons I bought the camera) with the Lumix DMC-G3 was how small and light it was as compared to most DSLR cameras and even other lens system cameras. Despite its small size, it was still packed with many features that I think are very useful. The reason I bought this camera and the reason I think many keen photographers will consider buying it is that it offers high image quality in a lightweight package and that fits the bill nicely when I want to go out  and not lug all my heavy DSLR kit around.

View from the car on a rainy day

Thanks to it's small size I always have the Panasonic G3 with me

 

Panasonic G3 Swivel LCD screen

Here you can see the swivel LCD screen on the Panasonic G3

The camera comes with an electronic viewfinder, a tilt-swivel LCD, touchscreen control, and dust reduction technology. I must admit to being a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to touch screen tech on a camera, I still prefer using actual buttons and dials but thats for you to decide. Luckily and again one of the reasons I considered this camera is that it retains a lot of physical controls so I can change aperture, shutter speed and ISO without having to go into the menu or use the touchscreen.

Panasonic Lumix DMC G3 controls

The G3 retains a lot of physical controls for quick access

I was also impressed with the Intelligent Automatic exposure and the different exposure modes: automatic, semi-auto, and manual. The Lumix DMC-G3 is able to produce 15.8-megapixel photos and comes with a Venus Engine FHD processor, which results in a fast autofocus. Also, the Lumix DMC-G3 isn’t only a camera – it comes with full HD video capabilities. Now I can honestly say that I have used the video function on my Canon 5D MK 2 once, just to see whether it worked. I’m not a video user but for those who are the G3 video seems to tick most of the boxes and the auto focus is good at keeping up with moving objects. It’s much more user friendly than the video on my DSLR.

 

In my hands, the Lumix DMC-G3 felt pretty strong and sturdy, thanks to its aluminum construction. Many compact cameras have a plastic construction, so the Lumix DMC-G3 is more solid in comparison which is reassuring when I’m hiking up hills with it around my neck or stuffing it in my rucksack.

 

A total of 11 lenses are available by Panasonic, so that gives you several options when using the Lumix DMC-G3. The options include wide-angle, telephoto zooms, and macro. There’s even a 3D lens that I would love to try out, but have not had the opportunity to do so. Some lenses from other manufacturers including Olympus will also fit the Lumix DMC-G3. More choice is always a good thing. I did consider the Sony NEX series of cameras because they offer a slightly larger sensor and so in theory even better image quality but from what I have seen the difference is minimal and the lens lineup for Sony is very small at the moment. I also favour the micro four thirds standard to outlast that of the sony but we shall have to see on that front.

 

Finally, I was impressed with the price of the Lumix DMC-G3. It’s a great price for what you get, with all of its features in a compact size, however it is in the same price bracket as entry level DSLR’s which means if you are ultimately after the best image quality for your money then you would have to go with a DLSR thanks to their larger sensor.

 

But WAIT there’s more to buying a camera than image quality alone otherwise we would all have large format film and medium format Digital cameras…..

 

Putting It In Use

 

The auto focus locked on quickly as the sheep wondered what the strange man was doing

I took the G3 outside next to my neighbours croft where he runs lots of sheep as I wanted to test out the auto focus system. It was a perfect setting to really see how well the camera performed. I was photographing both fast-moving objects (if you can call running sheep fast moving?) and still images and it was quite gloomy so I had to use a higher ISO setting than I would have liked. . For the most part, the Lumix G3 performed well and I enjoyed using the camera. The auto focus was pretty quick and did a decent job of keeping up with the moving sheep. I also tried snapping a few birds and again the camera focussed correctly most of the time.

The Lumix DMC-G3 is really light and easy to handle. It only weighs around 360 grams, which is considerably lighter than the DSLRs that I usually tote around. The grip on the camera is nicely designed and it fits in my average sized hands pretty well.

 

When I did try out the HD video feature on the Lumix G3 I found it to be of high quality. It was also really easy to use – much easier than using the video feature on any DSLR.

 

A nifty feature that I especially liked was the pinpoint AF, which helped me zoom in to the exact locations I wanted. I controlled this feature by using the touchscreen, which even for me was so simple to do.

 

The autofocus on the camera was really quick, which was really handy when capturing moving objects or for grab shots. The camera was able to quickly focus and take shots in rapid succession although the buffer fills up pretty quickly and then the camera grinds to a holt. It’s perfectly acceptable for quick bursts of shots but you wouldn’t want to be shooting sports with it all the time.

 

Seilebost beach taken on a Panasonic G3

This shot of Seilebost beach shows the resolution of the G3 sensor. You can see a larger version on my Flickr account by clicking on the photo

The kit lens comes with optical image stabilization, which is always useful, but I have noticed that the corners are a bit soft but this improves when you stop the lens down. Obviously the 14-42mm lens isn’t the best performing but I have to say that I’m happy enough with the resulting images. People sometimes make too big a deal about corner sharpness and tiny little faults in lenses that admittedly are there but most people dont notice. If someone is noticing that the corners in your image are not quite sharp enough then I would say that your image is not doing it’s job properly becasue they should be admiring the composition. Anyway (rant over) there are so many other lens choices available for the G3 that you can easily change it or buy the 20mm pancake lens instead.

Some people might enjoy the touchscreen on the Lumix DMC-G3, but as I said earlier I prefer to use regular buttons. It all depends on what you want out of a camera. If you like being given instructions as you go along, you might appreciate the touchscreen more than I did. However, one thing I did like was the ability to swivel around the touchscreen when I needed to. I have sometimes looked at the newer DSLR cameras that have a swivel screen and thought , why would I want that?  but I have actually found it usefull on a number of occassions, particularly when shooting close to the ground it enabled me to compose a shot without getting my face in the mud which is always a bonus.

Using the swivel screen on a Pansonic G3 to shoot from different angles

This shot was captured by using the swivel screen to allow me to compose near to the ground without chewing on the grass

The menus sometime got a bit complicated with terms that weren’t very clear but with some fiddling around, I was able to navigate my way through the menus, it just takes a bit of getting used to a new system, that’s not a fault of the camera but mine.

 

The battery had a pretty short life, which is something you’ll need to keep in mind for long photo shoots as it wouldn’t last a days shooting if you are constantly taking pics. Panasonic quote 200 shots on a full charge and I reckon thats pretty accurate.  I would recommend you to get a second battery especially if you are going to use it in cold conditions as they drain batteries much more quickly.

When I printed photos from the Lumix G3 , I really liked the quality. The resulting photos were comparable to those I usually get from my DSLR cameras. I didn’t have to do much post processing after shooting, because the jpegs were already sharp and the colors were vibrant. I have shot Raw and Jpeg with the G3 because until recently Lightroom 3 didn’t recognise the G3′s files but thankfully a Lightroom update has solved that.

The one obvious difference from my 5D MK2 is that the G3 just isn’t able to resolve the detail in a landscape shot as well. This should come as no surprise considering the Canon is using a full frame sensor with 21mp of resolution which wiped the floor with my previous EOS 450D 12mp camera too. Whether you would really notice the difference depends upon how closely you are looking but as long as I use proper technique when shooting with the G3 it produces images that I am happy to put my name to. For most people it will be more than good enough.

 

My Overall Opinion

 

With the Lumix G3’s features and its impressive performance, I have to say that it is almost as good as a DSLR. For most people, the purchase of this camera will deliver the high quality that they need for everyday photo taking. Thanks to the Lumix G3’s 16-megapixel sensor, a fast autofocus, adaptable lens lineup, and high-quality images, it has the feel and quality of a DSLR without the heaviness and bulkiness.

If you’re looking for a compact camera that delivers high quality photos and video, I would recommend you consider the Lumix G3. It has a great price and won’t take up too much space. Where purchasing a bulky DSLR  may be overkill for a lot of people and a small point-and-shoot may be limiting due to lack of features and controls,  the Lumix G3 gives you the best of both worlds.

If this review helped you then please buy through my Amazon links, it wont cost you anymore but it helps towards the upkeep of the site.

18 Responses to “Panasonic G3 Review”

  1. richard goss says:

    good to see a review about this camera from someone who has used it at length. I am new to photography and have purchased one but not had time to use it much. This gives me a good insight as to its capabilities. My main reason for buying was the size and quality of the pictures it produces. Many Thanks
    Richard

    • David Fleet says:

      Hi Richard,
      I don’t think you will be dissapointed as it is a very capable camera and because of it’s size you will always have it with you when you need it.
      Enjoy your new camera and don’t forget to check out the photography tips section

  2. PhilR says:

    Thanks for the review, good to read from someone who has used and abused it. The fact that it is more compact helped make my mind up so I’ve just ordered one for taking landscape photos whilst I’m out in the hills. Can’t wait for it to arrive so I can have a play with it.

    • David Fleet says:

      Glad you found the review helpful Phil, it’s a great little camera and taking it into the mountains is exactly one of the reasons I bought it. Enjoy!

  3. Edmund Sykes says:

    Your picture of the beach with the grass in the foreground and the hills and clouds in the background is one of the best I have ever seen.

  4. Robin says:

    Hi David,
    Glad to know someone like you who uses G3 at length. I am interested to get myself a flashgun and have been searching around for a suitable one. Initially I was thinking of getting a Panasonic’s DMW FL500, but I found out that the AF Assist does not work on m43 cameras, that means our G3. So I start to look into Metz 50 AF-1 as an option. What do you think? Would I get full benefits for choosing Metz instead of FL500?

    Your advice will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks and warm regards
    Robin (Malaysia)

    • David Fleet says:

      HI Robin
      I have to be honest I have never had any intention of shooting the G3 with flash and so I really don’t know what flash system works best on it.

      I hope you work it out.

      David

  5. jim bailey says:

    David.
    Many thanks for your review of the G3. It was very helpful. I purchased my G3 last Thursday (5 April) and have taken it out on my first shoot yesterday. I wanted to see how it coped with shade/sunlight (stripes), lines of trees etc and I was more than pleased with the end results using the std 14-42mm lens. I also bought the 45-200mm lens which I have not used yet.
    These first shots look very compariable to my Canon 50D, but the G3 is much lighter and easier to use. Many Thanks.

    • David Fleet says:

      Hi Jim,

      I’m glad you found the review helpful and I’m sure you will find the G3 a great camera to use. In the end the G3 is so light and portable that it is a pleasure to carry around which means that you are more likely to have it with you and hopefully enjoy your photography more. Unless you need to print large or sell your work then a lot of people just don’t need a DSLR and they will certainly appreciate the lighter load of a compact system camera. With proper technique the G3 produces shots that I’m more than happy to put my name to.

      Enjoy and let us know how you get on with your new camera.

  6. Robert in Arabia says:

    ——————————————————————————–

    I was setting up my new G3 this morning and discovered the Pin Point Focus feature. I had never heard of it.
    It places a tiny cross-hair at the center of your screen like a sniper rifle.
    When you obtain focus, the center of image opens up with tremendous magification and confirms you aim. At 50mm I can focus on a person’s left eye at 25 feet!

  7. Cy from Essex says:

    Hey David,

    Before I talk about the camera and the review I’d like to say how refreshing it is that you respond to peoples views thereafter.

    I love the idea of owning this camera and feel it would really suit me, but like many amateurs they approach their first ‘proper’ camera with caution. I cycle everywhere, so my backpack is my boot and space is of a premium. Equally I could imagine throwing this over my shoulder and then I’m on the move again… The size and weight are you two features that I’m drawn to.

    But, ‘It’s almost as good as a DSLR’.

    What worries me is, if there’s a lack of manual control I won’t be learning the things I really want to know.

    Would I be better off spending more money to get a Canon 550D and a much bigger backpack?

    • David Fleet says:

      Hi Cy, it really does depend where your priorities lie. Yes some of the newer DSLR’s will get you slightly better image quality but at the cost of weight, not just in terms of the camera body but the lense you will need to buy are also considerably larger.

      The panasonic g3 has enough manual controls to enable me to shoot with it and not have to constantly enter the menu system so it should be fine for you. You can adjust shutter speed, aperture and ISO all at the touch of a button or dial. Because the g3 also has an electronic viewfinder I would also argue that it is a better camera to learn on than those with optical viewfinders because you can see any adjustments you make to the exposure in real time before you take the shot. This enables you to see what difference your changes make before taking the image. It’s incredibly helpful.

      The G3 is more camera than most people will ever need but I would just add one proviso, I didnt feel the dynamic range (the range of brightness from dark to light that a camera can record) was quite large enough for me to use only this camera as my professional tool because I shoot a lot of sunsets which require a large dynamic range or the use of filters. However ymmv.

      Good luck with your choice.

      David

  8. Gurpinder says:

    Hi David,
    I’m just getting to grips with my new G3 Lumix camera. When I’m in P mode and taking a family picture the shutter speed takes longer and the picture comes out blurry. This also happens when using iA. Do I need to change the any of the settings.

    • David Fleet says:

      Hi Gurpinder,
      Your shutter speed is too slow to take a sharp portrait (athere are a few exceptions of course but in general my point stands). You need to use a shutter speed of around 1/60 second or faster for people shots if they are stationary.Change from P mode into S mode if shutter speed is your priority and set the shutter to 1/60 or faster if you can and then set ISO to auto. The camera will then choose the appropriate aperture and ISO values to ensure that you use the shutter speed that you have seleceted.

      Let me know how you get on.

  9. fatihah says:

    First of all, thanks to you Mr. Fleet for sharing this very good information to Lumix G3 users. Actually, my problem is quite similar with Mr. Gurpinder. The picture of moving object that I shoot are always blur. But, when I change to S mode, the picture become so dark even when using the highest ISO. Actually, would you mind to tell me the steps to change the setting for shutter speed? I didn’t found the button :(

    • David Fleet says:

      HI Fatihah.

      If it is quite dark you may find that you simply cannot take the shots you want at the required shutter speeds with the kit lense (if that is what you are using). The only way to get around this is to buy what are known as faster lenses, ie those with larger apertures like f/1.7 or to use artificial light like that from a flash. Look at the micro 4/3 Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens for a great example of a relatively cheap portrait lens (one that is a good focal length for taking people shots) or the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens for a good general use lens. The larger aperture of these lenses allows them to capture more light in a given situation and therfore you can increase the shutter speed in low light. They offer many benefits including shallow depth of field, excellent image quality and portability.

      To change the shutter speed in S mode simply turn the scroll wheel below the IA button on the right hand side of the G3. You will see that the shutter speed on the screen or viewfinder will change. You will also notice that as you scroll to make the shutter speed faster that the bar that the numbers are written on will turn red. This is indicating that the image will be under exposed (ie dark as you are getting in your shots). To change this you need to set the camera to a higher ISO seting but if you are already at teh maximum setting then you will need to follow the abouve advice.

      I hope this helps and enjoy the camera.

      David

      • fatihah says:

        Thanks MR. Fleet. Your advice is totally helping me. I’m holding this curiosity for about 3 months (since I bought the camera), as I was too busy to explore this camera. Thanks again for helping me to enjoy this camera more! God bless you :)

Leave a Comment

Current month ye@r day *