Panasonic G3 review
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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