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Box Photo

The Panasonic GF3 comes available in a variety colors and can be purchased body-only or kitted with either the 14mm or 14-42mm lens options. The camera also is packaged with the following:

  • battery pack
  • battery charger
  • A/V cable
  • USB connection cable
  • CD-ROM (software/manuals)
  • shoulder strap
  • lens cap
  • stylus pen
  • owner's manual/warranty card

The kit lens we tested the GF3 with was the 14mm f/2.5 lens, which is about as compact an option as you'll find when paired with the GF3. The camera and lens fit snugly into any loose pocket, such as that of a small bag or a jacket. The lens provided attractive bokeh, with an aperture that is narrow, yet forgiving enough that inch-perfect focus is rarely a requirement for a printable image. The lens is also spectacularly light, though we didn't find it to be the sharpest Micro Four Third lens we have tested. For anybody looking to do landscapes or group portraits, the 14mm kit lens is a fine option.

The GF3 employs a 12.1-megapixel CMOS Micro Four Thirds image sensor, very similar to what we have seen out of previous Panasonic cameras. It didn't perform quite as well as the 16-megapixel sensor in the G3 that we reviewed a few months ago, but it's clear Panasonic knows how to get the most out of this particular setup. That's fortunate, because in a world of compact mirrorless cameras that employ larger APS-C sensors (namely Sony's NEX series), the Micro Four Thirds sensors always have a bit of a performance gap to make up.

The GF3, like the GF2 before it, does not employ a built-in viewfinder. Also, with the elimination of the hot shoe, there is no external viewfinder option available. Instead, users are stuck using the 3-inch touchscreen LCD to frame images, though it's clear enough to be able to make focus judgements. We did find that it tended to alter colors slightly, however. This can be altered in the setup menu, though, with options for altering brightness, contrast, saturation, and red/blue tint.

The GF3's built-in flash has a guide number equivalent of 6.3 meters at ISO 160. It can be released using the mechanical release button on the rear of the camera, tucked between the flash and the rear LCD. The flash's placement does help combat red-eye, and it extends up and forward from the body, The flash is actually very useful, as it can be moved fairly freely and still fire, allowing you to even tilt it upward so that it functions more like a bounce flash. It's not particularly powerful, but especially for close-up macro subjects, it's got plenty of utility.

Flash Photo

The GF3 offers a proprietary AV/USB connection as well as an HDMI-mini (Type C) connector for outputting to a television or capture device. Both ports are located behind a plastic door on the right side of the camera that clicks home when not in use. This is a typical setup, but it would be nice to see Panasonic adopt a more universal USB/AV connection solution with their Micro Four Thirds cameras in the future.

The GF3 makes use of the Panasonic Lumix DMW-BLE9PP battery pack, which slots in to the battery compartment on the bottom of the camera. The battery is rated to 940 mAh and 7.2V, with an expected return of approximately 330 shots per charge by CIPA standards. We rarely found a need to charge the camera more than once every couple of days, however, putting it through fairly average use.

Battery Photo

Any SD/SDHC/SDXC card can be utilized with the Panasonic GF3, with no listed maximum. We would imagine 128GB SDXC cards are going to have questionable functionality for the moment, as they're so new, but there is no such restriction listed and we don't have a 128GB card to test. All reasonable card sizes work fine, however.

Memory Photo

We found the 14mm lens offered superb sharpness in the center of the frame, with an MTF50 of around 1850 lw/ph at all apertures. However, the smaller apertures produced much softer images, especially around the midpoint between the center and edges of the frame. The camera also provides some measure of sharpness enhancement by default, though this can be fine-tuned, as with things like noise reduction and saturation, on a +/- two step scale. More on how we test sharpness.

Other Tests Images_6

We found that the GF3 was able to produce colors with a color error of just 2.52 in the natural color mode, with a saturation level that was around 95% of the ideal. The natural mode does offer a flat appearance compared to the other color modes, but this led to more accurate colors that can then be altered after the fact. The standard mode was also very accurate, in one test offering better accuracy than the natural mode, though it tended to result in images that were around 1/3rd of a stop underexposed. More on how we test color.

Every color mode on the Panasonic GF3 offered decent color accuracy, with the worst—the vivid color mode—showing a color error just 3.81 degrees. This isn't to be unexpected, as the vivid mode purposely skews blues and magentas to offer deeper, richer colors that are very oversaturated by design. Every other color mode had an error under 2.75, which most cameras can't manage at their best.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

The Panasonic GF3 had the second-most accurate color rendition of any of the cameras in our comparison group, falling only behind the Olympus E-P3. It benefited from a big step up from the GF2's performance in this test, with the Samsung NX10 and Sony NEX-5 also left languishing behind the newest GF-series camera. GF3 also put up near-perfect saturation numbers, with a color profile that was just a hint undercooked, leaving photos with color that was a bit flat, though accurate overall.

The GF3 offers a set of color modes that will be very familiar to anybody who has used a similar level of Panasonic camera recently. The camera's record menu allows users to select one of several "Picture Styles," which alter color and offer adjustments for saturation, contrast, noise reduction, and sharpness. These all begin at the default of zero, but users can make adjustments of +/- two steps, with a custom setting savable if they prefer. the modes don't drastically alter the image by default, favoring slight enhancement rather than drastic alteration.

We found the GF3 excelled in both automatic and custom white balance in every lighting condition we presented. The camera was generally most accurate when using an automatic white balance with the 14mm kit lens, as it's able to draw from the whole image area. When taking a manual white balance, only a small area in the center of the image is used to measure for white, which did not result in much of an improvement despite repeated attempts.

Automatic White Balance ()

The GF3's automatic white balance did very well in every lighting condition we threw at it. It had an average white balance error of just around 50 kelvins in daylight and compact white fluorescent lighting conditions. Under tungsten lighting—which typically gives cameras fits and results in errors north of 800 kelvins—the GF3 was off by just 100 kelvins. These are superb results and they gave the GF3 the best score in our comparison group.

Custom White Balance ()

The GF3 allows users to set and save two custom white balance settings (or use direct kelvin entry), which we found to be quite accurate. Given how accurate the automatic system worked, there was not much room for improvement, though the GF3 offered some. In daytime and compact white fluorescent lighting, the results were actually somewhat worse when overriding the camera's built-in system. Under that difficult tungsten lighting, however, the camera had a white balance error of just 28 kelvins, which is remarkable.

The Panasonic GF3 blew away the competition for white balance accuracy, as it bested every other camera in both automatic and custom white balance accuracy. It did so largely on the back of its excellent handling of incandescent tungsten lighting (such as that typically given off by light bulbs in the home), which other cameras simply can't seem to wrap their heads around.

The GF3 offers access to white balance settings using a hardware key right on the rear four-way control pad/wheel. The camera has 13 white balance presets in total, all with fine adjustments available. The camera also sports the aforementioned automatic white balance setting, along with two user-savable settings and direct color temperature entry. The custom white balances are set simply by pressing the up key and pointing the highlighted box at a neutral color object and pressing the SET key.

The GF3's long exposure noise reduction feature didn't actually decrease noise to any measurable degree, but it did help improve color accuracy. It works, as many long exposure NR features do, by taking a "dark" frame with the shutter closed and using it to map out where noise is likely to occur. This feature is rarely all that effective, as noise is inherently random, but we found it did decrease the hit to color accuracy that the GF3 suffered in low light. The main issue we noticed in long exposure testing was the camera's inability to gather enough data to get a good custom white balance in light less than 40 lux. More on how we test long exposure.

We found the GF3's color accuracy dipped to an average error of around 4.0 in low light conditions, largely due to a white balance system that, while very accurate in our WB tests, was unable to get a proper reading in low light. We found noise wasn't a very big deal, however, as at our test sensitivity of 400 noise only rose above 1% at exposures of 30 seconds. This is likely an issue with the sensor beginning to overheat, though it's not a cause for concern. This is backed up by the fact that the long exposure noise reduction system seemed to actually increase noise. In all likelihood, the second "dark" exposure resulted in more heat on the sensor, creating interference in the final image.

Despite the poor performance of the GF3's noise reduction feature (a noise reduction feature that increases noise isn't the most useful asset to have), only the Samsung NX10 offered better long exposure performance from our comparison group. The GF3 beat out fellow Micro Four Thirds cameras the Olympus E-P3 and its predecessor, the GF2, but a significant margin. The Sony NEX-5 also found itself looking up at the GF3 in this test, despite its larger APS-C sensor.

The GF3's default settings kept noise to a manageable level by itself, but there will be times where either smooth gradation or the retention of fine detail will take priority, for which you can adjust the noise reduction level appropriately. At the minimum level of -2, noise still only amounted to more than 1% of the image at ISO 1600 and above, crossing 3% at the maximum ISO of 6400. At the maximum level of +2, noise just barely crosses 1.5% at the maximum ISO speed. At the levels of +1 and -1, respectively, noise ramps up and down accordingly, and we recommend shooting at +1 for the greatest benefit without losing too much fine detail. More on how we test noise.

Science Section 2 Images

The Panasonic GF3 features an ISO range of 160-6400, with options for both automatic ISO and intelligent ISO. The ISO can be set fairly easily through the quick menu, accessible both by touchscreen and hard key on the back of the camera. There weren't any reduced resolution options for ISO sensitivity, though we found ISO 6400 to be usable whenever noise reduction was kept at the default or bumped up to higher levels.

Science Section 2 Images_2

The GF3 showed good dynamic range results, though this is impact somewhat by the presence of noise reduction. We found the camera was able to preserve more than 6.5 stops of clean dynamic range at ISO speeds of 200 and lower before noise began to creep in. Range fell off predictably from there, though even at ISO 6400 the camera provided 3.25 stops of clean dynamic range. More on how we test dynamic range.

Of all our comparison cameras, only the Sony NEX-5 performed better in this test, though it benefits from an APS-C sensor, thus giving it the leg up in preserving range without noise becoming an issue. The GF3 did show an improvement over the GF2, providing usable images straight through the maximum ISO of 6400. The Olympus E-P3 struggled in this test, though noise was an issue for that camera, which drags down dynamic range performance.

The GF3's default settings kept noise to a manageable level by itself, but there will be times where either smooth gradation or the retention of fine detail will take priority, for which you can adjust the noise reduction level appropriately. At the minimum level of -2, noise still only amounted to more than 1% of the image at ISO 1600 and above, crossing 3% at the maximum ISO of 6400. At the maximum level of +2, noise just barely crosses 1.5% at the maximum ISO speed. At the levels of +1 and -1, respectively, noise ramps up and down accordingly, and we recommend shooting at +1 for the greatest benefit without losing too much fine detail. More on how we test noise.

The Panasonic GF3 features an ISO range of 160-6400, with options for both automatic ISO and intelligent ISO. The ISO can be set fairly easily through the quick menu, accessible both by touchscreen and hard key on the back of the camera. There weren't any reduced resolution options for ISO sensitivity, though we found ISO 6400 to be usable whenever noise reduction was kept at the default or bumped up to higher levels.

The autofocus on the GF3 is fairly quick, though the 14mm kit lens does not have a particularly noteworthy close focus distance. The listed 0.59 feet seems small, but with such a wide angle lens you're not going to get very satisfying close-ups of any small objects. The general AF performance is quite good though, and it is somewhat aided by the touch screen control, allowing users to touch an object and allow the camera to focus on it.

The GF3's long exposure noise reduction feature didn't actually decrease noise to any measurable degree, but it did help improve color accuracy. It works, as many long exposure NR features do, by taking a "dark" frame with the shutter closed and using it to map out where noise is likely to occur. This feature is rarely all that effective, as noise is inherently random, but we found it did decrease the hit to color accuracy that the GF3 suffered in low light. The main issue we noticed in long exposure testing was the camera's inability to gather enough data to get a good custom white balance in light less than 40 lux. More on how we test long exposure.

We found the GF3's color accuracy dipped to an average error of around 4.0 in low light conditions, largely due to a white balance system that, while very accurate in our WB tests, was unable to get a proper reading in low light. We found noise wasn't a very big deal, however, as at our test sensitivity of 400 noise only rose above 1% at exposures of 30 seconds. This is likely an issue with the sensor beginning to overheat, though it's not a cause for concern. This is backed up by the fact that the long exposure noise reduction system seemed to actually increase noise. In all likelihood, the second "dark" exposure resulted in more heat on the sensor, creating interference in the final image.

Despite the poor performance of the GF3's noise reduction feature (a noise reduction feature that increases noise isn't the most useful asset to have), only the Samsung NX10 offered better long exposure performance from our comparison group. The GF3 beat out fellow Micro Four Thirds cameras the Olympus E-P3 and its predecessor, the GF2, but a significant margin. The Sony NEX-5 also found itself looking up at the GF3 in this test, despite its larger APS-C sensor.

Shooting with the 14mm kit lens with a wide aperture of f/2.5, the Panasonic GF3 was able to record a usable image with just 7 lux of light. This is a strong performance for the little Micro Four Thirds camera, and it is very similar to the result we got from last year's GF2 (it needed 6 lux of light to reach the same brightness levels). Results will likely be different, of course, if you use a different lens with the GF3, so take note what lens we used for this test (and all of our video testing).

The 14mm kit lens with the Panasonic GF3 suffered from only minor lateral chromatic aberration in our testing, with color fringing only barely visible, and only in the most extreme conditions. It can be observed to a very minor degree when the lens is opened or closed to its maximum or minimum aperture, and even then only near the edges of the lens at full magnification. We did not notice any body-specific CA such as sensor blooming, either, so many lenses will perform admirable on the GF3.

When framing with the 14mm fixed kit lens, it's clear to see that there is some distortion at every aperture. Measured out, there is approximately 1.18% barrel distortion with the lens, though that is likely after some correction applied in-camera, as Panasonic frequently does with their own lenses. The end result is quite good, however, and 1.18% distortion is largely inconsequential.

The GF3 didn't capture motion video very well in our testing. The one positive was that its videos looked smooth, but the negatives included quite a bit of trailing, some artifacting, and lots of ghosting and blur. There was even some pixelation present in the rotating pinwheels in our test video. The 1920 x 1080 AVCHD mode produced the best looking video in terms of motion, and we saw more interference when using the other recording settings. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

The Panasonic GF3 does record Full HD video, but, like the GF2 before it, the camera didn't do extremely well in our video sharpness test. It managed a horizontal sharpness of roughly 525 lw/ph and a vertical sharpness of 600 lw/ph. These numbers do show a bit of an improvement over the GF2, but not by a huge margin. Both the Olympus E-P3 and the Sony NEX-5 put up much better overall numbers in this test. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

Shooting with the 14mm kit lens with a wide aperture of f/2.5, the Panasonic GF3 was able to record a usable image with just 7 lux of light. This is a strong performance for the little Micro Four Thirds camera, and it is very similar to the result we got from last year's GF2 (it needed 6 lux of light to reach the same brightness levels). Results will likely be different, of course, if you use a different lens with the GF3, so take note what lens we used for this test (and all of our video testing).

The size of the GF3 makes it extremely easy to shoot with just one hand, with most of the controls easily within a thumb's reach. The lack of a physical mode dial is now par for the course on the GF cameras, as the simplest way to change modes is to employ the touchscreen, as it was with the GF2. The buttons all offer a satisfying response and decent enough travel that navigation is quite simple. The combination rear control wheel/4-way control pad on the

The GF3 separates its picture effects settings into two distinct sections. The first, available in the menu and taking effect in every shooting mode, is the "photo style" option, which we analyzed and discussed in the color section of this review. The other, however, is the "creative control" shooting mode, which allows the user to make more aggressive changes to their scene, altering more than simply color, but also contrast and tone, as well.

There are no great surprises in store with the GF3's menu, as it is nearly identical in every way to what we saw on the GF2. The menu is organized into several tabs, with sections for still shooting settings, video recording settings, setup settings, and playback. Each tab has several pages, though there is no quick way to navigate pages without scrolling through each individual option. Unfortunately, that does present a bit of a learning curve as you may need to learn which tab certain options are in or go digging until you find them. All in all it's a legible menu that gets the job done and it certainly won't send beginners howling for a refund.

The GF3 comes with an instruction manual on its included software disc. It's fairly intuitive to flip through the pages and it's carefully laid out. Some of the sections can be a little confusing and aren't written completely clearly, but beginners should have no problem consulting it from time-to-time to find out answers to any questions the pop up when initially learning the camera's features.

Anybody used to using a more advanced point-and-shoot camera will fine the GF3 right at home in the palm of their hand, as it's no larger than a Canon SX230 or similar camera. It continues the shrinking trend of Panasonic's GF-series, as it is even smaller than the DMC-GF2, with a new sleek curved profile that moves the built-in flash to the center of the camera and eschews the GF2's hotshoe. The only major change in handling is the alteration of the grip on the front of the camera. There is still no rubberized material, and the grip has been shrunk down somewhat along with the rest of the body. The camera isn't difficult to hold onto, by any means, but a little more comfort would've been a nice touch.

Handling Photo 1

The GF3 is just small enough that it can slip easily into a jacket pocket or a small bag. It's the kind of camera you can really have with you just about anywhere, though obviously any of the larger Micro Four Thirds lenses are going to limit its portability drastically. We were able to utilize the camera with its 14mm pancake lens and found that it was most useful for landscapes, group portraits, and macro shots. This combination works great on a vacation, especially where landscapes will be your primary subject and you want your camera to be as unobtrusive as possible.

Handling Photo 2

Users get the most out of the touchscreen LCD when it is employed as a way to quickly change shooting modes and as an alternate method of accessing the camera's quick menu. This frees up the custom function button below the control wheel to do other things without much hassle. We would've liked to have seen some sort of physical shooting mode dial, but it's a minor complaint, if anything.

Handling Photo 3

The size of the GF3 makes it extremely easy to shoot with just one hand, with most of the controls easily within a thumb's reach. The lack of a physical mode dial is now par for the course on the GF cameras, as the simplest way to change modes is to employ the touchscreen, as it was with the GF2. The buttons all offer a satisfying response and decent enough travel that navigation is quite simple. The combination rear control wheel/4-way control pad on the

Buttons Photo 1

The touchscreen interface, as it has been with most other Panasonic cameras of late, is entirely secondary to the operation of the camera. Even changing the shooting mode, which is done most easily by pressing the top left corner of the screen, can simply be done through the menu. Touch navigation is really not that much of a hassle, regardless, as the elements are fairly out of the way and don't obstruct framing. The quick menu and playback benefit most from the use of the touchscreen, though again touch operation is entirely optional and every function can be carried out by physical hardware keys.

Buttons Photo 2

The GF3, like the GF2 before it, does not employ a built-in viewfinder. Also, with the elimination of the hot shoe, there is no external viewfinder option available. Instead, users are stuck using the 3-inch touchscreen LCD to frame images, though it's clear enough to be able to make focus judgements. We did find that it tended to alter colors slightly, however. This can be altered in the setup menu, though, with options for altering brightness, contrast, saturation, and red/blue tint.

As with the GF2, there is no dedicated shooting mode dial on the GF3. Instead, users can switch modes either by pressing the current mode's symbol on the top left of the rear LCD, or by going into the full menu. This brings up a rotational on-screen dial of modes to choose from, including intelligent auto, intelligent auto plus, manual, aperture/shutter priority, creative control, custom, and scene modes.

The autofocus on the GF3 is fairly quick, though the 14mm kit lens does not have a particularly noteworthy close focus distance. The listed 0.59 feet seems small, but with such a wide angle lens you're not going to get very satisfying close-ups of any small objects. The general AF performance is quite good though, and it is somewhat aided by the touch screen control, allowing users to touch an object and allow the camera to focus on it.

The 14mm kit lens that comes packaged with the Panasonic GF3 kit that we received allows for manual focusing by virtue of the focus ring on the lens itself. The ring is a grooved plastic, though it lacks any hard focus stops at either end. The ring's effect is subtle enough that fairly precise focus adjustments are possible, though you'll have to activate manual focus through the camera's menu system in order to take advantage of it.

The GF3 employs a 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, with a variety of different quality and size options to choose from. The camera allows users to shoot in RAW, JPEG, and RAW+JPEG, with either fine or normal quality JPEG compression. Users can also shoot in the maximum size of 12 megapixels and a 3:2 ratio, or in ratios of 1:1, 16:9, or 4:3, with images as small as 1504x1504. The full range of aspect ratios and quality options can be seen in the table below.

The GF3 has several burst modes for users to choose from, all available by pressing the drive mode button on the rear control pad. The camera offers burst modes of high, medium, and low. High is able to achieve up to 4fps according to our tests, but does so without live view in between shots. The medium and low burst modes shoot at 2.8 and 2fps, respectively, but do so with live view activated.

The GF3 posted surprisingly quick shot-to-shot results, hitting a maximum speed of 4fps, faster than their own reported speed of 3.8fps. The camera accomplished this on multiple test runs, so we're not sure why their own specifications were limited slightly. Still, this is an impressive jump over the GF2's shot-to-shot results of 2.46fps.

The GF3 also offers self-timer options through the drive mode menu (which can also be assigned to the quick menu), with options for delays of two seconds, ten seconds, and ten seconds with three quick shots fired at the end. The camera can signify the countdown with an audible beep but also uses a flashing timer symbol on the rear LCD. There are no interval shooting options on the GF3, though this was expected given the dearth of custom/interval options on the G3 we reviewed earlier this year.

The autofocus on the GF3 is fairly quick, though the 14mm kit lens does not have a particularly noteworthy close focus distance. The listed 0.59 feet seems small, but with such a wide angle lens you're not going to get very satisfying close-ups of any small objects. The general AF performance is quite good though, and it is somewhat aided by the touch screen control, allowing users to touch an object and allow the camera to focus on it.

The 14mm kit lens that comes packaged with the Panasonic GF3 kit that we received allows for manual focusing by virtue of the focus ring on the lens itself. The ring is a grooved plastic, though it lacks any hard focus stops at either end. The ring's effect is subtle enough that fairly precise focus adjustments are possible, though you'll have to activate manual focus through the camera's menu system in order to take advantage of it.

The GF3 separates its picture effects settings into two distinct sections. The first, available in the menu and taking effect in every shooting mode, is the "photo style" option, which we analyzed and discussed in the color section of this review. The other, however, is the "creative control" shooting mode, which allows the user to make more aggressive changes to their scene, altering more than simply color, but also contrast and tone, as well.

The GF3, like most Panasonic cameras, has multiple compression options for recording video. The highest-quality option—the only one that records Full HD at a 1920 x 1080 resolution—uses AVCHD compression, which is the same system employed by most modern-day HD camcorders. This full HD mode uses a 60i frame rate (but the sensor output is 30p) and a bitrate of 17Mbps (not quite the max for AVCHD, but not bad either). In this AVCHD mode you can also shoot 1280 x 720 HD video using a 60p frame rate (again, the sensor's output is 30p).

For videos that you want to play on a computer, particularly an older computer that may not be able to handle the large file sizes of AVCHD clips, you can shoot HD video using the Motion JPEG (MJPEG) compression option on the GF3. MJPEG mode has three size options: 1280 x 720, 640 x 480, and 320 x 240. All of these modes produce files that are significantly smaller than the AVCHD options and all three use 30p frame rates during recording. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

Like its predecessor, the Panasonic GF2, the GF3 isn't loaded with manual controls in video mode. The camera is easy to use as a result, but if you're looking for something to shoot b-roll with this is not the camera for you. You won't be able to set shutter speed, aperture, or even gain when recording videos with the GF3.

Auto Controls

On the upside, the auto controls on the camera are quite good in video mode. The GF3 has one of the best autofocus mechanisms we've seen on a video-capable DSLR or any interchangeable lens camera that records video. The focus system isn't quite as fast as a traditional camcorder, but the mechanism is silent, accurate, and produced smooth transitions. Exposure adjustments, on the other hand, were very fast (almost too fast at times), and they were accurate as well.

Zoom

Panasonic offers a few different kit lens options with the GF3. There's a 14 - 42mm lens with stabilization that gives you a bit of optical zoom (roughly 3x), and there's the lens we shot with—a 14mm f/2.5 lens with no zoom capability. Obviously, the zoom lens gives you the benefit, of, well, being able to zoom. The 14mm fixed lens, however, offers a more compact design. There's also a kit option that includes both lenses.

Even with the fixed lens you can use digital zoom functions on the GF3 in video mode, as well as an extended tele conversion feature. Neither allow you to zoom optically, so using the features will degrade your videos slightly, but they do give you the opportunity to magnify your recordings if you so choose.

Focus

In addition to a solid autofocus system, the GF3 also has a good manual focus (with the 14mm lens we used, at least). When you switch to manual focus you can use the thick focus ring on the tip of the lens to manually make your video images crisp. A small bar even appears on the bottom of the LCD to show you where you are on the focus range of the lens.

Exposure Controls

As we said before, there are no manual options for setting aperture, shutter speed, or ISO on the GF3 in video mode. There is a basic exposure adjustment control, however, but you can't set it once recording has begun. There are three metering mode options for the auto exposure system—just like there are when taking still images with the camera.

Other Controls

Scene modes and picture effects can be used in video mode, with some of them doing more than others. The peripheral defocus scene mode is particularly useful for people who want to play around with depth of field effects. Unfortunately, the mode is extremely simplified, so it doesn't tell you what aperture values you are using, but it does allow you to pinpoint a specific portion of the image you want to bring into focus while leaving the background image out of focus (or vice versa). This is possible without the special scene mode, but it is a bit more difficult to select a specific portion of the frame you want to "defocus." The camera also has a dynamic contrast mode and flicker reduction controls, both of which can be used in video mode.

Audio features on the GF3 are limited, and the built-in microphone only records mono audio (rather than stereo, which is what the mic on the GF2 recorded). There's no external mic jack and the small camera even lacks an accessory shoe, so you can't mount your own external mic either. There is a wind cut feature, however, and it includes three sensitivity settings. There's also a basic audio level adjustment that includes just four levels of control as well as a mic level display.

Mic Photo

Comparing the GF3 to its predecessors is a bit like looking at one of those "history of man" posters in reverse. Where the GF1 features enthusiast-level amounts of control, physical dials, and customizable options, the GF2 and now GF3 feature intelligent auto modes, touchscreen control, and a button layout designed to be as beginner-friendly as possible.

The GF3, released less than a year after the GF2, is physically pared down even more, eschewing even a hot shoe, the last vestigial fragment of its enthusiast beginnings, in favor of a trimmed frame that could play body double to any number of mid-range travelzoom point-and-shoot cameras. Despite this, the GF3 packs quite a bit of performance into its tiny frame, able to effectively fit Micro Four Thirds lens compatibility, solid color accuracy, and improved low light image quality in the palm of your hand.

In total, the GF3 is a very appealing compact camera that, through sheer association with the Micro Four Thirds lens family, offers incredible upsides for anybody—enthusiast or novice—willing to pick it up and give it a try.
The GF3 showed solid improvement over the course of our lab tests when compared to the GF2. It didn't advance quite as highly as the Panasonic G3 did this spring, but it was quite an able camera. Its images offered low color error, near perfect saturation, kept noise to an acceptable limit in high ISO situations, while offering solid dynamic range results without sacrificing a great deal of detail in the name of noise reduction. The camera also shot faster than its previous iteration, upping its shot-to-shot time from 2.8 frames per second to four shots in one second.
The Panasonic GF3 showed promise as a video recording device, but we were left underwhelmed by the camera's disappointing sharpness and motion scores. Our motion test showed significant signs of trailing, ghosting, and interference, and we were surprised to see the noise levels rise a bit higher than what they were on the Panasonic GF2 (not by much, though). Overall, this is one of the better Micro Four Thirds cameras out there for recording video, but most true DSLRs with video modes will get you even better performance.
The GF3 loses the hot shoe from the GF2, meaning external strobes are no longer an option. The built-in flash has been relocated to the center of the top of the body, and still springs up and forward. The flash can also tilt up or down, offering greater utility as a bounce flash or as a macro light source, depending on the lens it is being applied with. The Micro Four Thirds lens system has advanced steadily since the format debuted three years ago, and now we see a fully fledged lens system with first and third-party options galore. The end result is a small camera that is well-built, durable, lacks a few enthusiast features but that has access to a wide variety of lenses.
The GF3 is smaller and lighter than its elder cousins, with a rear four-way control pad/wheel on the back of the camera. The previous spot for the control wheel—the thumb rest—seems to have benefited greatly, giving the user better hold of the camera without the risk of accidentally altering a setting using the wheel. The camera can be shot with one hand or two and, while the screen does not articulate from the body, it is lightweight enough to be held at nearly any angle.
The GF3 offers the same level of control that came with the GF2, with just a single programmable custom function button, a touchscreen that offers immediate access to the quick menu, a number of scene modes and color modes, but no physical dial or way to access either when not in the menu. The camera offers the full range of manual exposure and priority modes, though, and there's very little the GF3 can't do if you know what to do. It presents a minor learning curve to novices, though, but that is offset by the inclusion of the light-up intelligent auto button on top of the camera.

Meet the tester

TJ Donegan

TJ Donegan

Executive Editor

@TJDonegan

TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.

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