Panasonic Lumix G3 review
Panasonic Lumix G3 - Design
The Panasonic Lumix G3 can boast being the smallest and lightest Compact System Camera to include a built-in viewfinder. Shaving some 25% away from the previous G2 is no small feat, but this latest design doesn't suffer from becoming unnecessarily small. It still feels right in the hand and the grip is prominent enough for comfortable holding. Underneath its exterior is an aluminium frame that proves both tough and light, removing some 10% weight when compared to the Lumix G2.
However, with smaller size can come the odd penalty: In this instance it's a downgrade on the battery front. A new battery was obviously necessary in order to fit the slimmer design, but its lower capacity now assumes 270 shots per charge - significantly fewer than the G2's quoted 360 shots per charge. Throw in movie capture too and the battery will be quickly used up by avid snappers.
Secondly the smaller surface area means less hands-on controls. The drive mode and AF switches from the top of the G2 and the entirety of the AF Area mode dial have been lost in the transition to the G3's latest design. It feels rathermore like a Lumix GF2 with a built-in electronic viewfinder in many respects.
Other small changes help to promote more ‘lifestyle'-orientated brand thinking: Panasonic has done away with its numbering system on the front of the camera, instead opting for a simple ‘G' embelishment that shows to the front right-hand side. This is likely to be a mainstay for all future G-series models.
The Lumix G3 is also the first G-series model available in white (in the UK). This will join the more standard black finish, as well as a red option (other colours (chocolate confirmed but others to be confirmed) will be available throughout the globe, depending on various markets) and seems like a sensible choice of colour options in an ever-demanding consumer market - if a white iPhone is good enough for Apple then it looks like Panasonic could well be on the right path here.
In terms of layout the Panasonic G3 features a mode dial on top for quick access of main shooting modes, a d-pad to the rear with a display button (Fn1) above and Q.Menu button (Fn2) below. As well as a one-touch movie button there's also a single-press iA button atop the camera to jump into the new intelligent Auto+ (iA+) mode. A rear thumbwheel doubles up as a button for main control adjustment of aperture, shutter and exposure compensation depending on selected mode. The thumbwheel feels a little taught and is rather small in rotation, meaning spinning through options can be slowed. A softer finish and slightly larger wheel would have been preferable.
The touchscreen element can override the need to use any buttons, and there's even a touch-shutter option to focus and fire off a shot by simply pressing the desired area on the screen itself. The main issue with the touch panel, however, is its sensitivity. In a world where smartphones and tablets are coming ever-more to the fore, the type of ultra-sensitive platforms we're used to isn't upheld by the Lumix G3. A couple of taps and firmer presses here and there will certainly be required by comparison. Also the speed in which display screens pop up can have an ever so slight delay. Yet the touch element does introduce some great quirks: the quick menu is now user-definable as it's possible to click and drag options in and out of its display. Clever stuff.