The Panasonic Lumix G3 breathes new life into the G-series system with a newly designed body that's 25% smaller and 10% lighter than the previous G2 release. Can this re-think revolutionise the Compact System Camera market for the better? The What Digital Camera Panasonic Lumix G3 review finds out...
Panasonic Lumix G3 review – Performance
Set the Lumix G3 to work and it’s an impressive beast. Back when Micro Four Thirds was introduced in 2008 via the original Lumix G1 it was undoubtedly a great concept. A concept that, with subsequent releases and multiple manufacturers also releasing individual Compact System Camera products, has really hotted up competitively and gone from strength to strength. Sit the original G1 side-by-side with the latest G3 and they not only look like completely different cameras, the step-up in performance is quite staggering too.
It’s autofocus where true breakthroughs can been seen – the ‘light speed’ autofocus from the Lumix GH2 was the fastest contrast-detection system we’ve ever used and, hats off to Panasonic, this same system has been ported into the G3 too. In our tests, which included testing against a GH2, we found there to be no difference in terms of speed. The 0.1s response time feels almost instant and is highly accurate, subject permitting. The only shortcoming of the system, as per any contrast-detection system, is with limited contrast subjects. Block areas of white or black for example with no contrasting edge in the focus area are the most likely to kick up a problem that will cause the camera to fail to attain focus.
Not only has the G3’s focusing speed been improved, there’s also been development in the focusing types as well. While the same Face Detection, AF-Tracking, 23-Area and 1-Area options are available as per other G-series releases, a new ‘Pinpoint’ AF mode now also graces the camera. Defined by a small cross that can be dragged anywhere on the screen (or moved using the d-pad cursors) the allocated area zooms in to 100% magnification to affirm focus is made before the shot can be fired off.
But that’s not all: While all the focus modes’ of old had limited reach and were ‘bordered-off’, i.e. not all areas of the screen could attain focus, the G3 now offers edge-to-edge focusing. This means if you choose to drag the focus point to the very top left corner using a finger then it’s possible, and with the very same fast AF speed, to compose more creative and obscure shots than before. This is a great step forward that’s been lacking from the G-series until now.
It’s also with the touch sensitivity that the autofocus system can be adjusted and utilised differently. Although you don’t have to assign the G3’s focus point by dragging a finger on the screen, it truly is a super-fast way to set up a shot or to press on a moving subject to assign Subject Tracking AF.
A high speed burst mode of 4fps can capture up to seven frames before a pause, though a brief wait and the camera is available to use again. A ‘super high speed’ 20fps burst rate is also available – though this uses an electronic shutter and can only capture 4MP-sized images under greater compression.
As well as full manual control the latest intelligent Auto+ (iA+) adds easy on-screen sliders to select between Defocus Control, Brightness (exposure compensation) and Red/Blue colour cast (only these two colours, however). As per the original iA mode, iA+ also recognises the scene at hand and adjusts all settings accordingly for an optimum exposure.
However, using the G3 for an ongoing period of time and it does become rather hot in the hand. Not to the point of concern, but the outer shell does feel warm to the touch.