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 – Image Quality
Panasonic G3 review: Tone & Exposure
There are the three standard exposure metering settings – evaluative, centre-weighted and spot. Exposure is generally accurate, though some scenes were towards the side of overexposed, leading towards a lean for bracketing shots.
Tones can be towards the darker side of the palette, though by default the ‘i.Dynamic’ mode gives a push to shadow areas for more equal exposure. This can be turned off or has three levels of strength as you choose.
When shooting in the iA+ mode the option to use a ‘Brightness’ slider adjusts exposure compensation but guises it under a different name. The +/-5EV compensation can be useful, plus it’s also possible to set Fn2 to become an exposure lock button which is of particular merit.
Panasonic G3 review: Colour & White Balance
Colour is rich and standout, though not to the point of looking ‘fake’.
There are also a variety of in-camera options to manipulate colour. Gone are the ‘My Color’ modes of old, replaced by new ‘Creative Control’ options – in essence the very same mode dressed up with a different name. This offers Expressive, Retro, High Key, Sepia and High Dynamic Range options and it’s even possible to shoot an original Raw shot in tandem should you want to ‘remove’ the effect after.
Photo Style is a secondary option that offers Standard, Vivid, Natural, Mono, ‘Scenery’, Portrait and Custom controls to adjust contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction severity for yet more user-defined control.
White balance has all the usual presets and the Auto White Balance worked well in a variety of scenarios, including natural, fluorescent and flash lighting.
Panasonic G3 review: ISO Sensitivity & Image Noise
With 16-megapixels on that Micro Four Thirds sensor our initial assumptions were that the overall results may fall behind what the G2 achieves. However this isn’t the case. With an added noise elimination circuit at the sensor level the overall image quality is good.
From ISO 160-200 results are decent and although there is some grain-like structure to be seen throughout images it’s not to the detriment of quality. Enough detail is resolved from ISO 160-400, which then dips at ISO 800 where the JPEG processing begins to sharpen results more heavily. In studio testing ISO 1600 began to soften and break down detail, and this rose exponentially through ISO 3200-6400. The latter two also showed far more signs of colour noise seeping into the image, to the point of rendering blacks and shadow areas a little more red-tinged in colour (particularly in studio shots).
However, in real world shots, all snaps throughout the ISO range lend themselves well to a variety of settings. Now the G3 isn’t going to fight off a high-spec DSLR, but at less money than the likes of the Nikon D5100 and Canon EOS 600D, Panasonic’s offering holds up rather well.
Panasonic G3 review: Sharpness & Detail
The biggest letdown to image quality is really based on the 14-42mm lens. It lacks that pin-sharpness and close-up focusing isn’t easily within reach either. Thankfully there are plenty of other lenses out there to choose from, and we’d recommend looking into the considerable range.