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 – Movie Mode
Panasonic G3 review: Movie/Video Quality
The Lumix G3 offers a 1080i movie mode, with a 50 fields per second capture and output at 25 frames per second (The US version is 1080i60 output at 30fps to correlate to the 60Hz NTSC standard). The interlaced capture format means that the even lines are captured on one sensor pass, followed by the odd lines on the next pass. In essence half the image is captured with each pass.
The G3’s sister model, the Lumix G2, offers a 720p movie mode. Here the ‘p’ designates progressive capture, i.e. that the full frame is captured in a single pass. Now, although the resolution is lower, progressive capture offers a particular benefit: reduced ‘tearing’.
To explain: Tearing can occur when fast moving subjects (or fast panning of camera) are captured in an interlaced format. As the sensor ‘sees’ subjects in two slightly moved locations with each interlaced pass (as the G3 suffers) it’s possible that the even lines may show the subject in a location that’s a few pixels different to the odd set of lines. As such, a 1080i image is inferior to a 720p capture overall and the G3 has no in-camera options to tweak resolution options to a 720p capture (only QVGA and VGA).
Theory put to one side of the moment, however, and the G3’s movie captures do look good. A high data rate (75Mbit/sec was sustained in our tests) means there’s plenty of detail on display and results are fluid in playback. True movie buffs ought to look toward the Lumix GH2 for the ultimate level of control.
Panasonic G3 review: Movie/Video Record Time
As per all European stills camera release, the G3 is only capable of capturing up to 29mins and 59secs or up to 2GB of recorded footage in a single take. At the full 1080i resolution this will max out far earlier however, as data (in Super High (SH) quality) equates to around 10MB/sec.
Panasonic G3 review: Movie/Video Focusing Modes
Movie focusing is dealt with very smoothly indeed, comprising of single (AF-S), full time (AF-C) or manual focusing options. The full-time focus is far slower and smoother than the rapid pace offered when shooting stills, but this means it’s also far more considered for movie shooting. Unlike many other Compact System Cameras and DSLRs, the G3’s movie focusing tends to glide into focus without missing the mark. This isn’t always the case for more difficult subjects, but it manifests positively in the final recording and looks all the more professional.
During capture it’s possible to flick easily between the autofocus mode, i.e. Subject Tracking, Face Priority and the like, without causing a break in capture.
Using a literal hands-on approach with the touchscreen is also one of its best uses, as the subtle focus transitions and subject targeting work very elegantly indeed.
Panasonic G3 review: Movie/Video Manual Control
Here’s where Panasonic has held back a little. Fully aware that its champion model, the GH2, is the pinnacle for movie capture, the G3 doesn’t offer much in the way of manual movie controls.
Options such as Photo Style and i.Dynamic can be set up before hand, and the same applies to metering and exposure compensation – though, oddly, the latter can’t be adjusted during capture.
Panasonic G3 review: Movie/Video Sound
In a similar vein to the limitations with manual control, the G3’s sound options are equally prescribed. By relying on its on-board stereo microphone the G3 captures high quality (16-bit, 48,000kHz) sound using Dolby Digital Creator, but fails to offer external microphone support for a more professional solution.