Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 at a glance:

  • 12.1-million-pixel MOS sensor
  • 1080i HD video
  • ‘Light-speed’ AF at 0.1secs
  • 107.5×67.1x32mm body
  • £499 with 14-42mm lens
  • £549 with 14mm lens
  • £629 with 14-42mm and 14mm lenses

Panasonic is clearly committed to the development of its micro four thirds, compact system camera (CSC) series. The frequency with which new camera bodies and lenses are introduced is testament to this, with the GF3 appearing less than a year after the GF2. This latest incarnation is the company’s ninth CSC model, the first being the Lumix DMC-G1 in October 2008.

The company’s G-series CSCs are split into three camps: the DSLR-style ‘G’, compact-style ‘GF’ and the video-focused ‘GH’ models. For now, the system is strong in number and shows no sign of slowing down.

Along with the release of the GF3, the company announced a 25mm (50mm equivalent) f/1.4 Asph lens, which is a useful focal length. For current owners, being part of a system that is actively being developed and invested in is great news, and a key pull factor:  as a consequence of this expansion, the lens range is beyond that of any other CSC. Furthermore, the GF3 is also compatible with Olympus four thirds optics.

Compact system cameras are great at offering the controls and features one would expect from a DSLR but in a smaller body. As a well-established system, what is of particular interest here is how Panasonic is developing the compact-style GF series. Each time a new model is announced, it sheds a few grams and millimetres, which means the GF3 is the smallest and lightest GF model to date.

Given its moniker, it would be logical to assume that the GF3 is a replacement for the GF2.

However, Panasonic informs us that this is not the case, and for now the GF2 will continue to be available. Also, the initial RRP of the new model is lower than when the GF2 first hit the shelves, so the GF3 sits at the bottom of the range. It would appear, then, that Panasonic’s primary concern with the GF3 is to achieve wider consumer appeal by providing a cheaper and smaller CSC. The major point for consideration, therefore, is whether it is as effective as its predecessors and just where, if any, compromises have been made.

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