CAMERAS Panasonic G3 Review

Panasonic G3 Review

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Panasonic G3 Review

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Panasonic G3 Review

Panasonic G3, released in June 2011, is part of the third generation of Micro Four Thirds system cameras. Not only has the housing design been slightly modified, but a lot has changed, especially with regard to the inner values. New sensor, faster autofocus, improved video function, new image processor – just to name the most important innovations. The high-resolution electronic viewfinder and the swivel and folding screen are also included.

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Thanks to touch screen still good ease of use
  • Large, responsive video viewfinder
  • Very fast, accurate contrast AF
  • Excellent video features including tracking AF and stereo sound
  • Up to ISO 800 very good image quality, up to ISO 1.600 still good

Cons

  • Weaknesses in color reproduction
  • Set lens does not exploit the potential of the sensor
  • Compared to its predecessor, restrictions in handling and scope of functions

Panasonic praises the Lumix DMC-G3 as currently the “smallest and lightest compact system camera with an integrated electronic viewfinder”, making it unmistakably clear that the third edition of the G series has been given a completely new housing. But a lot has also happened under the hood: The sensor resolution is now 16 megapixels instead of twelve megapixels as in the predecessor G2. Nevertheless, Panasonic promises that the noise level has improved by up to 66 percent compared to the G2. Whether the G3 can keep this promise, was partly proved in our test that we do as usual also with the help of photography software to retrieve test results. We also looked into the question of the G3’s ergonomics and features in extensive practical use.

Panasonic G3 Review

The new live MOS sensor in Micro-Four-Thirds format has a resolution of 16 megapixels. This means that the 17.3 x 13 millimetre sensor accommodates four million pixels more in the same area than its predecessor, the Lumix DMC-G2. Nevertheless, the noise is said to have decreased. More effective circuits alone are said to have reduced the noise level by 66 percent, while detail and sharpness are even said to have improved. The remaining contribution to better noise reduction is provided by the more powerful Venus Engine FHD image processing engine, which can rely on more effective noise reduction algorithms. Overall, the noise is said to have improved by 200 percent over the 12 megapixel predecessor processor, especially at high sensitivities and in dark environments.

Panasonic G3 Review

Together with the more powerful sensor with a readout rate of 120 frames per second during focusing and the powerful processor, the autofocus speed could be accelerated to 0.18 seconds with the 14-42mm set lens. This should even put professional DSLRs in the shade – provided that this value is also achieved in practice. The precision of the focusing is also said to exceed the phase autofocus of conventional DSLRs. Panasonic has also drilled out the video function. In FullHD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 50 fields per second are recorded, and the stereo sound, which has a built-in microphone, can be manually controlled if desired.

Panasonic G3 Review

The tracking autofocus in video mode is new, and the intelligent automatic system has also become more flexible and is now called iA+. New are three sliders to influence depth of field, white balance and exposure. Thanks to the swivel and foldable 3-inch touch screen, this is possible without any problems. In addition, the touch autofocus allows precise focusing on an object. The size and position of the AF field can be adjusted with the finger, and together with the magnifying glass function, this allows you to focus on even the smallest objects such as a pupil. Even triggering is possible via the 460,000 pixel resolution screen.

Also on board is the high-resolution electronic viewfinder with 1.44 million pixels and a magnification of 0.7x. This means a larger viewfinder image than most APS-C DSLRs offer because the magnification factor is based on the 35mm 35mm format. The high refresh rate of 60 Hz ensures a smooth image even with panning and moving subjects. Panasonic has clearly revised the case. The volume has been reduced by 25 percent and the rubberised handle has been redesigned. It is also made of aluminium, which underlines the high quality of the camera. According to Panasonic, the G3 is currently the smallest system camera with an electronic viewfinder.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 is available in black since June 2011 at a price of just under 580 EUR. The set with the 14-42mm lens is said to cost 700 EUR and is available in red, black or brown (chocolate). The double zoom kit with 14-42mm and 45-200mm lens is said to cost almost 1,000 EUR and is again only available in black.

Ergonomics and Workmanship

Until now, the Lumix-G series always looked a little like Panasonic had washed a conventional DSLR too hot. Very compact and handy, but also a bit clumsy. The G3 has now been given an almost elegant dress by Panasonic’s design department. The camera is considerably slimmer than its two predecessors, also because their massive handle had to give way. But even the new shell – now largely made of aluminium, by the way – doesn’t want to look really chic. It has too many bulges, grooves and corrugations – and above all noticeable plastic on the grip bead and thumb rest. So despite the slimming cure, the G3 still requires its own photo bag. With the 14-42 millimeter set lens attached, it is too voluminous even for a wide coat pocket – so it doesn’t help that, according to Panasonic, the volume of the G3 has been reduced by 25 percent compared to its predecessor. Incidentally, the G3 has lost far less weight; at 544 grams (ready for operation including set lens), it weighs less than ten percent less than the G2. Thus, the G3’s slimmed case doesn’t give any noteworthy advantages on the road, but the handling has clearly suffered: The G3 is no longer as firm in the hand as its predecessor, it simply lacks the distinctive grip. What weighs much heavier, however, is the fact that the slim housing of the G3 has less space for dedicated controls than the G2. And the few that are left also turn out poorly. This is particularly unfortunate for the thumbwheel. It has shrunk considerably and is now also sunk so deeply into the thumb rest that it is only uncomfortable to use. The AF/AE lock button has been completely removed, and Panasonic has also removed the depth-of-field preview button on the G3.

Panasonic G3 Review

Many other functions, which could be selected on the G2 via handy wheels and switches, are now only accessible via quick menu. This isn’t a broken leg in itself, especially since the G3 has a touch-sensitive display with which it can be operated via the quick menu almost as quickly as an iPhone. Unfortunately, only almost as fast: The camera reacts a little bit hesitantly to fingertips, which can be irritating at times. And the menu animations jerk across the display like in blessed C-64 times – it’s a pity that this jerking can’t be switched off. What’s really great is that the G3 can also be triggered via touchscreen: A fingertip on the subject is all it takes for the camera to release the shutter – not without first focusing on the selected image area at lightning speed. But the G2 did that – and more: the G3’s predecessor automatically switched from the electronic viewfinder (EVF) to the display as soon as the camera was taken from the eye. This was made possible by a proximity sensor in the EVF that Panasonic has now eliminated from the G3. This is all the more annoying because the tilt and fold display on the G3 is practically indispensable for configuring the camera. The menus do appear in the EVF, yes,  but who wants to look through the viewfinder while the fingers of the right hand are desperately searching for the right buttons!

Panasonic G3 Review

However, the EVF is at its best when shooting. The viewfinder image is bright and clear and very detailed thanks to 1.44 million pixels of resolution. When panning under normal lighting conditions, it follows the movement very quickly, only in dim light does the display jerk noticeably. With 100 percent field coverage and 0.7x magnification (based on 35 mm format), the viewfinder is larger than that of many APS-C cameras, and it shows considerably more information if desired anyway. The rear display isn’t quite as luxuriously equipped with pixels, it has an average resolution of 460,000 pixels at best. Panasonic has structured the G3’s menus well and distributed longer lists on subpages. However, these subpages cannot be selected specifically, you must always scroll through the entire list to get to the desired command.

Panasonic G3 Review

Equipment

The Lumix G2 already offered an almost exuberant range of functions, and the Panasonic engineers have added even more to the G3. Therefore, we would like to refer you to the detailed test report on the Lumix G2 (see our article) and focus on the new features of the G3. What remains are the 20 or so scene mode programs. To save the photographer from being spoilt for choice with such a wide range of options, the G3, like its predecessor, offers a scene mode automatic that can be switched on quickly with the “iA” button. In this mode, the camera automatically selects one of seven programs when taking pictures or four programs in video mode. A new addition is the “iA+” mode. It allows you to intervene in the automatically selected settings. The exposure, white balance, or depth of field can be changed. This kind of intervention in the program defaults is certainly to be welcomed, but the aperture for depth of field control can only be changed in a complicated way via the touch screen. Exposure compensation has been expanded, now covering the high range of +/- 5 f-stops (EV), while the G2 only had +/- 3 EV. This offers sufficient scope for creative photographers, especially since the G3 can still be operated as a classic program automaton, as well as semi-automatically by time or aperture preselection and also completely manually controlled. The latter applies not only to exposure but also to focus. The G3 offers a new focusing aid: if desired, it shows a fourfold magnified image section in the middle of the display. You can switch quickly to the usual five or tenfold magnification using the thumbwheel. Another new feature is a special “needle tip” autofocus. It enlarges the viewfinder image, allowing the desired focus point to be adjusted with particular sensitivity.

If the G2 only offered simple features during the video recording, the G3 also delights the gourmet during film recordings. The camera now records up to full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080), either in 50i or 25p. Video recordings can be saved in the space-saving AVCHD format, but the more editable MJEPG format is still available. Also new: When recording video, the G3 adjusts the sharpness if desired. Alternatively, the focus point can be placed on any part of the image by a short fingertip on the display during shooting – that’s great. In contrast to the G2, Panasonic has given the G3 a stereo microphone and an electronic wind filter that can be configured in four stages. Photographs can be taken at any time during the video shoot.

In comparison to its predecessor, the G3 also increases the continuous shooting speed. It can now take up to 20 photos per second (fps) – but only with a file size reduced to around four megabytes. In full resolution it is a maximum of 4.9 fps, but after seven shots the buffer memory is already full and the series of shots continues with only one frame every two seconds. The G3 won’t become an action camera even with the faster shooting series. In addition, the fact that the G3 no longer displays a viewfinder image at a high frame rate is annoying in practice; instead, the last image recorded appears in the viewfinder.

Even though the feature list of the G3 is impressively long at first glance, in practice one misses one or the other feature. For example, the clever multiple shots with which cameras from Sony or Nikon have recently been able to expand the dynamic range considerably (“multishot DRI”) or reduce noise at high ISO numbers without losing too much detail (“multishot NR”). If desired, the G3 tries to tame strong contrasts with a softer gradation curve – a process that is naturally subject to narrow limits. It’s also a pity that a standardized microphone connection is missing – the G2 still had it.

Lens

The Lumix G3 with the G Vario 14-42/1:3.5-5.6 lens was used for the test. The standard zoom with a small frame equivalent focal length of 28-84 millimetres is offered as a set together with the camera for just 50 euros extra. With this moderate price, one gladly accepts that the optics are in a disdainful plastic case, also the bayonet is made of plastic. After all, this material contributes to the weight reduction, the lens weighs just over 150 grams. Nevertheless, it made a thoroughly mature impression in use: the distance can be set precisely, with the focus ring not acting directly on the lenses but transmitting control signals to the camera. This also explains why the lens lacks a distance scale. The zoom ring also runs relatively smoothly. However, it is not possible to zoom silently, and when shooting a film, a change in focal length is immortalized on the soundtrack with slight scraping noises.

Panasonic G3 Review

The autofocus is impressively fast – at least for a camera that uses contrast measurement on the image sensor. On average, the G3 focused after about 0.3 seconds, but the predecessor wasn’t any slower either. The tracking AF, which is also available in video mode on the G3, is impressive. When shooting movies, however, you can’t overlook that the autofocus pumps a little until it has found its target. The optical image stabilizer has also proven to be less effective for filming – video recordings with the G3 are much less susceptible to sway from a tripod. The optical image stabilizer does a good job when taking pictures, but the viewfinder image is as if stapled. The stabilizer can be switched to a special mode for draggers, where only vertical camera movements are compensated.

Panasonic G3 Review

Image quality

As much as we were thrilled with the Lumix G2 many years ago, it didn’t quite live up to our expectations in terms of image quality. So the question of whether the G3 delivers better image results was all the more exciting – especially since Panasonic has increased the sensor resolution to 16 megapixels.

 

Panasonic G3 Review

 

A first look at the lab data makes it clear: The G3 has not been harmed by the increase in resolution and the resulting higher pixel density. The input dynamics remain at a high level of almost 10 f-stops (EV) up to ISO 1.600 – and thus only just miss a top rating in this discipline. Beyond ISO 1,600, however, the dynamic range decreases rapidly. A look at the curve of the luminance noise shows why: Up to ISO 1.600, the brightness noise remains in the green area, but at higher sensitivity values it rises steeply. The much more annoying color noise, on the other hand, always remains uncritical and, somewhat unexpectedly, has its small peak already at ISO 200 – an unmistakable sign that at higher ISO numbers the noise suppression intervenes. Looking at the G3 recordings, one can give a very good report even without the corresponding laboratory data of the noise reduction: Even at ISO 3,200, the images show even more detail than the noise curves would suggest, up to ISO 1,600 there is almost as much detail as at base sensitivity.

However, the lens could also make a major contribution to this, and not in the positive sense at all: If the optics have poor resolution, they do not provide any details that the noise reduction can iron out. In fact, the MTF curves of the G Vario 14-42/1:3.5-5.6 on the G3 are anything but impressive: Although this camera/lens combination resolves around 40 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm) in relation to a 35 mm sensor, in itself an acceptable value. Unfortunately, this only applies to the image center, towards the image edges, the resolution decreases rapidly. At the edge of the image, even under the most favourable conditions, not even 30 lp/mm are reached – a value that even good compact cameras can achieve. Due to the relatively small sensor area, the actually achievable resolution beyond f-stop 8 decreases, already resolution-reducing diffraction effects occur. The optics, on the other hand, do a good job of measuring distortion; at less than one percent, distortion is practically invisible. Chromatic aberrations (color fringes at contrast edges) are also a minor problem at best with open aperture – remarkable for a lens in this price range.

Panasonic G3 Review

When it comes to color reproduction, the G3 produces a non-uniform image. The manual white balance adjusts colors very well. The automatic white balance, on the other hand, sometimes has difficulty finding the correct setting. Particularly with scenes in shadows or diffuse light, it enhances the dominant colors, such as the green in deep forests. In general, the photographs show a slightly exaggerated preference for green tones. The fact that the G3 is not always very accurate in terms of color fidelity is also shown by the corresponding measurements in the laboratory. After all, the camera pinches oversaturated colors, the color reproduction is rather strongly adjusted, but by no means gaudy. The same applies to the tonal value curve, which tends moderately towards “crisp”. The image editor is not so happy about this vote, but the photographer who wants to present his pictures on paper or on the monitor without much pen reading. For friends of image processing, the Lumix G3 also records in high-quality RAW format, which bypasses the small weaknesses of image processing in the camera. All in all, the Lumix G3 delivers significantly better image quality than its predecessor, but its full potential can no longer be fully exploited with the set lens.

Panasonic G3 Review

Conclusion

Preserving the good, daring to make necessary improvements – that should be the development goal for every new camera model. Unfortunately – it has to be said so clearly – Panasonic has only half-heartedly oriented itself towards this goal in the G3 and has above all dared to make necessary improvements. Thus the image quality makes a clear leap forward compared to its predecessor. Despite the increased sensor resolution, Panasonic has got the noise problem so well under control with the G3 that it can be used up to ISO 1,600 without regrets. The G3 is also up to date with its video capability, and filming with the camera is something you can see (and hear). In return, unfortunately, a lot of good things from the predecessor fell by the wayside at the G3. Due to the omission of most of the dedicated switches and buttons, and especially the eye sensor, the ergonomics of the camera suffer, although it is still quite easy and quick to operate thanks to the formidable touch screen. The display can be turned and tilted into almost any position, but its resolution is at best average. The G3’s slimmed-down housing doesn’t bring any significant advantages during transport, but it doesn’t lie as well in the hand as the G2 with its pronounced handle. Despite improvements, the continuous shooting speed is still low. The bottom line is that the G3 is a good system camera, but it can’t fully develop its full potential with the set lens. The G3 would have turned out even better if Panasonic hadn’t castrated it so much compared to its predecessor.

Profile

Profile
Manufacturer Panasonic
Model Lumix DMC-G3
Price approx. EUR 600**
Sensor Resolution 16.6 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 4.592 x 3.448
(aspect ratio) (4:3)
Lens Lumix G Vario 1:3,5-5,6/14-42mm Asph. OIS
Filter thread 52 mm
Viewfinder LCOS EVF
Field of view 100 %
Resolution 1.440.000
Enlargement 0,7-fold
Dioptre compensation -4 to +4 dpt.
LCD monitor 3″
Resolution 460.000
rotatable yes
swiveling yes
as Viewfinder yes
Video output AV and HDMI (PAL and NTSC each)
as Viewfinder
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure yes
Scene mode programs
Portrait yes
Children/baby yes
Landscape yes
Macro yes
Sports/action yes
More 22 additional scene modes available
Exposure metering Multi-field, center-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Guide number 8.4 (measurement)
Flash connection System hot shoe
Remote release Cable
Interval recording
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC
Video mode yes
Format Quicktime or AVCHD Lite
Codec Motion-JPEG or H.264
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
at frame rate 50i
Sensitivity
automatically 200-3.200
(upper limit adjustable)
manually ISO 160-6.400
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Shadow, flash, manual color temperature selection
Manually yes
Autofocus
Number of measurement fields 23
AF auxiliary light red-orange
Speed < 0,4 s
Languages English
More 15 additional languages available
Switch-on time approx. 0,3 s
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Weight
(ready for operation)
336 g (body only) 544 g (with lens**)
Continuous shooting function*
Number of serial images 7 (JPEG
)7(RAW)
Frequency
(frames/s
)
4.9 (JPEG
)4.5 (RAW)
Continuous run
(images/s)
0.5 (JPEG
)0.5 (RAW)
with flash
Zoom
Zoom adjustment at the lens
Zoom levels infinitely variable
Time WW to Tele
Memory speeds*
JPEG 0.5 s (2.38MByte)
RAW 2.0 s (18.7 MByte)
Trip during
.Saving possible.
yes
Battery life about 270 pictures
– = “not applicable
“* with Panasonic 4 GB Class 10 SDHC memory card**
with lens Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. OIS

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Thanks to touch screen still good ease of use
  • Large, responsive video viewfinder
  • Very fast, accurate contrast AF
  • Excellent video features including tracking AF and stereo sound
  • Up to ISO 800 very good image quality, up to ISO 1.600 still good

Cons

  • Weaknesses in color reproduction
  • Set lens does not exhaust the potential of the sensor
  • Compared to its predecessor, restrictions in handling and scope of functions

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor 4/3″ 17.3 x 13.0 mm (crop factor 2.0
)16.6 megapixels (physical) and 16.0 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 3.7 µm
Photo resolution
4.592 x 3.448 pixels (4:3)
2.816 x 2.112 pixels (4:3)
2.048 x 1.536 pixels (4:3)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.21), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 25 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 25 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 25 p
Video format
MPG4 [codec MPEG-4]
MPG4 [codec MPEG-4]

Lens

Lens mount
Micro Four Thirds

Focus

Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light

Viewfinder and monitor

SLR viewfinder 17 mm eye relief
Monitor 3.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 460,000 pixels, transreflective
Video finder Video viewfinder available, dioptre compensation

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 144 fields, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 60 s (Automatic
) Bulb function
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 3 shots, increments from 1/3 to 2/3 EV
Exposure Compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 160 to ISO 6.400 (manual)
Scene modes Baby, Landscape, Night scene, Close-up, Party, Portrait, Sunset, Sports/action, and Animals.
Picture effects various tint and filter effects in the parameterizable B/W mode, nostalgic
White balance Automatic, Clouds, Sun, Fine Tuning, Shadow, Tungsten Light, Manual
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting 4.0 fps at highest resolution, or 3 fps with max. 7 consecutive images for RAW recording
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Recording functions Live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (hinged) Flash shoe: Olympus/Panasonic (also Leica compact camera), standard center contact
Flash code Guide number 10 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, red-eye reduction

Equipment And Features

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
SD
Microphone Stereo
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Panasonic DMW-BLD10E (Lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.2 V, 1,010 mAh)
Playback functions Red eye retouching, image rotation, image index, slide show function
Image parameters Sharpness, contrast, color saturation
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous Dust protection filter with ultrasonic self-cleaning functionAutofocus
with scene recognition and trackingAdjustable
exposure parameters in program mode (shift function)
AE lock (AE lock)
AF lock (focuslock)5-step color saturation adjustment5-step
sharpness adjustment5-step
image contrast adjustment3-step
graduation adjustment (high-key, normal, low-key)
LCD image cover: 100%16x
playback
zoomCalendar view
image
playbackLight panel viewSimultaneous

RAW and digital recording

JPEG format possibleDisplay of
the highlightsVenus
Engine FHD Subsequent
image resizing (resolution)
Subsequent saturation correctionRAW processing functionWind protection filter

with four levels

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 115 x 83 x 47 mm
Weight 340 g (ready for operation)

Miscellaneous

standard accessory DMW-BLB10 Li-ion battery chargerUSB connection cableAV cableStretch strapCamera software

Photofunstudio ViewerImage editing software
Silkypix Developer Studio

additional accessories Nikon HDMI cable Audio- / Video cableOlympus
FL-700WR Plug-on flash with swivel reflectorPanasonic
DMW-AC8 Power supplyPanasonic
Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25 mm 1.7(H-X1025) zoom lensDMW-BLB10
Li-ion replacement battery Removable memory cardFourThirds adapter

DMW-MA1Stereomicrophone
DMW-MS1Flash units
DMW-FL220, DMW-FL360 and DMW-FL500

 

, Panasonic G3 Review
Peter Denchhttps://viaf.org/viaf/9766152744556027850001/
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.

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