Critics praise the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 (*Est. $500 with 14-42 mm kit lens) as a solid alternative for compact-camera users who want better image quality and advanced shooting options in a simple design. Smaller and lighter than its GF2 predecessor, the GF3 offers the performance and photo quality "many point-and-shoot graduates will like," says CNET's Lori Grunin. Built around a Micro Four Thirds sensor, the 12.1-megapixel GF3 retains most of the GF2's features including touch screen controls, full HD 1080i video and a swappable lens system. The GF3 adds a new scroll dial that editors at TechRadar.com find "useful for speedy menu navigation and setting adjustments." However, Panasonic has replaced stereo mics with mono sound and dropped the flash hotshoe and accessory port, making the GF3 the only G-series camera that doesn't accommodate an electronic or optical viewfinder. Instead, images are composed on the GF3's 3-inch LCD screen, which doesn't tilt like those found on the Olympus PEN E-PL3 (*Est. $650) or the Sony NEX-C3 (*Est. $550).
Photo-wise, experts say the GF3 performs admirably, delivering sharp outdoor images and vivid colors, but the 16-megapixel NEX-C3 trumps it in low-light settings thanks to a much larger sensor. Still, Mark Goldstein at PhotographyBlog.com says the GF3 produces "excellent" noise-free images up to ISO 800, and he is equally pleased with night shots. Critics also rave about the GF3's quick autofocus and continuous shooting speeds, which clock in at 3.8 frames per second (fps), though for fast action shots the more expensive Canon EOS 7D (*Est. $1,500 body only) takes a blistering 8 fps.
Aside from the 14-42 mm lens (*Est. $500), Panasonic also offers the GF3 with a collapsible 14-42 mm zoom lens (*Est. $650) or a 14 mm fixed pancake lens (*Est. $600), or you can simply purchase a body-only version (*Est. $400).
We found thorough reviews of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 at PCMag.com and CNET, who both size up design and performance in concise hands-on reports. DPReview.com, PhotographyBlog.com and TechRadar.com evaluate the GF3 in exhaustive detail. Testers at CameraLabs.com show how the GF3 compares against its Sony and Olympus rivals. A handful of GF3 owners provide useful feedback at Amazon.com.
Despite the absence of a flash hotshoe, external viewfinder and stereo sound, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 will appeal to compact camera users "looking for DSLR-like results from an even simpler and more compact design," says Photography Blog.com's Mark Goldstein, who adds that the GF3 produces "excellent" images but that it becomes "tricky" to hold with a large telephoto lens attached.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 Review, Mark Goldstein, July 6, 2011
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 is an "ideal alternative to a compact camera," says Angela Nicholson, who likes its high-quality images, extensive controls and easy handling. But the inability to attach an electronic or optical viewfinder is a drawback.
Review: Panasonic GF3 Review -- Small, Classy and Touchy-Feely, Angela Nicholson, July 18, 2011
Design and price put the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 "squarely in the sights of those looking to upgrade from a compact camera," say editors, who are relieved that the GF3 resolves longstanding criticisms about poor skin tone rendering. High image quality and simple control layout are pluses, but a dated sensor and flash hotshoe omission keep the GF3 from winning DPReview.com's Silver award.
Review: Panasonic DMC-GF3 Review, Editors of DPReview.com, Aug. 2011
Although low-light performance isn't on par with the Sony NEX-C3, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 is easy to use and satisfies shutterbugs looking for image quality and manual controls in a compact package, says Jim Fisher. The camera's speed and "excellent" video quality receive praise, but the "crisp" LCD is hard to view in sunlight and the Sony NEX-C3 delivers better low-light performance.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3, Jim Fisher, Dec. 2, 2011
With photo quality that "borders just enough on excellent to push the rating over to that side," the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 is a "compelling upgrade" for point-and-shooters, says Lori Grunin. Color reproduction is pleasing and images are sharp. The GF3's speed also impresses, but the fixed LCD screen and missing viewfinder option are downsides.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 with 14mm Lens (Black), Lori Grunin, July 29, 2011
Most owners here are happy with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3, giving it 4 out of 5 stars for ease of use, image quality and compact design. One user considers it "a great upgrade camera for point and shooters." But some note that despite excellent photos, the GF3 has its limitations: no flash hotshoe, viewfinder port or stereo sound.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3, Contributors to Amazon.com