Sunday, 28 August 2011

Panasonic G3 - Personal Review

Panasonic Leica m4/3 25mm f/1.4 Lumix G3

This is a fairly short review and personal evaluation of the camera. For a much more complete analysis of what the changes are from previous G series cameras and how it performs in detail the excellent review at Dpreview is well worth a read.

What follows is very much a personal hands-on.

Panasonic Lumix G3 25mm f/1.4 lens
Panasonic Lumix G3 25mm f/1.4 lens

Handling and Design

I'm surprised at how much I've grown to like the Panasonic G3. When I first picked one up I didn't take to it at all. I really didn't like the handgrip, which struck me as neither one thing or the other. The camera also felt too small for my hand and uncomfortable. I've got over that by "customising" a Leica M8/9 case.The same one I use for my Olympus E-P3. 

This gives the G3 a much more solid feel, and now when fitted in the case it has become, for me, exactly the right size for comfortable handling.

In terms of operation its not that far removed from other G series cameras. There is a bit too much touch screen for my liking, but most of the important functions are accessible via buttons and knobs. The menus seem fairly similar and I had no problem in navigating them.

The loss of the eye sensor that switches between the EVF and the screen is a shame, and having to press a button to select between them is less satisfactory than the system on the previous G and GH cameras.

Two nice features

The two new keynote features of the camera are both excellent. I absolutely love the pinpoint focus. I shoot a lot of close up images of flowers, plants etc. and am often seeking to isolate them from the background. Often the AF systems of cameras will not recognise that I want to do this and will focus on what is the dominant area of the composition, more often than not, the background. The pinpoint focus plus the magnified view it brings up, enables accurate and precise focus on even very small areas. Once I'd used it a few times, I wondered why all cameras don't have it.

The following were all taken using it. The enlarged sections also serve to show the excellent images quality and sharpness that the sensor is capable of.

All are taken with the Olympus 12mm f/2 lens which works really well with the camera.
Panasonic Lumix G3 12mm f/2 lens

Panasonic Lumix G3 12mm f/2 lens

Panasonic Lumix G3 12mm f/2 lens

Panasonic Lumix G3 12mm f/2 lens

Panasonic Lumix G3 12mm f/2 lens

Panasonic Lumix G3 12mm f/2 lens

The other nice feature is the manual focusing magnification aid, which now has an option whereby the magnified section appears as a small box in the middle of the screen, allowing you to focus while seeing whats going on the rest of the frame. This makes manual focusing much quicker in fast moving situations. A nice addition.

Panasonic Lumix G3 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Panasonic Lumix G3 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

Image Quality

Very good indeed. Whether its true or not, my feeling is that the sensor in the G3 is marginally better than the GH2. The images seem "cleaner". By that I mean they seem to have less luminance noise or "graininess" that I felt the GH2 had, even at low ISO's. Certainly I've been getting spectacular results with the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 and Olympus 12mm f/2 lenses.

Panasonic Lumix G3 25mm f/1.4 lens
Panasonic Lumix G3 25mm f/1.4 lens

Panasonic Lumix G3 12mm f/2 lens
Panasonic Lumix G3 12mm f/2 lens

Video

There is no doubt that if Video is very important to you or even your primary concern, then the GH2 is the more versatile camera. However for my needs the G3 is just fine, and it produces beautifully sharp HD footage.


Conclusion

I am very pleased with it, and it has proved a wonderful vehicle for lenses such as the 25mm and 12mm. I've got it setup for how I like to work, and the addition of the Leica case now makes it feel very much like a Leica! Well certainly the same size anyway. I really love the image quality and after using the NEX-C3 for a while I've certainly noticed the extra sharpness from the m4/3 sensor. I'm hoping that the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 will appear soon, so that I can work with a three lens fast prime kit.

I bought the camera because of the problems I was having with the clicking aperture blade problem on the 25mm f/1.4 lens, but I'm really glad I did. I'm going to doing some comparison tests between this and the NEX-C3 soon, so I'll write more about the image quality and ISO performance then.

However, this was certainly money well spent.

Panasonic Lumix G3 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Panasonic Lumix G3 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

Panasonic Lumix G3 12mm f/2 lens
Panasonic Lumix G3 12mm f/2 lens