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Panasonic G3: My hands-on first impressions

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by Pelao, May 13, 2011.

  1. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    This morning I visited the annual Photo and Imaging show here in Toronto, and Panasonic had a G3 on display, next to the GF2, G2 and GH2.

    I played with it for about 20 minutes (I was early, and soon there was a line of potential G3 victims).

    Some impressions:

    1. Size.
    If you imagine it without the the rear of the VF protruding, I would say the body feels similar in size to my GF1, and therefore a little larger than the GF2.

    2. Build
    Very solid. I think it feels more solid than the GH2, but part of that is because it is much cleaner due to fewer controls, and simply has a solid uninterrupted flow to the body design. Clearly it's very strong, and though it is light feels every bit as robust as my GF1.

    3. Interface and usability
    For me this is the important part, assuming of course that it can take good images.
    it was good to be able to compare it to the G2 and GH2, both of which feel good, with plenty of good controls set out in a logical fashion. I held the G3 for a while, took some shots, changed settings etc, then did the same with the GH2.

    On the one hand I noticed some more roominess with the GH2 right away - it's simply larger. But then, the plethora of controls encroaches upon this room. This is not a negative comment, simply an observation that on a relatively small body there are a lot of controls all around your hands on the GH2.

    I then picked up the G3, and for an instant was dismayed. It is, simply, diminutive in comparison. This is a really small camera, yet it has a VF. My dismay came from the thought that I already found the GH2 borderline overcrowded (but very effective in actual use) and this little thing would be cramped - I really use camera controls a lot.

    The reality is that the G3 is very well designed. When you look at pictures of the rear it seems the two Fn buttons are kind of oddly placed and might be hard to reach, especially when using the VF. In fact, your right thumb fits perfectly into place (my hands are what I would call medium) and within seconds the camera felt really natural.

    I changed some button settings to my preferences, and then took some more shots, changing parameters as I did so. I had the upper Fn button as AE lock, for example. So with the VF to my eye I changed ISO, used AE lock, used the wheel for Exp Comp, and clicked it back for Aperture etc.

    The wheel is smaller than on my GF1, which is a pity, but it still works very well and for me is much preferred to having two separate wheel / dial things to deal with. The ISO button was easy to feel, and then of course you use the 4-way controller or the wheel to spin up the ISO you need.

    I will admit to being pleasantly surprised - though very small, the G3 really can be used efficiently and quickly, without any 'thumb or finger searching' while held to your eye. The design is well thought out.

    You really have to pick it up and use it properly in order to judge for yourself, but my experience has helped me understand the positive comments of the current online previews.

    4. Focus
    Super fast and super accurate in really challenging light, using the kit lens. Very, very impressive. I remain delighted with my GF1 in terms of auto-focus, but this is in a different league. In numbers terms it's most certainly a small difference. In actual use, it's wow.

    5. VF
    Its a classic Panasonic state-of-the-art VF. If you like using a good EVF you will be happy.

    6. Rear screen
    No issues. Very bright. Touch works well if you like that sort of thing.

    7. Menus
    They have been tidied up, and the icons are larger, and a much more effective font for clarity, speeding up use considerably.

    8. Shutter sound
    Hard to tell in a show hall, but I think softer than the GF1: I had hoped for something a lot quieter, but it's OK.

    Overall

    The big thing is, as always, to start with your needs and photographic outputs. If they would benefit from a small, but very competent interchangeable lens camera with a VF and swivel screen, you need to give this camera a good visit.

    It's true that there are major concessions to P&S users moving up, but advanced users can be happy with the interface. It has moved on from some conventions, and part of me still would prefer some of the removed direct controls to be returned - but then it would be a larger camera. If the RAW output turns out to be solid, you would be able to use this for hiking / landscape work, wildlife with a long lens, and all your family stuff. With a pancake on board it is almost invisible, and will focus in an instant. Really discreet and powerful street camera.

    As I drove home, I kept thinking that the G3 is a thoroughly modern camera, and that's where I will leave it for now.

    Afterthought: I should add that while my comments are basically very positive, I would not describe myself as 'blown-away' (really irritating phrase...) by the G3 - not yet, anyway. I would need to see RAW results, and would need to see it again. But I am impressed with it, much more than I thought I would be.

    I played with the camera for quite a while, and I would be happy to try and answer any questions you may have.

    I hope this is vaguely useful. Please bear in mind these are my personal views, based on how I might use the G3.
     
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  2. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Northumberland
    This seems important ;
    Cameras which claim a selling point of unusually fast AF are often 'tweaked' by being measured using the best lens for that role. I think Olympus DSLRs usually claim for the 12-60SWD. Getting very quick results indoors with a kit lens might be a real winner!
     
  3. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Exactly - that's why it impressed me: it was the newer 14-42, and the light was that grim, end of world, get me outta here trade-show stuff. ISO was 200. Half press = snap to focus. No fuss, just snap.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    I just picked up my GF1 + EVF to make a photograph. I love using this camera. playing with the G3 this morning, particularly the top-notch EVF, and the articulating screen in a package about the same size, has really made an impact. Suddenly my GF1 feels a little less complete.

    :confused:
     
  5. Diane B

    Diane B Mu-43 Regular

    44
    Nov 8, 2010
    I like that LOL. I've sat here all evening handling and shooting with both my G1 and GF1. I came to the conclusion that the general size of the GF1 suits best but has never pleased me ergonomically. i added the 1/2 leather case for a bit more grip, I bought the aux. EVF immediately and always have it attached but often miss the tilt LCD. SO--I end up shooting with the G1. This seems like a good compromise to me. I'm not that concerned with "smaller", in fact a bit concerned I may find it a bit too small, but when I sit my 5D next to either the G1 or GF1 I'm a happy camper LOL. So--the G3 seems a good fit for me. I'm not even waiting to see RAW shots though in the end that's why I'm upgrading, no other reason. I figure if I hate it I can resell and buy the GH2 at some point. I'm expecting not to have to do that.

    Oh, I have the original 14-45. Wonder if it will be as snappy with it. Also have the 45-200, the 4/3 9-18 with adapter, 20/1.7, 17/2.8, 45/2.8 and quite a few FDs, Nikkors and a Hexanon plus the Lensbaby tilt/Composer and more. Hoping I'll like all of these on the G3.

    Thanks again Pelao. Your observations and report have been really helpful.

    Diane
     
  6. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    You are welcome. I look forward to hearing what you you think of the camera when you get your hands on it.
     
  7. Bill

    Bill Mu-43 Regular

    176
    Apr 15, 2009
    Brisbane, Australia
    Bill (really)
    Long live the new King?

    First, many thanks, Pelao. Your post provides the information that the specifications in other reviews doesn't.

    In another thread I mentioned an opportunity to handle the X100. What I didn't mention was the X100's EVF. It's definitely innovative. But compared to my G1's finder it was underwhelming. Your review confirms my already high opinion of the Panasonic EVF.


    Your review supports my initial impression that the G3 (with my 20mm) will be both carryable and functional for my needs. The rangfinder/DSLR size gap may be (sufficiently) bridged by the G3. If so, I'm buying one.


    So, here's the question: Can we now say, "The rangefinder King is dead; long live the new mirrorless King?"


    Thanks again.
     
  8. travisennis

    travisennis Mu-43 Regular

    63
    Dec 27, 2010
    Indiana
    Thanks, Pelao. I wasn't expecting to be interested in the G3 but the early previews and you hands-on description have made me think it might be an excellent upgrade to my GF-1.
     
  9. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Well, at the same show Fuji had plenty of X100's to play with. Last year they only had a mock-up, but this time it was the real thing.

    I really liked it a lot. The OVF left a really good impression, the EVF less so, though it's still very good in my view. I found the camera to be a natural fit, and very pleasant to bring to the eye and frame a shot.

    I also found elements of the interface to be downright amateurish and goofy. But with a few exceptions easily changed if Fuji choose to do so. It's a very nice camera, and one that might really tempt me if I wanted to have a number of cameras.

    I know that I like it partly because it appears to be designed for photographers, rather than to please the latest technological trend. I do think though that it is gaining a little more attention than it deserves because so little else out there appears to put the photographer first.

    Anyway, I like it and really appreciate that there is choice and innovation happening. Good stuff. I am not comfortable with phrases such as "the new xxx is the yyy killer". I think that the X100 is perfect as a primary camera for some people, and as an additional camera for many more.

    Personally, right now my priority is to get the most flexible and versatile camera, with image quality I need for the printing I like to do, and be able to fit it in a small bag.
     
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  10. Linh

    Linh Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 14, 2009
    Maryland, US
    Definitely good to hear your thoughts on it. Having a GF1, I was afraid of where Panasonic was heading. It seems this G3 is actually something I'd upgrade to. I just hope they don't go turning left when they should have turned right... as much as it'd be a nice upgrade, my GF1+EVF isn't going anywhere soon unless the G3 has a magical 3 stop improvement at 3200 =)
     
  11. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    One concern that I forgot to mention: it seemed to me the iA button was perfectly placed for an accidental press, and in fact this happened to me. I don't want to overstate it, but on all these small, crowded bodies, accidently button activation is something we need to look for. However, I have since read that you can alter the iA button so that it requires a double-press to activate. Perfect (at least for me).
     
  12. nickthetasmaniac

    nickthetasmaniac Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 11, 2011
    This is why I'm so delighted to see that the G3 has 2 Custom Modes. Accidentally changing settings was something that plagued me when using the EP1/EPL2 - but with the custom modes, you can just shift it out of Cx, then back into Cx and everything is back where you want it :)
     
  13. Linh

    Linh Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 14, 2009
    Maryland, US
    now only if they can let me remap the iA button to a 3rd custom function...
     
  14. apicius9

    apicius9 Mu-43 Veteran

    348
    Feb 1, 2010
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Very informative, thanks! A while ago, I said if they bring out a GF1 sized camera with better low light capability, a built-in VF and an articulated screen I would be all over it. And I think if I still had my GH1 I probably would be the first one to order the G3. But I bought a GH2 for a lot of money very recently, and I am wondering whether I am being short-changed a bit, especially because video is also secondary for me. It doesn't feel right to trade in (down?) the GH2 for the G3, especially before I know more about the IQ in RAW. If a firmware update for the GH2 at least includes the new magnification mode I'll probably be o.k., but I do feel a bit grumpy that I had to pay twice the price for a camera that is only a few % better than the model that follows a few months later... I guess I'll pay more atention to how often I really change the settings using the dedicated buttons, wait for more info on IQ, and start saving a bit...

    Stefan
     
  15. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    I can understand how you feel, especially if video is secondary for you. It will be interesting to see how the RAW analysis on the G3 works it - it is after all an entirely different sensor. You never know, it may not be up the GH2 standards, though the difference may only be noticeable when peeping or in very large prints. But - bear in mind that the GH2 is, by all accounts, an excellent camera. Enjoy it.

    Overall, I think the various cameras the MFT guys are trying reflects the struggle to find the place where they can really differentiate themselves from the more traditional DSLR.

    I read somewhere, in an initial preview, that in the reviewers opinion, G3 jpegs match those of the EOS 60D. In addition, the focus is very, very fast. While the G3 is not pocketable, it is certainly much smaller in overall than a 60D. Interesting times.
     
  16. Bill

    Bill Mu-43 Regular

    176
    Apr 15, 2009
    Brisbane, Australia
    Bill (really)
    Times they are a changin'



    It seems I was unclear. (It's not the first time.)

    My comment (in the context of my remarks) wasn't intend to address the X100 in particular (I was quite impressed by it), but to ask the more general question: If cameras with high quality viewfinders can be made as small as the G3, will this signal the end of the rangefinder (Leica, X100, GF1) style?
     
  17. Diane B

    Diane B Mu-43 Regular

    44
    Nov 8, 2010
    I really had expected to buy the GH2 even as late as a few days ago as the rumors about the G3 kept surfacing. I had made myself wait for the G3's announcement as video is very unimportant to me but still wanted. I agree about upgrading so often. In the beginning with Canon digital DSLRs I upgraded each model but there were pretty big improvements being made. i stopped with my 5D and now with MFT I didn't want more than I needed. But I suppose we won'T have too much more to talk about until some of us actually have the camera in hand LOL. Discussion about its overhanging EVF and pocketability and curves are going to run their course quickly. We need an actual camera LOL. Glad at least a few have handled and shot with it.

    Diane

     
  18. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Texas
    If more companies made true rangefinder digitals, I don't think there would be an issue at all....
     
  19. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    To be more exact, the GH2 is only a few % better than the G3 for the features that you use. If the G3 stills are as good as the GH2's (and there's little reason to think that they won't be), then it might make sense for you to sell the GH2 and get the G3 plus a lens...

    Newer, cheaper models exceeding older models is par for the course these days. Imagine Pentax K-7 owners after the K-x at less than 1/2 the price produced high ISO images....