Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pansonic GF3 review

The GF3 does not get much love from Camera enthusiasts. The original retail price in kit form was $599. At that price, it seemed to be a big let down from Panasonic. It was a bit of a disappointment from the original Panasonic GF1. Rightly so, at that price point, I wouldn't even consider it. The G3/GX1 would be better buys. However, with the right discounts, it is an awesome street camera.

This post will be about how awesome the camera is at $24.00. Let me explain in my post as you read along. I'm not going to post technical details, sample picts or give a professional review. You can find those pixel peeping reviews at dpreview and judge quality by photos posted on Flickr. The camera is competent in the right hands.

Now for my take.

Most camera gear-heads buy kit cameras with the intention of unloading the kit lens and keeping the body. I did quite the opposite last month. I bought a Panasonic GF3 kit with the intention of keeping the lens and selling the body to recoup my purchase on the lens.

The 14mm  f/2.5 Panasonic micro 4/3 lens has been getting some decently good reviews. In particular, I was sold on Steve Huff's review.

The 14mm lens by itself sells for $290-$299. (Yes, I know you can get it way cheaper in Singapore but this post is tailored toward US readers).

The normal kit (camera and lens) retails for $599. Prices have since dropped with the introduction of the GF5. At that price, I would never touch the camera. It is now cratering at $399 which makes it a good buy.

However, one day in May. Amazon had a "Gold Box" special for $314. I am an avid slickdeals reader and when the deal went live, I could not resist.
Cost of Kit from Amazon $314 - lens $290 = $24.00 added for an extra camera body I had no intention of keeping.

I only bought the kit for the lens and the camera was just a freebie extra body. At $24, it is a screaming deal. Have in mind, I was already intending to buy the lens. At first, I was going to sell the camera body to offset the purchases. I already had a EP1 and an Olympus OM-D EM5 on order.

Something changed my mind. Size. This camera may not compete with other micro four third cameras but it obliterates all the high-end P&S bridge cameras.

Most notably, it will perform better than cameras such as the highly touted Panasonic LX5, Olympus XZ-1 and Fuji X10 due to sheer sensor size. It's sensor is five times the size of those cameras as well as the newer prosumer point and shoots like the SonyRX100/Nikon CX.

Here is a chart showing the size advantage of the Micro 4/3 over the other $400-600 point and shoot bridge cameras. The closest competitor is the new Sony RX100 with its 1" sensor depicted in yellow.

Okay, we all know micro 4/3 camera sensors are way better than the Fuji X10 and Oly XZ-1. But what about size? Aren't those cameras a lot smaller. Well, I'll post some screen grabs from for comparison:,160,129,180

With the 14mm lens, the camera is quite small. It can be the perfect walk-around camera. Those size comparison completely change my outlook on this camera.

It shoots RAW, does 1080p video, and even has a flash. So they took out the hot-shoe, there are no manual dials and it doesn't have an EVF option. Hence, the fuss and disappointment from GF1 owners.

However, despite those missing features, it is still better than most of its competitors. You don't have a dial for your A/S settings but you can still manually set aperture/shutter/iso and have full control via the touchscreen menus. Yes, it feels like playing with a smart phone and it is not the most intuitive. Still, it is better than a camera without ANY manual controls.

It also takes all the same lenses as my $1300 Olympus OM-D.

This could be my backup body. Instead of swapping out lenses all the times, I can now use the camera as a spare back when I need to.

So, for many of you existing micro 4/3 owners who are looking to get the 14mm lens, you can get the benefit of a spare camera back. This makes an excellent "beater" camera to have around that will give you better than prosumer results from its competitors (LX5/XZ-1/X10).

Have in mind, $314 was an awesome deal and it may never happen again. However, it is a discontinued model so I expect prices to drop. I've seen it for $330-$360. So, major discounts are not far off.

So how does it fair? Quite nice. I may be starting to question the major price difference between this and the OM-D.

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