Being a hybrid or bridge camera, we’d expect the G3 to outperform high end compacts and approach entry-level DSLRs in many performance parameters. How does the new Panasonic measure up?
The G3 presents a focus point about 0.75 seconds after power up, quicker than the compacts but slower than most DSLRs. I was able to get off a first shoot in about 1.25 seconds – again, better than a compact but trailing the DSLR. Single shot-to-shot times ran about 1.25 seconds with shutter lag coming in at 0.01 seconds and AF acquisition time at 0.23 seconds.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Digital Camera||Time (seconds)|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3||0.01|
|Sony alpha NEX-5||0.05|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3||0.23|
|Sony alpha NEX-5||0.39|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3||18||4.5 fps|
|Samsung NX10||12||3.3 fps|
|Olympus E-PL2||16||3.2 fps|
|Sony alpha NEX-5||∞||2.6 fps|
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
The shutter lag surprised me, as the camera doesn’t feel like it fires that quickly. There’s some shutter noise associated with tripping the shutter, but apparently capture is accomplished without being necessarily tied into the noise, so the camera sounds slow but shoots fast. AF time is good by compact standards, but toward the slow end of the spectrum for a DSLR. Our AF time was a bit slower than the 0.18 seconds claimed by Panasonic for the 14-42 lens; their time puts the G3 in the hunt with entry level DSLRs.
We also got a 4.5 fps continuous shooting rate at full resolution, 0.5 fps faster than Panasonic advertises. Our full resolution JPEG continuous string ran to 18 frames before the buffer needed a break; Panasonic claims a 7 shot capacity when capturing in RAW. In continuous mode there was a brief blackout between each frame in the EVF, much better than most compacts and a bit worse than a DSLR. You have to anticipate a little bit with the G3; a lot with a compact and hardly at all with a DSLR.
The G3 built-in flash has a guide number of 10.5 meters at ISO 160 – with the maximum apertures of f/3.5 and f/5.6 at the wide and telephoto ends of the 14-42 zoom, that translates into a range out to about 10 feet at wide angle, and about 6.25 feet at telephoto. The camera has a hot shoe to accept an external flash gun. Recycle times on the flash varied from around 2.75 seconds to almost 6 seconds – compact digital times at best, and not really competitive with a DSLR.
Leaving the lens hood on the 14-42 when shooting flash invites casting a shadow on images, particularly with the lens zoomed toward the telephoto end. The 14-42 is an external zoom, which means the lens barrel extends as you zoom toward telephoto, and with various permutations of focal length and distance to the subject, the hood can cast a visible shadow onto the frame in flash shots.
Leave off the hood for flash work and all’s well.
Battery life is a disappointing 270 images – down from the 350+ images listed for the G2.
The Lumix 14-42mm zoom turned in a pretty good performance overall – with the 2x crop factor of Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds sensors, the lens shot at 28 to 84mm in 35mm equivalents. The maximum apertures of f/3.5 and f/5.6 are typical for kit lenses on entry level DSLRs, and the 14-42 showed just a bit of barrel distortion at wide angle, with an equally slight pincushion distortion at telephoto. There is chromic aberration (purple fringing) in about equal doses at both ends of the zoom in some high contrast boundary areas – in some cases visible at 100% enlargement. Even so, enlargements in the 200 to 400% range are more apt to show the problem.
The wide end of the zoom shows some softness in the corners, but is not bad otherwise – the telephoto end seems a bit sharper in the corners and is likewise not bad elsewhere.
As mentioned up in the flash section, the 14-42 is an external focus lens that changes barrel length when zooming, but the front element does not rotate so filters such as a polarizing filter are not impacted by zooming.