An interchangeable lens camera with Panasonic's (and Olympus') Micro Four Thirds lens mount and sensor standards, the G3 will adopt a form factor similar to that of DSLRs, but will sport a smaller footprint. In fact, the G3 will be closer to the size of the GF rangefinder model and will be Panasonic's most compact digital interchangeable lens camera with a viewfinder.
Darin Pepple, Panasonic's senior product manager, explained that the DSLR form factor is a design choice that carries certain benefits, but generally appeals to what he admits is a minority of the populace.
"It's usually the older group that wants this, maybe about 20% of our customers," he said of the form factor. "But those are the people who are looking for traditional features, like how it feels it the hand and easier use in bright light because of the [live] viewfinder." Aside from the shape and 1.44m-dot viewfinder, the DSLR-like experience of the G3 also provides users with an external -- albeit simplified, in this case -- mode dial that offers quick access to common modes like program, shutter and aperture priority, and manual control.
With the G3, as with all Micro Four Thirds cameras, there is no mirror box inside, which, in addition to reducing the size of the camera itself, allows the lenses to be smaller since they can be closer to the sensor. The sensor is bigger than what is found in a point-and-shoot camera, but still smaller than what's found in a DSLR.
The 16-megapixel MOS sensor will offer high quality images with improved low-light shots and better depth of field, but the G3 will still operate with the user-friendliness of a point-and-shoot, which is part of what sets it apart from the competition.
"What makes these cameras different is their functionality and how you relate to them," said Pepple.
Pepple explained that for the average camera user, switching from automatic shooting to manual control can be "a big jump," so Panasonic created a setting that falls somewhere between the two. The G3 features the new Intelligent Auto Plus setting (an enhanced version of Panasonic's token Intelligent Auto), which allows users some freedom in adjusting certain photo elements while still maintaining a certain level of automatic control.
"It's like a Point and Shoot world with just a little bit of manual control," Pepple said of Intelligent Auto Plus. With this updated system, users can make on-the-fly adjustments to certain factors like zoom, focus, white balance, and exposure just by using the G3's 3.0-inch, rotatable touchscreen. For instance, adjustments to facets like white balance or exposure are handled with a slider on the touchscreen, requiring only the swipe of a finger to change them. Meanwhile, tapping an object on-screen will cause the camera to zoom in on it or shift focus priority to said object.
"You don't have to think about it," said Pepple. "It just does it."
The G3's power isn't just limited to its photos, either; it's capable of shooting 1920 x 1080 full-HD video with stereo sound. Users can quickly shoot video without having to change modes, thanks to a dedicated video button, and can choose to record in either MPEG or AVCHD video formats.
Other features include a built-in flash, a hotshoe for accessories, a rearranged button scheme, and a Creative Control mode, which lets users take photos with certain visuals effects such as Retro, High Key, Sepia, and High Dynamic.
Pricing and availability
The Lumix G3 will ship with the 14-42mm zoom lens and will come in a variety of colors, including black, brown, red, and white. It will be available in June for a suggested retail price of $699.99.
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