I've had the good fortune to review a number of the new mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras as they appeared - Sony's NEX 5, the Samsung NX10, Panasonic's GF1 and GF2, and now the G3. Mirrorless interchangeables are an exciting new breed, and it's always a treat to get my hands on one and see where the technology has advanced to. With DSLRs being my camera of choice (and reading glasses now a way of life for close up work), I tend to appreciate viewfinders all the more. So it comes as no surprise that the G3 is my clear favorite mirrorless to date.
There's a lot to like about the Panasonic G3, starting with the viewfinder. It's big and bright and features diopter adjustment. The camera itself is small and light, virtually an afterthought compared to my D3s with a 24-70 zoom. Image quality is very good - the sensor is the same physical size as Olympus DSLRs and the Lumix lens does a pretty good job of getting the image to the sensor with minimal distortion.
AF performance beats a compact and rivals an entry level DSLR, even when working in dimmer conditions. Shutter lag subjectively seems a bit slow, but our stopwatch objectively says otherwise. High ISO noise performance leaves compacts in the dust and gets in the ballpark with the current generation DSLRs. Video performance is among the best I've seen in a still camera. And all this can be yours for the price of an entry level DSLR with kit lens. Is there anything not to like? Battery life isn't so hot, and flash recycle times tend to be compact digital slow. And perhaps near-DSLR performance at a DSLR price.
For someone considering a camera to improve upon compact digital image quality, the mirrorless interchangeable lens genre is a slam dunk. The hard decisions come when you have to decide whether to just keep on going past the mirrorless and jump in with both feet to the wonderful world of the DSLR. The mirrorless models have their size and weight going for them, along with image quality that is in the DSLR league. The DSLR is still a bit more refined, starting quicker, shooting continuously a bit better, and taking no backseat in terms of image quality. But if size and weight become the driving force, then make mine a mirrorless, and make it a G3.
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