The Lumix DMC-G3 becomes Panasonic's "smallest and lightest digital interchangeable lens camera with a viewfinder" following its May 2011 introduction. Anytime a camera successor pops up a year after the previous model my first question tends to be whether the new model offers more than a modest re-work or is being offered primarily as a marketing exercise. The Lumix G2 has actually been out a bit longer than a year, but the time frame is still within my window of wondering.
A quick glance from a distance at both the G2 and about-to-arrive G3 might suggest the modest re-work theory has some merit, but a closer look indicates that while Panasonic didn't start with a clean sheet of design paper, the new camera is not merely a re-badged G2. That "smallest and lightest" tout is our first clue - the G3 comes in at 4.54 x 3.29 x 1.84 inches versus 4.88 x 3.29 x 2.91 for the G2, and ready-to-shoot weight with the 14-42 lens has dropped from 593 grams to 544. There are subtle contour changes to the body, which Panasonic notes is made of aluminum (but seems to have some composite woven into the mix) and the focus controls that occupied the top left portion of the G2 body are gone; the handgrip area of the body is less pronounced as well.
The big changes include a resolution increase to 16 megapixels (the basic user's manual provided with the camera says 15.83 megapixel effective resolution) on the camera's Micro Four Thirds system CMOS sensor and the inclusion of full 1080HD video, along with a dedicated video capture button that provides one-touch video capture from any shooting mode. The G3 features a new Precision Contrast LightSpeed AF system that allows the focus point of the camera to be positioned anywhere on the monitor by touch (with that point following the subject if it moves via AF tracking), a new Pinpoint AF option that allows extremely fine positioning of the AF point, as well as a more conventional 23 focus point capability.
The articulating 3.0-inch LCD monitor has picked up a bit more range of motion compared to the G2. The G3 will be offered in kit form initially, paired with the Lumix 14-42 zoom lens - and with a $700 MSRP that comes in $100 lower than the G2 when it was introduced. The camera will also be available as a body-only for $600. Here's the view at both ends of the kit lens:
That MSRP puts the G3 head-to-head with Nikon's D3100 and right in the middle of Canon's entry-level fleet of six Rebels. The G3 can accept SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media and Panasonic includes a battery charger and battery, body cap, AV and USB cables, a shoulder strap, stylus pen, CD-ROM software and printed basic user's manual with each camera.
I've reviewed the Panasonic GF-1 and 2 for this site, but this is my first outing with a plain "G" model, and I'm as curious as you to see how it does.
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