Panasonic's Lumix G3 mirrorless interchangeable lens camera is the company's latest addition to what it likes to call its "compact system cameras " lineup. The G3 features a viewfinder like its predecessor, the G2, but is both more compact and a bit lighter than the earlier camera.
The G3 adds a full 1080 HD video capability not found in the G2, along with a one-touch dedicated video capture button. Resolution jumps to 16 megapixels (from 12.1) with Venus Engine FHD processing technology and Panasonic is claiming improved noise performance over the earlier camera despite all those extra pixels residing on the new sensor.
There's a new LightSpeed AF system that offers fast auto focus times and improved manual focus performance per Panasonic. The camera will initially be offered in kit form with a Lumix 14-42 zoom lens (our review unit), and there are currently eleven Lumix lenses available, along with older Leica "M" and "R" lenses that may be mounted via adaptor.
I've been out with the G3 for two days now, and a few things are becoming clear. The camera seems to acquire focus quickly - quicker than a high end compact but perhaps just a hair slower than an entry-level DSLR, the market segments the G3 seems to target. Shutter lag seems to be pretty quick, but not quite DSLR quick.
Continuous shooting rates are up to 4 frames per second at full resolution but the electronic viewfinder lags just bit more than a DSLR's pentaprism/mirror arrangement in returning to the shooting screen. Still image quality appears competitive with an entry level DSLR and the camera can shoot RAW files. Flash recycle times look to be a bit slower than the typical DSLR, and the lens hood on the 14-42 throws a shadow into the frame on many flash shots.
The one-touch video capture button works well, and when set for continuous AF the G3 does a good job adjusting focus as subject distances change. Video quality is very good, among the best overall I've seen out of a still camera with a video component. Full HD is available in AVCHD format only, but you can shoot 720 HD in the more universally recognized MPEG format.
There is one fly in the video ointment, however - the G3 has shown a fairly noticeable bit of rolling shutter effect with modest panning speeds and vertical straight lines. Rolling shutter effect is a consequence of a CMOS sensor's operation during image capture, but some cameras deal with it better than others. At least so far, the G3 looks to be better than some but worse than others in this regard. Even so, video looks to be a strong point with the G3.
The G3 shoot is still in the preliminary stages and first impressions are just that. We'll have a more complete review of this new Panasonic in the not too distant future.