back to article Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 MFT compact unveiled

Last week, Sony announced to the world that it had produced the smallest APS-C interchangeable lens camera, the NEX-C3. The timing suggests the company might have got wind of something, as a couple of days earlier Panasonic had been busy showing off its latest micro four thirds (MFT) models in an exclusive press preview in Rome …

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Target market?

I've never been quite sure who the market is for a camera like this. Interchangeable lenses, but a severe lack of controls? Who goes to all the trouble of carrying a bag full of lenses, but doesn't want to make manual tweaks to their settings?

I've been in the market for a small mirrorless interchangeable lens camera for some time, to sit in my jacket pocket when I can't be bothered lugging my SLR around. But just because the body is small, it shouldn't mean any less flexibility than an SLR.

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Unhappy

Re: Target market

Agreed. The big attraction of the GF1 when it appeared was that it had a fair degree of manual control - not ideal, and felt a bit retarded coming from a Canon DSLR, but good enough once you get used to it. The main thing is that it's pocketable, especially with the lovely Panny 20mm lens, and easy to have always on hand.

Unfortunately the trend with the GF2 and now the GF3 seems to be increasingly to dumb them down. No thumb wheel for exposure adjustment, no mode dial, no exposure lock button, and unlike its two predecessors, it would appear no ability to add on the (ridiculously expensive) Panasonic EVF.

I'd been hoping Panasonic were going to develop this range to have an appeal to the serious photographer, but I'll have to hope that this is in their future game plan, or I'm going to be a bit hosed when upgrade time comes a few years down the road, or sooner if one of the kids bounces it off the floor!

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WTF?

Low-light shots?

Given that the sensor is smaller than APS-C DSLR's, why not include some low-light shots?

@Jerome0, I love the Sony Alpha A55. Small, mirrorless, auto-HDR and stitching, way more lens options than micro 4/3, but it'll never fit in your jacket pocket, and overheats after >5m video (hopefully fixed in the next iteration).

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Sony A55

Cheers for the tip, but my current SLR (Canon 550D) is already smaller than the Sony, and handles long videos nicely. Not that I've got anything against the Sonys - lovely cameras. I'm just looking for something that's completely pocketable, but a bit more flexible than your average compact.

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Coat

Small sensors

The trouble with micro 4/3 (and compact digicams) is that pretty much everything is in focus, all the time. You can't blur the background for a portrait or just because you like bokeh (the appearance of out-of-focus areas, ideally smooth and painterly). Therefore Leica glass is a bit wasted here.

Mine's the one with the film Leica M3 in the pocket, because I can't afford a full-frame Leica M9.

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Re: Small sensors

Of course m4/3 isn't the ideal format if you're after shallow DOF, but you can still do a fair bit with it. That's why a nice bit of f/1.4 Leica glass seems more like an essential companion rather than "a bit wasted".

If I have a choice between shooting with the camera in my pocket or not shooting at all, I'd still like the option of blurring the background as much as possible. It's not much consolation knowing my SLR could do a better job, if it's sat at home in a cupboard.

At the end of the day though, the Sony Nex-5 with its APS-C sensor is looking quite tempting compared to these m4/3 cameras.

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Bokeh

I don't find that to be the case. I use a GF1 with the 20mm f1.7 lense, and even at that focal length can get decent bokeh at wide enough apertures. The slightly longer, not to mention brighter, Leica lens should fit the bill even better, and I'd imagine is a lovely bit of glass.

Admittedly, the range is (natively) a bit lacking yet in a prime in the short telephoto length (e.g. 40mm) which would hit the sweet spot for portraits

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"The trouble with micro 4/3 (and compact digicams)"

You say that as if their sensors are in any way close to the same size. You can fit up to ten compact camera sensors on one 4/3 sensor.

Depth of field control on 4/3 obviously isn't as versatile as on 35mm, getting twice the DoF for the same f-number, but the idea that "pretty much everything is in focus, all the time" or equating it to compact camera sensors is simply wrong. So, so wrong.

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best camera

... is the one which you can take the picture with - because it's with you. So it doesn't really matter how good other cameras are, if they are too big to be carried along. Some amateurs won't bother carrying anything bigger than average compact - micro 4/3 is just the right size for such target audience. Yet the sensor is big enough to give good picture in good light (i.e. low enough ISO). I've seen RAWs from GF2 and they are quite good, opposed to JPEGs straight from the camera (too many typical compact-like artifacts). Assuming you pair it with small lens (e.g. Panasonic 20/1.8) it is one sweet kit.

And of course, shooting with fixed focal lens has other benefits I won't elaborate on - few would understand. Mine is the one with camera in the pocket.

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