*Lumix G3 vs the mighty might GF1, or why I chose to upgrade my MILC.


When it came time to upgrade my beloved GF1, I waited for its true successor to be revealed.  The GX1, not the GF2 nor GF3, is seen by most GF1 users as the camera that has had the GF1’s torch passed to it.  I’ve spent two solid years with the GF1 and have finally felt that the current crop of mirrorless system cameras out there have upped the game enough for me to trade it in.  I surprised even myself when I decided on the G3 over the GX1, NEX5n, EP3 or NEX7.  A budget conscious option which I feel punches well above its weight.  I’ve got some low light test shots, size comparison shots and the like.  C’mon in and I’ll explain why I feel the G3 was the best option for a shooter like me…

If you’ve read any of my rants or ramblings over the last couple years regarding the mirrorless system cameras you’d be right to point out that I tend to criticize the dSLR “lite” style bodies as I find that they’re too bulky to be truly “compact” and because of this, I tend to feel the Rebels and D5100’s of the world are the best option due to the larger sensors and vast array of available (and more affordable) optical choices.

With the introduction of Sony’s killer NEX-7, integrated electronic viewfinder, 24mp APS-C sensor and its tri-navi enthusiast friendly interface, it is making well deserved waves in the market (as I’m sure the mere announcement of the Fuji XPro1 will also have enthusiasts drooling).  Priced at or above comparably performing APS-C dSLRs (with a lens), it caters to a different market than I reside in though.  I already have my big “serious” (and more budget challenging) cameras for my more demanding applications though, and I really don’t want to have to spend over two thousand dollars to get the NEX-7 with a good, fast prime lens, so I started looking at the Sony NEX5n, Panasonic GX1, Olympus EP3, Panasonic GH2 and to my surprise, the G3.

7 x 1 stop continuous auto exposure bracketing is one of the G3's cool tricks for HDR.

My main criteria in an upgrade was a bump in low light performance (both ISO and access to fast lenses) and noticeable IQ improvement (by way of resolution, color rendition, dynamic range, etc).  Having already been happily married to the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake since my union with the GF1, that set the standard that the Sony NEX system had to compete with, as far as the lens was concerned anyway.  Buying another micro 4/3 body had the edge as I already had invested in a few adapters and lenses.  While the NEX5n is a killer little camera, it still suffers from some of the same issues I had with the NEX5, namely the interface.  The IQ and low light performance are top notch, but that isn’t as important to me if I struggle to quickly control common and (what I see as) necessary exposure elements resulting in a frustrating shooting experience (I prefer a more dSLR style interface, and less P&S automated interface ultimately).  This is just my personal opinion and I know these things don’t matter to many out there.  Anyway, with the 5n out of the running and the NEX-7 + Zeiss 24/1.8 necessitating the sale of a liver to justify the cost to my wife, I started to look squarely at the sub $900 m4/3 cameras.

I was very tempted by the GH2 price drops over the holidays, but decided it was the time to give, not give to myself, so I let it pass me by, plus I felt that it was just a bit too large for what I was looking for in my secondary compact.  The GX1 and EP3 were my main contenders at first.  I started to look at what either would cost with the add on EVF’s as I’ve come to rely on having one for use with my compatible manual focus lenses (which I see as one of the most beneficial perks of the m4/3 system) and this priced each of these cameras up around, or beyond $1000.

For comparison’s sake, I started taking a second look at the G3.  I dismissed it upon its release based solely on its form factor.  It wasn’t until I really looked at the specs that I noticed how compact it actually is.  The G3 wasn’t the cool throwback rangefinder style body,  but it houses the same sensor as the new GX1, has an integrated 1.44 million dot EVF and a few bells and whistles of its own (tilting/rotating LCD, good grip, stereo mic, touch screen, etc) in a body that, IF you could remove the EVF, is smaller than the GX1 or EP3 believe it or not, for nearly half the price (of the GX1/EP3 + EVF).  Hmmm.

Well, I had a good look at the G3 in store after exhaustive online research and walked out with one.  I couldn’t be happier.

Firstly, size wise… The GF1 was, in my opinion, the best balance of size and performance in the MILC category to date.  I think the EP3, GX1 and NEX7 cater to the same crowd, and cater well, but the amount of direct control and snappy response times make the GF1 an amazingly responsive and capable camera, slightly ahead of its time setting the pace that others have had to catch up to in many respects.  The GX1 looks to walk in its footsteps, so I feel the torch has been successfully passed in Panasonic land, and the EP3 is arguably one of the best mirrorless cameras available, but for the price, I found the G3 to be too good to pass on.

Next, the low light/high ISO performance… The resolution and dynamic control in the G3 is noticeably better than the GF1 and the S/N with high ISO shooting shows a two stop benefit vs the older 12mp GF1 sensor to my eye.  Through a couple test shots, I found that the G3 defaults to controlling blown highlights and handles reds and skin tones much better (which was a challenge with the GF1 in my opinion) at the expense of the midtones being slightly shifted to the left at the same exact settings vs the GF1.  Good news for me is when I add a third to two thirds stop of exposure comp when using the average metering setting in dynamically challenging scenes, the G3 still does well to keep the highlights under control but helps with the mids and shadows.

Below are some controlled test shots at varying ISO settings to help anyone else in a similar predicament see for themselves.  I chose to upsample the 12.1mp 4:3 GF1 RAW files to the same pixel dimensions as the 15.8mp G3 RAW files to attempt to compare apples to apples.  For those contemplating the GX1 as well, I’d imagine that the results would be near identical as these from the G3 as the brains and sensor are shared between the two cameras.  As I found the GF1 to be very good up to ISO 400, I’ll share the comparison shots starting at ISO 800 and up.  Click on any shot to see a larger version.

*All shots from both cameras taken from a fixed tripod, using the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 lens @ f/4, Incandescent WB, 2 second self timer, and the scene was lit by one single 60w continuous bulb.

GF1 @ ISO 800

100% crop GF1 @ ISO 800

G3 @ ISO 800

100% crop G3 @ ISO 800

GF1 @ ISO 1600

100% crop GF1 @ ISO 1600

G3 @ ISO 1600

100% crop G3 @ ISO 1600

GF1@ ISO 3200

100% crop GF1 @ ISO 3200

G3 @ ISO 3200

100% crop G3 @ ISO 3200

And of course, the G3 goes up to ISO 6400.  While I doubt I’d attempt to use it unless I was really desperate, I do feel it still looks better than the GF1 at ISO 3200.

G3 @ ISO 6400

100% crop G3 @ ISO 6400

To my eye, the G3 has an almost two stop advantage in controlled conditions which compared to my previous tests between the Sony NEX5 and GF1 makes the G3/GX1 sensor better at handling noise than the original NEX3/5 sensor.  Of course, the 5n sensor will gain the advantage again, but it still has the disadvantage of fewer fast proprietary lenses which negates the superior noise performance of the sensor from a pure exposure standpoint (unless of course you pony up for the Zeiss 24/1.8 – which, if you have the money, I think you should).

I’m very impressed with the G3 and this was exactly what I’d hoped for with the upgrade.  Here are the 100% crops from the G3 @ ISO 3200 compared to the GF1 @ ISO 800 and 1600 for comparison sake to show the near 2 stop performance gap.  First the ISO1600 from the GF1, then the G3’s ISO 3200, then the GF1’s ISO 800 shot just to show where I think the G3 compares favorably vs the GF1:

100% crop GF1 @ ISO 1600

100% crop G3 @ ISO 3200

100% crop GF1 @ ISO 800

I think that the GF1 at ISO 800 has a slight (very slight) edge over the ISO 3200 from the G3, but something else to consider is that I found the G3 has much more accurate color replication when using the default incandescent white balance for this test (I haven’t tested pure color replication using other WB settings, or manually measuring and adjusting WB).

I feel that the ISO 1600 in the G3 is very, very useable and I’d not hesitate to use ISO 3200 at all where I’d cringe a bit if I needed to use ISO 800, and was unhappy if I needed to bump to 1600 in the GF1.  The G3’s ISO 6400 shots are messy, but hey, better to have a noisy shot than no shot at all I guess…

The build quality, interface and grip of the G3 seem to have gotten a lot of negative attention.  Well, the aluminum build (not plastic) of the G3 body feels close to as solid as the GF1 to me with both in my hands, if maybe a little more “hollow” for lack of a better descriptor.  The battery door feels weaker, and with the tilt LCD (and any moving part really) I will keep a closer eye on it when shoving it in and out of bags and pockets.  I wouldn’t hammer nails with it, or throw it off a building, but it’s solid enough for me to feel comfortable that I’ll get many good years out of it.

I regret that I lose the dedicated switch for drive mode from the GF1, but again, the cost savings and performance plusses have helped me get over that.  I now have the touch screen Q-menu to change it, or a dedicated single button which I then have to switch on screen.   Otherwise, the touchscreen interface is intuitive enough, and I still have enough direct buttons (along with two customizable function buttons) to get to my main exposure settings (WB, ISO, AF/focus area, drive mode, movie recording, etc) with a single push.  The articulating LCD is awesome.  I’ve never had a camera with one, but have been thoroughly enjoying this along with the single point AF which allows me to drag the AF point (literally, by touch) anywhere on the screen, not to mention change the size of the AF point.  Seems gimmicky, but when I think about having to change AF points, or focus/recompose, this is an amazingly handy gimmick if I’ve ever seen one.  Add to that, the ability to fire the shutter by tapping that AF point and now you can take all the discreet street type shots, or handle quickly materializing scenes to your heart’s desire.

All I can say for the grip is that it is exactly the grip that a camera the size of the G3 should have.  I have much longer than normal fingers and larger hands overall and one only needs to grip the G3 the way they intend to see how clever it is.  By wrapping your middle finger over and down the grip (see pic above), it puts your wrist upright, allows you to brace your right elbow against your body, and gets your index finger in the proper position to operate the shutter while allowing you to get a good, solid grip on the camera body comfortably.  The buttons on the back are a bit too easy to unintentionally touch with your thumb or palm if I’m being honest, but that is a trade off I’m willing to take for overall size reduction (and the articulated screen), as a half shutter button press will reset the camera and have you shooting immediately.  If you try to hold it like you would the GH2, or any smaller dSLR, it can feel awkward trying to hold on with fingertips, but compared to the ‘grip’ on the GF1, it is miles better in my opinion.  If you have the hands of a normal sized human being, I’d imagine that you’ll have an even better fit than my large gargantor hands allow me.

After the high ISO/low light and IQ improvements, my main factor when looking for a GF1 replacement was for use with my legacy lenses.  I held off purchasing the add on EVF for the GF1 for a while as I’d heard it was mediocre, which it absolutely is, but adds a third point of contact for stabilized shooting, and for manually focusing, it is very helpful.  I was upset to learn that the new add on EVF for the GX1 is not backward compatible.  Ridiculous in my mind as this smacks of Panasonic either A) not having the design foresight to make the GF1 compatible with an EVF that everyone wanted, even before the crappy EVF1 was released, or B) just wanted to push the hand of those wishing for a better user experience by having to buy a new camera to gain access to their add on accessories.  BS as far as I’m concerned, but look at me, it kind of worked as I found myself buying a new camera, so congratulations Panasonic!

Anyhoo, as I am a fan of gear porn, here are a couple shots of the G3 with the stellar Contax Zeiss 45mm f/2 (thank you to my father in law Dan for the honor of babysitting this little gem) which has singlehandedly saved me from buying the Oly 45mm f/1.8 lens.

This all being said, I think I can safely say that I’m happy to retire my GF1.  What I’ve lost in pure pocket-ability due to the integrated EVF on the G3, I’ve gained in IQ, resolution and high ISO performance which is exactly where I felt the GF1 was starting to fall short for me with all the recent advancements in sensor tech (all while getting the G3 for $300 less than I paid for the GF1 originally).  I can still fit the G3 + 20mm pancake into a coat pocket so I really have only lost the ability to fit it into the back pocket of loose fitting jeans. C’est la vie.

Here is a quick example for SH Lew showing the noise from a 30 second exposure at ISO 160 and f/16.  I know it is a horribly boring shot, but it was about 30 degrees out and I wasn’t feeling very inspired.  First the Jpeg with the in camera NR off, secondly the Jpeg with in camera NR on and then the RAW file converted without any NR to Jpeg for comparison’s sake.  You can click on any to see them at 100% (14mp 3:2).

In camera Noise Reduction OFF

In camera Noise Reduction ON

Compressed (jpeg) version of the RAW file

I’m impressed by the in camera NR as the file with the NR turned off, while it handles the noise well, it is really, really soft and mushy.  I thought I’d had it backwards when looking at these, but nope, the file with the long shutter NR on is sharper and retained lines and contrast much, much better.  I haven’t done much in the way of long night exposure type stuff, but I am really impressed with the noise suppression in the RAW file and I’m sure with a run through Define, Denoise or Noise Ninja would be great.  The Jpeg file with the NR on is pretty impressive to my eye as well and if I end up ever shooting long exposures in Jpeg, I will most definitely use it.

 

In Conclusion…

I’ve been lucky enough to have gotten to play around with the GX1, and there is no doubt that the GX1 and new EVF will be an amazing addition to the micro 4/3 family, but for my needs, I’m happy to have saved about $500 by grabbing the G3 and can say that I’m glad that I revisited the idea.  While the G3 isn’t a perfect camera, I feel that it is an amazing value at the current prices and I’d put it up against any sub $600 camera (with lens) on the market right now.  Sure the XPro1 or NEX7 will no doubt be the cool kids at school, with the NEX5n’s, GX1’s and EP3’s as the smart kids that try harder in class, the G3 is the little guy that ends up kicking the crap out of the class bully when no one expected it.  At near half the cost and at a comparable IQ performance standpoint vs the GX1/EP3/NEX5n + EVF’s all while gaining access to the largest offering of lenses in a mirrorless interchangeable lens compact system, the G3 provides enough of an argument to not be ignored.  It ends up, in my mind, as the poor man’s NEX7 or GH2, and I’m happy I saved my money.

As always, I’d be happy to try and answer any questions you may have, or do comparisons between these two cameras while I still have the GF1🙂

Thanks for reading and happy shooting!

Tyson

For other micro 4/3 related articles, check these out:

NEX 5  vs.  Lumix GF1, the showdown

Micro 4/3 and Sony NEX Lensbaby Tilt Transformer!

Your Micro 4/3 camera + your existing lenses = limitless fun!

58 thoughts on “*Lumix G3 vs the mighty might GF1, or why I chose to upgrade my MILC.

  1. Pingback: *Your Micro 4/3′s camera + your existing lenses = limitless fun. «

  2. Higher resolution, much better low light performance, integrated EVF, articulated LCD, low cost, lens compatibility? What’s not to like about the G3? It seems like from your excellent side by side pictures that the G3 is a fair amount smaller in width and a bit in depth with some gain for the EVF. But I can’t figure out if it actually weight more or the same or what?

    G3 + battery is 336g + 100g 20mm lens 446g
    GF1 + 20mm lens (100g) + battery total 448g

    Looks like they’re almost identical in weight excluding add on GF1 EVF. BTW – I think Panasonic should be ashamed not to try to build in more compatibility!

    I’m thinking here of my other favorite camera, the Panasonic DMC FZ-40. All the cameras in that line seem to have mutually incompatible batteries. How hard could it be to make them the same?

    They take the additional step of putting a chip (almost wrote chimp) into the battery to make power maintenance/monitoring possible. Aftermarket batteries don’t get this hacked for a year or two bit cost about 25% of the cost of the Panasonic. I carry a minimum of 5 batteries – where I go, electricity is sometimes hard to find.

    This means you may take a shot with the lens out, have battery die, and be stuck with an extended lens. No way to get it retracted. Great, huh?

    Anyway, I’ve just bot a new 45mm true macro lens from Panasonic (‘sposed to be a great portrait lens, too) so I can take my GH1 into the depths of the Amazon rainforest (or wherever) and not miss a shot of a truly juicy bug! Expensive sucker at $650 but with an upgrade path to the G3 and beyond, I’m confident that the camera system will grow with me.

    For a nature photographer, the EVF is absolutely essential: try zooming your long lens in on a flying bird with the LCD. Tough to do. The articulated LCD is great for parades shooting over the heads of the crowd and low level shots. Really, really nice feature.

    BTW – Great, thoughtful review, Tyson! Thanks for keeping us up to date.

    ps. Pictures of Argentina, Chile (Patagonia), Uruguay and Brazil forthcoming on Flickr.

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    • Thanks Terry!

      Yes, weight wise, they’re nearly identical and by feel are tough to tell any difference, even with the EVF on the GF1. Yeah, the battery on the G3 sucks. I’m used to being able to go days with a single battery on the GF1, but I find that I’m charging the battery every night with the G3 (granted, I’m probably a bit more power abusive with reviewing, oogling, etc). The PanaLeica 45mm macro by every account I’ve read is a beautiful lens! I’m jealous. Another really handy feature with the newer generation touch screens is the touch focus. I’d think even for close up/macro stuff, it could really come in handy if you didn’t have the time (or space) to get your eye to the viewfinder. I think the GH3 will be announced within the next couple months, but will undoubtedly be well north of $1000. For just over $500 for the G3 body or $580 w/kit lens, I do think it is a great deal especially when you look at the GX1 which has more or less the same brains in a slightly sexier body (without EVF of course).

      I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the Sud America shots!

      Happy new year!

      t

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      • I’ll second you on “yeah, the battery on the G3 sucks.” I have a G1 and GF1, and just bought a G3 after reading good things about it on your blog and others.

        Took it to San Antonio for a weekend getaway. Sweet little camera. Terribly short battery life. They say it’s rated for 270 shots, and that’s what I get. I’m a “shoot first, post-process later” kind of photographer, and taking 1000+ shots in one day isn’t unusual for me. Bought one extra battery with the camera. I’ll be buying more.

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      • It is not without its flaws, that’s for sure. The cramped button layout, poor battery life and ninja custom function buttons aside, for the cost, it packs quite a bit of performance in a tiny package though. These are all things that can, and arguably should, be remedied in future iterations. If only we could get PanOly to use us as testers…

        I even bounced mine off the ground (asphalt), into a shallow muddy puddle a couple weeks ago (from about two feet up while getting out of the car) and aside from a scuff on the corner, and a bit of time with q-tips and paper towels, it hasn’t skipped a beat. I was not expecting full recovery at all, but I’ve run it through a variety of visual and performance based tests, and it has passed with flying colors. I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on everything, but I’m lucky to have escaped seemingly unscathed for the most part. Tougher than I had originally assumed anyway.

        t

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  3. Hi Tyson,
    Thanks for the very informative article on the G-3.
    I’m using a Lumix G-1 for two years now. Mostly shooting landscapes with the kit lens as well as the 45-200mm and 7-14mm WA. Also shooting a lot of macro with the Lumix-Leica 45mm. Quite pleased with the results.
    However, I’m not happy when shooting at long exposures of 20 secs and above. Noise is terrible.
    Can you try some shots of say 50secs expowsure on the G-3 and let me know the results.
    Thanks and regards.
    S. H. Lew
    Singapore

    Like

    • Thanks SHL,

      I will try to get a long exposure the first chance I have and I’ll post it here. I’ll try to shoot at base ISO both in RAW and JPEG with the NR on and off. How are you shooting, and are you using any noise reduction software after the fact?

      I’ll let you know as soon as I can🙂

      t

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      • Thanks Tyson.
        I shot on base ISO, that is 100.
        With in camera noise reduction on and off, both situations noisy
        with any shots above 25 seconds.
        I reduce noise in Adobe LR. But noise in pic above 25 seconds is
        not possible to remove.
        I’ll like to know the longest possible exposure of the G-3 at base ISO (150)
        with in-cam NR on/off before noise gets impossible to remove with Adobe-LR.
        Thanks again.

        Like

      • Have a look at the new files above!

        I brought them into Aperture with all NR (in Ap3) turned off, these are as close to SOOC as I can muster. The RAW file has been compressed as I don’t want to pay for the extra space to store huge files on the blog (not making any money from it🙂 ) so it isn’t the 12bit file, but it still more or less shows the noise structure as it would appear visually anyway.

        To my eye, with the in camera NR turned on, it does a much better job not only at handling noise but retaining detail. All three, to me, seemed to handle the noise wonderfully with the JPEG with NR turned OFF ending up as a muddy, soft file compared to the other two. I tried to get the dark sky, direct light sources into the lens and some areas to observe detail (trees, asphalt, car, etc). Not a very exciting shot, I apologize, but something anyway. Hope it helps.

        Cheers,

        Tyson

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  4. Pingback: *It’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion in the ocean. «

  5. Thanks for the great review, Tyson. Helped me in understanding my G3 as well. I am thinking of getting an external flash for my G3, what would you recommend? Panasonic FL-500 is a bit expensive, so I am looking cheaper alternative. Have you tried *Metz mecablitz 58 AF-2 TTL Shoe Mount Flash for Olympus/Panasonic/Leica*? Your advice will be greatly appreciated.

    Robin Leow

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    • Thanks Robin,

      As far as the flash, I have little experience with Metz and none with the Panasonic. I use a wireless flash trigger and my Canon flashes, which all work great for me. I would guess that the Metz would be ample and if it were enabled for TTL interaction, and were cheaper, it would work just fine on the camera. If you are planning on getting these flashes off camera, and firing with a third party trigger (pocket wizard, skyports, etc) then it really doesn’t matter what brand of flash it is. If the G3 had some type of IR communication with Panasonic branded flashes, I’d say it might be worth paying the premium.

      Cheers,

      Tyson

      Like

  6. Tyson …great review..and spot on. I, like you have a larger FF DSLR (same as yours!), with an extensive kit of professional primes and zooms. So like you I was looking for a complimentary system…something small, with good image quality with a full offering of lenses for a full kit…from fisheye to long tele…
    Also…I owned a GF1 from the time they launched. I wanted to upgrade as their have been a lot of improvements. You are a thorough investigator and clearly stated YOUR needs and you arrived at the same conclusion I did…almost! LOL! I bought the GX1 and LVF2 … I did not have budget constraints and wanted a back up body, so i then bought an open box G3 kit and sold off the kit zoom. I think both cameras are fantastic, small, fast and user friendly. The GX being a little more nimble in size and user customization while the G3 offers a articulating LCD and a little more to hold onto for larger lenses. It is easy for me to go out and shoot with both bodies around my neck with different lenses on each because of the small body sizes.
    Love both of them. I love gear porn, too..so here is a link to a shot of my GX1 with the Oly 12mm taken with my G3 using the Pany/Leica 45mm f/2.8 macro.

    Amazingly …the photo is shot a ISO 800.
    hmmmmm….based on your photos above…maybe I shouldn’t have sold off my Contax G2 and all the lenses last year!!!!!! LOL!..Thanks again for the article!!!!

    Like

    • Hi Bob,

      Much appreciated! Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved the GX1 + EVF (and still would). I’m just happy that for those of us on a slightly tighter budget, we have access to the same sensor and can save on having to buy the EVF. I think that you’ve got a great set up with both bodies though, and for the price of the G3 (grab them if you can!) it is a whole lot for what it’s going for. Sounds like the G3 has been discontinued which makes me all the happier that I got one before they disappeared. Surely whatever comes out next will be at least on par, and I would wager a guess that the G4, or whatever it may be, will use the same sensor with a slight tweak to the processor (this sensor is less than a year old) and I doubt that the prices will be what the G3 is/was selling for.

      After being used to the noise on the GF1 at ISO 800, while completely useable, it is amazing by contrast, how clean the G3/GX1 is up to 1600, at least when shooting RAW. Yeah, I’ve still got a Contax G(1) body that was mated to the 45/2 and it hasn’t been getting much exercise lately… That little 45mm has been a lot of fun though.

      Thanks and I certainly appreciate the gear porn.🙂

      Best,

      Tyson

      Like

  7. Hi, Tyson.
    As a GF-1 owner since Oct 2010, you have come the closest to convincing me that it might be time to do a trade-in… but not yet. Out of all the M4/3 options, though, I appreciate you looking into all the other competitors, too, not just Panny. Bottom line, I think you are correct: the image quality of the G3 (especially the WB and sharpness at higher ISOs) beats the GF-1, but like you, my hands are slightly larger than average and I find that I need a good, clear and wide “landing” area for my thumb on the back of the camera that won’t trigger a button; this, and the GF-1 great battery life are what keep me holding on. That, and the form factor. It’s silly, I know, but I was raised on the K1000 and Horseman VH, and I likes me square bodies. But, I will keep my eye on the G3 (plus any other new comparisons you make, especially of the XX v GF-1 variety). Great info.
    PS: is the G3 as “loud” as the GF-1?

    Like

    • Thanks Teebodo.

      Until I get paid handsomely by one brand or another, I fully plan to keep my options open. Of course it gets harder to switch systems once you really start to invest, but I’m one that would never blindly follow a brand, especially if there was a compelling enough reason to switch that outweighed any drawback. I do think there are better cameras than the G3, certainly, and for the issues you raise, I don’t think you’d be happy with it honestly. I find that the cramped button layout is unfortunate and I wish that every manufacturer would build a “mute” switch so to speak, to allow us to disable all buttons if we wanted to once we had our settings dialed. For instance, when carrying the G3 with the LCD off, I’ll find that every once in a while, I go to shoot and I’ve inadvertently changed the ISO (top button on the 4 way). It’s annoying, but as I mentioned, it’s a trade off for size reduction that I knew before I bought, and it certainly isn’t specific to this camera. I think the GX1 and EP3 have a much better thumb rest in comparison. I’m also really excited to see what Oly comes out with on the OM-D front as well. It might just be a box like body more forgiving for those of us with large paws. And I really don’t mean to take anything away from the GF1. It is, and will continue to be just as great as it has always been. I do however think though, that with the newer sensor, they have finally provided a decent argument to those looking to upgrade.

      As far as shutter noise, yes. The G3 shutter sounds the exact same as the GF1. The AF chirp is slightly higher, but still as audible.

      Cheers,
      t

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  8. I too am a devotee of the G3 for its functionality and its overall great performance. The only gripe I have is that the two programmable function buttons could not be placed in worse positions.

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    • Not only are they poorly placed (requiring a second hand to hold the camera to use Fn2) but Fn1 is like a button ninja. I feel as if I need to carry around a headlamp and magnifying glass to find that little guy, all flush with the body, no discernible indentation or Braille like markings. That said, with a body this size, there is only so much real estate, so I understand that I’m not going to get every button and switch where I want it, but c’mon, not even a little dimple on the Fn1 button?

      Thanks Palau,

      tyson

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  9. Hi Tyson.
    I’m a proud owner of my 2 yo GF1, just like you, and thinking for an upgrade. G3 was never on my mind, just because it doesn’t look good. But after reading your article, maybe i will give it another look.
    Anyhow I still worry for something,
    Is there any dedicated ae/af lock on G3? Because it’s my fav features on GF1.
    And how about the video, is G3 support 24p cinema look? – like Gh2

    Thx man. Anyway, great article!

    Like

    • Hi Sandru,

      You can set either of the two custom function buttons to a variety of settings, AF/AE lock included. The Fn1 button, which I have to AF/AE lock is somewhat difficult to find by touch though and one of my little criticisms for sure. It’s not as ‘touch friendly’ as the GF1 unfortunately. As for video, I’m not the best to ask really. I believe that in AVCHD, it’s captured as an interlaced 60fps/50fps at 1080 and the motion JPEG is the same at 720 ending up as 30/25 fps (don’t quote me on that). I’m not sure if there is a good firmware hack in existence as I don’t really do much video, nor seek out the cool video driven tools. I would check the manual, but as with most new cameras nowadays, the “manual” is on the disk, and I’ve never installed it… (I hate not having a printed manual personally) Sorry I’m not better educated on the video side of things, but I’ll have a look around and get back to you.

      Cheers,

      Tyson

      Like

  10. Great article. I too had ruled out the G3 for some reason when considering an upgrade from my aging (gracefully) E-P1. Then I happened to pop into my friendly local camera shop to see what was what. There I was introduced to the little G3 face-to-face and although I didn’t quite “fall in love”, it certainly started the old cogs whirring. The price of the G3 meant that I could expand my m4/3 lens portfolio considerably and am now the proud owner of the 20/1.7, 14/2.5 and the 45/1.8 is in the post!

    Not sure why I initially ruled it out – maybe it was the silly colours you could buy it in, maybe the size, maybe the idea of a touchscreen, but I’m very glad I reconsidered…

    Like

    • Rich,

      I think that you and I had very similar experiences. While not a camera that might blow your hair back, it does pack quite a bit into a very compact package. Not without its faults and not the most solid body, it has really changed my mind regarding the G line. Where I had no interest in it in the past due to the dslr lite style, I just ignored it. I’ll admit that I was perhaps a little prejudiced when it was released, and I’m happy to admit that I was wrong, regarding my thoughts and standards anyway. Sometimes, it is great being proven wrong🙂

      Thanks for the read and congrats on the kit, I’m one lens away from the same.

      Cheers,

      Tyson

      Like

  11. Well..there are 4 of those recessed buttons on the GX1 (actually even slightly MORE recessed than the Fn1 button on the G3). …but, like you say Tyson, every thing is a trade off.. It has taken a little getting used to..but I actually have grown to love the recessed buttons. Here is why. (don’t get me wrong…I have big hands, too and it took some time to get used to the smaller size of the GX1 vs. GF1…it is considerable.). The camera is so much more fluid “the way I want it to be” because all these buttons are there and customizable. I use both cameras G3 and GX1 and I get frustrated with the G3’s fewer buttons sometimes. (Then I have to go to a menu). I wish the movie button was customizable too as it remains permanently off on my cameras, which steals valuable real estate.
    The one thing that was a disappointment on both the G3/GX1 for me was the click wheel, which is MUCH smaller and STIFFER than the GF1. ..when I first started working with the cameras it was easy to inadvertently “click” it whist scrolling..therefore changing its function! I have found with time two things though: 1. the wheel breaks in a little and is not so stiff after some usage. 2. I have adjusted to the new wheels form factor and can operate it with much less error.
    Love both cameras.
    Also, I have found that keeping a Kirk Enterprises (Arca/Swiss) style camera plate on both cameras at all times does two things for me. It allows me to securely hold the camera with my left hand without touching any buttons (allowing me to lightly handle and operate the camera with my right hand), and also the camera can be immediately secured in a secure tripod head whenever I need it, which is often as I do a lot of HDR shooting.
    I, like you, still hit that damn ISO button!!!! …but its all good.

    Like

    • While I think that the GF2 and GF3 (as well as the G10) were basically Panasonic throwing whatever they could against the wall, they really did tighten the bolts for the GX1, and to an extent the G3. Looking at the product cycles, I think that we’re seeing the Pana line come into focus. They realize that they have a gem in both the GX1 and GH lines serving two different groups really. The GF and G lines should be continued as “lighter” versions of each of those lines respectively which I think makes sense. Of course, many specs will cross over, but it gives them the ability to compete on the entry level compact (GF series), entry/dSLR lite/budget friendly, feature rich (G series), the enthusiast (GX series) and the enthusiast/budget video pro market (GH series). It took a few extra releases of random cameras to come down to it all, but I’d be surprised if this wasn’t kind of what the Panasonic micro 4/3 future looked like.

      Interesting with the AS plate idea… As long as I’m not trying to cram it into my coat pocket, that might be a great workaround! Thanks Bob.

      t

      Like

  12. Pingback: *Lumix G3 vs Canon 5Dmk II «

  13. Pingback: *G-cubed in Chi-town «

    • Hi Andy,

      I use pocketwizard plus 2’s. Although, I have used the onboard flash from the G3 to optically fire my alien bee lights via the optical slave. Both work well in controlled conditions (the PW’s work well just about anywhere). Any third party, hotshoe mount triggers could work with either the G1 or GF1. This is one think that I feel is necessary for any system I use, and one big quirk I dislike about the NEX system (which requires a Minolta shoe to standard hotshoe conversion to work with everything other than minolta mount flashes.)

      t

      Like

  14. Thank you for this great review, it made me switch from my Sony system to this amazing combo. It’s a joy to go out with one of them or both and use the great lenses that are available. I found a nice optical viewfinder that I tested today and it works nice with the 20mm. http://flic.kr/p/bWwnTh Thanks again for being my guide into the MFT world. Best regards from the Netherlands.

    Norman

    Like

    • Hi Norman,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and I’m glad that you’ve ended up with the GF1/20 combo. It is one of the most enjoyable image making combinations I’ve ever used. The optical finder looks beautiful (I’m a sucker for gear porn admittedly). Where in the Netherlands are you? I travel there once a year and love the time I’m able to spend there. It’s not at the best time of year unfortunately (November) but you guys get very similar weather to what I’m used to being from the northwester US. Enjoy the GF1 and here’s to many enjoyable frames captured.

      Cheers,

      Tyson

      Like

  15. Thank you too Tyson, I live close to Schiphol airport in Alphen aan den Rijn so let me know if you care for a nice November beer. Next to the GF1 with the 20 mm I also own the G3 with the Olympus 12 and 45 mm. Together it makes a great compact system and thanks to you I know how capable it is.

    Greetings from the Netherlands,

    Norman

    Like

    • I do love beer🙂

      We normally stay in an apartment near Spui (on Herengracht and Huidenstraat) and are in Amsterdam for a week during the marine equipment trade show. Most of the time, we’re nailed down with meetings and the like, but I need to try and either arrive earlier, or stay later so that I can actually be a tourist in Holland, something I’ve not been able to do properly.

      Thanks and I’ll try to stay in touch.

      cheers,

      Tyson

      Like

  16. Pingback: *OM-D E-M5, thoughts, pros and cons. « Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography

  17. Pingback: *OM-D E-M5 vs G3… what’s this about a new sensor? « Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography

  18. Hi Tyson, I read this thread with great interest, as I’m looking to replace/upgrade my GF2, which I have never really got on with. Your post has made me consider the G3 and I can pick one up (body only) brand new for £200 GBP. I want a compact camera, I do like Lumixes (Lumices??) but money is rather tight. So I’m thinking, sell my GF2 plus the 14mm lens plus my lvf-1 plus battery/mem card and I should be quids in! I would keep the 20mm (love it) plus I have 25mm 1.4 and the 14-42 vario-zoomy X lens thing. This sound to you like a good plan? Any update on advice on this excellent thread? Kevin http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinmclean/

    Like

    • Hi Kevin,

      I think the upgrade would not only be a noticeable one quality wise as the newer sensor made a couple big steps forward, but the fact that you can pretty much make a straight swap would be a no brainer if you liked the idea of the G3. If I were you, I’d try to hold onto the 14mm pancake. I know it may seem a little redundant with the 14-42pz, but it is one of the best examples of what the system is capable of regarding size and weight reduction, quality optics and even on the G3, makes for a just about pocketable combo. If it is the only way to sell off the GF2, and you feel it is the weak link in your lens lineup, go for it, but I’m a fan of trying to hold onto optics, or at least optics I like. They hold their value far longer than cameras do, and in that way are a better “investment” as it were.

      I won’t spend your money for you, but GO FOR IT! I can’t see a scenario where you’d be giving anything up other than a slight decrease in pocketability all while gaining the tilt swivel screen, newer sensor, far better EVF, etc…

      Cheers and enjoy!

      t

      Like

      • Hi Tyson, many thanks for speedy and thoughtful reply! May I be cheeky and ask a follow-up? I’ve just noticed the G5 which is +£200 over the G3. Money well spent? K

        Like

      • Hi Kevin,

        Personally, I don’t feel the G5 is twice the camera that the G3 is (or even bordering on close to that). It has the rocker switch to engage the zoom function for the power zoom lenses which could be cool (I don’t own or use any of the PZ lenses), but it has the same sensor, I believe one generation newer in the processor, and the specs otherwise are pretty similar. I’d imagine the touch screen is a little more responsive and of course the body is shaped with a larger grip which could be both great for handling, but also adds bulk. If you can, get both in your hands, but for me, at the current prices, I’d go G3 all day, and then again tomorrow🙂 Not sure what the current deals are in the UK, but right now, both the GX1 and G3 are $250, so, if that stands over there, you could feasibly get both those cameras for about the same price as the G5… Just a thought😉

        Like

  19. Pingback: *My, how the mighty (prices) have fallen. The GX1, best bang for the buck? | Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography

  20. I’ve had the G3 for six months. Wonderful camera and features for the money but I really dislike the body. I find it extremely uncomfortable and I always feel like I’m having to pinch it rather than it sitting in my hands. My wife recently picked up a GF1 and I was amazed how comfortable it feels compared to the G3. It feels like an extension of my hand. I was thinking of selling the G3 and buying a GX1 but I’d hate to do without the EVF and flip out screen. So I may end up buying a GX1 and keeping both. As similar as they are when looking at specs they’re different enough to complement each other. The EVF on the G3 would come in very handy on bright days and I use the flip screen a lot for macro stuff. That’s my excuse for having both anyway!

    Like

    • If you don’t like the grip on the G3, I doubt you’ll find the GX1 in any way better. It has the same grip design, and the body depth is noticeably shallower than the G3 and definitely compared to the GF1. I do agree that the GF1 is a wonderfully designed machine, but my one gripe was the little grip ridge. I actually think the G3 (and to an extent the GX1) grip is a superior grip for a small camera, at least for me as I have large hands and the GF1 was always being held by finger tips while the grip hump on the G3 allows the middle finger to wrap over and down it which also places the wrist more vertically making it feel more natural when drawing it up to my eye. Try holding it like this versus trying to finger tip it as we do the GF1 and while it might take a little getting used to, it might grow on you. I know it did for me.

      These small cameras are too tiny for me to grip them as I do a DSLR, so I appreciated the Panasonic grip design which to me made a lot of sense for a camera that wanted to stay small, but still needed to provide a secure grip. The other option is to go the way of the GH3, which is much more comparable in size to a smaller DSLR. I’m now on board with the system growing in size for logical functionality, but appreciate that we still have the choice to go small with the bodies as well, we just sacrifice handling to an extent.

      Thanks for the comment, and I’d suggest getting your hands on a GX1 if the grip on the G3 is your main deterrent.

      Cheers,
      t

      Like

      • Thanks for the informative reply. I tried holding it as you suggested in your article but that’s a no go for me. My hands must be too small. Yes the grip does look very similar in design to the G3 grip. Maybe the slightly smaller dimensions of the GX1 body combined with the grip would be a better fit. There’s only one way to find out. I’m also not a fan of the buttons on the back of the G3, I’m always accidentally knocking and changing settings. Very frustrating. I wish Panasonic would allow you to lock the buttons so they can’t be activated. The positive clicks on the GX1 buttons would appear to be better. Anyway I’ll have to try one!

        Like

      • If i can throw my 2 cents (2 pence here in the uk). I really like the little grip of the g3 and find it quite..ahem…handy. But when walking around a lot with it in my hand i was worried i may drop, so ebay and £3 later i had a cheap Lil hand strap, makes it all a bit tighter and more secure, haven’t put a strap on the g3 since. I just shot a club night my brother was djing recently with it and performed great! Hope that helps a little anyway.

        Like

      • Yeah, the thinner design of the GX1 might be right for you then. It’s also smaller in that the grip side is a shorter distance to the lens mount than the GF1 which, to me, feels a little cramped, but if you have smaller hands, that might be just the ticket.

        t

        Like

  21. Well after a great couple of days weather here in the UK I had a really good time with the G3. Taking macro shots with the Raynox using both the EVF and swivel LCD. Then a trip to the park in really bright sunshine where the EVF was a must. It really showed me the value of these functions. I’ll be hanging on to the G3. This saga led to a bad attack of GAS. So I picked up the Mini Pen E-PM1! What a lovely little camera and you’ve got to love Oly’s JPEGs even though I’ve always shot RAW. A really nice m43 camera to complement the G3.

    Like

      • I’m really impressed with the Oly. The E-PM1 is a powerhouse of a little camera. I know it’s marketed at the point and shoot crowd but it featured pretty much everything you found on the top line Pens when it was released in 2011. And with the Super Control Panel I don’t find myself missing the external controls too much. It’s interesting reading around and seeing that plenty of keen photographers have opted for the Mini Pen as a second camera. I got the body new for a very reasonable £150. That’s a good price here in the UK.

        Like

  22. Hi Tyson, thanks for putting in a good word for the G3 grip, something I sorely miss on the fatso G5.

    I’d love to use the 45mm G Planar on my Lumixes. Were you happy with the adapter you used, or can you recommend one? I keep thinking the focusing rings must be hopelessly stiff. Thanks.

    Like

    • Hi Don,

      My pleasure. Regarding the Contax G to Micro 4/3 adapters, I bought the Fotodiox one and while functional, I do wish I’d looked at others. My qualm with the fotodiox is merely that the little thumb wheel which locks into the little flat head crank that operates the focus gear on the lens is just small. It’s stiff at first, but has broken in nicely. I’ve since seen adapters that have built a large focusing ring which is connected via a gear set to something similar to the thumb wheel on the fotodiox adapter which seems more realistic allowing you to turn the ring as one would a normal focusing ring on a lens, although from what I’ve seen, they seem to appear narrow and close to the camera body so I don’t know how easy they are. Might be worth a look though.

      Good luck with it!

      t

      Like

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