Panasonic Ditches the Hotshoe For the Beginners' GF3: Hands OnS

Sony's NEX-C3 of last week managed to boast of the world's smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera, but Panasonic has only been able to muster up the company's smallest and lightest.

It is lighter than Sony's camera, at 221grams as opposed to the NEX-C3's 225grams, but the measurements are much of a muchness, with the Lumix being less wider and a sliver thinner at 107.7 x 67.1 x 32.5mm, and the C3 coming in at 109.6 x 60 x 33mm.

Apart from that, the GF3 has a 12.1MP sensor with 3-inch touchscreen display. When you touch an object on the screen, you can actually magnify it by 4x to see it in closer detail, while still viewing the rest of the shot. Zoom in more than that, and the whole screen will be filled with your subject.

Like the leaked images of the GF3 that we saw last week, the camera doesn't have a hotshoe or viewfinder. Like all other micro four thirds cameras though, it can take on all sorts of compatible lenses, including Panasonic's 3D one.

We were able to go hands-on with the GF3 for a bit, and can safely say the little guy is snappy as hell. Focusing was sharp and immediate, and the inclusion of the analog dial is wonderful. Image settings are never a problem with a point-and-shoot, but stuffing the complexities of manual mode into such a diminutive body could have been a real pain in the ass. Luckily, the GF3's dial (and corresponding LCD visuals) make changing manual settings on the fly among the easiest times we've had with a Micro Four Thirds cam—it's the best of both UI worlds.

Pansonic's also dropping a gorgeous $600 Leica 25mm lens to go along with the GF3 in August—two aspherical lenses and a spectacularly solid build made for sharp, smooth shooting.

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On sale for $700 with a 14mm lens kit from July, or $600 with a 14-42mm lens kit in August, the GF3 will be available in black, white, red and brown shades.

PANASONIC UNVEILS THE LUMIX GF3, THE COMPANY'S SMALLEST AND LIGHTEST DIGITAL INTERCHANGELABLE LENS SYSTEM CAMERA WITH A BUILT-IN FLASH*
The LUMIX GF3 Body Weighs Just 7.83oz and Produces High-Quality Photos, Full-HD Video Recording Capabilities and Smart Touch-Screen Controls
SECAUCUS, NJ (June 13, 2011) – Panasonic today announces its latest compact system camera (CSC), the mirror-free Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF3 is the company's smallest and lightest digital interchangeable lens camera with a built-in flash*1, with its body size comparable to that of a smartphone and weighing just 7.83oz (body only), less than a standard 8oz cup of coffee. The Panasonic's LUMIX GF3 realizes all the features desired from a traditional DSLR interchangeable lens camera, only it accomplishes them in an ultra-compact body that is lightweight and simple to master.
This remarkable reduction in size and weight is thanks to advancements in new mirror-free camera technology, and large DSLR format sensors that are more compatible with a new class of compact Micro Four Thirds (MFT) System lenses. This new class of Compact System Cameras offers a weight and compactness not seen in traditional DSLRs, yielding greater portability and creative control. The DMC-GF3's image quality comes from a large DSLR-sized 12.1-megapixel sensor and newly advanced image processing technologies.
The LUMIX GF3 digital camera is based on the Micro Four Thirds standard of lenses, which includes Panasonic's 3D lens, thus the LUMIX GF3 not only provides outstanding still photos, full-High Definition 1080/60i video, but is also capable of shooting 3D still photos.
The Panasonic LUMIX GF3 produces high-quality photos with true-to-life details, thanks to excellent resolution, image rendering and color reproduction; high-grade lens options; and extremely precise Auto Focus (AF). Plus, the LUMIX GF3 creates the right balance between resolution and noise reduction, thus producing life-like images with accurate auto exposure and white balance, creating rich colors. Taking a page from the renowned LUMIX GH2‘s image quality, the LUMIX GF3 boasts full sized DSLR like Image quality thanks the same Venus Engine FHD image processor. The Venus Engine FHD image processor makes impressive low noise images from its 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor. Notably, images shot in low-lit situations at high ISO sensitivity setting, are stunningly clear with extremely sharp resolution. The image processor also excels in energy consumption by extending the battery life, despite its smaller size.
Thanks to a new mount, the LUMIX GF3 is approximately 16.7% smaller and 16.2% lighter than its predecessor, the LUMIX GF2. Despite its small size and unlike many CSC cameras in this class, the LUMIX GF3 still maintains a built-in flash and features a new pop-up mechanism that helps prevent the vignetting effect due to short distances between the flash unit and the interchangeable lens. With a newly-designed aluminum body that incorporates an ergonomic grip, and a well-designed control dial combined with a 3-inch touch enabled screen, the LUMIX GF3 is extremely intuitive and easy to use.
"The Panasonic GF3 compact system camera is extremely small and its newly-designed rounded body is quite attractive, which we expect to be popular among those users wanting to step-up from a point-and-shoot, yet who view traditional DSLRs as bulky and overly complex," said Darin Pepple, Senior Product Manager, Imaging, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. "While the size and weight of the GF3 has been greatly reduced, Panasonic does not compromise what is at the core of every LUMIX, which is exceptional photo and video quality with an easy-to-use interface."
All models in Panasonic's LUMIX G Series of digital cameras feature Contrast AF for their focus system, as opposed to phase-difference AF systems, used in traditional DSLRs, which is susceptible to a mechanical margin of focus errors at wide apertures. With a Contrast AF system, focusing is controlled by the image sensor so that mechanical margin of error is reduced to achieve precise focusing, thus boosting higher number of in focus shots, especially when shooting in low light with wide open lens aperture. As a result, when the LUMIX GF3 is used with Panasonic's new wide aperture interchangeable lens, the LEICA DG SUMMILUX 25mm / F1.4 ASPH, also announced today, the performance of the Contrast AF system is optimally maximized.
The Panasonic LUMIX GF3 features a high-speed and extremely precise Contrast AF system that locks in approximately 0.18 seconds. Taking further advantage of Contrast AF, the LUMIX GF3 incorporates full-area focusing which makes it possible to set focus on any point in the field- of-view. The LUMIX GF3 also features Light Speed AF, an extremely fast AF which measures at approximately 0.1 seconds*2, which is achieved by reducing the detection time for focusing by doubling the sensors drive speed from 60 fps to 120 fps. With the combination of touch-control shooting, focusing on close up macro or still life objects is evermore quick and accurate thanks to the newly adopted Pinpoint AF that unlike a DSLR, offers near pixel level touch control focusing.
Manual control over focus is available in the DMC-GF3 and now features a quick 4x magnification feature. By simply touching the subject, that subject is then enlarged in a small window, allowing you to keep the rest of the image in view as a framing reference. Beyond 4x, that small window fills the monitor so even more control over focus fine-tuning can be achieved. This handy feature is available from both the MF (Manual Focus) Assist and AF + MF focus modes.
At the heart of the LUMIX GF3's simplified functionality is a large 3.0-inch touch enabled LCD (460k- dot) that allows for intuitive touch control of menus and most shooting, focusing, playback and effects controls. Menus can be customized using simple drag-and-drop actions similar to those on some touch-enabled smartphones. This allows for a custom user interface, giving Quick Menu access to functions that can be tailored to any user's expertise level. Users can also release the shutter using the touch-screen. Once locked onto a subject, the LUMIX GF3 tracks the subject with the AF Tracking feature and another touch allows the user to select the size of the AF area. In addition, Pinpoint AF function allows even more precise focus setting by further enlarging the focusing area. With increased customization, users can set the touch shutter and touch AF ON/OFF based on their preference. Touch-control also makes playback of photos and videos easy to flip through like pages in a book.
For those who miss the tactile feel of a traditional DSLR mode dial, the DMC-GF3 offers an innovative mode thumb wheel that quickly cycles though all available modes with visual feedback provided on the large 3'' touch-enabled LCD.
The LUMIX GF3 records 1920 x 1080 full-HD video in the AVCHD format, which features almost twice the recording time in HD quality than the conventional Motion JPEG. A dedicated video record button on the top lets users instantly start recording video, without having to hassle with any menu settings. The LUMIX GF3 allows for Touch AF in video recording, enabling professional-like features, such as rack focusing. For instance, by touching the subject on the screen, the focus is shifted to the subject.
Contributing to its ease-of-use, the LUMIX GF3 features Panasonic's acclaimed iA*3 (Intelligent Auto) mode – and the new advanced iA Plus mode – are automatically engaged once the iA button is pressed, helping to make shooting video and photos with the LUMIX GF3 extremely simple – even to users new to compact system cameras. Panasonic's iA features include MEGA O.I.S. (included in several lenses), Intelligent ISO Control, and Intelligent Scene Selector, Face Detection, AF Tracking, Intelligent D-range Control and Intelligent Resolution. With the new iA Plus mode, the LUMIX GF3 easily enables commonly desired manual enhancements not available from standard camera auto modes such as peripheral defocusing around faces, exposure compensation, and color balance adjustments which are visually adjusted by moving an on screen slider with the user's finger or the thumb wheel,.
The LUMIX GF3, like all CSCs in the Panasonic LUMIX G Series, is equipped with a highly-efficient Dust Reduction System. In some system cameras, if dust or other foreign matter gets inside the digital camera while the lenses are being changed, it's possible that the debris could cling to the image sensor and show up as a spot in your photos. However, the Panasonic Dust Reduction System helps to eliminate this problem by placing a supersonic wave filter in front of the Live MOS sensor that vibrates vertically approximately 50,000 times per second - thus repelling dust and other particles from the LUMIX GF3's sensor.
Two modes - Photo Style and Creative Control - let users at any skill level get creative with their photos. With Creative Control, the user can choose the most-frequently-used color modes (Expressive, Retro, High Key, Sepia, High Dynamic and newly added Miniature Effect*4 mode) with easy access. In Miniature Effect mode, the peripherals are defocused while saturation and contrast is emphasized so the photos look like a diorama. The Photo Style mode revitalizes the conventional film mode with settings in Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait presets while enabling finer adjustment of contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction.
The LUMIX GF3, like all the CSC in the LUMIX G Series of digital cameras, is compatible with other Micro Four Thirds lenses and the full sized Four Thirds System standard via an optional mount adaptor. Other accessories available to the LUMIX G Series include external flashes, PL and ND filters, leather cases, straps, and more. The Panasonic LUMIX GF3 will be available in black, white, red and brown bodies for a suggested retail prices of $699.99 with the 14mm lens kit system starting in July 2011, and $599.99 with the 14-42mm lens kit system starting in late August 2011; and. For more information on Panasonic LUMIX G Series compact system cameras, please visit www.panasonic.com/lumix.
*1 For an interchangeable lens system camera with a built-in flash as of June 13, 2011
*2 Approximately 0.1 sec with LUMIX G VARIO HD 14-140mm / F4.0-5.8 ASPH. / MEGA O.I.S., approx. 0.18 sec with LUMIX G 14mm / F2.5 ASPH. and with LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm / F3.5-5.6 ASPH. / MEGA O.I.S..
*3 Some functions in iA mode may be unavailable depending on the lens that is mounted
*4 Sound will not be recorded with [MINIATURE EFFECT] in Creative Control Mode and approximately 1/10 of the time period is recorded. (If you record for 10 minutes, the resulting motion picture recording will be approximately 1 minute long).

Design and specifications are subject to change without notice.
* Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds and Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds Logo marks are trademarks or registered trademarks of Olympus Imaging Corporation, in Japan, the United States, the European Union and other countries.
* The "AVCHD" is a high definition (HD) digital video recording / playback format jointly established by Panasonic Corporation and Sony Corporation.
* All other company and product names are trademarks of their respective corporations.
* This unit is compatible with both SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Cards. You can only use SDHC Memory Cards on devices that are compatible with them.