The Lumix G3 – What is the point?

The Lumix G 3 and Kit Lens

In my quest to find the perfect companion camera to the Leica M9, I picked up Lumix G3, 14-42 kit lens and 45-200 telephoto.

It was a slightly bigger camera than I was intending to acquire but it had several features that, at the time of purchase I thought would be practical and interesting to utilise: viewfinder (albeit electronic), articulated touchscreen, fast AF, 4 frames per second shooting, smaller than a DSLR . The fact it was able to cram these into a body not much bigger than the Lumix GF1 seemed to me a miracle of design and engineering. Okay, maybe not a miracle but certainly clever.

I am going to keep this review short and sweet. Before I launch into my thoughts and feelings though a couple of qualifications are in order here. Firstly, this is my opinion of how the camera worked for me. Secondly, If you have the camera and disagree with everything I have said then cool. Thirdly, If you are thinking of buying the camera then I suggest you try it out first in store first to ensure that you are 100% satisfied that it ticks all your boxes. Finally, yes I know that these features are available on other cameras but for me, having experienced what is arguably the best implementation of these features I would steer clear in future.

The most positive thing, other than it’s size, that I can say about this camera is that the image quality is pretty good with the 45-200 lens. The kit 14-42, whilst supremely fast in the focussing department, is not as good as the 14-45 GF1 kit lens. Not as well built (plastic mount for a start), not as sharp, softer etc. I am not sure why, other than price, Lumix decided to mess with the 14-45.

The 14-42 kit lens – optically inferior to the 14-45

All the aspects that I was looking forward to taking advantage of were either a hindrance or ultimately pointless:

· The viewfinder. For a start it is electronic and I knew this. In bright light it is pretty good. As the light starts to fade so does the performance. The image becomes grainy and wobbly and not pleasant to look at. Also, to get the 4 fps you need to use the view finder which for action is next to useless as it shows a split second view of the shot you have just taken. Not very useful for tracking a subject at all.

· Articulated screen. What’s the point. Okay, I know what the point is. I had expected to love this feature. The ability to be able to hold the camera at various angles, tilt the screen so you can see the image and take the shot. What should have been obvious is that it is virtually impossible to keep a camera steady enough when holding above your head or away from you body to achieve acceptable sharp shot.

· Touchscreen. Don’t get me started. There seems to me to be too much reliance on this to enjoy using the camera. Also the feature where you can touch the screen and it will immediately focus and take the shot seems clever at first but then, as with the screen you find yourself creating too much camera movement with this action to properly take an acceptably sharp image.

· Handling. The camera is too small for how it is intended to be held. The buttons on the back of the camera on the right hand side are right below your palm when you are holding the camera. I found that when held it with one hand I would inadvertently press these buttons bringing up menus that I never intended.

The Lumix 45-200 – better built than the kit lens with superior performance

So to return the question in the Blog title: what is the point of the G3? I am not so sure. It seems to be pretending to be a DSLR and compact system camera at the same time. For me I cannot see why you would want to by the G3 over an entry level Canon, Nikon or Pentax DSLR. I also cannot see, now, why you would want to have the larger size of the G3 over the GF3 or E-PL2/3. Extra pixels means potentially better image quality and so if this is important to you go for the entry level DSLR.

I apologise to any G3 owners out there. I truly hope that it serves you well. For me, though, I just cannot see the point of it………..

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2 responses to “The Lumix G3 – What is the point?

  1. Except for the articulated screen (which I actually find very useful), my experience with the G1 I own exactly mirrors those stated here. I do own the adapters to use my Leica M and R glass, but somehow it´s just not worth the trouble…

    For me, the only companion for the M9 is my D-Lux 4. It is *significantly* smaller than the M9; what´s the point of a less qualified alternative if it is almost as bulky as the M9? Of course, I never carry both on the same shoot; it´s the M9 unless I absolutely cannot carry it.

  2. hmmm i just got one, and i’m hoping to fall in love with it.

    Must admit, so far i’m not comfortable with the touch screen and find the lack of manual controls a bit of a pain.

    I’m also not keen on the electronic viewfinder… but like you, i knew this was a feature.

    otherwise the image quality is excellent and i’m enjoying learning it.

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