The Lumix G3 is the latest model in Panasonic's compact, DSLR-like Micro Four Thirds range. It's considerably smaller and lighter than its predecessor the G2 and sports an all-new 16MP sensor, the same super-fast autofocus system as used by the GH2, a 3-inch articulated monitor that offers responsive touch-screen control over the camera, and Full HD movie recording capabilities.
The G3 sits above the G2 in the G-series range but doesn’t actually replace it. Instead the G2 remains in the range, replacing the now discontinued G10 as the budget Micro Four Thirds option. Alongside the G2, the G3 is further book-ended by the high-end GH2 and slimline GF2.
With an official launch price of £630, pre-orders from reputable online retailers are already popping up offering the G3 body with a 14-42mm kit lens for around £600. And as is often the case we expect some further discounting may occur after the G3 has been out for a month or two.
From being a relatively new and therefore niche market that was created and dominated by Panasonic and Olympus with their joint Micro Four Thirds platform, the compact system camera market has since evolved into a much more mass market affair, with new manufacturers keen to join the party and launch their own models. It’s therefore a much tougher market to dominate than it was 18 months ago. Panasonic clearly understands this and hopes the G3 will keep the company at the top of the micro system pile.
To do so it’ll have to compete directly against rival micro system models such as the new 14.6MP Samsung NX11 that uses a larger APS-C sized sensor and can be picked up for around £500, and the 14.2MP Sony NEX-5 that also uses an APS-C sensor and can be bought for about £550.
It’s also possible to source a very well specified entry-level DSLR for around £600, although you will of course incur a size and weight penalty over the purposely compact and easy-to-carry micro system genre - such is the penalty of a proper optical viewfinder and the optics that go with it.
Does the G3 have what it takes to take its competitors on and win? Let’s take a closer look and find out.