The GF3 comes in a number of packages based on the 14-42mm and 14mm kit lenses, or indeed both lenses together. While the 14-42mm zoom takes the overall size beyond pocket-friendly dimensions, the GF3 and 14mm ‘pancake’ lens combination is easily small enough to slip inside a coat pocket.
We’ve used the 14-42mm lens before and while it’s undoubtedly a competent lens we’ve really enjoyed using the 14mm lens our GF3 review sample came fitted with. While we appreciate that many potential buyers will prefer the added flexibility of the zoom, the 14mm lens really is the perfect partner for the GF3 in our view. Not just because of its small size, but because of the shallower depth-of-field it enjoys over the 14-42mm. Being a prime, it's sharper too.
Given the fixed focal length you do have to work a bit harder to frame your shots, but the 14mm optic's maximum aperture of f/2.5 (as opposed to f/3.5 on the 14-42mm) gives you a shallower depth-of-field to play with, meaning you can make your primary subject really pop out of the background. It’s surely no accident that all of our best sample images were taken at f/2.5 or f/2.8.
It’s worth bearing in mind that lenses belonging to the Micro Four Thirds camp need to have their focal distances multiplied by two to be described in equivalent 35mm terms. Thus the 14mm lens affords the same field of view as a 28mm lens on a traditional 35mm camera, while the 14-42mm offers the 35mm equivalent of 28-84mm.
If neither of the kit options takes your fancy then you can always add your own lens from the ever-expanding list of dedicated G-series lenses, which now includes includes zooms, primes and even a dedicated 3D lens. Using an adaptor, it’s also possible to attach regular DSLR lenses from Olympus, Sigma and other third-party manufacturers.
Metering is generally accurate, although we have noticed a slight tendency for the GF3 to underexpose on occasion which results in slightly dark images. This can be fixed either in-camera via the EV compensation function or with dedicated image editing software post capture.
Colour is generally quite pleasing. Used on the Standard setting, the GF3 delivers neutral but pleasing colour that is neither overly saturated not flat. Of course this can be tweaked for more or less saturation depending on your own preference using the Photo Style options. The Expressive option within the Creative Controls acts very much like a Vivid setting too, should you like that sort of look.
Low-light performance is very good. Not quite up to the especially high standards of the class-leading G3 in our opinion, but still very good nonetheless. See our Sample Images gallery on the next page for a selection of real-world high-sensitivity examples.
Using the 14mm kit lens the GF3 delivers impressive edge sharpness and resolves good levels of detail. Put an even sharper lens on, something like the Leica 25mm f/1.4 Summilex and you’ll get even better results.
There are no problems with white balance to report, with the GF3 able to select an accurate colour temperature when left to its own devices on the Auto White Balance setting.
It’s really hard not to like the GF3 – it’s very small, very stylish, very easy to use and is capable of delivering very good image quality too. On top of this it also offers a generous amount of user control, some useful shooting features and excellent HD video recording abilities. The 14mm pancake lens is the perfect partner for it and feels just right in the hand too. Our only real concern is that the removal of the hot-shoe is a step backwards in terms of flexibility. In this respect serious photo enthusiasts may find the G3, although larger and heavier, a better option. However, if you’re looking for a compact system camera with the emphasis on ‘compact’ and you can live without a hot-shoe, then you’ll probably love the GF3.