Straight out of the box the most noticeable difference between the GF3 and its predecessors is the styling. While the GF2 signified a move away from the straight lines and angularity of the GF1, the GF3 takes the process even further, with all of its edges and corners further rounded off.
The hot-shoe has been removed altogether, with the pop-up flash moving from the shoulder of the camera to the centre, where it now sits directly under the GF3’s ‘hump’.
The back of the camera gets an all-new layout too, with a new circular control dial replacing the old directional-pad of the GF2. We’ll have more to say about how the hot-shoe removal and button layout changes affect handling and performance later on, but for now let’s have a closer look at the headline specs. Is the radical re-styling of the exterior matched by what’s found inside the camera?
Not as much as you might expect is the short answer, with the GF3’s primary components subtly echoing what has been found in previous Lumix GF models. The GF3 uses a 12.1MP Live MOS sensor and while we’ve been informed that it’s been newly developed for the GF3 it offers exactly the same resolution as the sensors used in both the GF2 and the GF1 before that.
This does surprise us somewhat, as we’d rather expected to see the GF3 share the same (and also new) 16.2MP sensor employed by the G3 – especially given how well that performs in low-light. We can only speculate that the reason the GF3 doesn’t use the same chip as the G3 is as a point of differentiation between the two models, one that helps to establish the G3 as the more enthusiast-orientated option of the two.
Alongside the new sensor, the GF3 uses the same Venus Engine VII HD image processor found in the GF2. Working in partnership they enable the GF3 to shoot continuously at 4fps at full resolution, and to record 1080i Full HD movies at 25fps. Sensitivity, meanwhile, ranges from ISO 100-6400.
As with all G-series cameras the GF3 offers the full compliment of ‘PASM’ shooting modes alongside the usual range of Scene modes. The GF3 also sports the same iAuto mode seen on the G3 that, while fully automatic, does allow you to take control of depth-of-field, exposure compensation and white balance using simple on-screen prompts.
The GF3 also gets the Creative Control shooting mode of the G3, which is essentially a series of six digital effects filters: Expressive, Retro, High Key, Sepia, High Dynamic and Miniaturisation.
If you’d prefer to stick to the regular shooting modes, then the Picture Styles menu allows you to determine how your processed images will look by altering the levels of sharpness, saturation and so on. The six Photo Style presets include: Standard, Natural, Vivid, Monochrome, Scenery and Portrait. In addition to these, you can also create your own custom profiles.
Images can be recorded in either JPEG or Raw (.RW2) format, or indeed a combination of the two. Movie recording abilities are especially well catered for, with the GF3 able to record movies up to a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 Full HD at 25fps. Sound is recorded in mono and there’s no external microphone jack. High-Def movies can be stored in the super space-efficient AVCHD format, while lower quality movies can be stored as MP4 files.