Second camera: Panasonic GF3 vs. Olympus E-PL1

Started May 19, 2012 | Discussions
Spectacle99
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Second camera: Panasonic GF3 vs. Olympus E-PL1
May 19, 2012

I am an about-to-be new Olympus OM-D E-M5 owner (waiting like everyone else for delivery). With prices dropping like crazy on previous micro four-thirds models, I am considering buying a second camera for my wife's use, and we'll then be able to share lenses. So I am deciding between the following two models, and would appreciate any advice before making my choice:

  1. Olympus E-PL1 body & Panasonic 14mm pancake lens

  2. Panasonic GF3 in kit w/same Panasonic 14mm pancake lens

Both combos cost almost exactly the same price. Since my other lenses are Olympus lenses, as well as having a couple of OM manual focus lenses, I was thinking that the E-PL1 would be the better choice, as it has IBIS built in, and the GF3 does not.

Do you all think this is the right choice, or is there some reason why I should consider going with the GF3 instead?

Thanks in advance for your advice.

jalywol
jalywol MOD
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Re: Second camera: Panasonic GF3 vs. Olympus E-PL1
In reply to Spectacle99, May 19, 2012

Spectacle99 wrote:

I am an about-to-be new Olympus OM-D E-M5 owner (waiting like everyone else for delivery). With prices dropping like crazy on previous micro four-thirds models, I am considering buying a second camera for my wife's use, and we'll then be able to share lenses. So I am deciding between the following two models, and would appreciate any advice before making my choice:

  1. Olympus E-PL1 body & Panasonic 14mm pancake lens

  2. Panasonic GF3 in kit w/same Panasonic 14mm pancake lens

Both combos cost almost exactly the same price. Since my other lenses are Olympus lenses, as well as having a couple of OM manual focus lenses, I was thinking that the E-PL1 would be the better choice, as it has IBIS built in, and the GF3 does not.

Do you all think this is the right choice, or is there some reason why I should consider going with the GF3 instead?

I had an EPL1, I now have a GF3 for my small carry-with camera (I have a GH2 also).

The only two advantages to the EPL1 over the GF3 are IBIS and the hotshoe for external flash or EVF. The rest of the advantages (and there are many) go to the GF3.

They are:

GF3 has hugely faster focusing both in daylight and especially in dim light. The EPL1 is very, very slow to lock focus in dim light. The EPL1 has no AF assist light, also, while the GF3 does, making the GF3 a much better camera all around for indoor and lower light photography.

The EPL1 has a smaller and much dimmer LCD. The GF3's is large and quite visible in daylight. The EPL1's LCD is useless once it gets moderately bright out, and you need the EVF to see what you are doing. I've used my GF3 in even bright outdoor daylight with no problems; the EPL1 LCD would simply not have been visible in those same circumstances.

The controls on the GF3, while seemingly fewer, are much, much easier to use to adjust shutter speed/aperture/ exposure compensation. With the EPL1 there is a little button dance to get everything adjusted, and it is very fiddly. The GF3 has a very speedy set-up to change everything on the fly.

The GF3 has a smaller minimum focus area, including a pinpoint option, which is very handy in some situations.

The GF3 colors are pretty good. Nothing else has Oly colors, but the GF3 has IMO the best jpg engine of all the Panasonic cameras, and it does a really nice job in most situations.

If you want touch focus or touch shutter, the GF3 has both, the EPL1 does not. Some people find this a very handy feature.

I find there is a hair less noise at ISO 800 and 1600 in the newer version of the 12MP sensor in the GF3 vs the EPL1. It's not a big difference, but it does seem to be there.

The GF3 is simply a fun camera to hold and use. The EPL1 is not.

As to IBIS....I use all of my OLY lenses (and the 14mm Panny) on the GF3. I'm just careful about bracing and keeping my shutter speed up where possible, and I really have not had any terrible problems with camera motion blur. However, that is your call....if you do plan to take lots of photos at long telephoto range, then the EPL1 has an advantage. For wide to normal use, I call it a wash.

The GF3 is on fire sale today at Amazon, I would get one and try it. If you decide you don't like it, put the body up on Ebay, keep the lens, and then get the EPL1. If you do like it, you have a great little system and the lens you want for an unbelievable price .

Good luck!

-J

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MAubrey
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Re: Second camera: Panasonic GF3 vs. Olympus E-PL1
In reply to Spectacle99, May 19, 2012

There is a progressive improvement in the high ISO noise of the 12MP sensor (albeit still not competing with the 16MP one) over the course of time. But if DPreview's graphs are to be believed, then you might want to take a look at the EPL2, which has lower noise than both the GF3 and EPL1.

See also Dxomark:

http://bit.ly/JsWi6C
--
--Mike

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bg2b
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Re: Second camera: Panasonic GF3 vs. Olympus E-PL1
In reply to Spectacle99, May 20, 2012

Given the current GF3 firesale, I'd buy one ASAP.

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dholl
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Re: Second camera: Panasonic GF3 vs. Olympus E-PL1
In reply to bg2b, Jun 17, 2012

bg2b wrote:

Given the current GF3 firesale, I'd buy one ASAP.

What was the price in the firesale? Was it with lens?

I've just gone through the same decision-making as the OP. I wanted a mirrorless camera as a second cam to my 5DII, and also as an ideal tester-camera for my rather obscene collection of old manual lenses. I didn't need big specs or class-leading features/IQ...I just wanted something cheap & small with good out-of-cam output. I also don't need a kit lens, nor do I need to accessorise the second camera (but it does need onboard flash).

Because of a small budget, the GH2, OM-D & NEX-7 are out, even the mid-range options like NEX-5N, G3 & E-P3 are out of my price range. So it was between the modern trio of E-PM1, GF3 & NEX-C3 or an older super-cheap model like E-PL1, GF1 or NEX-3.

Eventually it came down to what was available at a good price on Ebay. It was either a GF3 ex-display model from a dealer with 1-year guarantee for €170 or for a similar price a private auction securing the E-PL1 but with the old kit 14-42mm lens.

So it looked like this:

GF3 pros:

  • generally newer technology (faster processor, better screen)

  • the red camera was available (I just like it :))

  • touch-screen could be interesting (never used one before)

  • according to reviews, the JPG colours have been improved over older G-models.

  • a touch smaller than E-PL1

  • many user reviews report superior handling of the GF3 over the older Pens

E-PL1 pros:

  • same price but includes lens

  • in-body IS (useful for manual lenses)

  • highly-regarded JPG IQ

both cams tied:

  • generally IQ, high-ISO and DR are very similar.

  • in-camera processing available, picture ratios, filters and the like

It's very close, and there is a very good case for the Pen...but I got seduced by trying a modern camera with a touchscreen. Mayhap I'll never use it...we'll see.

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Spectacle99
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Re: Second camera: Panasonic GF3 vs. Olympus E-PL1
In reply to dholl, Jun 18, 2012

Given your particular situation, I'd suggest the E-PL1. A lot of people swear that it's actually the best of the PENS (not counting the OM-D), thanks to the weakness of its AA filter. I went ahead and got the GF3 (it was on a one-day deal for $310, including the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5). But I'm pretty sure I'm going to return it. I'm spoiled by my OM-D, and just find the thing not up to the quality I require, even for a second body. You're right about the lack of in-body stabilization being an issue. That limits your lens choice, especially if you're interested in using legacy glass. The touchscreen is also pretty lame as far as touchscreens go. But again, I'm spoiled by my OM-D, and for that matter, my iPhone.

And the very small size of the GF3 is pretty much meaningless. When it's really small, with that pancake lens attached, I'd just as soon have my Sony pocket superzoom. The very small amount I'd give up in wide-angle IQ and low-light capability are more than made up for by the superzoom's overall versatility, and its superiority in macro work. And with other lenses than the pancake on the GF3, then it is big enough that I might as well just have my OM-D (itself very small and light).

In fact, if it's your only camera (not a second camera where you've already invested in m43 lenses), and it's image quality and manual control you're looking for in a relatively small and affordable package, you might want to consider a Sony A33 or A55, a Nikon 3100, or a Canon T2i/T3i (550D/600D). All are small-ish and lightweight DSLRS (especially the Sonys), in the neighborhood of your price range, and will give you a significant improvement in performance on either of your choices here.

On the other hand, if it will be your only camera, but you're more interested in total portability and really keeping costs down, then you might prefer one of the high quality "bridge" superzooms that are being offered by Sony, Panasonic, and some others right now. I have the Sony HX9V, and have been very happy with it for what it is. And I think they've got some really souped-up models now for about the same price you'd pay for either the E-PL1 or the GF3.

But if you're going for the second m43 body, then I think the E-PL1 is probably your best choice. Happy camera shopping!

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bryanbrun
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Re: Second camera: Panasonic GF3 vs. Olympus E-PL1
In reply to jalywol, Jun 18, 2012

jalywol wrote:

The GF3 is simply a fun camera to hold and use. The EPL1 is not.

The GF3 is too small to hold and no fun to use. The tiny little grip on the camera provides no support and actually prevents the mounting of a useable third party grip.

The EPL1 can actually be held and balanced with a legacy lens or the something like a 40-150mm.

The EPL1 has the Super Control Panel, which means you avoid the menu diving required in the GF3.

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Michael Dodge Thomas
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Re: Second camera: Panasonic GF3 vs. Olympus E-PL1
In reply to Spectacle99, Jun 18, 2012

That Amazon "firesale" must be over, the lowest price I see for a GF3 body + lens is 379.00 with the 14mm pancake.

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Setter Dog
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Re: Second camera: Panasonic GF3 vs. Olympus E-PL1
In reply to Michael Dodge Thomas, Jun 18, 2012

I'm afraid I agree with Jalywol.

After using direct control cameras, Sony a55, GH2, G2 etc., I briefly had a problem with getting things set up on the GF3. With help from this forum, and some hands on time, I've found it to be pretty simple. When I got confused, I could press the 1A button and save the shot. Once you get the hang of it, the camera is easy and absolutely fun to use. If Oly has better JPEGs, as rumored, I probably couldn't stand it. I've very pleased with my results.

I have the 14mm on my GF3 and am getting used to it. I find I use this camera more than any of my others. Best thing I've found is that the GF3 w/14mm fits in the shirt pocket of my "outdoor" shirts.

I think you will like the camera.

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keekimaru
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Re: Second camera: Panasonic GF3 vs. Olympus E-PL1
In reply to Spectacle99, Sep 20, 2012

About Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3

For those who are ready to step up from a tiny sensor point and shoot, this camera is pretty awesome, considering that its current price is pretty low for a nice sized sensor.

My only gripe is with the touchscreen. It's not very sensitive. What I do love about it though is that you can set it to auto mode, and tap the touchscreen on what you want to focus on, and it will focus quickly and take a picture in that one tap. Very clear photos for beginners with the standard kit lens. I use the 20mm f1.7 pancake and get WONDERFUL shots. Beware, though, the pancake lens on this camera isn't as small as it seems. The pancake with cap doubles the thickness of the camera.

More Detail : http://www.webcamerawebcamera.com/detail.php?id_detail=Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-GF3-12-MP-Micro20-4-3-Compact-System-Camera-with-3-Inch-Touch-Screen-LCD-Body-Only-%28Black%29&website=forums-dpreview

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alendrake
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Re: Second camera: Panasonic GF3 vs. Olympus E-PL1
In reply to keekimaru, Sep 20, 2012

First and foremost: IBIS in E-P1 and E-PL1 (which I both own and use) seem to be just another marketing word - it is simply useless. At least with Olympus first generation 14-42mm lens as well as with legacy manual lenses that I have and in fact if you need better results, you may consider switching it off. In OM-D it's a completely reworked piece of equipment and seem to work very nice according to huge user reports.

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