Body & Design
The design of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 isn't a radical departure from its predecessor, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 but there are noticeable changes in terms of external controls. To accommodate the G3's smaller top plate, the Movie Record button has been shifted to the back of the camera, displacing the G2's AF/AE Lock button. The Q. Menu button now sits below the 4-way controller in place of the G2's depth-of-field preview button. You can, however, assign the functionality of these removed buttons to either of the G3's two function buttons.
With the removal of the focus and drive mode dials and switches, the G3 is a camera that demands frequent use of its on-screen interface. Hard buttons and dials are still used for all the primary shooting settings, so this shouldn't alienate users of Panasonic's non touchscreen-enabled G-series cameras, but secondary functions such as AF mode, burst rate, and image quality settings are most easily controlled via the Quick menu, using either the rear buttons or the pressure-sensitive touchscreen. Fortunately, the G3 has essentially the same touchscreen control system as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2, which remains one of the best we've encountered.
The touchscreen interface is also used to quickly place the AF point anywhere in the frame. This can be done with some precision when using the new pinpoint AF mode. As in the G2, you can also use the Touch Shutter which enables you to focus and shoot with a single screen press. This quickly becomes intuitive, but because the camera still needs to focus, shutter release isn't instant upon touching the screen. For maximum shutter responsiveness it is still preferable to half-press the shutter button to focus, then press down all the way to capture an exposure.
These features are nice additions to an interface that we thought helped position the GF2 as one of the most user friendly large-sensor cameras. The GF2's touchscreen makes it quick and easy to access the camera's features in a manner with which most entry-level DSLRs still struggle. This kind of accessibility is augmented on the G3 with the new, optional, iA+ mode. Panasonic's highly automated iA (Intelligent Auto) mode has been around for a few years, but iA+ allows control over additional settings such as white balance - bridging the divide between a fully automatic mode and the more controllable P (program) mode.