Slightly disappointed with GF3

Started May 3, 2012 | Discussions thread
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rezaf_2000 Regular Member • Posts: 335
Slightly disappointed with GF3

So the GAS (gear acquisition syndrom) hit me last week and I bought a GF3 with 14mm. I already have an E-P1 and G1, and I was thinking about adding the 14mm lens. But looking at how low the GF3+14mm prices are, I decided to get both. So I bought the pair for new last week ($340 on eBay), and got them yesterday.

So here are my impressions and comparison to an old E-P1, hoping that it might help others to decide whether to buy this camera.

Handling the camera is a bit awkward. Because of the way it's grip is sculpted, you end up holding the front side of the camera with only one finger (the middle finger), while the last two fingers are left hanging. This makes all the wight of the camera to be on one finger, and as a result it makes it "feel" heavier. In contrast, the grip of the E-P1 is such that you end up using wo fingers to hold the grip on the front side. So even though the E-P1 is heavier, it "feels" lighter in use, because all it's weight is not on one finger.

The camera handling (I mean how easily and quickly I can change the settings) is better than the G1 (which I've never managed to get quite comfortable with), and on-par with my E-P1. I also like the touch-to-focus a lot. In this regards, the E-P1 comes to a close second (using it's AF zone selection from the super control menu) and the G1 comes at a distance third. In G1, the only way I can quickly focus on what I want is to use the center point and recompose, very clunky.

GF3 doesn't feel as small as I was hoping for. I was hoping the GF3+14 could replace my S90. I was of course under no illusion that it could be as pocketable, but I was hoping for something tangibly smaller and lighter than my E-P1. Alas, GF3 is the same depth, almost the same height (a few mm smaller) and only about 10mm smaller in width. Not much difference here. It also feels heavier than it should be. It's not too heavy, but it doesn't feel lightweight either (also see the point above about its grip sculpture). I'd say maybe 50-60 grams lighter than the E-P1, but in use it doesn't show.

But what is most disappointing is that indoors at night, the lack of IBIS really shows. I was hoping that the f/2.5 would save the day (the night ), but not really. Most of my indoor shots with the GF3 and the 14mm f/2.5 are blurry or at least not sharp enough. On the other hand when I put the 14mm on the E-P1, I could easily get pin-sharp photos at 1/8s, while the GF3 really needs at least 1/30s and preferably 1/60. This shows that the E-P1 IBIS is really about 3 stops effective, and it does make a tangible difference.

The AWB in GF3 is improved over the atrocious AWB of the G1, and it has two very handy and easy to set custom WB options. But still, the Oly AWB is more pleasant and accurate. Even when manually setting the WB to tungsten in both cameras, the GF3 still has some left-over reddish tint that is not there in the Oly.

As for high ISO, 800 is still my acceptable limit, and the E-P1's ISO 800 is still a touch better than GF3's. This is similar performance to the G1, and I was hoping for a slight upgrade, with ISO 800 at least on-par with the E-P1, but it's not the case.

Similar to the G1 and unlike the E-P1, when viewing the pictures and zooming in, it does not show the real full-resolution pictures, so you can't judge critical focus on the LCD. When you watch the final image in a computer, the results are sharper. I don't know if other Panasonic cameras are also like this other than the G1 and GF3 (GH2 owners?), but I find it annoying in both G1 and now GF3. My Olympus cameras don't do this.

Another gripe with the GF3: there is no way to get a complete and clutter free view of your pictures while viewing them. In the best case, there is still one icon left on the touch screen (view) which is super imposed on the image. I think GF5 has fixed this issue with a hard (view) button, but well it's an annoyance with the GF3.

The in-built flash of the GF3 is cool and comes in handy, specially since it can be pointed to the ceiling with your finger.

So far, aside from the in-built flash, the old E-P1 is proving to be equal or better in every aspect to the GF3. Oh, it shoots hi def 1080p video, but I'm mostly a photo person, and the 720p of E-P1 has served me quite well in the last 3 years.

A cool thing I found out: my Olympus OVF VF-1 can also be used with the 14mm. Ignoring the bright lines and using everything that you can see in the VF-1 pretty much matches the 14mm view.

I'm definitely keeping the 14mm. It's wide angle, tiny, more or less a bright lens, focuses fairly fast and a joy to use. It does rattlesnake on the E-P1, but the aperture sound is not as loud as the 20mm f/1.7.

The way it goes so far, I'm afraid the GF3 will find itself on the eBay soon, to contribute towards my E-M5 fund:-). I might give it a week or two to see if it grows on me, but so far I'm disappointed with its night performance.

Canon PowerShot S90 Olympus PEN E-P1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5
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