Best budget compact system camera: 6 tested

Six of the best budget CSCs tested

Best budget compact system cameras 6 tested

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, 14-42mm - £470

The chunkiest model in this group, Panasonic gives an official depth measurement of 47mm from front to back. However, this doesn't include the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3's built-in, non-removable electronic viewfinder, which boosts the overall thickness to 60mm. That's twice as deep as some of the compact-style cameras we've tested and, in the hand, it doesn't feel all that much smaller than a 'proper' (and cheaper) lightweight DSLR, such as the Canon EOS 1100D.

The bigger body pays dividends in handling, though, and the G3 feels a better balanced proposition than the slimline Panasonic GF3 with its 14-42mm lens. Other luxuries include a mode dial with direct access to PASM modes, scene modes, creative imaging controls and two custom modes.

You also get a second Fn button in addition to the Q.Menu/Fn button (as featured on the GF3), and a button for switching between the LCD and the electronic viewfinder.

The quick-acting, intuitive touchscreen goes one better than the GF3's in that it has a full pivot facility. This makes the option of tapping the screen for releasing the shutter even more of an advantage than it is on the GF3. Shooting from odd angles has never been easier.

Performance

When it comes to handling, the G3 feels more of a 'real' camera than the compact-style models, and boasts performance to match. Picture quality proved excellent in our tests and resistance to noise is impressive at medium to high ISOs, especially considering the high 16MP resolution for a Four Thirds sensor. The EVF comes into its own for sunny-day shooting and is jitter-free when panning, although it's not perfect.

Overall, the G3 is an excellent option for photographers who want advanced features in an upsized body.

Outdoor image test

Best budget compact system cameras 6 tested

A little on the dark side; foliage in the trees in the background looks a bit dull and murky, but the grass is still quite vibrant.

Resolution test

Best budget compact system cameras 6 tested

JPEG resolution is very impressive throughout the entire sensitivity range and is even a match for raw mode at ISO 160.

Noise

Best budget compact system cameras 6 tested

ISO 200

Best budget compact system cameras 6 tested

ISO 1600

There's a little more smoothing in evidence in high-ISO JPEGS compared with the GF3, but images look nice and clean.

Colour error

Best budget compact system cameras 6 tested

A little muted compared with the GF3. Colour accuracy is very good, but images can appear slightly lacking in saturation.

Image test verdict

In some conditions, midtones are a little muddy, but overall image quality is very good, with very pleasing results straight from the camera.

Read the full Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 review