Panasonic is aiming the Lumix GF3 at novice photographers who want to upgrade from a compact camera, and we think it's a great choice for these users. The GF3 is easy to use and yet has plenty of automated features and provides lots of opportunity to take control as your confidence grows.
There's also a reasonably high-level of customization available for an entry-level camera and it's worth spending time experimenting with the various set-ups that are possible and trailing different Quick Menu arrangements.
We also think that the Panasonic GF3 is worthy of consideration by enthusiast photographers who want a camera to slip in their jacket pocket. These users will probably also like Panasonic's pancake lenses which offer larger maximum apertures than the zoom lenses, in a very neat and compact design.
The Panasonic GF3's aluminium chassis gives it a high-quality feel, and it seems like a camera that will survive being taken on your travels.
The high quality feel and small size combined with plenty of control makes the GF3 a great camera for experienced photographers who want to travel light as well as novices moving up from a compact camera.
Clearly some compromises have to be made with entry-level products and while the GF3 is very small and compact, the lack of a viewfinder and the inability to attached and external finder means that composing images can be tricky in bright light.
Although Panasonic has put a lot of work into reducing the level of noise in the images produced by its Lumix G series cameras, their strength is still their performance in bright or 'average' lighting conditions. To be fair, though, this is when the camera is most likely to be used as the GF3 is small enough to slip into a bag or rucksack and taken on travels and adventures. Nevertheless it is worth bearing in mind that ISO 1600 is probably the highest settings to use if A3 prints are required. Pushing the sensivity any higher than this results in loss of detail and a coarse texture.
The Panasonic GF3 is an ideal alternative to a compact camera. It produces high quality images and has an extensive range of controls long with simple, yet sophisticated, handling.
Dynamic range is a little restricted, but on the whole images look great straight from the camera.
The only real downside is that there's no viewfinder or means of attaching an external viewfinder, which can be an issue in very bright light. This may not be an issue for many people upgrading from a compact camera as few have viewfinders theses days, but enthusiasts who choose to use a GF3 instead of their SLR may take issue.