The Panasonic Lumix GF3 is, at the time of introduction, Pansonic's smallest Compact System Camera. It has a "micro four thirds" lens mount, so is compatible with lenses made for other Lumix G series cameras and the Olympus PEN cameras.
Compared with previous Panasonic G series cameras, the image quality is a great improvement: their previous cameras had discernible luminance noise when viewed full scale, which seems to be absent here. For me, that improvement in quality and the small size of the camera are it's main advantages.
The controls on the back of the camera are a slight change from previous models. It retains a rocker button for the main menu navigation, but the jog wheel of other Lumix G cameras is replaced a ring around the rocker button. On the one hand this makes it easier to scroll through menu items, but on the other hand it is quite easy to knock, bringing up a menu when mid-way through composing a shot.
The small size of the camera mean there is not much space for buttons, so the few that there are have to work quite hard. The buttons are quite light and responsive which means it is quite easy to navigate through the menus, but it is also quite easy to find you've gone a button-press too far.
As an alternative to the buttons, the camera also has a touchscreen, from which it is possible to do all that is available on the buttons, and a little more. To me, the screen seems to need rather heavy pressure to register a command, but is still quite responsive. Using both buttons and touchscreen together makes it very quick to get around the menus.
The camera shell is mainly of metal construction giving it, in the main, a robust feel, but that is let down by two functional parts that seem quite flimsy. The inbuilt flash mechanism seems incredibly delicate - not something to push back into its closed position in a hurry, and as there's no hot shoe, this inbuilt flash is your only flash option. The other disappointment is the cover for the various sockets, which is rubberised plastic rather than the metal flap that, for example, the Panasonic Lumix GF1
has. It is quite a tight fit and looks as though the lugs that keep it closed will wear quite quickly.
I've mainly used this with a Panasonic Lumix G 20mm/F1.7 Pancake Lens
so far, with which it has a nicely balanced feel. It also feels quite comfortable with smaller zoom lenses, but the body is so small that it just doesn't feel right with a large zoom lens.
If you're looking for a small, go-anywhere camera then, although this isn't quite pocket sized, it's a good step up from a compact, with image quality way above compacts of similar size. If you already have a larger micro four-thirds camera, it is a convenient back-up to go with your existing equipment. For the moment though, there are other interchangeable lens cameras that, by virtue of being somewhat larger, are more suited to a wider range of photography.