Price: $900 with
A neat step up
THE LOW-DOWN: This is the smallest and cheapest in the Panasonic micro four thirds range. It has a 12 megapixel sensor and comes with a 14–42mm lens (28–84mm film equivalent). It is fitted with Panasonic’s touch screen that uses the touch subject-focus-expose-shoot function. There are not many conventional external controls. There is no hot shoe for an external flash or port for an EVF like those provided on the Olympus E-PM1, the direct competitor. The iA+ allows for a modicum of user control in full automatic setting, but it is obvious that this camera is intended for point-and-shooters moving up from a compact. There are sixteen Scene mode presets to hold the hand of the upgrader. Movie mode is full HD with mono audio.
LIKE: This camera takes fine photos and is an entry into the ever-growing Panasonic/Olympus micro four thirds system. Auto focus is lightning fast and the touch screen, now spreading across all the Panasonic models, is the very best of its type.
DISLIKE: The lack of accessible controls on the body will be disturbing for enthusiasts and traditionalists. However the touch screen does give instant access to the most frequently used controls.
VERDICT: The GF3 is around $300 more expensive than the Olympus E-PM1 and it is hard to see what the extra money buys. The Olympus has an external socket for accessories such as an EVF and stereo microphone. It has a hot shoe and comes with an external flash in the kit. It has sensor-shift image stabilisation which means that lenses are cheaper. Both cameras are designed to be an easy upgrade for compact owners rather than a serious portable alternative for DSLR users. Compare before you buy.