Panasonic has added to its ever growing - yet ever shrinking - stable of Lumix Micro Four Thirds cameras with what it claims is the world's smallest and lightest digital interchangeable lens camera with a built-in flash. The new DMC-GF3 is 16.7 percent smaller and 16.2 percent lighter than its predecessor, the DMC-GF2, which was itself 19 percent smaller and seven percent lighter than the preceding DMC-GF1. The GF3's size and weight reductions are largely thanks to the elimination of an optical viewfinder and mirror-box, which also means there's no electronic viewfinder.
The GF3 is smaller than Sony's latest NEX series of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, and offers a larger "DSLR-sized" 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor in comparison to the NEX C3's APS-C sized sensor. The GF3 also features the same Venus Engine FHD image processor found in the GF2 to produce low noise images in low-lit conditions at high ISO sensitivity settings.
For still shots users can lock onto a subject with a touch of the 3-inch 460,000 pixel touch display and the camera will track the subject using the AF tracking feature. Another touch allows the user to select the size of the autofocus area, while a Pinpoint AF function enlarges the focusing area to allow for near pixel level touch control focusing on close up macro or still life objects. Users can also release the shutter using the touch-screen.
The GF3 records full-HD 1080/60i video in AVCHD with a dedicated video record button on the top of the unit. The Touch AF feature is also available while recording video to let users shift focus by touching the subject on the display.
While all the camera's functions can be controlled via the touchscreen menus - which can also be customized using drag and drop - the touch interface can be disabled for users that prefer using the physical thumb wheel.
Other features include Light Speed AF, which reduces focus detection time by doubling the sensor's drive speed from 60 fps to 120 fps, and a new iA Plus mode alongside Panasonic's regular iA (Intelligent Auto) mode that simplifies things with features such as MEGA O.I.S, intelligent ISO control, face detection, exposure compensation, and color balance adjustments that are visually adjusted by moving an onscreen slider. There are also a number of art effects available in camera.
The GF3 is compatible with Micro Four Thirds lenses, including Panasonic's 3D lens, as well as full sized Four Thirds System standard lenses via an optical mount adapter. With the announcement of the GF3 Panasonic has also unveiled a new wide aperture interchangeable lens in the form of the Leica DG Summilux 25mm/F1.4 ASPH. Panasonic says the new lens reduces ghosts and flare thanks to an extra-low refractive index coating with nano-sized structure on the surface of the lens.
The Lumix DMC-GF3 body weighs 222 g (7.83 oz) and measures 107.7 x 67.1 x 32.5 mm (4.24 x 2.64 x 1.28-in) and is compatible with SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Cards. It will be available in black, white, red and brown. The body and 14mm lens kit system will be priced at US$699.99 when it goes on sale from July, 2011, while the body and a 14-22mm lens kit system will be available from late August, 2011, for $599.99. The price and release date of the Leica DG Summilux 25mm/F1.4 ASPH lens is yet to be announced.
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