Just six months after the release of its "stylish" Lumix DMC-GF2 interchangeable lens compact camera, Panasonic is out with the announcement of the GF2's successor, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3. Although performance has been improved in the new model, in some ways it's more of a redesign than a major upgrade: It retains many of the GF2's basic specs, including the 12 megapixel sensor and 1080i AVCHD video, but attempts to simplify both the design and controls.
The most obvious changes are the GF3's slimmer, lighter, and curvier body design and the replacement of the four-way button control and exposure thumbwheel with a control dial that would be at home on a point-and-shoot. Further streamlining and simplifying the camera, Panasonic has done away with the flash hotshoe, optical viewfinder accessory port, as well as the stereo microphones on the top of the GF2, incorporating a mono mic instead and moving the speaker from the back to the top of the camera.
Though the 3-inch, 460,000-dot touchscreen and other basic specs such as sensitivity range (ISO 100 to 6400) and shutter speed (1/4,000 - 60) also remain the same, performance has been improved in the new camera, with a faster, more accurate autofocus system and improved burst-mode shooting of 3.8 fps (up from 3.2). Battery life has also improved, despite a smaller-sized battery.
The GF3 inherits some of its improvements from its higher-end sibling the Lumix DMC-G3, such as the Pinpoint AF function, which provides precision touch autofocus point selection (with near pixel-level accuracy), allowing you to set autofocus points anywhere on the LCD by touching it, as well as the Precision Contrast LightSpeed AF system, which reduces detection time for focusing by doubling the sensor drive speed from 60 to 120 fps. The new Intelligent Auto Plus mode is also inherited from the G3, and provides real-time visual feedback for touch-enabled features like background de-focusing, exposure control compensation, and white balance (similar to Olympus’ Live Guide). New Photo Style (color presets) and Creative Control (special effects filters) modes have also been ported over from the G3 with the addition of a new Miniature Effect filter that mimics a tilt-shift lens effect (similar to effects we've seen from other vendors).
The GF3 will start shipping in July with a 14mm, f/2.5 kit lens for $699.99, and in August a $599.99 bundle (with a 14-42mm, f/3.5-5.6 lens) will become available as well. Body color options will be black, white, red, and brown.
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