Panasonic Lumix GF3: Interchangeable-Lens Cameras Get Even Smaller

Correction (6/13/2011): An earlier version of this story claimed that the Lumix GF3 featured a hot shoe for additional accessories. The GF3 does not offer an accessory hot shoe. PCWorld regrets the error.

It has been only six months since the very compact Panasonic Lumix GF2 Micro Four-Thirds system camera hit stores, and it already has a notably smaller follow-up.

Panasonic Lumix GF3 interchangeable-lens camera

Announced today, the 12-megapixel, interchangeable-lens Panasonic Lumix GF3 has a body that measures just 4.24 inches wide, 2.64 inches tall, and 1.28 inches deep without a lens attached. Not only is that smaller than the aforementioned Lumix GF2 (4.44 by 2.67 by 1.29 inches), but it's also smaller (on two fronts) than the just-announced and similarly compact Sony Alpha NEX-C3 (4.38 by 2.38 by 1.31 inches), which doesn't have a built-in flash.

The GF3 does have a pop-up flash; in fact, Panasonic is billing the camera as the smallest and lightest interchangeable-lens camera with a flash. The Lumix GF3 weighs less than 8 ounces without its battery and storage card loaded or its lens attached; with battery and card, it weighs around 9.3 ounces, and with a pancake lens attached, it weighs a bit more than 11 ounces.

Other than the lighter weight, smaller size, and noticeably different aesthetic design, the Lumix GF3 has many of the same features as the slightly larger GF2. The GF3 offers users the same touch-to-focus capabilities for stills and video that we loved in the Lumix GH2 and GF2, as well as a touch-controlled tracking autofocus system and the ability to touch-select focus points using the entirety of the camera's 3-inch LCD screen.

Other key features include RAW shooting, 1080i AVCHD video at 60 frames per second (as well as 720p video at 60 fps), and the pop-up flash. Panasonic also says that owners can use the GF3's back-mounted thumbwheel instead of the touchscreen for mode selection and other in-camera navigation, and the camera offers one-touch access to Intelligent Auto mode via a top-mounted button.

In addition, the GF3 provides Panasonic's Light Speed AF focusing system, which the company says locks in to subjects in just one-tenth of a second; in other recent Lumix cameras, we've definitely been impressed with the company's high-speed autofocus system and touchscreen-focusing abilities.

Like other recent Lumix interchangeable-lens cameras, the GF3 will be compatible with Panasonic's separately sold 3D conversion lens for 3D still photography. One new feature added to the camera is a "Miniature Effect" mode like the one in Olympus's Pen cameras and recent point-and-shoot cameras from Canon and Nikon: It mimics the effects of a tilt-shift lens, making large objects look like miniature models.

The ultracompact interchangeable-lens Lumix GF3 will be available in black, brown, red, and white. Panasonic will sell it as a kit with a 14mm prime lens (28mm equivalent when attached to the camera) for $700 starting in July, and as a kit with a 14-42mm zoom lens (28mm to 84mm equivalent when attached to the camera) for $600 beginning in August.

Panasonic also announced a new, fast G-series lens that will be available in August. The Leica DG Summilux 25mm prime lens (50mm equivalent when attached to a G-series camera) has an ultrabright F1.4 aperture, making it a great match for low-light situations. The company has not yet announced pricing for the new 25mm/F1.4 lens.

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