Last week, we caught a glimpse of the Lumix DMC-GF3, a new addition to Panasonic's ever-growing family of Micro Four Thirds shooters. Turns out, the camera we spied in that YouTube video was legit: the company just made it official and yes, it's missing a hot shoe. Available in four colors with 12.1 megapixel resolution, it uses Panny's latest imaging processor, shoots 1080i AVCHD video, and has a 3-inch touchscreen, ISO range of 160 to 6400, and the usual array of intelligent Auto enhancements. Unlike the GF2 -- which isn't going anywhere, by the way -- it's designed with the greenest of novices in mind, which means it forgoes things experienced photogs might like, such as a hot shoe and viewfinder. This one has a mono, not stereo mic, and swaps in a simple scroll wheel on the back side. Panasonic also rejiggered the touch UI to make certain settings easier to find and added a miniature art filter -- already a staple on Olympus' PEN series. Oh, and as a beginner-friendly camera, it looks more like a point-and-shoot than a DSLR -- it's 15 percent lighter than the GF2, and 17 percent smaller.

The GF3 will be available in July for $699 with a 14mm lens, to be followed in late August by a $599 kit that comes with a 14-42mm lens. In the meantime, head on past the break and check out our impressions after spending a few minutes with a not-final unit and a 14mm lens. We only got to play with it in a fluorescent conference room, alas, but hopefully our handful of test shots will give you a taste of what you can do with the depth of field should you spring for the higher-end of the two kits.
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 hands-on!


In many ways, the GF3 isn't that great a departure from the GF2, whose uncluttered chassis also has a power switch, shutter, video recording button, simple playback and menu buttons, and a navigation pad. Either way, you won't find the traditional mode dials that the original GF1 has. Thanks to that scroll wheel, the GF3's design looks even more minimal than the GF2's, and it feels noticeably lighter. The lack of any hot shoe also means it has flatter surfaces, making it look more like the kind of point-and-shoot Panasonic's target customer is used to. In fact, the back side of the camera is about the size of a BlackBerry Bold, though a phone, of course, is far thinner.

As far as the image quality goes, we were only able to snap a few shots in a drab room. But for now, we can say it offers fast focusing, as promised, and intelligent Auto was quick to change the mode (as denoted by an onscreen icon) as we changed subjects, moving closer to them and then scooting backward again. The color reproduction seems pretty faithful, and the UI is easy enough to navigate, though we weren't blown away by the responsiveness of the pre-production screen. But we can see where the screen's matte finish would make it easier to frame shots in direct sunlight. Hopefully, we'll soon be able to spend more time with one and see if our impressions hold up after we've played with it for a week.
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PANASONIC UNVEILS THE LUMIX GF3, THE COMPANY'S SMALLEST AND LIGHTEST DIGITAL INTERCHANGELABLE LENS SYSTEM CAMERA WITH A BUILT-IN FLASH*

The LUMIX GF3 Body Weighs Just 7.83oz and Produces High-Quality Photos, Full-HD Video Recording Capabilities and Smart Touch-Screen Controls

SECAUCUS, NJ (June 13, 2011) – Panasonic today announces its latest compact system camera (CSC), the mirror-free Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF3 is the company's smallest and lightest digital interchangeable lens camera with a built-in flash*1, with its body size comparable to that of a smartphone and weighing just 7.83oz (body only), less than a standard 8oz cup of coffee. The Panasonic's LUMIX GF3 realizes all the features desired from a traditional DSLR interchangeable lens camera, only it accomplishes them in an ultra-compact body that is lightweight and simple to master.

This remarkable reduction in size and weight is thanks to advancements in new mirror-free camera technology, and large DSLR format sensors that are more compatible with a new class of compact Micro Four Thirds (MFT) System lenses. This new class of Compact System Cameras offers a weight and compactness not seen in traditional DSLRs, yielding greater portability and creative control. The DMC-GF3's image quality comes from a large DSLR-sized 12.1-megapixel sensor and newly advanced image processing technologies.

The LUMIX GF3 digital camera is based on the Micro Four Thirds standard of lenses, which includes Panasonic's 3D lens, thus the LUMIX GF3 not only provides outstanding still photos, full-High Definition 1080/60i video, but is also capable of shooting 3D still photos.

The Panasonic LUMIX GF3 produces high-quality photos with true-to-life details, thanks to excellent resolution, image rendering and color reproduction; high-grade lens options; and extremely precise Auto Focus (AF). Plus, the LUMIX GF3 creates the right balance between resolution and noise reduction, thus producing life-like images with accurate auto exposure and white balance, creating rich colors. Taking a page from the renowned LUMIX GH2's image quality, the LUMIX GF3 boasts full sized DSLR like Image quality thanks the same Venus Engine FHD image processor. The Venus Engine FHD image processor makes impressive low noise images from its 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor. Notably, images shot in low-lit situations at high ISO sensitivity setting, are stunningly clear with extremely sharp resolution. The image processor also excels in energy consumption by extending the battery life, despite its smaller size.

Thanks to a new mount, the LUMIX GF3 is approximately 16.7% smaller and 16.2% lighter than its predecessor, the LUMIX GF2. Despite its small size and unlike many CSC cameras in this class, the LUMIX GF3 still maintains a built-in flash and features a new pop-up mechanism that helps prevent the vignetting effect due to short distances between the flash unit and the interchangeable lens. With a newly-designed aluminum body that incorporates an ergonomic grip, and a well-designed control dial combined with a 3-inch touch enabled screen, the LUMIX GF3 is extremely intuitive and easy to use.

"The Panasonic GF3 compact system camera is extremely small and its newly-designed rounded body is quite attractive, which we expect to be popular among those users wanting to step-up from a point-and-shoot, yet who view traditional DSLRs as bulky and overly complex," said Darin Pepple, Senior Product Manager, Imaging, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. "While the size and weight of the GF3 has been greatly reduced, Panasonic does not compromise what is at the core of every LUMIX, which is exceptional photo and video quality with an easy-to-use interface."

All models in Panasonic's LUMIX G Series of digital cameras feature Contrast AF for their focus system, as opposed to phase-difference AF systems, used in traditional DSLRs, which is susceptible to a mechanical margin of focus errors at wide apertures. With a Contrast AF system, focusing is controlled by the image sensor so that mechanical margin of error is reduced to achieve precise focusing, thus boosting higher number of in focus shots, especially when shooting in low light with wide open lens aperture. As a result, when the LUMIX GF3 is used with Panasonic's new wide aperture interchangeable lens, the LEICA DG SUMMILUX 25mm / F1.4 ASPH, also announced today, the performance of the Contrast AF system is optimally maximized.

The Panasonic LUMIX GF3 features a high-speed and extremely precise Contrast AF system that locks in approximately 0.18 seconds. Taking further advantage of Contrast AF, the LUMIX GF3 incorporates full-area focusing which makes it possible to set focus on any point in the field- of-view. The LUMIX GF3 also features Light Speed AF, an extremely fast AF which measures at approximately 0.1 seconds*2, which is achieved by reducing the detection time for focusing by doubling the sensors drive speed from 60 fps to 120 fps. With the combination of touch-control shooting, focusing on close up macro or still life objects is evermore quick and accurate thanks to the newly adopted Pinpoint AF that unlike a DSLR, offers near pixel level touch control focusing.

Manual control over focus is available in the DMC-GF3 and now features a quick 4x magnification feature. By simply touching the subject, that subject is then enlarged in a small window, allowing you to keep the rest of the image in view as a framing reference. Beyond 4x, that small window fills the monitor so even more control over focus fine-tuning can be achieved. This handy feature is available from both the MF (Manual Focus) Assist and AF + MF focus modes.

At the heart of the LUMIX GF3's simplified functionality is a large 3.0-inch touch enabled LCD (460k- dot) that allows for intuitive touch control of menus and most shooting, focusing, playback and effects controls. Menus can be customized using simple drag-and-drop actions similar to those on some touch-enabled smartphones. This allows for a custom user interface, giving Quick Menu access to functions that can be tailored to any user's expertise level. Users can also release the shutter using the touch-screen. Once locked onto a subject, the LUMIX GF3 tracks the subject with the AF Tracking feature and another touch allows the user to select the size of the AF area. In addition, Pinpoint AF function allows even more precise focus setting by further enlarging the focusing area. With increased customization, users can set the touch shutter and touch AF ON/OFF based on their preference. Touch-control also makes playback of photos and videos easy to flip through like pages in a book.

For those who miss the tactile feel of a traditional DSLR mode dial, the DMC-GF3 offers an innovative mode thumb wheel that quickly cycles though all available modes with visual feedback provided on the large 3'' touch-enabled LCD.
The LUMIX GF3 records 1920 x 1080 full-HD video in the AVCHD format, which features almost twice the recording time in HD quality than the conventional Motion JPEG. A dedicated video record button on the top lets users instantly start recording video, without having to hassle with any menu settings. The LUMIX GF3 allows for Touch AF in video recording, enabling professional-like features, such as rack focusing. For instance, by touching the subject on the screen, the focus is shifted to the subject.

Contributing to its ease-of-use, the LUMIX GF3 features Panasonic's acclaimed iA*3 (Intelligent Auto) mode – and the new advanced iA Plus mode – are automatically engaged once the iA button is pressed, helping to make shooting video and photos with the LUMIX GF3 extremely simple – even to users new to compact system cameras. Panasonic's iA features include MEGA O.I.S. (included in several lenses), Intelligent ISO Control, and Intelligent Scene Selector, Face Detection, AF Tracking, Intelligent D-range Control and Intelligent Resolution. With the new iA Plus mode, the LUMIX GF3 easily enables commonly desired manual enhancements not available from standard camera auto modes such as peripheral defocusing around faces, exposure compensation, and color balance adjustments which are visually adjusted by moving an on screen slider with the user's finger or the thumb wheel,.

The LUMIX GF3, like all CSCs in the Panasonic LUMIX G Series, is equipped with a highly-efficient Dust Reduction System. In some system cameras, if dust or other foreign matter gets inside the digital camera while the lenses are being changed, it's possible that the debris could cling to the image sensor and show up as a spot in your photos. However, the Panasonic Dust Reduction System helps to eliminate this problem by placing a supersonic wave filter in front of the Live MOS sensor that vibrates vertically approximately 50,000 times per second - thus repelling dust and other particles from the LUMIX GF3's sensor.

Two modes - Photo Style and Creative Control - let users at any skill level get creative with their photos. With Creative Control, the user can choose the most-frequently-used color modes (Expressive, Retro, High Key, Sepia, High Dynamic and newly added Miniature Effect*4 mode) with easy access. In Miniature Effect mode, the peripherals are defocused while saturation and contrast is emphasized so the photos look like a diorama. The Photo Style mode revitalizes the conventional film mode with settings in Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait presets while enabling finer adjustment of contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction.

The LUMIX GF3, like all the CSC in the LUMIX G Series of digital cameras, is compatible with other Micro Four Thirds lenses and the full sized Four Thirds System standard via an optional mount adaptor. Other accessories available to the LUMIX G Series include external flashes, PL and ND filters, leather cases, straps, and more. The Panasonic LUMIX GF3 will be available in black, white, red and brown bodies for a suggested retail prices of $699.99 with the 14mm lens kit system starting in July 2011, and $599.99 with the 14-42mm lens kit system starting in late August 2011; and. For more information on Panasonic LUMIX G Series compact system cameras, please visit www.panasonic.com/lumix.

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Panasonic Lumix GF3 official: 12.1 MP, 1080i video, no hot shoe in sight (hands-on)