Overall performance and Quality
To keep this report a ‘reasonable’ and readable length I’m going to let pictures tell much of the rest of the story. All the shots that follow were taken as RAW+HQ JPEG with the G3 set to produce ‘standard’ (non-biased) images. None of the JPEGs used here have been subjected to any form of post-processing. In general JPEGs produced by the G3 were very good though I did notice a tendency for the internal processing to produce slightly ‘mushy’ greys and emphasised light halos with a few subjects taken at higher ISO’s or in very bright conditions when using the ‘intelligent Resolution’ and ‘intelligent Dynamics’ JPEG processing options. The RAW versions of these ‘problem’ shots were much better; perhaps suggesting that iR and iD still need further refinement (you can easily switch them off altogether).
Here are three shots illustrating a few of the new ‘killer’ features of the G3 that will actually help you to take better pictures.
Example 1. Depth of Field anyone? Yes, you will be able to see the difference in resolution those extra 4MP’s contribute – though not when viewing at anything much lower than 1:1. Check out my Flickr site to see these shots at full size. Note that you do still need to watch your skies with subjects like this. This shot is ultra-sharp from front to back – but I still managed to blow out some of the clouds thanks to forgetting my ND Grad.
I did wonder for a while if 25% higher resolution was a bit of a double-edged sword. Not because it means higher noise levels as some of us feared, the advance of technology seems to have slain that dragon (see below), but because the increased detail makes the photographer’s errors a lot easier to see. Get the focal point a tiny bit off or the shutter speed too low and your error can look really bad when viewed at 100%. However, the truth is that at ‘normal’ viewing or print sizes your shot will still look just fine. Think of the higher resolution of the G3 as a tool by which you can actually improve your techniques, because you can now see exactly where you’ve gone wrong, and it can only help to advance your photography over time.
Pin-Point Focus Mode
Example 2. Along with Light Speed AF, Pin-Point focusing (where the G3 zooms into and locks focus on a tiny area within the picture by simply touching it on the LCD) can allow you to get perfectly focused shots that used to be rather difficult with earlier models; even using single-area AF (which is retained). I found myself using this feature a lot, including via the EVF, it helped me to get some of the best focused exterior shots I’ve ever taken.
Revamped Burst Modes
Example 3. The G3 has new burst modes that are much more usable. At 2 and 3fps they work without the display lag many of us have come to know and avoid, or you can shoot at 4 fps as before. You also have a 20 frames per second reduced resolution (4MP) ‘electronic shutter’ mode. In general I found during the wild fowl shoot that the new 3fps ‘Live View’ option enabled me to properly follow my subject and get some great action shots. This is a real improvement over previous models like my G1.
On the operational software side there are too many small changes to recount here (or for me to have investigated fully in the time allowed). One improvement worth mentioning though is that you can now auto-bracket shots in 1EV steps, which should go a little way towards pleasing the HDR enthusiasts here. The MF Assist function has also been revamped with an optional ‘PiP’ display mode. Personally, I was more concerned that certain features were not dropped altogether in the new design. All of us who have decided to invest in a particular camera system build up a collection of peripheral devices over time – and usually not all produced by the camera maker themselves. It’s rather a relief then to note that with the G3 Panasonic have stuck to their established standards. Shoot W/O Lens is still present (essential for those like me who sometimes use ‘legacy’ pre-auto and other non-Panasonic/Olympus lenses) and no changes have been made to the remote control socket or the flash system – though I for one think flash control is an area that could have been improved in many ways; maybe next time.
When it comes to video I have to say I was impressed, though I don’t claim any great expertise in that field being a G1 user. Clips look very good at full HD (1080i), though objects crossing the frame like cars can suffer from a slight ‘stutter’ effect, and I’d definitely suggest using a tripod or other support if you want smooth panning shots. A static test at 1080i with the G3 supported whilst videoing a Newton’s Cradle in action played back perfectly smoothly on our Panasonic 1080p plasma via the SDHC card reader in our BD80 Blu-ray player. It’s a great facility to have to hand and although the G3 doesn’t have the external microphone input of the GH2 the built-in stereo mic did a lot better than I’d have expected. The touch screen comes into its own when shooting video, giving in-shot control of the focus point for pro-like focus-pull shots.