gf3 2 Panasonic launches the GF3, smallest micro 4/3 camera to date

Once there was the Megapixel race, now it seems like the camera makers are competing to see who can create the smallest exchangeable lens camera and Panasonic's new GF3 is aiming for the title. At a mere 264g without a lens, but including the battery we're looking a slightly heavier camera than Sony's recently announced NEX-C3, but the GF3 has a few tricks up its sleeve beyond being tiny.

Once there was the Megapixel race, now it seems like the camera makers are competing to see who can create the smallest exchangeable lens camera and Panasonic's new GF3 is aiming for the title. At a mere 264g without a lens, but including the battery we're looking a slightly heavier camera than Sony's recently announced NEX-C3, but the GF3 has a few tricks up its sleeve beyond being tiny.

The GF3 measures 108x67x33mm which should be compared to the NEX-C3 at 110x60x33, but in all fairness, Panasonic has managed to cram in a pop-up flash in the GF3, something the Sony lacks. However, there's no hot-shoe on the GF3, so forget about using it with an add-on flash.

gf3 1 Panasonic launches the GF3, smallest micro 4/3 camera to date

The two cameras are of course using difference sensors, as the GF3 is part of the micro 4/3's standard whereas Sony created its own standard for the NEX series. The GF3 should in all fairness be compared to Sony's more advanced, but also more expensive NEX-5, as the GF3 features full HD 1920×1080 50/60i video recording, something only the NEX-5 offers from Sony. The GF3 will also shoot 1280×720 video at 50/60p, twice the frame rate compared to Sony and at much higher bit-rate at that. Both 1080 and 720 video is recorded in AVCHD, although it's possible to shoot 720 at 30fps in motion JPEG alongside VGA or QVGA resolution video. Stills are “limited” to 12.1 Megapixels, but this should be more than good enough for the target market.

gf3 2 Panasonic launches the GF3, smallest micro 4/3 camera to date

Panasonic has “simplified” the controls on the GF3 by moving most of them to the 3-inch touch screen display. Here the GF3 doesn't shine though, as the screen has a fairly modest 460,000 dots compared to Sony's 921,600, although to go with the high frame rate video, Panasonic has made sure it has a refresh rate to match, at 60fps. Other features include a built in mono mic, a mini HDMI port, a USB 2.0 ports and an SDXC compatible memory card slot.

gf3 3 Panasonic launches the GF3, smallest micro 4/3 camera to date

We're not going to go into the software features of the camera here in any detail, but Panasonic has added a wide range of scene modes and creative options. According to a couple of previews, the auto focus of the GF3 is extremely fast and accurate. There are some drawbacks to the GF3, but Panasonic is targeting the consumer market and as a first interchangeable lens camera, it might prove to be good enough, especially with a starting price in the US of US$599 (S$740) with the standard 14-42mm zoom lens. It will be available in four colours, black, white, brown and pink and shout hit retail next month, at least in the US.