Panasonic Unveils Lumix GF3 Mirrorless Digicam

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Panasonic

officially took the wraps off its latest mirrorless compact system camera -- the Lumix GF3 -- Monday, correcting a few incorrect assumptions that had spread wildly through the blogger universe in recent weeks.

 

Darrin Pepple, Panasonic's imaging senior product manager, said the new model continues to omit the electronic viewfinder and mode command dial in the fashion of the GF2, and also leaves off a hot shoe from the distinct hump above the lens.

However, the camera continues to offer the built-in popup flash that can be held in a bounce position with the shooter's index finger when taking the picture.

All of the camera controls are accessible through the 3-inch intelligent touchscreen LCD, which shooters can use to engage functions by tapping on icons or specific zones of the frame. As with past Panasonic touchscreen models, the GF3 also has a touch shutter control that enables shooting the picture with a tap on the LCD panel.

Panasonic reduced the size (107.7 by 67.1 by 32.5mm) and weight (225 grams) of the camera even further to bring greater appeal to the target audience, consisting of mostly young adults looking to improve on the image capturing capabilities of their smartphones.

The GF3 features a 12.1-megapixel LIVE MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor and a new Venus Engine FHD image processing engine first produced for the step-up GH2 compact system camera. The sensor and processing engine together are expected to help the GF3 reach the image quality levels of APS-C sized sensors using the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor chip.

Pepple said combination sensor and Venus Engine FHD helps the GF3 significantly improve line resolution and noise reduction over previous models in the performance range.

The camera also offers a manual/automatic ISO range from 160 to 6400 for strong performance in a wide range of lighting conditions.

The camera ships in one of two bundles including: a 14mm f/1.4 lens for a $699 suggested kit price due in July, or a 14-42mm lens for a $599 suggested kit price, due in late August.

The GF3 records video in up to 1080/60i or 720p HD resolution, both in AVCHD compression. A built-in mono mic is included for sound pickup.

The GF3 also includes the recently upgraded iA-Plus fully automatic modes that engage when the iA setting is activated. The iA-Plus is said to provide "some degree of manual control in an automatic way."

The new iA-Plus settings add automatic control for background defocus, brightness and white balance (color).

For shooting speed, the camera features a 3.8fps burst shooting rate (at 12-megapixel resolution) and adds to the GF3 the "Light Speed" (0.1 second) contrast-based AF system first developed for the GH2 model to focus faster than a traditional SLR. A Full-Time AF system is also available for video shooting, in addition to a touchscreen-activated AF Tracking system.

The Light Speed AF is said to be provide "the world's fastest level Auto Focus."

Panasonic also includes a Full Area focus system and Pinpoint AF system. The latter enables focusing on specific areas of the image such as the subject's eye by magnifying the image before touching on the focus area in the frame.

The GF3 also adds a new MF (manual focus) Assist systems which enhances focusing by magnifying the image in the frame when using older non-AF lens or lenses produced by third party manufacturers requiring an adapter that defeats the AF circuitry.

Panasonic packs in a number of creative controls, which can be engaged with a new touch wheel dial on the back of the camera. Effects include a miniature mode that makes objects appear like miniature toys without the use of a special lens.

The camera also includes a background defocus adjustment to enhance the bokeh effect in pictures, and D-range Control for capturing and processing images to add high dynamic range that brings out details in high-contrast dark and bright areas of the image.

The GF3 is also compatible with the complete line of Panasonic Lumix G Series lenses including the company's unique 3D lens.

To expand the lens options, Panasonic introduced a new smaller, lighter and less-expensive version of its 25mm f1.4 lens. The new 25mm f1.4 to f16 Leica Summilux lens (shipping in August at a $600 suggested retail) is an Ultra High Refractive Index lens that offers Nano Surface coating to reduce lens flare and ghosting, and a 2x aspherical high spec.

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