Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 with G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 lens

Panasonic's Lumix DMC-G3 shipped in the first half of 2011, and slipped clean through our review net. To our delight, we had a great excuse to test the still-current model this month, with the introduction of Panasonic's Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm zoom lens.

NameDSLR camera and lens: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 with G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 lens
At a glance:Micro Four Thirds camera,16-megapixel effective resolution,12-35mm (24-70 equiv.) lens, F2.8 over full zoom range,Good performance in low light/at high ISO
Summary:A great camera/lens combo for easy indoor event photography.
Rating:4/5
RRP:$1,100 (camera, body only), $2,500 (lens)
Contact:panasonic.co.nz

Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-G3 shipped in the first half of 2011, and slipped clean through our review net. To our delight, we had a great excuse to test the still-current model this month, with the introduction of Panasonic’s Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm zoom lens.

The DMC-G3 uses the ‘Micro Four Thirds’ (MFT) system co-developed by Panasonic and Olympus. This essentially means it’s a DSLR-style interchangeable-lens camera, which operates much like a compact camera and includes a 1,440,000-dot digital viewfinder instead of an optical one. The DMC-G3 also features a 3-inch, 460,000-dot LCD on a swivel-mount.

The camera is built around a 16.7-megapixel CMOS sensor, in the standard MFT dimensions of 17.3 x 13mm. It’s compatible with any of Panasonic’s MFT lenses, of which a variety are available here in New Zealand, from 8mm fisheye to 300mm telephoto (16mm and 600mm equivalent in 35mm terms, respectively).

Though we don’t often test lenses, the $2,500 Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm (24-70mm equivalent) proved just perfect for the kinds of events we cover: indoors, densely-packed and devoid of natural light. Its wide aperture of f/2.8 across its entire zoom range makes good use of all available light, letting you avoid distracting flashes or the need for hot and heavy light sources in dim conditions.

The lens offers optical image stabilisation, which does reduce blurring when taking handheld shots at slower shutter speeds – very useful in those low-light conditions. I was able to get by with a shoulder stock or monopod at a recent LAN event, in lightning conditions that would normally necessitate the use of a flash or a tripod.

The G3’s good handling at higher ISO brackets was also useful here: images showed very little noise at 1600 and 3200 ISO. The maximum 6400 ISO was a bit grainy when images were viewed at 1:1, but images were still detailed and usable at that level.

If indoor photography isn’t your thing, the wide aperture of the G X Vario 12-35mm also lets you ramp up the shutter speed when you do have ample light. This is good for high-speed sports or action photography, though the G3 is limited to four frames-per-second at its maximum 16-megapixel resolution. It does shoot full HD video (1920 x 1080) at 25fps with reasonable-quality stereo sound.

When photographing events, I shoot a lot in full-manual – balancing aperture and shutter settings to achieve the desired exposure, depth-of-field and other image properties.

I started out doing just that with the G3, but quickly found myself relying on its ‘Intelligent Auto Plus’ mode. Regardless of the mode dial position, there’s a dedicated light-up button to turn Intelligent Auto on and off – and that’s the only thing to it.

Most of the photos snapped in the G3’s Intelligent Auto mode, were as good as those shot with manual settings. Only once or twice, in odd lighting conditions or shot setups, did I look at an ‘auto’ shot and think, “Yeah, I really need to re-take that on manual”. It let me concentrate on the events I was covering, rather than the technicalities of the camera: and that to me is the definition of a good ‘auto’ mode.

There’s no kit package available with the G3 and this lens – to buy both, you’re looking at a minimum RRP of $3,600 (more if you buy the G3 with another lens included).

Is it worth it? For event photography and videography, in indoor and low-light conditions, I thoroughly recommend the pair. The combination of image quality and point-and-shoot ease is perfect for capturing high-quality event images, without a lifetime spent learning to do so.

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Tags Panasonicg3dslrlensLumixDMCMFTmicro four thirdsvariodigital slr

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Harley Ogier

Harley Ogier

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