Small cheap and good part II

http://youtu.be/7SvwsRM1RKs

What started as a search for a super cheap camera that I could get workable images from, that I wouldn’t be out thousands of dollars if it took a spill on vacation.  One that after I was done I could flip and write off the cost as a rental fee, has turned into a love affair with Panasonics little girlfriend camera. 

I’ve spent 3 weeks now playing around with the gf3, trying to figure out settings and the cameras strengths and weaknesses.  I also have strictly been working with my 3 favorite legacy lenses for video work.  So I haven’t used any of the micro 4/3 lenses out there, so haven’t tested any auto features.  Mainly I’m going to be focusing on usability for shooting video on the go, where I wouldn’t want to take my main camera.  

For what I was looking for the gf3 didn’t just hit the nail on the head, it hit a home run. It’s cheap small and under controlled circumstances,or in the right hands,it’s image quality can hang with the best of them. The size alone, makes it worth a look. Actually that’s one of my favorite parts. It’s easily half the size of my 60d. 

   

Being that small I find myself throwing in my car and keeping it near by almost all of the time. I always hated the thought of my 60d just sitting in the Florida heat in my car. It was always just a little too bulky to bring to my daily job on as regular basis and not bring attention to myself. 

You you’d think with being so small the ergonomics would suffer, but that isn’t the case. The gf3 has separate photo and video button that can be used from the same screen without switching modes. The quick menu can be set up for easy access to your main functions.   The dial on the back covers your white balance settings, as well as help navigate, and set shutter speed.  It also sets other functions like rapid shutter and timer. The only thing that isn’t too intuitive is the ISO settings are buried in the menu. So I put that in my quick menu. I wish it was on the dial though. Over all even shooting is quick and easy, even in full manual mode with manual glass. Actually it’s scary fast. You can power up and start shooting in 2 seconds. 

Even though lately this camera has been near my side constantly, it is far from perfect, and won’t be replacing my 60d as my main camera.  Remember how I said in the right hands or controlled settings this camera can hang with the “real” pro cameras?  The gf3 has a couple quirks that you have to work around.  

The first big one is this camera sucks in low light without a flash. It needs a lot of light to get a good image. I guess my canon has spoiled me.  You can bump up the ISO but, things get noisy fast. It’s easily correctable and it isn’t totally ugly noise almost like film grain but a touch too artificial.  

The second of the quirks is no external audio input. It’s the cameras interspersed mic or dual audio. The dual audio thing isn’t a deal breaker I’ve been working that way for years. It’s just kinda head scratching why they didn’t add that. 

Extrnal audio input easing the only thing that was left off.  They kinda left off a hotshoe mout.  Then again this camera is smaller than most external flashes. 

The other big issue is that in video mode, the camera guesses your ISO. Even with manual lenses and setting the flicker reduction, it tries to adjust for the lighting. The only work around I have figured out is to put the camera into spot metering and move the square to the highlights. Or shoot a low ISO and use a fader nd In outdoor situations. The one thing I can say is when it adjusts its pretty smooth, not perfectly transparent but not horrible either. 

I’ll also not 24p, so cinema camera purists will say it’s just video not digital cinema. Well it’s all video. It just records it’s 30p in a 60i wrapper. It’s how the avchd codec works. Not really bad just worth noting. 

For what I Was looking for and needed the gf3 is great.  It will never replace my 60d as my main camera, but I will keep the gf3 near by for grabbing that quick shot on the dowlow, or when I don’t feel like lugging 35lbs of gear around.   Just like the quirky girlfriend you don’t want to leave.  She may be a pain at times but you don’t want to ditch her yet.

 I was Originally going to sell it back after my trip, but this is one girlfriend im going to keep on the side.  Matter of fact I got her, her own bag.  I also picked up a cheap Olympus 14-42 to play with the auto features some.

 Now if Panasonic ever built a metal bodied camera this size, with the chip and 4k recording capability of the gh4, with decent low light capability, while keeping it within the $900-$1100 range, I’d drop my canon and wouldn’t look back. Well my canon would be my girlfriend on the side. 

I know it’s kinda pointless to review a 3 year old camera from a stand point of a average review.  It’s been reviewed to death. I’m looking at this as a solid quality camera for stills and video at an almost disposable cost. 

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