Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 - Quality

Quality

Panasonic Lumix GF3 vs Sony Alpha NEX-C3 vs Olympus Pen E-PL3 image quality

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To compare real-life performance when zoomed-out, we shot this scene with the the Panasonic Lumix GF3, Sony NEX-C3 and Olympus Pen E-PL3 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

The lenses on each camera were set to approximately the same field of view and all three cameras were set to f5.6 in Aperture Priority mode.

The ISO sensitivity was manually set to the lowest available setting: 160 ISO on the Lumix GF3 and 200 ISO on both the NEX-C3 and Pen E-PL3.

  Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 results
1 Lumix GF3 Resolution
2 Lumix GF3 Noise
3 Lumix GF3 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix GF3 with the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens lens at its 14mm (28mm equivalent) wide angle setting. In Aperture priority mode with f5.6 selected the camera metered a shutter speed of 1/1600 at 160 ISO. The original image size measured 6.69MB. The crops are taken from the areas marked with red rectangles and presented here at 100%.

Overall, the Lumix GF3 has produced a very nice looking shot. It’s well exposed with good tonal range and plenty of detail in the shadows and highlights. Viewed at less than 100 percent the detail looks nice and crisp, the white balance looks good and the colours are vibrant and well saturated.

Now to the crops. At 100 pecent the crops back up the overall view. These crops show good image detail with minimal noise and little evidence of in-camera processing. In the first crop you can make out the fine detail in the chapel as well as the grass and rocky outcrops in the foreground, but it’s not quite as clear as it might be. The two figures to the left of the chapel are a little indistinct and, though the sky is free from noise and is a flat blue, the detail below the horizon has a slight textured look to it.

The detail in the lighthouse crop looks a little softer with the lighthouse a slightly soft but still distinct white column. The rooftops and window frames in the foreground are clear and distinct though, which suggests that some of the softness in more distant detail is due to the slightly hazy conditions. In the third crop, though, there’s noticeable blue fringing around the window frame and drainpipe. Chromatic aberration wasn’t evident in our GF2 test crops using the same 14-42mm kit lens, but the brighter conditions on this day and the closer proximity of the crop to the frame edge have winkled out the flaw. Having said that, it’s fairly innocuous and something you could deal with by shooting RAW and post-processing if it became a real issue. Of all the crops, the final one, from the centre of the frame, is the most impressive. The fine detail here is clearer, crisper and sharper than in the others.

So, an overall excellent performance from the GF3 with the 14-42mm kit lens only slightly let down by inconsistency across the frame and slight loss of detail in some areas.

Compared with the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 the Panasonic Lumix GF3 crops hold their own very well. The NEX-C3’s much bigger sensor allows it to capture more light and offer better noise performance. Sony has ‘spent’ some of this advantage on packing in more pixels, 16.2 compared with the GF3’s 12.1 Megapixels, but you’d still expect a better result from the NEX-C3 and it delivers it, just about. It doesn’t help that the NEX-C3’s metering has slighly overexposed the shot, but this aside, the image detail from the NEX-C3 crops is not only larger, but a little clearer than those of the Lumix GF3. Like the GF3, the NEX-C3’s kit lens suffers a little from softness at the frame adge as well as Chromatic aberration.

In terms of resolution of fine detail though, it’s the Olympus E-PL3 that really shines in this comparison. Right from the off the Pen E-PL3 crops are punchier with sharper edge detail and none of the softness evident to a degree in both the Lumix GF3 and NEX-C3 crops. If you look closely you can see a small amount of purple fringing in the third Pen E-PL3 crop. It could also be argued that the high contrast and sharpness has come at the cost of a slight brittleness to the look of the E-PL3 crops, but you’d have to be really looking for something to criticise. Whichever way you look at it the Pen E-PL3 crops are very impressive indeed.

Now let’s see how they compare at higher sensitivities in our High ISO Noise results.

 
Panasonic Lumix GF3
 
Sony NEX-C3
 
Olympus Pen E-PL3
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO


Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise

Panasonic Lumix GF3 vs Sony AlphaNEX-C3 vs Olympus Pen E-PL3

Noise

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  Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 results
1 Lumix GF3 Resolution
2 Lumix GF3 Noise
3 Lumix GF3 Sample images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix GF3, the Sony Alpha NEX-C3, and the Olympus Pen E-PL3 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

All three cameras were set to Program auto exposure mode and the lenses were set to approximately the same field of view. The ISO sensitivity was set manually.

The above shot was taken with the the Panasonic Lumix GF3 in Program auto mode. The 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens was set to its maximum wide angle 14mm (28mm equivalent) setting, the sensitivity was set to 160 ISO and the exposure was 1/2 of a second at f3.5. The crops are taken from the area marked with the red square and presented below at 100%.

The Lumix GF3 has a base ISO sensitivity of 160 ISO (a notch up from the 100 ISO of the GF2) giving it potential for a slight edge over the NEX-C3 and E-PL3, and indeed the 160 ISO crop does look ever so marginally cleaner than at 200 ISO. But it is marginal and both the 160 and 200 ISO crops show a good degree of detail with little evidence of noise. At 400 ISO there’s both a little graininess and some smoothing beginning to creep-in, most evident in the vertical lines of the wood panelling.

At 800 ISO the noise is becoming more apparent, but there’s still excellent retention of detail and the overall image quality is well within acceptable limits. The GF3 strikes a very good balance here at what is for many sensors a critical boundary. Certainly anyone used to shooting with a compact who might hesitate to push the dial beyond 400 ISO need have no such qualms with the GF3.

The same, regrettably, can’t be said of the step up to 1600 ISO where the noise is now beginning to have quite a significant effect on image detail. Though it’s worth pointing out that at less than 100 percent magnification 1600 ISO shots form the GF3 are perfectly passable. Even the 3200 ISO crop, though almost everything is obscured behind a cloud of noise, is useable for those must have in any circumstances shots. There’s no getting away from the fact that the 6400 ISO crop is more noise than actual image data but, in the absence of any low-light composite modes it might be worth a try. Again, anyone moving up from a compact which might, at best, offer a reduced resolution higher ISO option will regard this as an embarrassment of riches.

Compared with the Sony NEX-C3 the Lumix GF3 crops start out well. At the lower ISO sensitivities there really isn’t a great deal in it – indeed if anything the NEX-C3 crops look a little softer than those from the GF3. But as you climb the sensitivity range the NEX-C3’s bigger sensor advantage becomes more and more apparent. At 400 ISO the Sony crops, though still a little softer than the GF3’s nonetheless show a little more detail and at 800 ISO where noise is making a clearly visible impact on the GF3, the NEX-C3 is still keeping it well in hand. But it’s in the mid to high range where the NEX-C3s advantage really begins to tell and at 3200 ISO there’s at least a stop of difference between the high ISO noise performance of the two sensors.

The Olympus Pen E-PL3 metering opted for slightly longer exposures than both the Lumix GF3 and NEX-C3 and as a result its a little easier to see the detail (and the noise) in the E-PL3 crops. At the 200 and 400 ISO sensitivity settings the Pen E-PL3 crops look pristine and at 800 and 1600 ISO still have a clear and significant edge over the GF2. Beyond that, things even up a bit, but over most of the ISO sensitivity range the Pen E-PL2 is a clear winner over the Lumix GF3.

Another thing worth bearing in mind if good low light performance is important to you is that the NEX-C3 has two composite low light modes shown in the final two crops. Hand-held Twilight and AntiMotion Blur both provide a significant improvement in image quality over what you’d get in a single-shot mode with a high ISO setting. We’ve included the Pen E-PL3’s (non-composite) DIS low light mode for comparison.

Overall, the GF3 turns in some good results here, but is out-performed on noise levels by its two rivals. We can’t help but wish Panasonic had equipped the GF3 with the superior sensor from the G3, although to be fair this in turn would have increased the price.

Now head over to our Panasonic Lumix GF3 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Panasonic Lumix GF3
 
Sony NEX-C3
 
Olympus Pen E-PL3
160 ISO
160 ISO Not available
160 ISO Not available
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
12800 ISO Not available
12800 ISO
12800 ISO
Anti Motion Blur at 6400 ISO
Dis scene mode 3200 ISO
Hand-held Twilight at 6400 ISO

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise

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