A small camera I've been playing with. Yesterday. Panasonic G3. The pre-OM-D.

 Tiny, Light, Fast, Detailed, Sharp, Quiet, Compact and Cute.  90% of the way there.  Olympus did a great job with their PR for the upcoming OM-D camera.  Everyone I know who has an interest in mirrorless cameras is talking about it, saving up their money to buy one and rushing to get themselves on a list.  And who can blame them?  It looks like everything we've pined for over the last few years.  Not to mention that the whole mirrorless m4:3 universe now has some powerhouse lenses as booster rockets for our insatiable imaging.  In some camps the OM-D is starting to sound a bit like the second coming of the camera industry.  But here I go again:  The relentless contrarian.
While I researched the OM-D I came across a camera that sounds eerily like the camera we've all been waiting for....only it's been on the market since June of 2011.  It has the following specs:  Fastest focus in all of m4:3rds (arguably),  The best 16 megapixel sensor in all of m4:3rds as stated by DPReview and DXO.  A built-in 1.4 megapixel EVF finder.  A swivelling, large rear LCD panel.  And a brilliantly implemented touch screen interface.  OMG did they launch the OM-D early and not tell anyone till a few weeks ago???  No, it turns out that Panasonic has been building and delivering this camera for the better part of a year. It's called a G3.  But for some reason no one seems to care.  Except the Panasonic users who are currently hoarding them and shooting them.  There are only two features that the G3 doesn't deliver that are on the OM-D checkboxes:  Full Navy Seal weatherproofing (for all you rugged types who routinely photograph deep in the jungles with rain and blood spattering your cameras hither and yon).  And, built in image stabilization.  That's about it.  The sensor is already there.  A full two stops better noise performance (by some accounts) than the EP3 at higher ISOs.  But I picked one up, with the 14-42mm zoom lens for a bit under $600.  Turn key. All done.  No waiting list.  No fuss.

Without a doubt the OM-D will trample the G3 when it comes to body construction and design.  It's in a whole different bling class than the plastic-over-aluminum frame construction of the G3.  There's no way to stick a battery grip on the G3 (that I know of) and the jpeg colors of the OM-D will probably take the G3 to school.  But....it's a great sensor and a great implementation of controls and it's cheap.  I've had one for a couple days but yesterday was the first day I had a few spare hours to go downtown and give the G3 a run through.  So let me give you my opinion.  And remember, this is all about my impressions.  We don't do technical tests here at the VSL secret, underground labs.  Our massively parallel supercomputing nest is dedicated to data mining the epicenters of creativity.  We can't allocate computing resources for something you can easily discern with your eyes and your hands (haptics rears its beautiful head....).

But, in fact, I have come to praise the G3, not to bury it.  I'll admit that I don't keep up with every camera announcement from every camera manufacturer.  I had the prejudice that Panasonic made cameras in only two m4:3 flavors:  The button and dial laden, professional GH2 with its EVF and then a slew of smaller, less capable cameras with only LCD screens on the back and the option of adding a vastly inferior EVF.  At least that's what I saw the last time I took a look.  

But, when I finally focused on the relatively new line of cameras Panasonic had on the market I saw I was mistaken.  The G3 is reviewed to have better noise performance by a small amount, than the GH2.  The AF system samples at 120 Hz just like the EP3 so the performance is comparable.  The EVF has similar specs to the current state of the art in the Olympus segment.  And, while the G3 body, with its limited supply of external controls, takes a bit of time to get used to I can see that the menu driven touch screen is viable and, in most cases fast to use.

When we talk about contrast detection auto focus a prime variable in the overall performance equation is the sampling rate which is driven to some extent by the speed/throughput of the processing sensor.  The AF motor moves the lens through the range of distance until it find the peak of contrast in the scene you've put in front of its sensor.  It must repeatedly sample and shift and then sample and shift until it isolates the setting that gives the highest level of contrast.  Within the sampling are latency periods where, once sampled the information must be processed and compared.  Reducing the time of the latency periods and increasing the frequency of the sampling are the two ways to increase the speed of the system.  The GH2 and the G3 were first to increase the sampling speeds from 60 Hz to 120 Hz (they both use the same "Venus" processor).  The EP3 also adapted that strategy and added optimized lenses in order to further increase the speed and allow them to boast of having the ultimate AF speed amongst mirrorless cameras.  The new OM-D AF seems to be based around increasing the sampling performance of the AF circuitry to 240 Hz.  Whether or not we'll see improvements in lenses that are not optimized for the new processor initiative remains to be seen.  But today, right now, the EP3, the GH2 and the G3, in good lighting conditions, are all just as fast as I need them to be and they are more accurate with higher speed (bigger aperture) lenses than their DSLR brethren.

I have not used the G3 in any configuration other than raw format and I haven't used it yet with any other lens than the 14-42mm kit lens that came packaged with the body.  The lens seems to do a good job with most close up scenes but when I look at my building shots at 100% I see a little softness as we get into near infinity focus.  That's easy to fix.  You just put on a better lens.  The 14-42 kit lens doesn't seem to garner many kudos and yet, for around $125 with built in IS I think it's a good value.  Especially for routine, close-to-mid distance shots.  I'll spend some time with the camera and the Panasonic/Leica 25mm 1.4 Summilux in the next few days and I think that should make a huge difference in overall quality.  Even so, in the samples I have here I'm not disappointed.  On screen the 16 megapixels are sharp and the noise at everything I shot under ISO 800 is non existent.
There are two things about the G3 that I didn't think I'd like.  I was wrong.  Serves me right for pre-judging.  The first is that the camera  doesn't have the dandy automatic switching between the EVF and the LCD (cost savings concern, no doubt).  You have to do it manually, with a button.  But that's fine with me because I want to use the EVF for everything except final review and menu setting.  I don't want the screens to swap every time my hand moves past the little sensor.  Especially when mounted on the tripod in the studio.  Panasonic engineers are smart though.  You can set a menu setting so that when you hit the "play" button to review what you've shot the camera automatically switches to the LCD.  There when you need it but not switching when you don't.    I prefer it this way.  Thank goodness for cost saving measures.

The second thing I was prepared to dislike was the touchscreen interface.  But I ended up liking it a lot.  Mostly because it's user programmable.  You get to choose the five different menu items you most use and you put them on the screen.  I chose ISO, focus settings, WB, file formats, and exposure compensation.  Now, to use any of these settings all I have to do is hit the "Q" menu button and directly access the menu item on the screen.  The screen is pressure sensitive rather than capacitance sensitive.  It has positive feedback.  This is quick and easy and you can program whatever controls you use most often.

So, if you add it all up it's a pretty convincing little camera.  Detractions?  The styling is a bit pedestrian.  The lack of IS bothers me when I think about using prime lenses with no built in IS, and the body feels a plasticky.  But you have to consider the other side of the equation.  For about half the price of the announced, but not available, OM-D you get a camera with a sensor that's probably very close to what will be in the OM-D and, for all practical purposes will be very close in raw performance.  You get a fast focusing camera.  Maybe not as fast as the new Olympus when the Olympus is coupled with the state of the art lenses but almost certainly in the same league with most of the existing lenses.  You get a fun and more flexible implementation of  the touch screen technology and that makes this camera interesting to me and the people who are looking for straight out performance over additional features.

But it all goes back to one of my basic premises:  Most modern cameras are really damn good.  If your technique is good and you learn the interfaces you should be able to get almost indistinguishable files from all of them.  The lowest common denominator will be generally be your user chops and the level of interest inherent in your subjects.  I am currently using the GH2 in manual mode for a lot of my studio work and I'm happy with its on-the-final-screen performance.  The G3 makes me re-think my lust for the newer cameras.  Could it be that Panasonic had the level of sensor performance last year that we're waiting for from Olympus with bated breath this year?  Is the AF performance on the G3 almost comparable?  Aren't they all in the same family?  Won't all the lenses work interchangeably?

I don't have any doubt that the new OM-D will have features that makes it more desirable than the older Panasonic G3.  I want in-body IS.  I like the idea that it will be the best IS in the history of the galaxy.  Almost as good as my old tripod!!!  And I'm sure that the Jpeg color engine will be the industry leader.  Finally, there are a legion of people who are crying out for weather proofing.  I have to say that I've yet to lose a camera to rain or dust but I've only been shooting for a few decades.  I'm sure other people have experienced camera failures as a result of exposure.  I'm a disciple of the Ziploc bag religion of camera protection but I fully acknowledge the right to exist of weatherproofarians no matter how extreme I find their belief systems.  The Olympus will be a nice package.  In the way that a BMW is an upgrade to a Honda.  But, like the car analogy, there will be some who want the sensor and AF performance who don't have the budget for the premier offering.  If they don't need built-in Ziploc Bagging, and they can live with the AF that comes resident on some of Panasonic's better lenses, and they can live with the stigma of a "lesser" model, they may find the absolute performance to be pretty much the same.  

What a terrible realization for me to present you with on President's Day.  I thought we had the whole m4:3rds thing all figured out.  The OM-D was to be the Holy Grail of little cameras and we would all be happy and content once we acquired one.  Funny how the market works and funnier still how my vision narrows close to launch dates and expands again while I'm awaiting delivery.  Once again the G3 serves to remind me that we've all been here before.  We're always hopeful about the silver bullet that will take our art to the next level only to find that all it delivers is photographs with a little bit more detail, a little bit faster focus and a little bit steadier steadiness.  In this case perhaps no more resolution than what we can get right now, not much more high ISO noise reduction than we get right now and AF that is marginally faster for a handful of new lenses that we don't yet own.  Our consolation?  The new camera is very nice to look at and feels very nicely balanced in our hands.  We hope.

The bottom line?  I don't know that there is a bottom line.  The camera world is a chaotic place with little camps swirling around banners.  In one corner we have the full frame 35mm high res contingent for whom everything hinges on ultimate resolution and sharpness.  We have, of course, our micro four thirds camp where we look to blend high performance with high usability and high portability (after all, what good is all the gear if it's too cumbersome to carry?).  We have the pilgrims of nose bleed performance who have knotted the ropes of high intention around their photo vest frocks and set out into the desert in pursuit of the mysteries of medium format, and we have the legions of people traipsing around willy-nilly with their iPhones snapping a glorious quantity of interesting  frames and then shoving them through the kaleidoscopic blender to make them more.....appealing.

I've been beaten over the head with the idea that there is no "right or wrong."  That all approaches are worthy and equal.  That there's an equivalence of sorts whether you use an 8x10 inch film camera or your happy-snappy phone to create your images.  While I tend to veer toward a more defined philosophy where effort has value and is integral to the process I won't confuse things by arguing that today.

Where I will comment is on the performance of Olympus' promotional machinery.  Well done, marketers.  In a short amount of time you created a tremendous amount of buzz, filed us with desire we barely knew we had, deflected our attention away from similar products and got us all excited.  If the product they deliver does everything they say it will be a monumental success, and, no doubt, it will be a hell of a lot of fun to shoot with.

The G3 is no OM-D but it's a hell of a lot closer than a lot of people might like to believe.  I think I'll go out and shoot with mine again today.  After all, it's already in my hands.


Matt P said...

I'm sure this is a relatively petty concern (and I'm not in the market for a G3 or a OM-D, FWIW), but I'm biased against bodies without two easily used and accessed dials for shooting in either manual or aperture-priority with exposure compensation. It's frustrating that to get this minor (but important IMO) feature, one has to step up from a $600 body to a $1000 body.

kirk tuck said...

Then you'll dislike this one...

Anonymous said...

Kirk, just curious if you've ever looked into Pentax DSLRs and their Limited lens line. I use a K-5 and several Limiteds, as well as an E-P2. I find the size of their DSLRs tends to be in the "middle" between large cameras like the 7D or D300 and the mirrorless cams, especially with the small lenses. Not saying they're better or that you should try them, but you seem to appreciate a more compact form, and I think they do a good job of that. Anywho, just wondering if you've ever considered them and what your thoughts were.

Craig said...

Panasonic makes some perfectly capable cameras, but I find them physically ugly. Put an Olympus E-P-anything next to one of the Panasonics and the difference is obvious. The Olympus cameras are little works of art, pleasing to look at and hold in your hand, while the Panasonics are functional but visually dull and ordinary. If we are artists, shouldn't the aesthetics of our tools matter to us?

The OM-D is indeed an exciting development. It bugs me just a little that the OM name is being used for something that isn't compatible with OM lenses (you can get an adapter, of course, but you're stuck with stop-down metering and your "normal" 50mm lens acts like 100mm due to the crop factor), but given that the OM line has been dead for a decade or more (and irrelevant even longer than that), I don't suppose it would have made good business sense for Olympus to worry about backward compatibility. The OM-D looks like it will be a very good seller for them; I'm quite tempted to pick one up myself.

ginsbu said...

I'll second Anonymous on Pentax. Many of your remarks over the years have made me think that you'd enjoy Pentax, particularly the K-5 with DA 70mm f/2.4 Limited. Their cameras have very photographer focused control schemes, such as their TAv and hyper-Program modes. It's certainly the system that appeals to me most besides m4/3.

Doug said...

Hi Kirk. Appreciate your blog. Find it refreshingly centered on photography. Just wondering...I do need competent follow focus for wildlife. G3 any good with that? Gh2? Neither are available for me to try out in my area, although I guess I could rent one, come to think of it!

Dave Jenkins said...

I very much dislike touch-screen technology, although having reluctantly exchanged my beloved Blackberry for a Droid, I am being dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming all the way.

My concern about the G3 is that, after having everything set up the way I want it, I will inadvertently put my thumb on the screen and screw everything up. Can this happen?

James Weekes said...

I have a G3 and it is my camera for 90 pct. of my shooting. I hated the evf switch until I realized, as you did, that I only use the screen for review. The OM calls to me for the weatherproof reason. Or sweat proof. I sweat a lot. When it's hot, and I live in north Florida, I sweat even more. A guy at my gym said the I probably sweat when I read. He's only right part of the time. This translates to a wet shirt in the summer. I had two Canon DSLRs go bad on me due to this, to the tune of $350 each. So the OM will be my summer shooter. If it's better than the G3 I doubt that I'll see the difference because I love the files from the G3. Wait until you see files from the 25mm Leica, the 20mm or the 45mm Olympus, they are wonderful.

mel said...

Exactly my feelings about the G3. it is a hidden gem, best bang for the buck in mFT world. OM-D fills all the missing gaps in OLympus MFT side but is it really worth $500 than the G3, I don't think so. Thanks for the detailed review by the way...

kirk tuck said...

Mel, Kinda fun to see what you can find just kicking some rocks over. Sometimes it can be fun. The more I shoot it the more I like it.

Arthur said...

@Matt P I moved from a D300 to a G3 and thought that I'd find only one dial a PITA, but it's fine.

The dial has two settings, standard and pushed in.

In aperture, turn to change f-stop, push in and turn to change exp comp. Works really well.

Matt P said...

Ironically, despite my personal tastes, seeing this today came in handy.

My mother has had a X100 for about six months and hates the lack of zoom and the autofocus required a bit of technique to keep up with her corgi (which is to say that 99% of the time, it didn't). I'd been planning to get a OM-D for her, but I stopped at a local shop to look at the G3.

They only had the cheesy red kit in stock, but I wound up walking out with one for mom. Got it all set up (program mode, JPG fine, etc.) and told my dad to get her to look over the manual before I come back to go over making it work. AF seems fast, the EVF isn't quite as nice as the X100 but workable, and that tiltable rear LCD is nice for getting down at dog level.

Quite a bargain for the price.

Gary Wilson said...

Kirk, I've really enjoyed following your posts and this article is no exception. I have owned a G3 since it came to market in body only form. I already own so many of their lenses as well as other G bodies. My appreciation for it from the beginning was due to the switchable finder that allows for viewing and composing on the rotatable LCD as one would with a twin lens reflex. As you mentioned it was a source of consternation since the early previews. With the G1 and GH2 I can't use the camera in that fashion because while next to my body, the sensor believes that I am viewing through the finder. I also enjoy that the camera can be carried over the shoulder with the LCD closed and therefore not scuff against a belt loop as is the case with all the G bodies. I've read that some people don't like the G3's styling. That is why there are so many cameras to choose from. I am fine with its functional styling, however.

There are many excellent comments on this post and I refer to those regarding the Pentax K5 and that camera's many primes. I also own, enjoy and use most all the primes. The Pentax bodies, like the recently announced Olympus OM-D, are weather-sealed while the Panasonic G3 is not. In its favor, however, I live in Portland, Oregon and frequently walk five miles a day, often in rain, and often with the G3. Without too much regard, I carry and use the G3 in those conditions just as I do my Canon full frames or Pentax'. It has never given me any trouble in that regard.

Antonis Ricos said...

Kirk, I've been using the G3 since last August (and shooting it side by side with a D700). I agree with everything you are discovering and liking, including the non-auto EVF switching.

But (and responding to Dave Jenkins), the small body makes hitting buttons and changing settings at random way easy. Only happens when shooting fast and not wanting to spend time re-checking settings while missing unfolding action. Would be nice to have the option to lock the buttons around the thumb area.

Otherwise.... I don't even miss the IS (assuming fast lenses).

Love the hinged screen and ability to move the focus point by touch.

Hate the clicking of the shutter in quiet environments.

Too bad Panasonic doesn't have the marketing savvy (or body design options) of our beloved Olympus. But for the price, the G3 is up there.

RickB said...

Great Blog Mr. Tuck!
I was ever so close to getting a G3, but my little pea brain was always telling me to go with and Olympus for the stabilization. I'm sure i would've been just fine without it, but i ended up snagging an EP2 for $299. (this left more $$ to afford 2 really nice primes!)
Thanks so much for all your work here, it helped me with many decisions in the last few weeks.
(PS- I even like your cranky posts)

Les said...

Kirk, You're just like my mother, the voice of sanity and reason just when I'd pretty much convinced myself that the OM-D should usurp my G3. Logically the extra 500 bucks is tough to rationalise for just a few improvements, but on the other hand, as pointed out above, that Olympus is a cool and stylish looker.............and IS and that 'Live Time' feature is intriguing.

Jim Tardio said...

I've been using the G3 since it became available.

I, too, am amused that this camera gets virtually no attention. Like you say, almost everything the OM-D is promising is already available on the G3.

I almost ordered the OM-D but couldn't really find any reasons that would catapult it over the G3. I've also been shooting for decades and never really could see a need for so-called weather-proof bodies. In-body "IS"...it's useful under certain conditions but also has the potential to ruin images if not used properly.

Lastly, I find the built-in flash tremendously useful for outdoor fill flash. I don't want to keep track of another, little, clip-on flash and waste time digging it out of my bag and putting it on the camera. The G3 managed to incorporate this and still leave the hot-shoe available for other add-ons.

It's a really fine camera that's available now for a fair price.

Poagao said...

Another point for the Panasonics is that they let you see your choice of ratio, unless the Olympi, which show the original 4:3 image with white lines where your preferred ratio would go.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Poagao, at least for the E-PL1 this is not true. If you switch that one to square, it will show square, if you decide on 16:9, it happily shows 16:9.

And Kirk, good article. Thought about the G3 myself several times. Oh, and wonderful photo of that house corner (I think No. 9 from the top or so) - the colors, the light - beautiful!

Poagao said...

Wolfgang, I am talking about reviewing photos you've taken. This was the way the E-P1 behaved and it's how the E-M5 behaves, so it's hard for me to believe that all the cameras in between do not.

From the manual, p.55: "JPEG images are cropped to the selected aspect ratio; RAW images, however, are not cropped but are instead saved with information on the selected aspect ratio. When RAW images are played back, the selected aspect ratio is shown by a frame."

Anonymous said...

This is actually a "feature." Since Olympus doesn't have a multi-aspect sensor, permanent cropping only occurs on JPGs. If you shoot in a different aspect, it is cropped from the full 4:3 image. RAW files will always have the full sensor information available, hence showing the full 4:3 frame with a crop frame allows you to change your mind later.

Poagao said...

Do you have to crop every shot in post? That would be a pain. I'd much rather just do my framing when I take the picture and be done with it, as I have always done.

kirk tuck said...

Poagao, Not so. In the latest permutation of Lightroom (in fact from 3.6 on) my square shot raw images from the Olympus come up cropped as squares. No white lines, just the perfect squares as I saw them thru the finder. I'll check today but presume the Panasonic files are handled in the same way.

I try never to crop. I only do it if I screwed up in the taking and the photo would be better with some crop help.

Too much cropping and I'll be drummed out of the Anti-Croppers Brigade for World Peace and Understanding.

Mike C. said...

I use a G3, and shoot with the EVF only, and have the screen in the "closed" position. When I want to use the screen, I flip it open, and it comes on. When I close it, the EVF comes on. Simple.


David said...

I tried a G3 in the airport tonight, very nice little camera. Makes a good alternative to the OM-D, reminds me of the Canon dilemma - 600, 60 and 7D all have similar sensor, so is it worth the money to upgrade for "features" only

I still like the sound of in body IS and improved continuous focus though..

Al the curmudgeon said...

Kirk - Great blog but a tiny grammar correction. "And whom can blame them?" is improper. It should be "and who can blame them?" The rule is to use whom when it's a direct object not a subject. When in doubt, I substitute I or him for who or whom and see which sounds correct.

kirk tuck said...

Jeez, Al, it was a typo. Honest.

dgb2 said...

Kirk, excellent write up. I have been shooting with the G3 for about a month and largely agree with everything you have to say here. The camera is a great value for the money. I just added the 14-42X lens and the combo makes a great compact set up. I can take it just about anywhere.

My only complaint about the camera is the small buttons. They are much too easy to push while holding the camera.

Thanks for the great blog.

Dennis Bishop
Chattanooga, TN

Michael said...


Very interesting article.

The thing that's always turned me off of most m4/3 is the lack of a built-in VF and the lack of external controls. The G3 has the VF, but I know I would never be happy changing settings using the touchscreen. Not having to take my eye away from the VF to dial in EC is worth a fair bit to me.

FIrst time visitor to your site, but I have added you to my list of photography sites to regularly visit.

Regards, Michael

Derrick said...

Hi Kirk,
Great to read your thoughts on the G3. I was wondering why you had skipped it previously! But now I'm curious as to why you picked it up when you already have a GH22? Was it because it's slightly smaller?

Xavier Lepaul said...

I'm still considering whether my first step in the m43 world should be the G3 or E-M5.

The G3 was tempting for months, with the two drawbacks (for me) being the absence of built-in IS, and the better jpeg quality in the Olympus cameras (I'm often too lazy for raw).

The E-M5 has both, but some other features that I don't need (weatherproofing, EVF automatic switching) and good marketing are making the price difference a bit hard for me to justify...

It's a good thing I still have some other cameras to shoot with while I endlessly read more reviews to decide which one should I buy.

dwajn said...

I really like what you wrote, wanted to add that I don’t like the way OMD looks.
I like retro, but this is not really retro “design”, it is stuffing the insides of a modern camera into the skin of an old one. The prism cover is a fake, it contains no prism. The proportions are all wrong, especially compared to the OM-1, which was wonderful. To me it all looks pretentious and irritating. I don’t consider the design of the G3 a masterpiece, but it is certainly not offensive. And the rounded body has the advantage of slipping easier into a large pocket, without tearing the coat to pieces.

David said...

@Michael - When I tried the G3 you could change exposure compensation in the EVF. Also all the other settings could be changed without moving your eye, and it was very easy to get used to

I particularly liked how in AV as you move change the aperture both shutter speed & aperture scales are shown in the EVF so you can see the impact on both

obakesan said...

I guess you don't like what I write

kirk tuck said...

obakesan, I don't understand? I do like your writing.

Brad C said...

I still maintain that the GH2 beat both of these cameras to the party :)

kirk tuck said...

Brad, that's why I bought one. That, and the video capabilities.

stanleyk said...

I had the Olympus on pre-order until this weekend. My poor G3 had been sitting in the closet due to my love affair with the X100. On a whim, since I was planning on selling the G3, I took it out shooting this last weekend just to make sure. Wow, it's a great camera. I have the Oly 12 and 45 + Panasonic 20 and 25. I just can't justify the $1000K price tag on the Olympus. I think I'll wait and when all the E-P3 users start dumping their cameras on Ebay to upgrade I'll get one of those. I do like the Olympus JPEGS, but not for $1000K. Having used IBIS on Pentax cameras and lens based VR on a Nikon D700, I just don't see that much benefit in IBIS. I totally agree on weather sealing. I have a large supply of Ziploc freezer bags. And if we are just talking about asethetics, the X-Pro is much sexier than the Olympus or at least I think so. Thanks again for the great blog!!!

stanleyk said...

Oh yeah, next time you are out North and East of Austin, be sure and stop by Louis Mueller's in Taylor for some BBQ. It's really great. I just moved here. Nice little town.

FotoEdge said...

To me the "Real" price of the OM-D is $800.... Because I wanted the 12-50mm lens which alone is $499. With some folks quickly paying $799 for just the Olympus 12mm lens, the $800 for this wonderful new version of the Pen line camera with a built in EVF seems almost cheap.

Michael said...

> Having used IBIS on Pentax cameras and lens based VR on a Nikon D700, I just don't see that much benefit in IBIS.

This was my experience as well. I wasn't really expecting much from the IBIS, and then I saw a few videos demonstrating it on the OM-D


and now I have some pretty high hopes.

mikeselsewhere said...

I've really enjoyed the G3. I've followed the hysteria surrounding the E-M5 with interest. I considered the merits of an upgrade (sidegrade?) but was left wondering if anyone who saw my photos (fellow hobby photographers alike) would be able to tell they were from a camera worth half a grand more. I haven't seen anything that would suggest that's the case yet. I guess we'll find out soon though.

akismet-a9077d30f5c39df02488d50d10c4c2be said...

whoever said that modern cameras look like a piece of soap was unforunately right where the G3 is concerned ;-)
Otherwise it is a nice camera with a lot of features and it produces top of mFT image quality.

Fuji and Oly took the other road, they offer beautifully designed cameras that make your mouth water (unless you prefer soap). But in the end it is character that counts, same as with humans.
Let's hope that the "OMG"s character is at least on par with it's looks.

:-) acahaya

Skip Hunt said...

Holy smokes Kirk! Do you buy a new camera every other week?! ;)

kirk tuck said...

Dear Skip,

Cameras come and cameras go. Do you not buy them frequently enough?

Best, Kirk

Skip Hunt said...

Kirk, I tend to really spend time getting to know whichever cameras I have so that I don't get distracted with trying to figure out a new menu system all the time.

I may be due for some upgrades soon & that's just one of the reasons I visit your blog, ie. excellent non-fan boy practical impressions without all the pixel-peeping minutia. I just can't keep up with your prolific test drives, etc. ;)

Skip Hunt said...


So do I have this correct... You own both the G3 AND GH2? If so, why?

kirk tuck said...

Skip, I think you and I shoot in different ways with the small cameras. In the studio I would agree. One camera (like the Canon 5dmk2) One lens (like the 85) and get to know it forward and backward. But when I do corporate jobs like following a CEO around at an event or conference I'm often using multiple focal length lenses and don't have time to change them. I put the wide, fast lens on one camera, a fast normal on another camera and a short tele on a third. That way I can move from camera to camera without having to stop, shut off the camera and change lenses. By using two cameras from the same maker I can go back and forth on menus with some degree of fluidity. I could make due photographically with two Pen EP3's or two Panasonic G3's but I bought the GH2 for its video capabilities and its ability to take an external mic. So for video it trumps the Olympus cameras and the smaller Panasonic. Two GH2's would have made me happy but would have cost more. I really like them. But I really like the Pens as well.

Can't choose between them. But right now I don't really need to. When you compare these little cameras to the costs of Nikon and Canon pro cameras they are so cheap as to be disposable.

Well, that's my rationale.....

Skip Hunt said...


Ah! I hadn't thought of that. I used to carry multiple 35mm bodies with different lenses as you describe. And one of the personal issues I've had with carrying one camera for video AND stills is that I get confused switching settings and mindset between motion and stills.

The small camera are so good and affordable now (as you mentioned) that I could just carry two, one for stills and one dedicated for video. Hadn't thought of that but I like it.

It seems you were very keen on the Nikon V1 and bought one of those too. If you're going out to do a little zen-photo walking alone... how do you decide which you'll take between the G3, GH2, EP3, V1?

Also, do you get any kickback or benefit from any of these companies that you're recommending? Or, are your reviews, etc. purely personal and based on cameras you bought for yourself?

Didn't you at one point have some arrangement where you were promoting gear for pay or free gear? I can't remember but it seems you did. Or maybe that was Fuji film?

kirk tuck said...

Skip, thanks for reminding me to do the disclaimer. I buy nearly all of my equipment from Precision Camera here in Austin. If they aren't a dealer for something I want I'll default to Amazon.com. Precision generally gets first crack.

In 2010 I was asked to speak for Olympus and we negotiated a fee for two days of speaking that included a 14 to 35mm zoom lens with a retail value of a little over $2,000.

I have been loaned equipment from Nikon and Olympus for short time spans (weeks) in order to write reviews about the products I am interested in. They all get boxed up and shipped back when I finish writing about them. No exceptions.

I wanted badly to violate that requirement on two occasions: Once, when I was testing the Leica M9 coupled with the latest 35mm Summilux and once when I was testing the 40 megapixel Phase One system with cool lenses. The got returned, but I pouted for at least a day...

Precision camera loans me gear. Occasionally they will sell me a product at their cost as a thank you for recommending people to them. But it doesn't happen often.

In the early 1990's I was a beta tester for Agfa films and received cases and cases of free film. On several occasions I also got free processing and some accommodations on air faire so I could travel and shoot with their film. The benefit to Agfa was a series of seminars about their film around Texas and California.

I paid retail for the Nikon V1 system. I liked it buy as you suggest, too many different products with too many different menus. I consigned the system at Precision Camera.

I also received a case of T-Max 400 CN film in 120 size from Kodak in 1995 and used it for many of my Rome images. We did displays of large prints in a number of camera stores and supplied Kodak with a small sample portfolio of prints from the film.

I have gotten some fun stuff like T-shirts and coffee mugs and pens. Camera people seem to like pens....but all of these have a value of less than $10 and given my background and relatively good financial health those items don't seem like a plausible incentive to buy my good words about a product.

All the Panasonic gear was purchased at retail.
All the Pen cameras (EP2's and EP3's) were purchased at retail as were all the lenses. Same with all the Canon gear.

I wish some LED manufacturer had tried to pay me off with product while writing the LED book but no one really knew about it until long after the book was out of my hands.

If you and a couple hundred of your friends each buy an LED book I'll go buy some other piece of gear and review it.......and we'll all be happy.

That's it.

Skip Hunt said...


Surprised you scrapped the V1. I was impressed with the quality you were getting out of it.

Thinking of unloading my D300 kit soon I think. Also thinking of unloading my Lowell video lighting kits and go LED. If I do, I'll pick up your book for sure. :)

I think I want a GH2, but I'm guessing that one is nearing the end of it's cycle and should be a fresh one soon. Didn't that drop almost two years ago?

Thanks for all you do. Dig the blog. :)

Low Budget Dave said...

I would also be interested to hear your opinion of the G3 compared to the GX1. It seems odd to pay money and lose features to shave off a few ounces, but in some ways, that is the whole idea behind MFT.

kirk tuck said...

LBD, there's a spot called, "just right." I don't think the goal of MFT was to endlessly shrink the cameras. At some point that becomes counterproductive. I try not to buy cameras that don't have built in EVFs. I can't imagine using one like a cellphone camera. No "stinky diaper baby hold" for me....

Low Budget Dave said...

The "stinky diaper hold" is actually a great description of how I take pictures with my phone.

Maybe I can get one of those new 41 megapixel telephones so I can blow up my bad photos to wallpaper size.

Tullio said...

I bought the G3 as an upgrade to both my G1 and EPL1 and I'm somewhat disappointed with it. The first thing I dislike is the "poor" JPEG produced by the G3 compared to the EPL1 and G1. The camera performs better in RAW but like others, I hate to spend hours processing RAW files. The camera severely under-exposes to the point where I have mine set to +0.66 at all times. Lastly, I don't believe the G3 is that good of a high ISO performer. I find that anything beyond ISO 800 requires a lot of PP'ing. I went to imaging-resource and compared High ISO performance between the G1 and G3. It is obvious that the G1 pulls a lot more details than the G3 at ISO 1600 and above and let's not forget, the G1 was not considered a good high ISO performer. The EPL1 beats them both in this department. So, even though the G3 is cheap, if I was going to buy a new camera, I'd save my $$$ and get the OM-D or even the EP3.

kirk tuck said...

I've never had my G3 under expose. It's lots better at 1600 that my EP3 and I didn't need to do any post at 1250 on a recent commercial shoot. Are you sure you weren't using some alternate universe G3?

kirk tuck said...

One fast focal length on one camera, another fast focal length on the second camera and I'm ready to shoot...

phl0w said...

Nice writeup. I am on the verge of upgrading my trusted G1 body (keeping the lenses of course). EVF is a must (especially for MF of legacy glass, and so I am torn between G3 and GH2. While you say the G3 has the best m43 sensor, DxO disagrees. The GH2's sensor is rated slightly better than the G3's, It has better DR and slightly (or let's say insignificantly ) better SNR. If it's worth the extra 300€ (Gh2 prices still ridiculously high here in Europe) is another story.
Do you notice a difference in IQ - or why do you use your GH2 under studio conditions, does it lead to better results? I would really appreciate your opinion on the matter G3 vs GH2. I do not use video, I hardly ever move from base ISO, and if I do I never need ISO above 800, I only shoot people (portraits at that, headshots in particular), and while I appreciate smaller builds, I want a proper grip! I'm a sucker for sharp pictures, and while I am by no means a "gearhead" I appreciate a nicely crafted and looking camera (still shooting a about a film/month with my OM-1).
Well, I guess my heart wants a GH2, but my wallet/reasoning says G3 (unless there's something the GH2 features that I'm missing that makes it really worth the extra €€).