Before the opening of PMA* in Sydney, Panasonic gave us a chance to go hands-on with its extraordinarily small GF3 mirror-less interchangeable, and we jumped at it.

Panasonic’s latest entry into its Micro Four-Thirds range, the 12 megapixel GF3 is a tiny camera that looks to compete with the Olympus Pen and Sony NEX cameras. In the hands, the GF3 is so small that anyone would think you’re playing with a point-and-shoot.

Despite the size, the GF3 is incredibly comfortable to hold. At only 222 grams, it neither weighs down your hands nor feels too light. In fact, the layout of the controls feels just right to us when we hold it with an SLR hand-hold. Our right hand can easily hit the shutter, switch into Intelligent Auto mode, record films, and toggle features using the rear dial, while our left hand controls the lens.

If traditional controls aren’t your thing, there’s always the 3 inch touchscreen with new “pinpoint AF” allowing you to touch a magnified section of the screen to see exactly where you want the camera to focus.

Switching into different modes is quite easy, with the touchscreen letting you navigate between the settings quickly. Even while you’re shooting in a creative or manual mode, Panasonic has made it nice and easy for you to jump into the automatic mode with the “iA” button located on the top. Once in Intelligent Auto, you can play with new settings as part of “iA Plus,” a modified version of auto that lets you fiddle with exposure compensation, white balance, and defocus controls.

The Panasonic GF3 will be available in August for $899 with the 14mm lens.

Features seem to be quite numerous on the GF3, with several creative modes, different colour options, and 1080p Full HD video with autofocus tracking, face detection, and an image stabilisation system. You’ll also find an built-in flash on the GF3, activated with a simple push-button on the back of the camera.

From our brief play, it’s clear that Panasonic has a winner here. The GF3 has an excellent size, comfortable weight, fast autofocus, a good combination of controls, and in general feels like a great camera.

Panasonic's new GF3 and 14-42mm kit lens... taken on a Panasonic GF3.

Above and below, we’ve provided full-size images straight from the camera for you to view. To see them in full, just click on them (dial-up users, beware: these are between 3 and 5 meg each). Sadly, this is about as close as you’ll get to seeing photos from the GF3 until August, when it arrives in stores for $899 with either a 14mm f2.5 pancake lens or 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens.

Getting up close and personal with another new Panasonic camera.

Sydney's CBD as viewed from Darling Harbour.

We take the view a little bit closer with 200mm on the GF3.

 

 

*PMA is the Photo Marketing Association’s Imaging and Entertainment expo held in Sydney’s Darling Harbour in June 0f 2011.