|1. The Menu button gives you quick access to camera settings, including the ability to customize the function of some of the camera's controls. 2. The built-in stereo microphone is right in front of the accessory shoe. 3. The LVF/LCD button switches between the eye-level live viewfinder and the external LCD monitor.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3
ESTIMATED STREET PRICE: $599 (body only)
The third generation of the original Micro Four Thirds System camera, the G3 is noticeably smaller than its compact predecessors, but features better still-image quality (thanks to a new higher-resolution, 16.0-megapixel Live MOS sensor and a high-speed Venus processing engine with advanced noise reduction) and video capabilities.
Video capabilities include AVCHD (1920x1080/60i and 1280x720/60p) and Motion JPEG (1280x720, 640x480 and 320x240, all at 30p), with stereo sound via built-in microphone (but no jack for an external mic).
Panasonic's G-series contrast-based AF has been faster than most from the start, and the G3 features the latest Light Speed AF system, with the AF sensor drive frame rate increased from 60 fps to 120 fps. If you wish, you can focus just about anywhere in the frame merely by touching the appropriate point on the LCD monitor, in both still and video modes.
The 3.0-inch, 460,000-dot LCD monitor tilts and swivels for easy video and odd-angle still shooting, while the built-in, eye-level, 1,440,000-dot electronic viewfinder (Panasonic calls it an LVF, or Live View Finder) gives you the option of shooting with the camera at your eye rather than at arm's length.
While the G3's maximum shooting rate at full 16-megapixel resolution is 4 fps (3 fps with Live View), it can shoot 4-megapixel JPEGs at 20 fps in SH (Super High Speed) mode (again, without Live View). One great feature for novices and even experienced shooters is iA+ mode—just press the iA button, and the camera is in full auto mode, no matter how you've previously set it. In this mode, you can adjust depth of field, brightness and white balance via simple sliders on the touch-screen LCD monitor.
The G3 can use all Micro Four Thirds System lenses, including Panasonic's unique Lumix G 12.5mm ƒ/12 3D optic. A variety of other lenses also can be used, via adapters.