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Panasonic Interchangeable-Lens Cameras Get Even Smaller

The latest Panasonic G-series interchangeable lens camera is billed as the smallest and lightest camera of its kind.

It's been only 6 months since the very compact Panasonic Lumix GF2 Micro Four-Thirds system camera hit stores, and it already has a notably smaller follow-up.

Announced today, the 12-megapixel, interchangeable-lens Panasonic Lumix GF3 has a body that measures just 4.24 inches wide, 2.64 inches tall, and 1.28 inches deep without a lens attached. Not only is that smaller than the aforementioned Lumix GF2 (4.44 by 2.67 by 1.29 inches), but it's also smaller on two fronts than the just-announced and similarly small Sony Alpha NEX-C3 (4.38 by 2.38 by 1.31 inches), which doesn't have a built-in flash.

The GF3 does have a pop-up flash, and Panasonic is billing the camera as the smallest and lightest interchangeable-lens camera with a flash. The Lumix GF3 weighs less than 8 ounces without its battery and storage card loaded or its lens attached; with battery and card, it weighs around 9.3 ounces, and with a pancake lens attached, it weighs a bit more than 11 ounces.

Other than the lighter weight, smaller size, and noticeably different aesthetic design, the Lumix GF3 has many of the same features as the slightly larger GF2. The GF3 has the same touch-to-focus capabilities for stills and video that we loved in the Lumix GH2 and GF2, as well as touch-controlled tracking autofocus system and the ability to touch-select focus points using the entirety of the camera's 3-inch LCD screen.

Other key features include RAW shooting, 1080i AVCHD video at 60fps (as well as 720p video at 60fps), a pop-up flash, and an accessory port for external flashes and microphones. Panasonic also says that the GF3's back-mounted thumbwheel can be used instead of the touchscreen for mode selection and other in-camera navigation, and the camera offers one-touch access to Intelligent Auto mode via a top-mounted button.

The GF3 also offers Panasonic's "Light Speed AF" focusing system, which the company says locks into subjects in just one tenth of a second; in other recent Lumix cameras, we've definitely been impressed with the company's high-speed autofocus system and touchscreen-focusing abilities.

Like other recent Lumix interchangeable-lens cameras, the GF3 will be compatible with Panasonic's separately-sold 3D conversion lens for 3D still photography. One new feature added to the camera's range of features is a "Miniature Effect" mode like the one in Olympus's PEN cameras and recent point-and-shoot cameras from Canon and Nikon: it mimics the effects of a tilt-shift lens, making large objects look like miniature models.

The ultracompact interchangeable-lens Lumix GF3 will be available in black, brown, red, and white. It will be sold as a kit with a 14mm prime lens (28mm equivalent when attached to the camera) for $700 starting in July, and as a kit with a 14-42mm zoom lens (28mm to 84mm equivalent when attached to the camera) for $600 beginning in August.

Panasonic also announced a new, fast G-series lens that will also be available in August. The Leica DG Summilux 25mm prime lens (50mm equivalent when attached to a G-series camera) has an ultra-bright F1.4 aperture, making it a great match for low-light situations. Pricing has not yet been announced for the new 25mm/F1.4 lens.

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