Panasonic made room for two higher-end models in their G-series. The G3 is designed in the vein of a traditional DSLR, with an electronic viewfinder and a full-sized hand-grip. The GX1 is more like an old rangefinder camera—no eye-level finder, and with the right lens (like the Power Zoom kit lens), it's compact enough to tote around in a coat pocket. Is there a clearly better camera, or, as Panasonic hopes, is this town big enough for the two of them?
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The G3 and GX1 are built around very similar sensors, so it's no surprise that they earned very similar performance scores.
In the six-month gap between the launch of the two cameras, it seems like Panasonic made a few tweaks to the sensor and JPEG engine to give the GX1 an edge: it earned higher scores in most tests, but by a very slim margin in each case. The most notable difference is that the GX1 offers an extra stop of ISO sensitivity (12800, up from the G3's max of 6400), which ends up hurting the overall score a bit (the highest setting is, predictably, pretty dicey).
The GX1 also has a slight edge in terms of burst shooting—it cranks out about 4 frames per second at its top speed, up from the G3's 3fps. Otherwise, they're about equally snappy in terms of autofocus speed and reliability, though the GX1 errs on the side of underexposure.
Overall, we give the nod to the GX1. It doesn't make much progress, but it's still measurable.
Winner: Panasonic GX1
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Design and Handling
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This is an apples-to-oranges comparison. The G3 is built like a DSLR, and the GX1 is built like a rangefinder. Panasonic did this on purpose. Some people would rather have a viewfinder and a comfortable grip, others would rather have a smaller, less conspicuous camera that can actually fit into a coat pocket.
Our scoring system favors cameras with "more"; the G3 earns more points because it has a viewfinder, a bulkier grip, and a articulating LCD (though we'd argue that an articulating LCD is always a worthy feature, regardless of form factor). The GX1 does feel more solid than the G3, but we account for that in our handling score, and from a numbers perspective, we favor the G3. But the more nuanced, appropriate answer is that it's a toss-up between the two cameras, best left up to personal taste.
Winner: Leaning slightly toward the Panasonic G3, but up to personal taste
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What we have here are two variations on a theme, and both are executed quite well. The G3 earned more points in our rubric because it has more features, but that's just in the nature of its design. The GX1 takes slightly better pictures by our measure, but because there are so many rangefinder-style mirrorless system cameras right now, it doesn't stand out as readily as the G3, though it's still an excellent camera. Since they both do what they're designed to do quite well, we have to let each buyer decide this one.
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