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Question: Going back to video for a moment, what was the maximum duration of a single clip?
JM: “It will follow what we've had in Europe before – 29 minutes and 59 seconds – one minute short of additional cost. Originally with the GH1 it was a bit of a concern doing that, but we've had no negative feedback and actually everybody follows that. There is controversy obviously, especially as it's different in the States. So it's more a tax thing than for any technological reason.”
DM: “So the big improvements of the G3 over the G2 as I've highlighted are a new sensor, processing engine and AF speed, and burst shooting. Plus there's the big improvement in video quality now that we have got 1080 Full HD. And also size wise we are lighter and smaller than the G2, and with stereo sound. New features include full area focusing and pinpoint AF, and also magnification in manual focus and AF + MF as well as iA Plus mode for advanced users. In terms of much improved image quality we have contrast AF and also sophisticated aluminium body whilst maintaining comfortable operation.”
Question: And when will the G3 be shipping?
JM: “Early summer. We haven't got a shipping date yet; I think June will probably be the earliest. Again pricing is still under discussion but what we're looking at is to have the same price point as when we launched the G2 [a suggested £629 with 14-42mm kit lens] – because we're obviously targeting the same area of the market. Which, in terms of the additional features we're offering with the G3, would be a great result. We will offer a body only option as well, and with the GH2 we've seen a strong body only business because we're now starting to change the quality and performance from the earlier models.”
Question: Is there a possibility that the G3 might eat into the market for the GH2 then?
JM: “The GH2 body only in the UK is £799, so there is still a step up [from the G3], with 14-42mm it's £899 officially. I think we've definitely strengthened the model in the middle of our range. This year you're paying extra to get real enhancements in core features such as image quality, video quality and faster shooting, so I'm really happy this year that we can offer that as well. The G2 absolutely stands up as an entry-level device [official price £529] and the only one with a free-angle touch screen in that part of the market. But with the G3 we can offer that image quality on the same level as a £600 DSLR at the higher ISOs – ISO1600 and ISO3200.”
Question: As free angle screens are also being embraced by DSLR manufacturers, are we going to see them on future Panasonic GF series CSCs as well?
JM: “Do you think that would be really appealing? In that case we'll feed it back. What we've essentially got here with the G3 is a GF sized body with a viewfinder built in, which I think is very attractive. That's for the European market. In Japan the message is ‘please go as small as possible.'”
Question: These are now made in China, not Fukushima, Japan, any more?
DM: “The GF1 and GF2 are still being produced in Fukushima. But in fact production has now ceased on the GF1.
Question: The only thing I wonder with producing a camera this small is that, already with the other G series touch screen models, I've had the issue of my thumb wondering onto the screen and accidentally taking pictures. Plus, have you also had feedback from people about the nose activating the screen when using the EVF? Have you tried to minimise that on the G3?
DM: “[Laughter] Hopefully, yes, although we Japanese haven't got such problems.”
Question: My nose isn't that big.
JM: “If you do close the screen [face inwards to the body], it does automatically turn on the viewfinder. The feedback was to get the smaller, more manageable size for being out with you for a full day. The dial has also been stiffened slightly so you don't accidentally jog that.”
Question: The other thing that's noticeable is that the amount of buttons and dials is much reduced – functionality that's presumably transferred over to the screen?
JM: “That was part of the simplification, although everything is still in there. What we've done is you've got function button one and function button two, so the enthusiast can also pick this up and customise it to the nth degree. You can obviously customise both of those buttons individually to additional settings. You've got the direct focus on the d-pad, ISO, white balance and then drive mode. Then the two buttons can either be a quick menu or a function button, so it can be whatever the two settings are you use the most. Obviously as you downsize you reduce the direct access.”
Question: Are you finding that people are asking more for touch screens or is it in truth a bit of a gimmick?
DM: “When we first introduced touch screens some viewed them as a bit of a gimmick but time goes by and actually it is easy and comfortable to use a touch screen – because we are so used to them on the iPad and so on.”
Question: You're still using resistive touch screen technology not capacitive – is that simply because of cost?
DM: “That's the main reason.”
Question: Did you consider implementing an eye sensor for activating the G3's EVF?
DM: “Some people say it's sometimes annoying because it's changing automatically very often, especially when you have the camera on a tripod and might move a finger across. Instead of an eye sensor on the G3 we've got a button, so it's a kind of trial.”
Question: You can usually turn eye sensors off if they get annoying though?
JM: “And quite a lot of people were doing just that.”
DM: “Of course size was also a consideration as was offering value to the customer compared with previous models.”
JM: “Our small issue was to improve image quality at the higher ISOs and that's a dramatic improvement with the G3. We're really confident when we provide samples for review you'll see that.”