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Leica M9 vs Panasonic GF3

The Leica M9 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2009 and June 2011. The M9 is a rangefinder-focusing mirrorless, while the GF3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (M9) and a Four Thirds (GF3) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 18.1 megapixels, whereas the Panasonic provides 12 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Leica M9
versus
Panasonic GF3
Leica M9   Panasonic GF3
Rangefinder camera Mirrorless system camera
Leica M mount lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
18.1 MP – Full Frame sensor 12 MP – Four Thirds sensor
no Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 80-2,500 ISO 160-6,400
Optical viewfinder No viewfinder, LCD framing
2.5" LCD – 230k dots 2.5" LCD – 460k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed touchscreen
2 shutter flaps per second 3.2 shutter flaps per second
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 585 g 108 x 67 x 32 mm, 264 g
Leica M9:
Check Ebay offers
Panasonic GF3:
Check Ebay offers

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M9 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Leica M9 and the Panasonic GF3 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The M9 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the GF3 is available in five color-versions (black, brown, pink, red, white).

Size Leica M9 vs Panasonic GF3
Compare M9 versus GF3 top
Comparison M9 or GF3 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GF3 is considerably smaller (35 percent) than the Leica M9. Moreover, the GF3 is substantially lighter (55 percent) than the M9. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M9 nor the GF3 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Leica M Lens Catalog (M9) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (GF3).

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999i
2.
 
Panasonic GF3 108 mm 67 mm 32 mm 264 g 300 n Jun 2011 549i
3.
 
Canon T5i 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 580 g 440 n Mar 2013 649i
4.
 
Canon T2i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 699i
5.
 
Canon T1i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 520 g 400 n Mar 2009 799i
6.
 
Leica M10-R 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jul 2020 8,295 i
7.
 
Leica M10-P 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Aug 2018 7,995 i
8.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113 133 mm 73 mm 78 mm 486 g 350 n Sep 2014 2,295i
10.
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850i
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Sep 2012 6,950i
12.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499i
13.
 
Panasonic GF5 108 mm 67 mm 37 mm 267 g 360 n Apr 2012 499i
14.
 
Panasonic G3 115 mm 84 mm 47 mm 336 g 270 n May 2011 599i
15.
 
Panasonic G10 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 388 g 380 n Mar 2010 499i
16.
 
Panasonic G2 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 428 g 360 n Mar 2010 599i
17.
 
Panasonic GF2 113 mm 68 mm 33 mm 310 g 300 n Nov 2010 549i
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The GF3 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 93 percent) than the M9, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica M9 features a full frame sensor and the Panasonic GF3 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the GF3 is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the M9 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the GF3 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica M9 and Panasonic GF3 sensor measures

With 18.1MP, the M9 offers a higher resolution than the GF3 (12MP), but the M9 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.91μm versus 4.33μm for the GF3) due to its larger sensor. However, the GF3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 9 months) than the M9, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the M9 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Leica M9 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the M9 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 26.1 x 17.4 inches or 66.2 x 44.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.8 x 13.9 inches or 53 x 35.3 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.4 x 11.6 inches or 44.1 x 29.4 cm. The corresponding values for the Panasonic GF3 are 20 x 15 inches or 50.8 x 38.1 cm for good quality, 16 x 12 inches or 40.6 x 30.5 cm for very good quality, and 13.3 x 10 inches or 33.9 x 25.4 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica M9 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 2500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 are ISO 160 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

M9 versus GF3 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under review, the M9 provides substantially higher image quality than the GF3, with an overall score that is 20 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.9 bits higher color depth, 1.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.9 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
2.
 
Panasonic GF3 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i20.610.045849
3.
 
Canon T5i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.268161
4.
 
Canon T2i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466
5.
 
Canon T1i APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363
6.
 
Leica M10-R Full Frame 40.9 7864 5200none25.314.3292495
7.
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none25.114.1273993
8.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.612.8149178
10.
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240 Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084
12.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359
13.
 
Panasonic GF5 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.411.661861
14.
 
Panasonic G3 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60i21.010.666756
15.
 
Panasonic G10 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.141152
16.
 
Panasonic G2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.349353
17.
 
Panasonic GF2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.210.350654
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The GF3 indeed provides for movie recording, while the M9 does not. The highest resolution format that the GF3 can use is 1080/60i.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the M9 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the GF3 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica M9 and Panasonic GF3 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Leica M9optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0/s n n
2.
 
Panasonic GF3none n3.0 / 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.2/s Y n
3.
 
Canon T5ioptical n3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0/s Y n
4.
 
Canon T2ioptical n3.0 / 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7/s Y n
5.
 
Canon T1ioptical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4/s Y n
6.
 
Leica M10-Roptical n3.0 / 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.5/s n n
7.
 
Leica M10-Poptical n3.0 / 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
8.
 
Leica M10optical n3.0 / 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0/s n n
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113optional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
10.
 
Leica X Variooptional n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0/s Y n
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240optical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n n
12.
 
Leica M8optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0/s n n
13.
 
Panasonic GF5none n3.0 / 920 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
14.
 
Panasonic G31440 n3.0 / 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
15.
 
Panasonic G10202 n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.6/s Y n
16.
 
Panasonic G21440 n3.0 / 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 2.6/s Y n
17.
 
Panasonic GF2optional n3.0 / 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 2.6/s Y n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The GF3 has a touchscreen, while the M9 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the M9 and the GF3 write their files to SDXC cards.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Leica M9 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Leica M9Y- / ----2.0---
2.
 
Panasonic GF3-stereo / mono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon T5iYstereo / monoY-mini2.0---
4.
 
Canon T2iYstereo / -Y-mini2.0---
5.
 
Canon T1iYmono / mono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Leica M10-RY- / -----Y--
7.
 
Leica M10-PY- / -----Y--
8.
 
Leica M10Y- / -----Y--
9.
 
Leica X Typ 113Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Leica X VarioYstereo / mono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Leica M Typ 240Ystereo / mono---2.0---
12.
 
Leica M8Y- / ----2.0---
13.
 
Panasonic GF5-stereo / mono--mini2.0---
14.
 
Panasonic G3Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic G10Ymono / ---mini2.0---
16.
 
Panasonic G2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Panasonic GF2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the M9 has a hotshoe, while the GF3 does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.

Both the M9 and the GF3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The M9 was replaced by the Leica M Typ 240, while the GF3 was followed by the Panasonic GF5. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Panasonic websites.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Leica M9 better than the Panasonic GF3 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Advantages of the Leica M9:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (18.1 vs 12MP) with a 25% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (20 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.9 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.7 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.9 stops ISO advantage).
  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2009).

ilogo

Arguments in favor of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60i video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (460k vs 230k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.2 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (108x67mm vs 139x80mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 321g or 55 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (93 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 9 months) more recently.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the GF3 comes out slightly ahead of the M9 (11 : 10 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

M9 10:11 GF3

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the M9 or the GF3 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica M9........4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999i
2.
 
Panasonic GF33/582/100..71/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 549i
3.
 
Canon T5i......76/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649i
4.
 
Canon T2i..+ +..77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699i
5.
 
Canon T1i..+ +..74/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799i
6.
 
Leica M10-R4.5/5..4/5....4/5 Jul 2020 8,295 i
7.
 
Leica M10-P....3/5....4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 i
8.
 
Leica M104.5/5......4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica X Typ 1133.5/5......3.5/54/5 Sep 2014 2,295i
10.
 
Leica X Vario3/5......4/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850i
11.
 
Leica M Typ 2404/5......4/5.. Sep 2012 6,950i
12.
 
Leica M8......+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499i
13.
 
Panasonic GF53/5......4.5/54.5/5 Apr 2012 499i
14.
 
Panasonic G33/5+ +..75/1004.5/55/5 May 2011 599i
15.
 
Panasonic G103/5....70/1004/54/5 Mar 2010 499i
16.
 
Panasonic G2......72/1004/54.5/5 Mar 2010 599i
17.
 
Panasonic GF23/582/100..70/1004.5/54.5/5 Nov 2010 549i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Leica M9:
Check Ebay offers
Panasonic GF3:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Leica M9 vs Panasonic GF3

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Leica M9 Panasonic GF3
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2009 June 2011
    Launch Price USD 7,999 USD 549
    Sensor Specs Leica M9 Panasonic GF3
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 18.1 Megapixels 12 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5212 x 3472 pixels 4000 x 3000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.91 μm 4.33 μm
    Pixel Density 2.09 MP/cm2 5.34 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 2,500 ISO 160 - 6,400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 69 49
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.5 20.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.7 10.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 884 458
    Screen Specs Leica M9 Panasonic GF3
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder no viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.68x
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Leica M9 Panasonic GF3
    Focus System Manual Focus Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2 shutter flaps/s 3.2 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica M9 Panasonic GF3
    External Flash Hotshoe no Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica M9 Panasonic GF3
    Battery Type BLI-312 DMW-BLE9
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    108 x 67 x 32 mm
    (4.3 x 2.6 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 585 g (20.6 oz) 264 g (9.3 oz)
    Leica M9:
    Check Ebay offers
    Panasonic GF3:
    Check Ebay offers

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