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Olympus E-PL2 vs Panasonic GF3

The Olympus PEN E-PL2 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in January 2011 and June 2011. Both the E-PL2 and the GF3 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 12.2 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
Olympus E-PL2
versus
Panasonic GF3
Olympus E-PL2   Panasonic GF3
Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
Micro Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
12.2 MP – Four Thirds sensor 12 MP – Four Thirds sensor
720/30p Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 200-6,400 ISO 160-6,400
Viewfinder optional No viewfinder, LCD framing
3.0" LCD – 460k dots 3.0" LCD – 460k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed touchscreen
3 shutter flaps per second 3.2 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationLens stabilization only
280 shots per battery charge300 shots per battery charge
114 x 72 x 42 mm, 362 g 108 x 67 x 32 mm, 264 g
Olympus E-PL2:
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Panasonic GF3:
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus PEN E-PL2 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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-PL2 and the Panasonic GF3 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The E-PL2 can be obtained in four different colors (black, silver, red, white), while the GF3 is available in five color-versions (black, brown, pink, red, white).

Size Olympus E-PL2 vs Panasonic GF3
Compare E-PL2 versus GF3 top
Comparison E-PL2 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 notably smaller (12 percent) than the Olympus E-PL2. Moreover, the GF3 is markedly lighter (27 percent) than the E-PL2. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL2 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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog. Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

Concerning battery life, the E-PL2 gets 280 shots out of its BLS-5 battery, while the GF3 can take 300 images on a single charge of its DMW-BLE9 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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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.
 
Olympus E-PL2 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599i
2.
 
Panasonic GF3 108 mm 67 mm 32 mm 264 g 300 n Jun 2011 549i
3.
 
Olympus E-PL5 111 mm 64 mm 38 mm 325 g 360 n Sep 2012 599i
4.
 
Olympus XZ-2 113 mm 65 mm 48 mm 346 g 340 n Sep 2012 599i
5.
 
Olympus E-P3 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799i
6.
 
Olympus E-PL3 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599i
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1 110 mm 64 mm 34 mm 265 g 330 n Jun 2011 499i
8.
 
Olympus E-PL1 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599i
9.
 
Olympus E-P1 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Jun 2009 799i
10.
 
Olympus E-P2 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Nov 2009 799i
11.
 
Panasonic GF5 108 mm 67 mm 37 mm 267 g 360 n Apr 2012 499i
12.
 
Panasonic G3 115 mm 84 mm 47 mm 336 g 270 n May 2011 599i
13.
 
Panasonic G10 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 388 g 380 n Mar 2010 499i
14.
 
Panasonic G2 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 428 g 360 n Mar 2010 599i
15.
 
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.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The GF3 was somewhat cheaper (by 8 percent) than the E-PL2 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. 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.

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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.

Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.

Olympus E-PL2 and Panasonic GF3 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-PL2 offers a slightly higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 12 MP of the GF3. This megapixels advantage translates into a 0.8 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-PL2 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.29μm versus 4.33μm for the GF3). Moreover, it should be noted that the GF3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 5 months) than the E-PL2, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of individual pixels.

The Olympus PEN E-PL2 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 are ISO 160 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

E-PL2 versus GF3 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 E-PL2 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the GF3 (overall score 6 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.3 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.
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.257355
2.
 
Panasonic GF3 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i20.610.045849
3.
 
Olympus E-PL5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388972
4.
 
Olympus XZ-2 1/1.7 11.8 3968 29761080/30p20.411.321649
5.
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651
6.
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i21.010.349952
8.
 
Olympus E-PL1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.148754
9.
 
Olympus E-P1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.453655
10.
 
Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.450556
11.
 
Panasonic GF5 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.411.661861
12.
 
Panasonic G3 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60i21.010.666756
13.
 
Panasonic G10 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.141152
14.
 
Panasonic G2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.349353
15.
 
Panasonic GF2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.210.350654

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the GF3 provides a better video resolution than the E-PL2. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Olympus is limited to 720/30p.

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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-PL2 and the GF3 are similar in the sense that neither of the two has a viewfinder. The images are, thus, framed using live view on the rear LCD. That said, the E-PL2 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the VF-2. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Olympus E-PL2 and Panasonic GF3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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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.
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y Y
2.
 
Panasonic GF3none n3.0 / 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.2/s Y n
3.
 
Olympus E-PL5optional n3.0 / 460 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0/s n Y
4.
 
Olympus XZ-2optional n3.0 / 920 tilting Y 1/2000s 5.0/s Y Y
5.
 
Olympus E-P3optional n3.0 / 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0/s Y Y
6.
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n3.0 / 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5/s n Y
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5/s n Y
8.
 
Olympus E-PL1optional n2.7 / 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0/s Y Y
9.
 
Olympus E-P1none n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n Y
10.
 
Olympus E-P2optional n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n Y
11.
 
Panasonic GF5none n3.0 / 920 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
12.
 
Panasonic G31440 n3.0 / 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
13.
 
Panasonic G10202 n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.6/s Y n
14.
 
Panasonic G21440 n3.0 / 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 2.6/s Y n
15.
 
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 feature that differentiates the E-PL2 and the GF3 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-PL2 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the GF3 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.

The E-PL2 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the GF3 uses 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 Olympus PEN E-PL2 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.
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
2.
 
Panasonic GF3-stereo / mono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Olympus E-PL5Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
4.
 
Olympus XZ-2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
5.
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
6.
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
8.
 
Olympus E-PL1Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
9.
 
Olympus E-P1Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
10.
 
Olympus E-P2Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
11.
 
Panasonic GF5-stereo / mono--mini2.0---
12.
 
Panasonic G3Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
13.
 
Panasonic G10Ymono / ---mini2.0---
14.
 
Panasonic G2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic GF2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the E-PL2 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 E-PL2 and the GF3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-PL2 was replaced by the Olympus E-PL3, 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 Olympus and Panasonic websites.

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Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-PL2 and the Panasonic GF3? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus PEN E-PL2:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.3 stops ISO advantage).
  • More framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2011).

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Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3:

  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60i vs 720/30p).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • More compact: Is smaller (108x67mm vs 114x72mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 98g or 27 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (5 months) more recently.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-PL2 comes out slightly ahead of the GF3 (6 : 5 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision 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.

E-PL2 06:05 GF3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-PL2 and the Panasonic GF3 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the E-PL2 or the GF3. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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.
 
Olympus E-PL23/583/100..71/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599i
2.
 
Panasonic GF33/582/100..71/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 549i
3.
 
Olympus E-PL53/5+ +....4.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599i
4.
 
Olympus XZ-24/5+....4.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599i
5.
 
Olympus E-P3..83/100..74/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799i
6.
 
Olympus E-PL33/5+ +..72/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599i
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1..86/100..71/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 499i
8.
 
Olympus E-PL1..86/100..69/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599i
9.
 
Olympus E-P1..+..66/1004/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799i
10.
 
Olympus E-P23/5+..69/1004/54.5/5 Nov 2009 799i
11.
 
Panasonic GF53/5......4.5/54.5/5 Apr 2012 499i
12.
 
Panasonic G33/5+ +..75/1004.5/55/5 May 2011 599i
13.
 
Panasonic G103/5....70/1004/54/5 Mar 2010 499i
14.
 
Panasonic G2......72/1004/54.5/5 Mar 2010 599i
15.
 
Panasonic GF23/582/100..70/1004.5/54.5/5 Nov 2010 549i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated 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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Olympus E-PL2:
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Panasonic GF3:
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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 use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-PL2 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 Olympus E-PL2 Panasonic GF3
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Micro Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date January 2011 June 2011
    Launch Price USD 599 USD 549
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-PL2 Panasonic GF3
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 12.2 Megapixels 12 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4032 x 3024 pixels 4000 x 3000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.29 μm 4.33 μm
    Pixel Density 5.42 MP/cm2 5.34 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/30p Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 6,400 ISO 160 - 6,400 ISO
    Image Processor Truepic V Venus FHD
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 55 49
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.4 20.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.2 10.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 573 458
    Screen Specs Olympus E-PL2 Panasonic GF3
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional no viewfinder
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 460k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-PL2 Panasonic GF3
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 3.2 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationLens stabilization only
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-PL2 Panasonic GF3
    External Flash Hotshoe no Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Olympus E-PL2 Panasonic GF3
    Battery Type BLS-5 DMW-BLE9
    Battery Life (CIPA)280 shots per charge300 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 114 x 72 x 42 mm
    (4.5 x 2.8 x 1.7 in)
    108 x 67 x 32 mm
    (4.3 x 2.6 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 362 g (12.8 oz) 264 g (9.3 oz)
    Olympus E-PL2:
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    Panasonic GF3:
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