Panasonic GF5 vs Sony NEX-3
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in April 2012 and May 2010. Both the GF5 and the NEX-3 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a Four Thirds (GF5) and an APS-C (NEX-3) sensor. The Panasonic has a resolution of 12 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 14 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Panasonic GF5||Sony NEX-3|
|Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Micro Four Thirds lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|12 MP, Four Thirds Sensor||14 MP, APS-C Sensor|
|1080/60i Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO 160-6400 (160-12800)||ISO 200-12800|
|No viewfinder, LCD framing||Viewfinder optional|
|3.0" LCD, 920k dots||3.0" LCD, 920k dots|
|Fixed touchscreen||Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|4 shutter flaps per second||7 shutter flaps per second|
|360 shots per battery charge||330 shots per battery charge|
|108 x 67 x 37 mm, 267 g||117 x 62 x 33 mm, 297 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-3? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Panasonic GF5 and the Sony NEX-3 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 dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The GF5 can be obtained in three different colors (black, red, white), while the NEX-3 is also available in three color-versions, but different ones (black, silver, red).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GF5 and the Sony NEX-3 are of equal size. However, the NEX-3 is markedly heavier (11 percent) than the GF5. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the GF5 nor the NEX-3 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 Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (GF5) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-3). 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.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.
|Panasonic GF5»||4.3 in||2.6 in||1.5 in||9.4 oz||360||n||Apr 2012||499||Panasonic GF5|
|Sony NEX-3«||4.6 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||10.5 oz||330||n||May 2010||599||Sony NEX-3|
|Olympus E-PL3« »||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.5 in||11.0 oz||300||n||Jun 2011||599||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-PM1« »||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.3 in||9.3 oz||330||n||Jun 2011||499||Olympus E-PM1|
|Panasonic G6« »||4.8 in||3.3 in||2.8 in||13.8 oz||340||n||Apr 2013||599||Panasonic G6|
|Panasonic GF6« »||4.4 in||2.6 in||1.5 in||11.4 oz||340||n||Apr 2013||499||Panasonic GF6|
|Panasonic LX7« »||4.4 in||2.7 in||1.8 in||10.5 oz||330||n||Jul 2012||499||Panasonic LX7|
|Panasonic GF3« »||4.3 in||2.6 in||1.3 in||9.3 oz||300||n||Jun 2011||549||Panasonic GF3|
|Panasonic G10« »||4.9 in||3.3 in||2.9 in||13.7 oz||380||n||Mar 2010||499||Panasonic G10|
|Panasonic G2« »||4.9 in||3.3 in||2.9 in||15.1 oz||360||n||Mar 2010||599||Panasonic G2|
|Panasonic GF2« »||4.4 in||2.7 in||1.3 in||10.9 oz||300||n||Nov 2010||549||Panasonic GF2|
|Panasonic G1« »||4.9 in||3.3 in||1.8 in||12.7 oz||410||n||Sep 2008||599||Panasonic G1|
|Sony A5100« »||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.4 in||10.0 oz||400||n||Aug 2014||549||Sony A5100|
|Sony NEX-3N« »||4.3 in||2.4 in||1.4 in||9.5 oz||480||n||Feb 2013||499||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sony NEX-5R« »||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||9.7 oz||330||n||Aug 2012||749||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-5N« »||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||9.5 oz||460||n||Aug 2011||699||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-5« »||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||10.1 oz||330||n||May 2010||699||Sony NEX-5|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. 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 GF5 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 17 percent) than the NEX-3, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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 Panasonic GF5 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony NEX-3 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-3 is 62 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.5. The sensor in the GF5 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the NEX-3 offers a 3:2 aspect.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 14MP, the NEX-3 offers a higher resolution than the GF5 (12MP), but the NEX-3 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.11μm versus 4.33μm for the GF5) due to its larger sensor. However, the GF5 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 10 months) than the NEX-3, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Sony NEX-3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the NEX-3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 15.3 inch or 58.3 x 38.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 12.2 inch or 46.7 x 31 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.3 x 10.2 inch or 38.9 x 25.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Panasonic GF5 are 20 x 15 inch or 50.8 x 38.1 cm for good quality, 16 x 12 inch or 40.6 x 30.5 cm for very good quality, and 13.3 x 10 inch or 33.9 x 25.4 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 160 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 160-12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (no boost).
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the NEX-3 has a markedly higher DXO score than the GF5 (overall score 7 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.7 bits higher color depth, 0.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.4 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Panasonic GF5||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||1080/60i||21.4||11.6||618||61||Panasonic GF5|
|Sony NEX-3||APS-C||14.0||4592||3056||720/30p||22.1||12.0||830||68||Sony NEX-3|
|Olympus E-PL3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.9||10.3||499||52||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-PM1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||21.0||10.3||499||52||Olympus E-PM1|
|Panasonic G6||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||21.3||11.5||639||61||Panasonic G6|
|Panasonic GF6||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60i||20.7||10.6||622||54||Panasonic GF6|
|Panasonic LX7||1/1.7||10.0||3648||2736||1080/60p||20.7||11.7||147||50||Panasonic LX7|
|Panasonic GF3||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||1080/60i||20.6||10.0||458||49||Panasonic GF3|
|Panasonic G10||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||720/30p||21.2||10.1||411||52||Panasonic G10|
|Panasonic G2||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||720/30p||21.2||10.3||493||53||Panasonic G2|
|Panasonic GF2||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||1080/60i||21.2||10.3||506||54||Panasonic GF2|
|Panasonic G1||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||none||21.1||10.3||463||53||Panasonic G1|
|Sony A5100||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||23.8||12.7||1347||80||Sony A5100|
|Sony NEX-3N||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||22.8||12.5||1067||74||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sony NEX-5R||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||23.7||13.1||910||78||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-5N||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||23.6||12.7||1079||77||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-5||APS-C||14.0||4592||3056||1080/60i||22.2||12.2||796||69||Sony NEX-5|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the GF5 provides a higher video resolution than the NEX-3. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60i, while the Sony is limited to 720/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The GF5 and the NEX-3 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 NEX-3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-SV1. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Panasonic GF5 and Sony NEX-3 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Panasonic GF5||none||n||3.0||920||fixed||Y||1/4000s||4.0||Y||n||Panasonic GF5|
|Sony NEX-3||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0||n||n||Sony NEX-3|
|Olympus E-PL3||optional||n||3.0||460||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||n||Y||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-PM1||optional||n||3.0||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.5||n||Y||Olympus E-PM1|
|Panasonic G6||1440||n||3.0||1036||swivel||Y||1/4000s||7.0||Y||n||Panasonic G6|
|Panasonic GF6||none||n||3.0||1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||4.2||Y||n||Panasonic GF6|
|Panasonic LX7||optional||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/4000s||11.0||Y||Y||Panasonic LX7|
|Panasonic GF3||none||n||3.0||460||fixed||Y||1/4000s||3.2||Y||n||Panasonic GF3|
|Panasonic G10||202||n||3.0||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.6||Y||n||Panasonic G10|
|Panasonic G2||1440||n||3.0||460||swivel||Y||1/4000s||2.6||Y||n||Panasonic G2|
|Panasonic GF2||optional||n||3.0||460||fixed||Y||1/4000s||2.6||Y||n||Panasonic GF2|
|Panasonic G1||1440||n||3.0||460||swivel||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Panasonic G1|
|Sony A5100||none||n||3.0||922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||6.0||Y||n||Sony A5100|
|Sony NEX-3N||optional||n||3.0||460||tilting||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||n||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sony NEX-5R||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-5N||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-5||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The GF5 has one, while the NEX-3 does not. While the built-in flash of the GF5 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The NEX-3 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the GF5 does not have a selfie-screen.
The GF5 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the NEX-3 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The GF5 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the NEX-3 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5 and Sony Alpha NEX-3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Panasonic GF5||-||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic GF5|
|Sony NEX-3||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-3|
|Olympus E-PL3||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-PM1||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PM1|
|Panasonic G6||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-||Panasonic G6|
|Panasonic GF6||-||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-||Panasonic GF6|
|Panasonic LX7||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic LX7|
|Panasonic GF3||-||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic GF3|
|Panasonic G10||Y||mono||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic G10|
|Panasonic G2||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic G2|
|Panasonic GF2||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic GF2|
|Panasonic G1||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic G1|
|Sony A5100||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-||Sony A5100|
|Sony NEX-3N||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sony NEX-5R||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-5N||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-5||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-5|
It is notable that the NEX-3 has a hotshoe, which makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun. The GF5 does not feature such an accessory-socket.
Both the GF5 and the NEX-3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The NEX-3 was replaced by the Sony NEX-3N, while the GF5 was followed by the Panasonic GF6. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Panasonic and Sony websites.
So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Panasonic GF5 or the Sony NEX-3 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5:
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60i vs 720/30p).
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 30g or 10 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (17 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 10 months after the NEX-3).
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha NEX-3:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (14 vs 12MP), which boosts linear resolution by 10%.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (7 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
- More framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- 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 May 2010).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-3 emerges as the winner of the match-up (9 : 7 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Panasonic GF5 and the Sony NEX-3 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 GF5 or the NEX-3. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, 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.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
- Canon 450D vs Panasonic GF5
- Canon SX60 vs Panasonic GF5
- Fujifilm X-M1 vs Sony NEX-3
- Leica D-LUX 5 vs Panasonic GF5
- Leica M10-P vs Sony NEX-3
- Leica V-LUX 4 vs Panasonic GF5
- Nikon D2X vs Panasonic GF5
- Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic GF5
- Nikon D800E vs Panasonic GF5
- Panasonic FZ150 vs Panasonic GF5
- Panasonic GF5 vs Panasonic TZ200
- Sony A77 vs Sony NEX-3
Specifications: Panasonic GF5 vs Sony NEX-3
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 Model||Panasonic GF5||Sony NEX-3|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Micro Four Thirds lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||April 2012||May 2010|
|Launch Price||USD 499||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Panasonic GF5||Sony NEX-3|
|Sensor Format||Four Thirds Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||17.3 x 13.0 mm||23.4 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||224.9 mm2||365.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||21.6 mm||28.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12 Megapixels||14 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4000 x 3000 pixels||4592 x 3056 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.33 μm||5.11 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.34 MP/cm2||3.84 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60i Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||160-6400 ISO||200-12800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||160-12800 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||Venus FHD||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||61||68|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.4||22.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.6||12.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||618||830|
|Screen Specs||Panasonic GF5||Sony NEX-3|
|Viewfinder Type||No viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0 inch||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Panasonic GF5||Sony NEX-3|
|Autofocus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||4 shutter flaps/s||7 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Panasonic GF5||Sony NEX-3|
|External Flash||no Hotshoe||Hotshoe|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Panasonic GF5||Sony NEX-3|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||360 shots per charge||330 shots per charge|
108 x 67 x 37 mm
(4.3 x 2.6 x 1.5 in)
117 x 62 x 33 mm
(4.6 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
|Camera Weight||267 g (9.4 oz)||297 g (10.5 oz)|
Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.