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Panasonic Lumix GH3 Review

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Panasonic’s Michiharu Uematsu tells us that the company consulted around 100 Panasonic GH2 users, including professional filmmakers, post-production workers and broadcasters, to hear what they would like to see in its replacement – the Panasonic GH3.

Between them, they managed to produce a fairly long list, and while Uematsu says the business hasn’t been able to give them everything they asked for, he states that they will find 75-80% of their requirements have been met by the new compact system camera (CSC).

Panasonic’s main aim for the GH3 was to give it greater appeal to serious photographers and videographers. It has attempted to do this with improved handling, better build quality, more direct controls, an upgraded touchscreen, bolstered video recording technology and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Inside the Panasonic GH3 is a 16.05MP Micro Four Thirds sensor, which at 17.3 x 13mm is really a little smaller than an APS-C format device.

This is coupled with a new Venus Engine FHD processor that enables better noise performance at high sensitivity values, especially in the shadows, thanks to its multi-stage noise reduction system.

Being a Micro 4 Thirds (MFT) camera means that the Panasonic GH3 is compatible with a wide range of optics from the two main players in the MFT market, Panasonic and Olympus, as well as a handful through Sigma, Tokina plus Voigtlander.

Because the sensor is smaller than full-frame, the lenses are subject to a 2x focal length multiplication factor. This means that the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 Asph lens, which is available with the Panasonic GH3, gives a focal length range equivalent to a 24-70mm optic on a 35mm camera with a fixed maximum aperture of f/2.8.

Although it is aimed at experienced photographers and has the expected program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual exposure modes, the Panasonic GH3 also has a collection of automatic scene settings as well as for Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto (iA) mode that does most of the thinking for you.

So it can be used by less experienced photographers who want plenty of head-room.

Panasonic has extended the GH3’s video capability in comparison with the Panasonic GH2, so Full HD footage can be recorded in AVCHD, MP4 or MOV formats, at a range of frame rates including 50p, 50i, 25p and 24p. In addition, MOV and VCHD movies can be recorded with timecode to help with locating scenes or frames and synchronising with other devices.

Movies could be recorded in any of the available exposure modes, and a still image can be captured simultaneously if required. Full publicity control is also available during recording when shooting films in Creative Video mode. Slow and fast motion recording can be possible.

In response to feedback, Panasonic has also changed the microphone input port on the GH3 to the popular 3.5mm socket. A headphone port is provided to greatly help with audio monitoring.

Specifications

  • 16MP Live MOS sensor with three-core Venus 7 FHD engine
  • Magnesium alloy body with weather sealing (dust and splash-proof)
  • ISO 200-12800 (extended range of ISO 125-25600)
  • 6 fps continuous shooting
  • AF speed of 0.07 seconds
  • 1.7 million dot equiv. 16:9 ratio OLED viewfinder (1024 x 576 pixels)
  • 614k dot 3″ OLED rear screen (640 x 480 pixels)
  • Full HD 60p/50p video with 30p/25p option
  • MOV (h.264), MP4 and AVCHD formats
  • Video bit rates of 50Mbps in IPB and 72Mbps inside All-I compression modes
  • Timecode support in MOV(H.264) and AVCHD formats
  • 3.5mm mic socket and headphone socket
  • Four-channel wireless control for the optional DMW-FL360L external flash
  • PC socket
  • iOS and Android app handle via Wi-Fi

Performance

There are no major surprises with the images from the Panasonic GH3. In most situations, the camera correctly exposes the scene and records natural-looking colours. That said, we found that the automatic white balance setting produced rather cool looking images in warm sunlight. Turning to the Cloudy and Shade options warmed the picture up a little bit too far, and we preferred the results captured using the Sunny white balance setting. As usual, there are three metering modes available on the Panasonic GH3 – Intelligent Multiple (making maximum use of the 144-zone system), Centre-weighted and Spot. We discovered that the Multiple metering can be relied on in most circumstances, with the occasional need to dial in a little exposure compensation, for example, to brighten the image when the scene contains large bright areas.

In addition to Panasonic’s dynamic (intelligent dynamic range optimisation) program, which automatically brightens shadows, the Panasonic GH3 has an HDR mode. Unfortunately, this only works when shooting JPEG files, and the composite image is the only one saved. Although there is an option to align pictures automatically, some of our handheld HDR shots are a little misaligned. Consequently, we think experienced photographers are better off bracketing their shots and creating HDR images themselves. However, where the pictures do align well the results are good, with a subtle increase in shadow and highlight detail. Although it uses contrast detection autofocusing, the Panasonic GH3 gets subjects sharp very quickly in most situations, even in quite low light. It just really struggles with fast-moving topics, and the AF-Tracking option can only keep up with objects moving at around a walking pace. Noise is generally nicely controlled in images from the Panasonic GH3, and they have plenty of sharp fine detail up to around ISO 3200. When the in-camera noise reduction is in its standard-setting, JPEG documents have very little sign of chroma sound, even yet in the shadows. Luminance noise is, however, visible in high-sensitivity pictures viewed at 100%. Where possible we recommend keeping the sensitivity setting below ISO 6400, because at this value the impact of the noise reduction system becomes more evident, with some smoothing and loss of detail. Naturally, better results are feasible if you are prepared to process the raw data files – and owners of a camera of this level are most likely to go down this route.

Verdict

The Lumix GH3 is Panasonic’s flagship compact system camera and the successor to the GH2, a model that has gained a huge following in the professional video industry for its excellent video quality and versatility. But it’s also one of the most capable compact systems cameras around for stills shooting. It’s not the most compact of compact system digital cameras though, with dimensions that almost match those of the smaller consumer DSLRs. Perhaps because of that and its DSLR level of physical control, it’s an obvious choice for anyone looking to switch from a DSLR to a mirrorless program.

Check Out: Best Lenses For Panasonic Lumix GH3 

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