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Panasonic Lumix GH3 review

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  • Recommended by TR

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Panasonic Lumix GH3
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Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Pros

  • Class-leading touchscreen control
  • High-speed 6fps continuous shooting
  • Comprehensive set of video functions
  • Solid and robust build quality

Cons

  • EVF lacks edge sharpness
  • No option to star rate your images in-camera

Key Features

  • 16MP Live MOS sensor
  • ISO 125 - 25,600
  • 3in, 614k-dot vari-angle touchscreen LCD
  • 1080p Full HD video capture
  • Dual 3.5mm microphone/headphone jacks
  • Manufacturer: Panasonic
  • Review Price: £1,199.00

Introduction

The term ‘compact system camera’ is a handy umbrella term that, over the past few years, has been used to describe an increasingly broad range of cameras – not all of which are actually that compact. On the one hand you have those CSCs that come without electronic viewfinders, which generally live up to their ‘compact’ billing. However, there are also plenty of CSC’s that sport not only electronic viewfinders but also deep, DSLR-like handgrips and big, chunky controls. If truth be told it can be somewhat misleading to describe these models as ‘compact’.

Panasonic Lumix GH3 11

As one of the originators of the CSC genre Panasonic has had a foot in both camps. In terms of current models, both the GF5 and GX1 are great examples of how CSC technology can be applied to produce genuinely compact and easy-to-carry cameras. The G5 and the GH3, however, with their EVFs and handgrips are undoubtedly closer in both size and appearance to DSLRs than they are to compacts. No doubt aware of this growing anomaly Panasonic has recently taken the decision to re-brand all of its CSCs as Digital Single Lens Mirrorless cameras – or DSLM for short.

Panasonic Lumix GH3: Features

The GH3 takes over from the GH2 as the flagship model within Panasonic’s DSLM range. At its heart the GH3 employs a 16MP Live MOS sensor – 16MP being the same resolution that’s offered by the two-year-old GH2. The two sensors are quite different however, with the newer chip having been modified to allow for a wider dynamic range to be captured. In practical terms this equates to a standard sensitivity range of between ISO 200-12,800 – which can be further expanded to the equivalent of ISO 125-25,600 via the extended settings.

Meanwhile the GH3’s image processer has been updated to the latest Venus 7 FHD chip and this allows the GH3 to reach some impressively quick continuous shooting speeds, the fastest of which is the 20fps Super High speed mode, although it should be noted that this is only available for JPEG capture. Should you want to shoot in Raw or even Raw+JPEG then the rate drops to 6fps. This still isn’t bad though, especially when you consider that some DSLRs at this price point aren’t able to shoot this fast. If you don’t need to shoot as fast as 6fps, then there are further options to shoot continuously at 2fps or 4fps.

Panasonic Lumix GH3

Exposure modes include the standard 'manual' quartet of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual (PASM) modes, along with a fully automatic intelligent Auto (iA) mode, a range of 24 individually selectable Scene modes and 14 Creative Control digital filter effects that can be used to give your images anything from a miniaturised to a cross-processed look. Rounding things off are three Custom settings that you can set up as you like and then recall in an instant simply by turning the exposure mode dial to the saved Custom slot.

In addition to its still image capabilities, the GH3 also builds on the reputation of its predecessor for excellent – not to mention extensive – video capture options with the addition of even more movie formats and bit rates including 1920 x 1080 Full HD settings at 50p, 50i, 25p and 24p. Furthermore, you can opt to record movie files in the HDTV-friendly AVCHD format, or to use the more computer friendly MP4 and MOV recording formats. The GH3 also comes with not one but two 3.5mm jacks: one for an external microphone and one for a set of headphones, which enables you to record audio while simultaneously monitoring the sound.

On the back of the GH3 is a side-hinged 3in, 614k-dot vari-angle LCD monitor that can be pulled away from the camera body by 180° and then rotated through 270, which is really useful for self-portraits and when shooting from extreme angles.

Should you prefer to hold the camera to eye level then the built-in OLED electronic viewfinder offers an impressive 1.7million-dot resolution and a 100% field of view making it one of the better EVFs on the market.

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Autofocus is taken care of by Panasonic’s proprietary Light-Speed contrast-detect AF system, which is one of the fastest AF modules on the market. Autofocus options extend to single-area AF and multi-point AF modes alongside AF tracking and Face Detection options. In addition to compositional and playback duties the GH3’s rear screen also offers touchscreen functionality, which includes Touch AF whereby you can set your focus point simply by tapping on the point of the screen you want the camera to focus on. Touch Shutter takes this a stage further by automatically taking a shot once focus has been attained.

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Last but not least, the GH3 is also the first Lumix interchangeable lens camera to come with integrated Wi-fi connectivity. This is quickly becoming a must-have feature on recent digital camera launches, so it’s good to see the GH3 future-proofing itself with its inclusion, even it it hasn't gone quite so far as the Samsung Galaxy Camera by including 3G and an Android, mobile phone-like interface. The GH3’s built-in Wi-Fi allows you to send images directly to your PC, or to back them up to the cloud without the need for any leads. In addition, by downloading the Lumix Link app (free from the Apple App Store and Google Play) you can also use your smartphone to control your camera remotely.

Jerome Nolas

October 10, 2012, 12:28 am

Looks like a great camera, better than Olympus?

Ijster

October 10, 2012, 6:44 pm

I agree! The key question is how does it compare to the Olympus OM-D EM-5?

Hybrid Camera Revolution

October 12, 2012, 9:26 am

Thank you for the review - and for the video. It is the first GH3 video I have seen in which the shooter appears to know what he or she is doing.
That said, why are you still calling it a "compact" system camera? Panasonic UK's press release does not mention CSC, calling it a Digital Single Lens Mirrorless (DSLM) instead: Personally, I like the change - but hope that Panasonic has finally settled on a single name for these cameras.

whensly

October 12, 2012, 11:05 pm

as someone (a pro) who's owned a GH1, GH2 and a G3, as well as full frame and APC cameras from other manufacturers, I have to say I loved the M4/3rds format for a while'but when I got to my photo files and look at the images, even with using some of the worlds greatest glass, they leave me wanting a camera with a larger sensor.

The reviews, images and price of these cameras are giving me pause on going any further with M 4/3rds.

Sorry to say, "i'm not jacked about the GH3"

dfswan

October 13, 2012, 11:32 am

I partly agree with the M43rds user discouraged about the image quality of the smaller sensor. I presently have the G3 and love the size and features but agree that the images don't quite compare to my wife's D5100. However, the G5 has a considerably better sensor than any Lumix sensor to date, and the Olympus M5 sensor surpasses most of the older APS-C sensors. In fact the M5 almost equals the D5100/D7000 sensors. If the GH3 delivers the promised sensor quality better than the M5, image quality will no longer be a compromise.

As we know, the gap between the APS sensors and full frame sensors has almost closed. If the gap between APS-C and M43rds closes, then honestly why carry those big cameras and lenses around when you don't have to. I can't wait for the final production sensor and the corresponding comparative images and tests to see just how good this camera really is.

TechVegan

October 17, 2012, 2:47 pm

You're welcome, and thanks for your comment. Credit to Ryan our video guy for the, well, videos.

As to the name, I am aware of the DSLM convention but the general term (which Panasonic originally promoted, after all) for these cameras is still CSC - it's established, used across brands, and people know what it means. We'll start using DSLM when/if it gains traction.

TechVegan

October 17, 2012, 2:48 pm

Good points, well made. We can't wait to bring you the final verdict ;)

TechVegan

October 17, 2012, 2:55 pm

To those wondering whether this is better than the Olympus OM, both cameras are beautifully built, weatherproof, with more manual controls than you can can shake a stick at - but it's too early to tell which will win out for image quality.

However, it's already obvious that the GH3 offers more shooting flexibility thanks to its fully articulated screen, and it also offers more video modes with higher bit rates.

tjbates05

October 23, 2012, 2:38 am

This looks like a great camera. I was wondering if you could comment on any noticeable aliasing or moire problems with the video? Is the Extra Tele convert feature cleaner than the GH2 when underexposing?

Wish it was indeed broadcast quality - despite shooting 50+ mb/s the GH3 shoots AVCHD which is only 4.2.0 not 4.2.2 colour space.

JohnTwigt

October 23, 2012, 4:27 pm

Broadcast or not, that's a matter of validation. Some broadcasters do allow these specs. But on another matter, the GH3 also records in a Quicktime wrapper and MP4. I think you refer not so much to the AVCHD (which is a wrapper) but to the used codec here, H.264 (which also comes in a lot of flavours but is indeed in this camera 4:2:0. However in my opinion , the Gh3 gives at the current time the best codec options found in a DSLR (or DSLM).

In case anybody is interested, I've had the opportunity to play around with a pre-production model this weekend. Wrote a little report and thrown some shots together. Please be kind, this is not meant as a extensive scientific test, just a personal impression of the GH3

(and please note it's a v0.5 firmware pre-production model)

www.workstation.nl/gh3eng.html

vimeo.com/51928527

tjbates05

October 24, 2012, 3:27 pm

You are quite right John, I did mean H.264.
Luckily I haven't found 4.2.0 a limitation yet especially for online consumption and broadcast news and short documentary work.
As a GH2 owner, I have a lot of hope that the GH3 will tick all my boxes especially in regard to controlling aliasing and moire. I'm also hoping that the Extra Tele Convert mode is cleaner when underexposing as well.
Haven't seen any tests yet in this regard.

lobstsa21

October 28, 2012, 8:12 am

As a newbie to movie capabilities on a "still" camera,What does 4.2.0 color space Mean? And what version or type of movie works best, generally?

Martin Daler

November 26, 2012, 2:16 pm

If you transported this camera back in time to 1970, any camera buff would be able to look at it and tell you where the film canister was located, the film take up spool, the mirror box and pentaprism. Except, of course, none of those constraints exist any more - so why are cameras still being designed to accommodate them? Will no one break the mould?

Ed

November 26, 2012, 3:12 pm

I see where you're coming from but two things:

1. Why change just for the sake of it?
2. What is actually wrong with the current design?

So far as I can see everything's there for a reason and it works ergonomically so leave well alone.

Martin Daler

November 26, 2012, 8:58 pm

Not change for the sake of it. But to say that the constraints necessary to celluloid film and SLR design just so happened to shake down into the ideal ergonomic form is far fetched.

Surely if you started from the minimum constraints necessary to the technology (therefore ditching all those clingons from film and single-lens-reflex construction) and asked the question - what is the optimum form for this new image recording device, would a retro-SLR box be the answer?

I would like to see thought given:
a better answer to portrait/landscape handling compromise
possibility to hold and use one-handed (like a video-cam?)
a more pocketable shape - fewer sticky-outy bits and angles
shutter button design/location which is less prone to causing the camera body to jerk
I'm sure there is more. But it won't come by endlessly apeing what was done 30+ years ago.

A few brave designers did have a go. I recall swivel lens designs and other new-thinking, but it seemed to peter out. Maybe the market/reviews punishes any divergence from the norm?

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