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Panasonic Lumix GH3: Design

The GH3 couldn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as a small or indeed ‘compact’ camera. Compared side-by-side with its predecessor the GH3 is noticeably taller and wider, and with a deeper hand grip too. This larger hand grip does have a spin-off benefit though in that it allows the newer model to accommodate a larger battery than its predecessor, with the GH3’s rechargeable 1860mAh Li-ion battery good for up to 540 shots – a fairly significant improvement over the 340-odd shots facilitated by the GH2’s 1200mAh Li-ion power pack.

Panasonic Lumix GH3 7

While it might have a bit more around the waist and shoulders there’s no faulting the overall build quality, which is superb. With its magnesium alloy die-cast body the GH3 is by far the most solid Lumix interchangeable lens camera we’ve yet seen. Panasonic has even gone so far as to weather seal the camera against dust and moisture, enabling it to be used in all kinds of inclement weather. At 855g with a battery, SD card and 12-35mm lens attached the GH3 isn’t particularly light though, which could well put some people off. Despite this, the camera does feel very well balanced in the hand though. The tactile rubber grip that stretches all the way around to the rear of the camera also helps to make it comfortable and secure to hold.

Button placement has undergone a fairly radical re-think from what was found on the GH2. For example, the GH3 now sports dual control dials in the same way that many top-end DSLRs do – especially handy if your regularly shoot in Manual mode. The dedicated access buttons for White Balance, ISO and Exposure Compensation buttons have also been shifted from the D-pad to the top plate where you’ll find them neatly arranged in a line within easy reach of your forefinger.

The back of the camera sees plenty of change too, with the Playback button shifted over to the left of the viewfinder in order to make way for a dedicated AF mode toggle switch that can be used to switch directly between AF-S, AF-C and MF using your thumb. The one-touch movie-record button that was found on the top-plate of the GH2 now sits alongside this AF mode control. There are also four Function buttons that can be variously ascribed as you see fit. One of these doubles up as the Quick Menu button, which can be used to call up a stripped back menu of all the main shooting settings for quick changes on the go

Panasonic Lumix GH3 13

Panasonic Lumix GH3: Performance

In terms of performance, the thing that immediately strikes you is just how good the GH3’s touchscreen is. Whereas many camera touchscreens in the past have felt somewhat clunky and unresponsive, the GH3’s is on a par with the very best smartphone and tablet screens. Using the screen to set a focus point with Touch AF we found the camera registered our subtle finger jabs with considerable ease. The combination of Touch-AF and a super sensitive touchscreen vastly improves AF operation too. The GH3 benefits from Panasonic’s Light-Speed AF technology, which more than lives up to its name with almost instantaneous focus lock. Using a variety of Panasonic lenses we experienced very little in the way of focus hunting, either in single or continuous AF modes.

One performance issue we did experience related to the camera occasionally locking up while in playback mode. An odd occurrence and something we were only able to fix by removing and then reinserting the battery. Our sample came with the latest firmware, however Panasonic have told us that a further firmware update will be released in the near future to fix this. The only other criticism we have is that the electronic viewfinder seems slightly smaller than the GH2’s and the far corners didn’t appear as sharp as the centre of the frame. We tried using the dioptre control to correct this but it didn’t seem to have any effect.

Panasonic Lumix GH3 9

Loaded with a Class 10 SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC card and with the camera set to the 20fps Super-High continuous drive mode we were able to reel off a very impressive 80 JPEGs at full resolution. The Super-High drive mode is JPEG-only and so when we switched to Raw recording the camera automatically selected 6fps instead. At this setting we managed to record 20 individual Raw images before the memory filled and the frame rate dropped. Shooting Raw and JPEG simultaneously the GH3 managed 19 frames before locking up.

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Jerome Nolas

October 10, 2012, 12:28 am

Looks like a great camera, better than Olympus?


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.


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"


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.


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.


October 17, 2012, 2:48 pm

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


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.


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.


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)


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.


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?


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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