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Panasonic Lumix GH3: Image Quality Summary and Verdict

By Mike Topham

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Panasonic Lumix GH3: Image Quality

Overall image quality produced by the GH3 is very, very good. The 144-zone metering system copes admirably with tricky high-contrast scenes. The GH3 offers exposure compensation between -5EV and 5EV, however while out test shooting with our review sample we rarely had to use this feature, and even when we did we never had to dial in more than 0.7EV.

Lumix GH3 sample image 1

1/80sec @ f/14, ISO 125, 14mm

Using daylight-balanced lamps and a Datacolor Spyder Checkr chart we were able to ascertain how well the GH3 renders colour and white balance. Results between ISO 125 and 1600 were vibrant, punchy and rich in colour as might be expected. Better still, there was no sign of the saturation decreasing as we ramped up the sensitivity, at least until we reached ISO 25,600 where colours became slightly more muted compared to ISO 12,800.

Lumix GH3 sample image 1

1/4000sec @ f/8, ISO 6400, 128mm

Controlled resolution tests undertaken with our standard resolution test chart reveal that the GH3’s 16MP sensor is capable of rendering 32 lines per millimetre at ISO 100 when coupled with the 45mm f/2.8 Macro Leica D Vario-Elmarit lens. While this is certainly very impressive for a Micro Four Thirds sensor, APS-C sensors have scored slightly higher in the past. That’s not to take anything away from the GH3 though, which compared in isolation – or indeed against other cameras using MFT sensors – performs very well indeed.

Panasonic Lumix GH3 5

Noise is very well controlled between ISO 125 and ISO 800, with the GH3 producing clean, finely detailed images, however some noise does begin to creep in at ISO 1600. At ISO 1600 and 3200 images are certainly usable, although if you plan on printing your images at 100% then be aware that noise may well be visible to the naked eye. Beyond ISO 6400 and noise starts to noticeably degrade image quality, with the top settings of so ISO 12,800 and 25,600 best avoided if possible, or at least used only in emergencies.

Comparing an unprocessed Raw file to a processed JPEG revealed a number of subtle differences. JPEG files tend to be slightly brighter in dark shadowed areas, whereas Raw files resolve more detail in the highlights. Side by side we also noticed that JPEG files have fractionally more contrast applied, while in-camera sharpening was clearly obvious in JPEG files.

Verdict

As Panasonic’s flagship digital single lens mirrorless (DSLM) camera (more commonly referred to as a compact system camera) the Lumix GH3 has come on a long way from the two-year-old GH2 and brings with it a generous range of improvements. Indeed, with its larger hand grip, bigger battery, superb touchscreen and integrated Wi-Fi connectivity we don’t have any hesitation in saying the GH3 is one of the most intuitive CSCs we’ve used. It’s also well supported by a broad range of dedicated G-series lenses, with no fewer than 17 fixed focal lengths and zooms to choose from. Image quality is very good too, and while resolution of fine detail isn’t quite up there with the best APS-C equipped cameras, the GH3 nonetheless performs solidly enough to take on the DSLR competition with conviction.

Overall Score

8

Scores In Detail

  • Build Quality 8
  • Design & Features 9
  • Image Quality 8
  • Value 8

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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