Review Price £1,199.00
PanasonicLumix GH3 – Picture Quality, Video, Value and Verdict
Panasonic Lumix GH3 - Sensor, Venus Engine and Picture Quality
We’ve seen a steady improvement in the image quality provided by the micro four thirds sensors Panasonic uses, from its original Lumix DMC-G1 to the rather outstanding G5. The GH3’s 16 megapixel Digital Live MOS sensor has been designed to offer even better pictures than its predecessors.
The following pictures are full resolution JPEGs taken on a full retail version of the GH3 with the 14-140mm lens and camera set to auto mode.
All following images are taken on a pre-production unit so shouldn't be considered an absolute representation of image quality.
It offers an ISO range of 200 (150 extended) to 12800 (25600 extended), and though we didn’t get enough time with the camera to give a definite verdict, image quality was at least as good as anything we’ve previously seen from the G-range. Unfortunately the new sensor is not multi-aspect as was the case with the GH2, but this is a small sacrifice for better image quality and performance.
The new Venus Engine VII offers superior and faster processing than ever thanks in no small part to running on a quad-core architecture. For stills you can now do 6fps (4fps with live view or 20fps at 4 megapixels), time-lapse and multiple exposure, and HDR has been much improved over the G5, as the GH3’s processing now happens in the background and lets you get on with taking more (HDR, if you like) pictures.
There are also more autofocus modes than ever, including Contrast Detect, 23-point Multi-area and Selective Single-point which can be controlled by the touch-screen – and Panasonic claims its contrast detect gives it faster focusing than most DSLRs. There’s also a very welcome electronic level gauge to help frame shots perfectly, and even art filters such as Sepia.
The GH3's Sepia effect filter
Last but not least we see a return of the silent electronic shutter mode found on the G5. This isn’t just handy for stealthy wildlife shooting but also avoids the ‘kick’ of a traditional mirror system.
Panasonic Lumix GH3 - Video
There are very few cameras on the market that can match the Lumix GH3 for video. You can shoot 1080p/Full HD progressive video at anything from 24fps to 50/60fps, in various formats including MOV, MP4 and AVCHD with individual frame compression.
Please keep in mind that this video was shot using a pre-production GH3.
Best of all, you can record these at incredibly high bit-rates of 50Mbps (IPB) or 72Mbps (ALL-I) when using MOV – that’s higher than broadcast quality. The Panasonic Lumix GH3 even has in-camera slow-motion video recording. Being able to record to UHS-I means you’ll never be slowed down by storage, and the GH3’s sensor is larger than the 2/3-inch affair found on many pro-level dedicated video cameras.
"Quit monkeying around and take that shot already!"
On the audio side of things, the GH3 has a directional stereo microphone with wind-cut built-in. The 3.5mm microphone input (XLR is possible using an adapter) comes with onscreen mic level indicator and adjustment, which combined with live or recorded (with slight lag) headphone/line-out monitoring makes for a comprehensive solution.
Panasonic Lumix GH3 - Lenses and Price
Naturally the Lumix GH3 will be available body-only, for an expected £1,000 in the UK. That doesn’t compare too well with the $1,299 (£800) it will cost in the US (where you also don’t get the artificial 30-minute video limitation) but is still cheaper than most cameras with the GH3’s level of features.
An example of the GH3's 'soft' art filter
Initial lens bundles include the new Lumix G X 12-35mm (24-70mm equivalent) f/2.8, which is weatherproofed like the camera itself, for £2,000. If you’re after something with a little more zoom power, there’s a £1,600 bundle with the same 14-140mm non-X (but video optimised) lens that came with the Panasonic Lumix GH2.
Panasonic Lumix GH3 - Final ThoughtsIt's already clear that the Panasonic Lumix GH3 joins the Olympus OM-D E-M5 as the premiere compact system camera on the market for photography, and it pretty much beats all comers where video is concerned. The only DSLRs that come close to offering the video features and quality it offers cost significantly more. With all this goodness stuffed into a weatherproofed body that’s still smaller and lighter than most pro-level SLRs, Nikon and Canon should be watching their backs - though we're sparing our final verdict till the full review.
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