The Panasonic Lumix GH3 is Panasonic's flagship Micro Four Thirds camera, updating the Panasonic Lumix GH2, and with weather sealing and an SLR like styling, Panasonic are keen to emphasis this is a new DSLM (Digital - Single - Lens - Mirrorless) Camera, rather than just a "Mirrorless" camera. They will even sell you a £250 vertical battery grip with the camera that also includes weather sealing to match the body.
Panasonic Lumix GH3 Features
The Panasonic Lumix GH3 has had a number of upgrades compared to the predecessor, with a new sensor, weather sealed body, and greatly improved video features. The Panasonic Lumix GH2 has been popular with videographers, and the GH3 aims to expand on that with a wide variety of options and shooting modes, as well as microphone socket, headphone socket, and full uncompressed HDMI out. The camera also features a number of photo-centric upgrades, including HDR, multi-exposure, flash sync cable socket, expanded ISO range and more.
16 megapixel Live MOS Sensor
3 inch OLED 614k dot touch screen
Swivelling / Rotating to face front
6fps continuous shooting
Full HD, 72/50mbps, AVCHD, MOV, MP4
Stereo mics, mic socket, headphone socket
ISO200-25600 (extended to 125)
1.744 million dot EVF
HDR shooting, Multi-exposure
Wi-Fi built in
Panasonic Lumix GH3 Handling
Handling - The Panasonic Lumix GH3 feels like a substantial upgrade over the GH2 with a larger weather sealed body, it feels even more like a mini-Digital SLR than previous models. The camera controls are neatly designed with the WB/ISO/EV buttons just behind the shutter release, making it easy to change these settings.
The handling is improved with a comfortable rubber grip for your right hand, and the left side of the body also features a rubber coating for added grip. There are now three control dials, with one at the front, one at the back, and the wheel surrounding the Menu/OK button counting as the third. The camera features a new quieter shutter, as well as a selectable electronic shutter and the camera will shoot at 6fps.
Built in Wi-Fi enables quick sharing of images, and when tethered to a smartphone it's possible to Geotag the images. The body of the camera features 5 function buttons, as well as a further 2 function buttons that can be customised on the touch-screen, giving a total of 7 customisable function buttons.
The GH3 features a completely new 16 megapixel sensor, as well as a new 1.744 million dot electronic OLED viewfinder, that uses an RGBG array for better performance as well as a 1000:1 contrast ratio. The new 3 inch touch screen is also an OLED unit, and has greatly improved viewing angles.
The EVF on the GH3 has a high contrast level, and is slightly wider than 4:3 aspect ratio - looking more like 16:9, meaning that the photo doesn't fill the full frame, unless you switch to 16:9 aspect ratio. The screen on the back is a 3:2 aspect ratio, so again 4:3 (standard) photos don't fill the whole screen unless you shoot 3:2 photos.
Menus – The Panasonic menus are clearly laid out into separate areas, including record, video, custom, setup and playback. With the touchscreen it's possible to control the menus as well as the control panel on the back of the screen, making it very easy to change settings if needed. There are a large number of external controls so a lot of the time you simply don't need to enter the menus. Built in help can be switched on and off to help guide you through the menu options.
Battery life - Battery life is rated at 540 shots according to Leica / CIPA test results, we were able to take over 500 shots before the battery went flat. The camera features a new battery for extended shooting, and the use of the vertical grip will enable up to 1100 shots. The battery cover is lockable, providing extra protection to the battery so it's unlikely to accidentally fall out.
Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
Shutter response is very good, and focus speed is excellent at both the wide and telephoto ends of the lens. The camera has a quick switch on time, and shot to shot is very good. It will also shoot at 6fps for up to 25 shots before slowdown, and at 5fps when shooting RAW for up to 18 shots before slowdown.
Panasonic Lumix GH3 Performance
Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 Sample Photos
Sample Photos - Flash performance is good with very little to no red-eye visible in our flash photos. The camera has saturated colours, although has a slight tendency to under-expose images, so occasionally better results are possible with +0.3 or +0.7 exposure compensation.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 Lens test images
Lens Performance - The camera adds an HDR mode, this combines three shots into one in the camera, and a clever feature is that it will allow you to continue shooting while it is still processing the HDR merge, although unfortunately it doesn't save the RAW images when you shoot HDR photos. The camera has built in chromatic aberration correction so purple fringing is very well controlled. Another option is called shading compensation and this will automatically correct vignetting to remove dark corners. Macro performance is good with the 14-140mm lens, or alternatively a dedicated macro lens can provide excellent results as shown.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - ISO125, ISO200, ISO400, and ISO800, show low noise, with excellent detail (there is a hint of chroma noise as the ISO setting increases), but colour remains quite clean and noise free. ISO1600, noise starts to appear in blocks of colour, but detail remains good, and even at ISO3200 and ISO6400 there is detail showing in the image. In comparison, the G5, and GH2 show noticeably worse noise levels at ISO3200 and ISO6400 with much less detail retained at these high ISO settings.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) - under tungsten light the results were noticeably warm, and using the tungsten preset did little to improve this. AWB performs extremely well under fluorescent lighting, and the camera doesn't have a fluorescent preset, so instead we've used manual white balance for the last shot.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 Digital filters
Digital Filters - The camera has a number of new digital filters and colour effects - including Low-key, High-key, Sepia, Dynamic Mono, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy, Expressive, Soft, Retro, Star, Colour select and Miniature. There are a number of colour styles available, these can be customised, letting you set the contrast, sharpness, saturation, and noise reduction level. The GH3 doesn't feature a panoramic mode.
Video - The Panasonic Lumix GH3 has a vast array of video shooting options, including Full HD 60p / 50p / 25p / 24p, 50MBps / 72MBps data rate, MOV (Quicktime), MP4, AVCHD 1.0p / 1.1i recording, HDMI out to another device, Microphone socket, Headphone socket and time-coding to name a few. Video quality is very good, and the camera lets you manually select ISO125 to ISO6400 for videos. The microphone has 19 levels of adjustment, as well as wind cut settings of: Auto, Low, Standard, High, and Off.
The Panasonic Lumix GH3 with a rugged weather sealed body and Digital SLR styling and controls, is one of the most advanced Micro Four Thirds cameras available, and has an extensive range of useful photographic and video upgrades in comparison to previous Panasonic cameras. In fact, it's one of the most advanced Full HD video recording cameras available at the moment.
Image quality is very good with better noise performance than any other Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras, with detail visible in photos taken at ISO settings as high as ISO6400. Focus speed, shutter response and shot to shot times are all excellent, and the camera shoots at 6fps in continuous shooting mode, although it's a shame it's not as quick as the OM-D E-M5 and Sony NEX-7.
Where the GH3 really excels in video recording... with all the options under the sun, with AVCHD, MOV or MP4 recording up to 50 and 72mbps full HD, with stereo sound, mic and headphone sockets as well as HDMI out for continuous recording on an external device. The optional battery grip is a first for Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras, as extends battery life and gives better handling for portrait shooting.
The Panasonic Lumix GH3 with an RRP of £1549 body only in the UK feels a little expensive in comparison to the previous model, which was around £1000 with the 14-140mm lens. For the GH3 with the 14-140mm lens you're looking at £2099 (RRP), which is double the price of the GH2 with the same lens. Although we expect the price to drop over time, we can't help feeling that the price will be a barrier to some. If you want the best video recording Micro Four Thirds camera available then the Panasonic Lumix GH3 is highly recommended, particularly if you want to be able to shoot in all weather conditions.
The Panasonic Lumix GH3 is one of the most advanced cameras available with high image quality and particularly impressive video.
Panasonic Lumix GH3 Pros
Excellent range of lenses
Excellent image quality
Weather sealed body
Long battery life
A massive amount of customisation available
6fps continuous shooting
Battery grip available
Wi-Fi built in
Panasonic Lumix GH3 Cons
AWB under tungsten lighting
Lacks auto-ISO in manual mode
A super wide-angle zoom aimed primarily at landscape and architecture photographers with a more affordable price and a slightly wider range than the camera makers' own models...is there a catch? We aim to find out.
3 Aug 2009 11:34AM