Panasonic GH3 - 10 Firmware Upgrades Needed to Make it the "Perfect" Still Camera

Started Apr 6, 2013 | Discussions thread
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PaintWithPixels
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Panasonic GH3 - 10 Firmware Upgrades Needed to Make it the "Perfect" Still Camera
Apr 6, 2013

This is from the perspective of a still photographer. I don't shoot video. I have the GH3 video button disabled. 

I currently shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III. I also own a 60D (for my wife), GX1 and LX7. I have tried Olympus (EP3, OM-D EM-5), Fuji (X100, X-Pro1) and Sony (NEX 5N) and I find that Panasonic is really what I want. The GH3 is ALMOST THE PERFECT camera to replace my 5D3 and all I need are "some" firmware upgrades from the Panasonic engineers.

By publishing it in DPReview forum, I hope it has a chance to reach the Panasonic engineers. If DPReview moderators have any way to submit this to them, it will be highly appreciated.


Dear Panasonic Engineers,

1. All Panasonic cameras (GH2, G5, GX1, LX7, etc.) use the "Up button" at the back of the camera  as the ISO button. GH3 moved it up to the top of body. Unfortunately this is not an improvement. It is much easier to press the ISO button on the back with the thumb than pressing it with the index finger on the GH3 because most of the time, you will end up hitting the wrong button (either White Balance or Exposure Compensation). Please let us have the real Panasonic way of changing ISO, i.e. using the Up Button.

The ISO button is moved to the top in between WB and Exposure Compensation. Most of the time, I end up hitting the WB button. Since I shoot in RAW, I don't touch the WB button. I also have Exposure Compensation assigned to the front dial directly. So I really hope all three buttons are ISO so I can have 100% accuracy on hitting the right button. A firmware update that let us customize all the three buttons to exactly what we want is welcome and please allow people as silly as me to assign all three to ISO.

GX1 and all other Panasonic cameras use the "UP" navigation button as ISO button. I never once hit the wrong button on my GX1 and LX7 even when using the LVF2. This is the best location for ISO and it also follows the tradition of Panasonic cameras. Please bring it back.

Click this link to look at the back of Panasonic GX1, LX7, G5, GF1, FZ200. All uses the Up button as ISO button.

2. All Panasonic cameras also have the PLAY button on the right side of the body. That means we can hit the PLAY button using our right hand (right thumb). GH3 moved the play button to the left side of the camera.  GH3 should be a Panasonic, not a Nikon! It is usable but I prefer to keep my left hand on the lens as much as possible. Even Canon can customize the center button to function as PLAY so my left hand never needs to leave the lens.
This can also be fixed by the firmware. Just let us assign the "Play" function to a button on the right, I highly recommend using the "Down Button" or Fn3. The current PLAY button become even harder to reach when you are shooting with the articulated screen opens up, such as when shooting on the tripod. Your thumb has to come from the top because the screen block your hand!

When you are using the articulated screen, your thumb has to come from the top to press the PLAY button. If the PLAY button is on the right, the screen can never block your thumb.

Click this link to look at the back of Panasonic GX1, LX7, G5, GF1, FZ200. All of them have the PLAY button on the right side of the camera.

3. Gives us 4 more Function buttons - the Top, Down, Left and Right buttons!!! The GH3 doesn't really have more button. The engineers simply move them away. Let us have the top, down, left and right button customizable. I really want it to behave like all other Panasonic cameras, i.e. top button for ISO, right button for WB, left button for Focus Mode, etc. This way we can really free up the new Fn buttons and assign something useful to it, such as the PLAY function stated in #2.
I hope they can let us customize as much as possible and assign anything we want to any buttons so that anyone from any system can quickly adapt to the GH3. So make all buttons as Fn buttons and make ISO and PLAY selectable for the Fn buttons.

Panasonic GH3 doesn't really have more usable buttons than other Panasonic models such as GH2 or GX1. Comparing to GH2, they merely move the ISO and WB to the top and the Fn2 and Fn3 to a new spot. The old buttons no longer can be used. This is really a waste.

Dear Panasonic engineers, why waste the up, down, left and right buttons?

4. I use back button focusing. However I find it very hard to use it on Panasonic cameras because there is a bug that until today Panasonic refuses to fix. After we remove the AF from the shutter button and assign AF Lock (or AF-ON) to the AF/AE Lock button, we should be able to use the back button to focus. But this is not the case when you have a touch screen!!! Once you change your focus point, the AF/AE lock button no longer work. The whole camera freezes. You just can't focus with the AF/AE lock button until you half press the shutter button or press the SET button. The reason is you still need to confirm the size of the AF frame after you select a focus point.

The flow is very inconvenient and slow. The AF/AE Lock button should be made to focus immediately after we select a new focus point. We expect it to behave exactly as what half-pressing the shutter will do since we have moved the half-pressing job to the new button.

5. Panasonic RAW preview is VERY BAD. This happens to all Panasonic cameras including my GX1. The RAW preview sucks when you preview at 8x and 16x. They are patchy and soft (looks like highly compressed JPG). However, the JPG preview (even just standard JPG) looks very nice even at 16x. But I don't shoot JPG. I want my RAW preview to be as good as the JPG. Please do something or else I cannot confirm the sharpness of my picture if I am shooting RAW. I am now shooting RAW + JPEG to have a good preview but it wastes my card space. Please note that the RAW files are very sharp when opened in Lightroom. The problem is the LCD preview of the RAW file (in camera RAW rendering).

Just for illustration, if you are shooting JPG or RAW+JPG, your picture look very sharp even at 16x zoom.

However, if you shoot RAW only, your preview will look like this at 8x and 16x. Soft and patchy. This is not happening to just GH3 but all Panasonic cameras including the GX1 and LX7, a very poor rendering of the RAW files.

6. If this camera is going to compete with 5D3 and other pro bodies, you need to allow us to set the minimum shutter speed in Auto ISO when using Aperture Priority (and Program Mode). As a street and travel photographer, I need at least 1/125s to freeze subject movement and also offset my camera shake.  1/60s is just not enough. Even Canon has put this feature into their 5D3 and all Nikon bodies have such feature since a long long time ago. Even though I can shoot in Manual mode, I cannot get the optimized ISO as fast as a camera can do it for me. There are things that a camera can do better than the photographer and this is certainly one of it.

Canon 5D3 is the first Canon bodies with the minimum shutter speed feature. However, their implementation is still weak because their settings jump from 1/125s to 1/250s where you cannot choose something like 1/160s. I wish GH3 can do it better by letting us choose any shutter speed we want.

Nikon minimum shutter speed feature has been available for ages and you can select any shutter speed. For street and event, 1/125s, 1/160s and 1/200s are what we really want.

7. If we can set a Fn button to show the level gauge, please remove the level gauge from the DISP button so we do not need to cycle through 6 screens just to get back to the screen we want. If we need the level gauge, we can assign it to a Fn button and turn it on when we need it.

Screen E can be disabled which I have done so. I am only interested in screen A and B and would like to jump in between both fast. However, with the level gauge in C and D, I have to cycle through 5 or 6 screens before I am brought back to A and B. Screen B is good for shooting with less distractions (all those symbols) while Screen A is important for a quick check on your settings (such as correct metering mode, correct format: RAW/JPG, battery level, etc.). Panasonic engineers can consider letting us disable some of the screens in the menu.

8. The rear dial can be used to zoom-in a picture in playback. I always show my playback with the histogram (I shoot RAW and exposed to the right). After that I want to look at my composition but the first zoom will go directly to 2x from the histogram page. I would prefer the zoom to go to 1x before it goes to 2x. This way I can look at the histogram, zoom in to 1x to look at my composition, and zoom in to 8x/16x to check sharpness.

The current method is very inconvenient. After I hit the play button, I have to keep pressing the DISP button until I reach the histogram, press DISP again for the next screen to look at 1x and then zoom in to check for sharpness. The next time I want to review a picture, I will have to hit the Play button and press the DISP button 4 times to get back to the histogram. Too many steps.

Too many screens to cycle on playback. What matter to me is histogram (C screen), 1x (D screen) and 16x zoom. Panasonic engineers can consider letting us disable some of the screens in the menu.

9. If possible, I would like to hide the "delete multiple" feature after hitting the delete button. This way I can delete pictures faster. I can look at a picture and if I don't like it, hit the delete button, move left to Yes and click Set. Currently, Panasonic force us to go through one more step by asking if we want to "delete single" or "delete multiple". Just give us a menu setting to disable the "delete multiple photos" feature because I never use it.

Every time you want to delete a single picture, you need to go though one more step of confirming if you want to "delete single" or "delete multiple".

10. You can make use of all your 3 dials by allowing us to change the ISO directly using the control dial without pressing any button! That means we can change the ISO, shutter speed and aperture (or exposure compensation) with the 3 dedicated dials directly!!! Currently the control dial and the 4 navigation buttons are very underused.


How can you adapt before they release a firmware for you?
1. ISO button:

You need to practice hitting the correct button. So sleep with you camera and practice every 10 seconds. One important tip is that pressing the DISP button while in ISO setting can swap the front dial and rear dial! The factory way to change ISO is using the rear dial which is funny because you need to use 2 fingers to change ISO (index finger for ISO button and thumb for rear dial). I have swap it so that I can change ISO with the front dial so my index finger can immediately move to the front dial.

2. Play button on the left:

If the Nikon user can do it, I think I can do it... But come on Panasonic.

3. UN-customizable up, down, left and right buttons:

Adapt. And pray hard that they will listen.

4. Back button focusing bug:
*The benefits of using back button focusing is a topic on its own.

I have to keep the AF on the shutter. And if I need to lock the focus, I will keep holding the AF/AE Lock button. It will be very tiring holding it while waiting for the moment. I have also customize Fn2 to AF/AE Lock because the location of this button is more ergonomical than the default button especially shooting horizontally (The default button is comfortable when shooting vertically).

Another way is to learn how to keep the shutter button half pressed even after you take your first shot so you can continue to take more shots without the need to focus again. This is workable on GH3 because the shutter button is noticeable stiffer than Canon and Nikon so there is an obvious threshold between half press and full press.

Next, really turn the "Shutter AF" off when you are shooting landscape on tripod.

5. Bad RAW LCD Preview

You have to shoot in RAW+JPEG if you want to confirm you sharpness on 16x.

6. Minimum Shutter Speed in Auto ISO

You can use Intelligent ISO which will give you 1/125s instead of 1/60s if it detects subject movement or camera shake. But I find it unreliable and the camera won't show you the exact ISO when you lock your exposure (half-pressing the shutter).

If it is getting dark and you no longer can use ISO 125, switch to Shutter Priority and pick 1/125s or 1/160s. Then let the camera pick the ISO and uses the widest aperture.

rain yourself to be good at changing ISO. This is how 5D Mark II trained me to be a good manual shooter. But I still want the minimum shutter speed feature for my GH3!!! If a camera can do something better than the photographer, let the camera do it. There are artist out there that care very little about ISO and shutter speed. The minimum shutter speed feature allow them to focus more on expressing rather than learning how to shoot in manual mode.

No 7 to 10 doesn't really have any solution other than accept them as they are.

Enjoy your new toy and pray hard that Panasonic engineers will listen this time!

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