Since the introduction of the Lumix DMC-GH1 back in 2009, the GH-series' place in Panasonic's Lumix lineup has been clear; a flagship stills and video model designed for enthusiasts who demand a well-handling, responsive and customizable camera with all the latest technology the company has to offer. The goal was to show that a camera did not need to be the size of a DSLR to perform like one. The enthusiastic and largely unanticipated response to the GH2's movie capabilities by working videographers (Google 'GH2 video hack' to get an idea for how keenly its capabilities are being exploited) has meant that Panasonic must now also consider that its camera is being integrated into professional video rigs.
With the announcement of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3, it's clear that Panasonic believes accessible manual camera controls, durable build and video capability can sell a camera, without depending on the Micro Four Thirds advantage of smaller body sizes. If that sounds like a description of a mid-range DSLR then it probably should - this is the most DSLR-like Micro Four Thirds model yet, with dimensions that essentially match those of the APS-C Sony SLT-A65.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 key features
- 16MP Live MOS sensor with three-core Venus 7 FHD engine
- Magnesium alloy body with weather sealing (dust and splash proof)
- ISO 200-12800 (extended range of ISO 125-25600)
- 6 fps continuous shooting
- AF speed of 0.07 seconds
- 1.7 million dot equiv. 16:9 ratio OLED viewfinder (1024 x 576 pixels)
- 614k dot 3" OLED rear screen (640 x 480 pixels)
- Full HD 60p/50p video with 30p/25p option
- MOV (h.264), MP4 and AVCHD formats
- Video bit rates of 50Mbps in IPB and 72Mbps in All-I compression modes
- Timecode support in MOV(H.264) and AVCHD formats
- 3.5mm mic socket and headphone socket
- Four channel wireless control for the optional DMW-FL360L external flash
- PC socket
- iOS and Android app control via Wi-Fi
Key differences from the DMC-GH2
- Improved sensor and latest Venus image processor
- Weather sealed magnesium alloy body
- OLED EVF and rear display (versus LCD)
- Capacitive touch screen (rather than pressure-sensitive)
- 60p video capture (versus 60i /30p)
- 72Mbps bit rate maximum (versus 24Mbps)
- 3.5mm mic socket (rather than 2.5mm)
- Headphone socket
- 6 fps continuous shooting (versus 5)
- Five custom Fn buttons (versus three) and a second control dial
- Compatible with new DMW-BGGH3 battery grip
- PC socket for external flash
- Interval shooting
- HDR and multiple exposure modes
The GH3 gains a weather sealed (dust/splash proof) magnesium alloy body which now gives Panasonic a camera body to match their moisture- and dust-sealed Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 ASPH OIS lens and Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm F2.8 ASPH OIS fast zooms. Additional highlights include 6 fps shooting (or 4fps with updating live view) and five customizable function buttons. While the camera's still image resolution remains at 16MP, the GH3 has a new Live MOS sensor, three-core Venus 7 FHD processing engine and a new low pass filter.
Panasonic claims improvements in high ISO shadow detail, color reproduction and white balance over its predecessor. The GH3 also offers in-camera HDR and multiple exposure image modes, as well as Wi-Fi connectivity that Panasonic hopes to leverage with its remote triggering and image transfer apps for iOS and Android phones. One thing the GH3 loses, however, is the multi-aspect ratio sensor size found on its predecessor, with 3:2 and 16:9 format images being a crop from the camera's 4:3 ratio chip.
There are pro-focused additions to the GH3's video capabilities, with timecode-supported broadcast quality video that is capable of bit rates as high as 72Mbps (for 1080p at 30, 25 or 24fps, depending on region). Only the US $3500 Canon EOS 5D Mark III offers higher bit rates (and Panasonic suggests its compression might offer better quality), though Blackmagic is promising compressed CinemaRaw from its newly-announced $1000 Pocket Cinema Camera.
The GH3 gains the ability to shoot in MOV (h.264) format, freeing it from the restrictive frame- and bit-rates laid out in the AVCHD standard. This means the camera can capture files natively as 30p, as well as 60i. There is also the choice of All-I or IPB compression, which Panasonic is hoping will further endear it to videographers currently using GH2s.
The GH3's new EVF is a 1.7 million dot equivalent OLED panel with a 16:9 ratio of 873 x 500 pixels. Panasonic lists a robust 1.34x magnification (equivalent to 0.67x on a full frame SLR), and says that because information is transmitted to the panel 8x faster than the GH2, the on-screen image will remain smooth and natural even while panning quickly across a scene.
The rear display panel is a 3" 614k dot resolution (640 x 480 pixels) OLED unit that, like that of its predecessor, is touch-sensitive, though it's now capacitive, rather than pressure-sensitive. For both stills and video shooters looking to extend the camera's abilities, the GH3 offers a 3.5mm mic input (GH2 users had to resort to a 2.5 - 3.5mm adapter), headphone jack, PC sync socket and a new optional battery grip that attaches to base plate providing the option for additional power.
Compared to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2
With the GH2 having gained such a strong following among enthusiasts and videographers, Panasonic has clearly prioritized external controls and accessory compatibility. As such, the GH3 is a noticeably more bulky camera than its predecessor, comparable in size to the Sony SLT-A57. As you'll see in the image below, control points have been redesigned and much of the camera's layout has been re-adjusted for the larger body.
*In this review we've worked with Andrew Reid of EOSHD.com to get a videographer's perspective on the video quality and movie behaviour of the GH3.