Panasonic has been including video capability in its Micro Four Thirds lineup since the introduction of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 back in 2009. The mirrorless design of the G-series cameras makes them particularly suited to movie shooting since it always uses its main sensor for both metering and autofocus, unlike DSLR designs on which these features have been added simply for movie and live view purposes. Panasonic has a tradition of porting advances in video across its G-series product line, so its not surprising to see the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 sporting some improvements over the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 as well as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2.

Video specification

The G3 can be set to capture video in one of two formats, AVCHD or Motion JPEG, and has a capture rate of 30fps. In AVCHD mode, when set to its highest quality setting (FSH), the G3 offers true HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 pixels in 60i (interlaced) mode. In SH mode, video is captured at 1280 x 720 pixels in 60p (progressive) mode.

Motion JPEG video is similarly captured at 30fps, in a choice of 1280x720, 640x480 or 320x240 pixel resolution. The G3's built-in microphone captures stereo audio. There is a small built-in speaker for in-camera video playback.

Sizes • AVCHD :
FSH: 1920 x 1080, (60i*, 17 Mbps)
SH: 1280 x 720, (60p*, 17 Mbps)

• Motion JPEG:
1280 x 720, 30fps
640 x 480, 30fps
320 x 240, 30fps

* Sensor output = 30fps
Audio Dolby Digital Stereo Creator format, wind-cut feature
Format AVCHD / QuickTime Motion JPEG
File size Max 17 MB/sec (1080p AVCHD)
Max file size per clip 2.0 GB for Motion JPEG, card capacity for AVCHD
Running time Up to 2GB for Motion JPEG, up to capacity of card for AVCHD (Limited to 29 minutes on models sold in Europe).

Borrowing a feature from the more expensive GH2, the G3 allows you to capture still images while simultaneously recording a video clip. There are some limitations to be aware of, however. Shooting stills with the camera set to Video Priority results in 2MP JPEG files in a 16:9 ratio, at noticeably inferior image quality compared to 2MP files recorded in normal record mode. With the camera set to Still Picture Priority, which yields image quality on par with those captured in normal record mode, a maximum of 8 still images can be captured during any single video clip. In addition, the screen momentarily goes black as each exposure is recorded and audio capture is disabled during this time as well. While you can capture the still image with either a press of the shutter button or using the Touch Shutter, the latter method, as we noted earlier, introduces an additional shutter lag that essentially doubles the time gap between the finger press and recording an image. As such, we'd find it hard to recommend using the Touch Shutter if the goal is to capture a decisive moment during video capture. Interestingly, we found Touch Shutter times to actually slow down even further if you try to capture a second still image before the camera has finished writing the first one. This secondary lag does not appear when using the camera's shutter button.

Using Movie Mode

Capturing video on the G3 is no more complicated than pressing the dedicated motion picture button on the rear of the camera. Although the G3 does not offer the comprehensive level of manual exposure control seen in the GH2 (no surprise given their pricing difference), a significant number of the G3's still image options apply to videos. You can capture video in any of the six Photo Styles or five Creative Controls described on the photographic tests page. With the G3's mode dial set to Scene mode, the camera will optimize its video settings for the currently selected scenario.

This screen shows video capture with key shooting information overlaid. When set to iA mode, the defocus slider allows you to change aperture during the video.

When compared to shooting stills, working in video mode offers you less control over exposure parameters. User-selected ISO settings are overridden by the camera. And the cumulative exposure value is set by the camera, regardless of the exact combination of shutter speed, ISO and aperture that appear on the screen before you start recording. In other words, the camera will make adjustments on its own to try and achieve a pleasing exposure. The only way to override this behavior is to set an exposure compensation value. This will be honored throughout the video recording. You can also set white balance and metering mode before recording begins.

If the mode dial is set to intelligent Auto (iA) when video shooting is commenced, the G3 will set most parameters for you automatically. Interestingly, however, iA is the one mode which allows you to adjust aperture during a video. By dragging the defocus slider while filming, you can control the depth of field beyond your area of focus.

During video recording you can focus manually or use continuous AF so that the camera will automatically lock focus on a subject within the AF area. With Touch AF enabled and continuous AF turned off, however, you can use rack focus on the G3 (see the sample video further down the page). This feature allows you to choose a specific area on which to set focus simply by touching the screen. The camera will then shift focus from its current location to the one you have just designated.

You can change the amount of information shown on the screen during video capture by pressing the DISP. button. The articulated screen is very useful if you want to shoot from a lower vantage point, or choose a angle to minimize glare from the sun. Of course you always have the option of using the electronic viewfinder.

As with other video-enabled interchangeable lens cameras, the G3 does not come with a power-zoom (something you'd find on most serious camcorders) and it's therefore quite difficult to zoom during hand-held video-recording without generating at least some camera-shake. This makes some sort of camera support essential for capturing production quality video.

Movie mode displays

Motion Picture menu You can shoot video in a choice of 6 Photo Styles.
You can choose between AVCHD and Motion JPEG recording formats... ...and a range of recording quality levels.

Sample videos

These videos were shot in a range of different environments, and at a range of different settings. We are pleased to announce that is now partnering with Vimeo to bring you high-quality embedded video in our test pages, but as always, the original files are available for download from the links beneath the thumbnails. We've turned HD playback on by default for our embedded videos, but depending on the speed of your internet connection, you may get better performance by turning it off.

Note: the .MTS file extension of videos created by the Panasonic Lumix DMC G3 is not widely compatible. If you chose to download the original .MTS files using the links provided you may need additional software to play them. The Open Source VLC player is able to play the .MTS files that are generated by the G3's AVCHD mode, but the current version of the player (version 1.1.0 at time of writing) may display artefacts around fast-moving scene elements.

Sample Video 1

This video demonstrates the rack focus feature of the G3.

1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 14 sec. 32.7 MB Click here to download original .MTS file

Sample video 2

This video shows a manual zoom on the G3 using the Lumix G Vario HD 14-140 lens.

1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 20 sec. 47.04 MB Click here to download original .MTS file

Sample video 3

This hand-held pan with continuous focus enabled shows the AF 'hunt' of the G3 as it attempts to lock focus on distant objects.

1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 8 sec. 20.22 MB Click here to download original .MTS file

Sample video 4

This video highlights the sound recording capability of the G3's built-in stereo mic with all sound recording options at their default values.

1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 31 sec. 69.22 MB Click here to download original .MTS file