The GH range of Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds cameras is recognised for being excellent at video and for targetting the premium sector.
The GH3, which replaces the GH2, is made in China. It has a weather-sealed body and features built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, Touch Shutter, Touch AF and more.The GH3 is an obvious attempt by Panasonic to appeal to the enthusiast and pro sector market.
Design and Build Quality
The Panasonic Lumix GH3 body is well built. It is larger and heavier than the GH2 and uses a magnesium alloy chassis for extra sturdiness. Its larger body offers a better grip, especially for people with big hands. The tripod socket is made of metal and is located directly in line with the lens’ central axis. An optional battery grip (DMW-BGGH3) is available. The body is dust-proof and splash-proof, and measures approximately 133 x 93 x 82mm. At 520 g with card and battery, it is lighter compared to 855 g Canon 60D body or 555 g Nikon’s D5200 body for instance.
The GH3 is a 16.05 megapixel ILCC (Interchangeable Lens Compact Camera) using a Four Thirds Live MOS (17.3 x 13 mm) imaging sensor. It offers a Supersonic Wave Filter for dust reduction. Viewing options are an Electronic Viewfinder (OLED) having 1,744K-dot resolution and a 3-inch swivel/tilt touch-screen OLED monitor having a resolution of approximately 610,000 dots. Both the devices offer approximately 100% field of view. The GH3 looks and feels very much like a D-SLR. It offers, just behind the front dial, direct buttons for White Balance, ISO, and Exposure Compensation. On dial. On the extreme top right is the Wi-Fi connection lamp.
The GH3 employs Contrast- Detect autofocus system (almost all D-SLRs use Phase-Detection AF), while focus modes available are AF-S, AF-C, AF-F (camera decides whether to use AF-S or AF-C, depending on subject’s status), and MF (Manual Focus). Autofocus/Autoexposure can be locked using the AF/AE Lock button. AF modes are Face Detection, AF Tracking, 23-area Focussing, 1-area Focussing, and Pinpoint Focussing (touch-focus area selection is possible). For easy access to your favourite function, the GH3 offers five Function Buttons. The user can assign his/her favourite function to each of these buttons.
The Mode dial on the top has indents for P, A, S, M, Video, Custom 1, 2 and 3, Scene Guide, Creative Control, Intelligent Auto (which includes Intelligent Auto Plus mode). The Intelligent Auto mode is a boon for those who wish to concentrate more on the subject than on the technicalities. The GH3 uses a 144-zone multi- pattern system for exposure control with 3 metering modes: Intelligent Multiple, Centre- weighted and Spot. Exposure modes are Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual. Also available are 23 Scene Modes: Clear Portrait, Silky Skin, Backlit Softness, Clear in Backlight, Relaxing Tone, Sweet Child’s Face, Distinct Scenery, Bright Blue Sky, Romantic Sunset Glow, Vivid Sunset Glow, Glistening Water, Clear Nightscape, Cool Night Sky, Warm Glowing Nightscape, Artistic Nightscape, Glittering Illuminations, Clear Night Portrait, Soft Image of a Flower, Appetizing Food, Cute Dessert, Freeze Animal Motion, Clear Sports Shot, and Monochrome. Exposures can be compensated by +/- 5 EV in 1/3 EV steps, while exposures can be bracketed in 3, 5, or 7 frames in 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV step. Images can be recorded in JPEG, Raw, MPO (in 3D recording) and image quality can be set to Raw, Raw+Fine, Raw+Standard, Fine and Standard.
Shutter speeds (for still images) on the GH3 range from 60 seconds -1/4000 sec, plus ‘B’ (Bulb); those for movies range from 1/30 sec–1/16,000 sec (NTSC) or 1/25 sec-1/16,000 (PAL). Quick burst at 20 fps at reduced image size (Super high speed), 6 fps (High speed), 4 fps (Middle speed) or 2 fps (Low speed) is available. The standard ISO sensitivity range on the GH3 is from ISO 200-12,800, plus Auto and Intelligent ISO. The range can be expanded to ISO 125 at the lower end and ISO 25,600 at the higher end.
White Balance can be set to Auto or one of the 8 Presets, including Colour Temperature setting. WB can also be bracketed. A Level Gauge ensures that your images stay levelled. Images can be shot in 4 aspect ratios: 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 1;1. Colour Space can be set to sRGB or Adobe RGB. Seven Photo Styles are available to fine-tune your images: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait and Custom. The user can control the amount of contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction while using these Photo Styles. For those wanting even more control over their images, various Creative Controls are available: Expressive, High key, Low Key, Sepia, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Miniature Effect and One Point Colour.
The Lumix GH3 offers Wi-Fi functionality. You can remotely fire the camera using a Smartphone, view the images on a Wi-Fi enabled TV, transmit images to a laptop or PC or sync with a web service. The Panasonic Lumix GH3 offers full HD video recording (1920 x 1080) in AVCHD, MP4 and MOV formats. Audio is recorded in stereo using the built-in microphone but you can also add an external mic. Please read your Basic Owner’s Manual for further details. A pop-up flash with a Guide Number of 17m (ISO 200) is built-in, with the usual flash modes. A dedicated accessory shoe for external flashguns is available. Images are recorded on SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card.
We tested the Panasonic Lumix GH3 using a 12-35mm f/2.8 and a 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lenses (equivalent to 24-70mm and 200-600mm respectively). The camera was a pleasure to use, but like most modern cameras that have more features than necessary, it can be difficult for those who neglect studying the user manual. Unfortunately, Panasonic provides only the basic version of the user manual in print. The balance, especially with the 12-35mm lens, was perfect and the user interface was relatively simple.
The overall performance of the GH3 was excellent. We primarily used the central-AF point and noticed that autofocus was, surprisingly, very fast (‘surprising’ because it uses Contrast- Detect AF as used in compacts, rather than Phase-Detection as used in D-SLRs), even in low light. Panasonic claims an AF speed of 0.07 seconds with certain lenses! The touch-screen autofocus worked like a charm, instantly focussing on the element touched upon on the screen.
Images shot in JPEG were on the ‘softer’ side, but could be easily sharpened in Photoshop. As it is with all digital cameras, the user has a choice to increase in-camera sharpness to his liking. Colours were punchy and mostly accurate– reds, which are generally difficult to reproduce well, were much better with the GH3. White Balance performance was good under most lighting conditions. It is possible to give different looks to your JPEG images by customising the camera using the Photo Styles offered. Images shot in Raw were definitely better in every way.
The GH3’s native image size is 15.36 x 11.52 inches at 300 ppi ( JPEG,45.6MB when opened in Photoshop). Digital noise control was excellent up to ISO 1600. ISO 3200 could be used in an emergency, but anything upwards produced visible noise with loss of fine detail. The Intelligent Auto mode provided us with excellent quality images without worrying about technicalities. We would recommend this mode to everyone (yes, including experts!).
Video quality was just superb; probably the best we have seen till date on any mirrorless ILCC. We were unable to test the Wi-Fi functionality.
Value for Money
While the Indian price is yet to be announced, the Panasonic Lumix GH3 sells in the U. K. at around Pounds Sterling 1200 without VAT. This is definitely on the expensive side, but the price should fall within 3 months or so.
+ Excellent Raw image quality
+ Excellent video quality
+ Very good noise control
|Design and Build Quality||17/20|
|Auto White Balance||4/5|
|Value for Money||7/10|
Due to the fact that it offers video capability for more than 30 minutes, the GH3 is considered to be a video camera rather than a still camera. This in turn, qualifies it for a much higher excise duty. If Panasonic were to reduce the video clips to under 30 minutes (should be easy with a firmware update), the camera would be affordable to most users. GH3’s video quality is amazing; and so is the still-image quality, especially when you shoot in Raw. As mentioned earlier, JPEG users can control the sharpening in Photoshop or increase the in-camera sharpening to suit their individual needs. In spite of its high cost, but considering its potential, we would rate the camera as a Best Buy!