Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 – Demo


      Panasonic’s DMC-GH3 is the third model in a ‘flagship’ series of interchangeable-lens cameras designed for use in challenging conditions, which focus on providing a wide variety of functions for shooting video. Following the enthusiastic adoption by professional videographers of its predecessor, the  GH2  (which we reviewed in February 2011), many keen video shooters will be interested in how the new camera compares with its predecessor.

      We received the GH3 with the recently-released G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 ASPH OIS  and G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 ASPH premium-quality, fast zoom lenses, which have dust- and moisture-proof sealing to match the GH3 body. Despite a desire to provide a smaller-than-DSLR kit, the GH3 and these lenses are actually as large as (or larger than) most entry-level DSLR kits. They are also heavier than many.

      The GH3 will be sold in Australia with the Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 ASPH/Power O.I.S lens for $2999.00. A special Pro kit containing the camera body with the 12-35mm lens and Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 ASPH/Power O.I.S lens plus battery grip and spare battery will be offered for $4999.

      Who’s It For?

      The Micro Four Thirds system  (M4/3)  is the most mature of the mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera systems, with almost 40 lenses available to date, covering most photographers’ requirements. Currently, the main deficiencies are a lack of fast, high power telephoto primes and tilt/shift lenses.

      The former will limit M4/3 cameras’ capabilities for taking close-up shots of distant, easily-spooked wildlife, while the latter will apply some restrictions to architectural and interior photography. Outside of these limitations, there are few subjects that can’t be tackled effectively with a camera like the GH3.

      But the main reason photographers will be drawn to this camera is for its distinctly superior video capabilities. Although there’s more to the GH3 than its video capabilities, Panasonic has put a great deal of effort into making this camera a serious movie production tool, as outlined in our overview below.

      What’s New?

      The 2.5 year gap between the release of the GH2 and the GH3 has given Panasonic plenty of time to evaluate the needs of potential purchasers. Accordingly, the new camera includes the following new features:

      1. The fully diecast magnesium-alloy frame makes the camera body the toughest, most durable G-series model to date.   It includes weatherproof sealing to ensure a high level of splash- and dust- resistance. Panasonic claims it is capable of withstanding ‘ the extreme conditions of heavy field use’.
      2. The GH3 is the first G series model that can be used with a detachable battery grip. The grip was developed concurrently with the camera and features integrated controls for vertical shooting, which allow users to operate the dials and buttons in almost the same way as when shooting in the horizontal angle of view.
      3. The sensor has been upgraded to a new chip with   16.05 megapixels (effective), which claims a wider dynamic range and supports high sensitivity recording at ISO 12800, with ISO 25600 available in extended mode. A new Venus Engine 7 FHD processor achieves high-speed, high-quality signal processing. It also provides improved noise-reduction processing using combination of 3DNR (3D Noise Reduction) and MNR (Multi-process Noise Reduction) to cover both bright and dark areas in subjects.
      4. OLED displays are used in both the viewfinder and the rear free-angle monitor to minimise display time lag. The 16:9 aspect Wide Screen LVF boasts a resolution of 1,744,000 dots and covers 100% of the sensor’s field of view. It has an eyepoint of approximately 21 mm and magnification of 0.67x (35mm camera equivalent). The 3.0-inch rear monitor has a resolution of 614, 000 dots and a 3:2 aspect ratio. It rotates 180 degrees to the side and tilts 270 degrees up and down and has a wide-viewing angle.
      5. The monitor has been upgraded to a static touch-screen and virtual ‘buttons’ on the screen make touch navigation easy in shooting and playback modes. Touch focusing and touch shutter functions are supported and users can operate the monitor as a touch pad when shooting with the viewfinder. Anywhere on the touch screen in the GH3 can become a focus point from which the shutter can be triggered ““ even the edges and corners of the screen. The monitor’s refresh rate is also high, resulting in little or no smearing when tracking moving subjects.
      6. The GH3 can support continuous shooting at 6 frames/second (fps) with full resolution for up to 18 consecutive RAW+JPEG shots. It also offers a high-speed mode that records at 20 fps at 4-megapixel resolution using an electronic shutter. Up to 80 consecutive JPEG shots can be recorded in this mode.
      7. The user interface has been redesigned to provide five programmable Function (Fn) buttons (up from three in the GH2) plus three dial controls for adjusting exposure, white balance and ISO settings. A separate dial on the left side of the top panel selects drive modes. A flash synch port has been added to the left hand side of the front panel and the AF-Assist LED has been moved to just below the camera’s name tag (between the grip and the EVF housing), where it’s well clear of fingers on the grip.
      8. The camera body is larger and the grip is deeper, making it more comfortable to hold and operate. Rubber-like cladding extends from the lens mount around the grip to the edge of the control button array on the rear panel, adding to the overall comfort.
      9. New modes for HDR and multiple-exposure photography have been added to the [REC]   menu. The former combines three shots with different exposure values into a single picture with an extended dynamic range. In the multiple-exposure mode, up to four exposures can be combined to produce a single image. Auto Gain Control is available for adjusting the brightness levels of each shot to produce an attractive superimposition. Time Lapse photography is also supported.
      10. Built-in Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n) enables images and movie clips to be transferred wirelessly to a smart-phone or tablet. The screens on these devices will display the view captured by the camera’s sensor and allow remote control over functions like focus settings, exposure compensation, ISO, white balance and Photo Style adjustments and the shutter release can be triggered remotely via live view using Wi-Fi. Users can upload images to the Lumix Club Cloud Sync.Service via Wi-Fi tethering and send them to DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) compliant AV equipment via a home wireless router. The service also supports uploading to the major image-sharing services.
      11. Built-in GPS (Global Positioning System) allows images and movies to be tagged with location information.
      12. Battery capacity has increased from 330 to 500 shots/charge. The optional battery grip roughly doubles this capacity and makes it easier to shoot in portrait orientation.

      The GH3 has been fine-tuned to serve as a professional-standard video camera. Not only has there been a deepening and widening of the camera’s recording capabilities to raise them to professional standards, but the camera body has also been designed with effective thermal diffusion to disperse heat generated by long periods of continuous recording.

      The main improvements include:

      1. A wider choice of recording formats and frame rates. Users can choose between AVCHD, AVCHD Progressive, MP4 or MOV formats with frame rates at 60p (NTSC) / 50p (PAL), 30p (NTSC) / 25p (PAL) or 24p directly from the sensor. The AVCHD formats produce HD movie clips for playback on an HDTV set using an HDMI connection. The MP4 format records with standard definition for playback on a computer monitor, while the MOV format is designed for image editing. Files in MOV mode can be viewed easily on any computer and dropped into timelines on any non-linear editor, making them the most versatile of the options available.
      2. High bit-rate recording is available at 72 Mbps in the ALL-Intra mode or 50 Mbps in the IPB mode. This enables lower compression to be supported, resulting in improvements to image quality. The ALL-Intra mode is ideal for editing because it uses frame-by-frame compression.  However, it can fill an 8GB card in about 16 minutes.
      3. For   the MOV, AVCHD Progressive and AVCHD formats,   the GH3 automatically generates multiple seamless files for continuous recording. During playback, the AVCHD Progressive / AVCHD files are reproduced interruption-free and can be output as streaming video to an external video recorder or monitor screen.
      4. The DMC-GH3 embeds SMPTE-compliant Time Code either in Rec Run or Free Run count-up methods, making it easy to synchronise the multiple video clips or sound sources in post production. Time Code Value can be started at any point for [Reset], [Manual Input] and [Current Time]. Drop frame or Non Drop Frame time code is selectable.
      5. Creative Video modes include P, A, S and M shooting controls   plus Slow and Fast-Motion modes. Whereas the GH2 supported for slow-motion at 80% of real time, the GH3 adds the slower 40%  and 48%  settings, while retaining 80%. In the Fast”“Motion mode, speeds of 160% , 200% and 300% are available, all recording in Full-HD quality.
      6. Dolby Digital sound recording is used for AVCHD Progressive / AVCHD videos, with liner PCM (LPCM) for non-compressed video recorded in MOV mode.
      7. The GH3 has built-in stereo microphones plus two 3.5mm terminals, one for an external microphone and   the other for a headphone to monitor sound recording.
      8. Touch AF for video recording gives users professional-like rack focusing, making it easier (and quicker) to change the point of focus in a scene. Full-time AF, AF Tracking and Face Recognition AF are available for shooting movie clips.

      ‘Creative’ Controls
      As befits a modern digital camera, the GH3 is well-endowed with ‘creative’ controls. Photo Style settings provide users with six colour ‘profiles’ to choose from: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait and Custom (for accessing user-registered settings). The contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction for each mode parameter can be adjusted in 11 steps and stored in the custom memory.

      Fourteen filters are available in the Creative Control sub-menu: Expressive, Retro, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Star Filter and One Point Colour. Most are usable for both stills and movies.

      The new GUI and menu tabs make it easy to switch filter effects and you can preview adjustments in Live View. Effect parameters, defocusing area and exposure compensation are also adjustable. (Examples of some of these filters can be found in our review of the  Panasonic DMC-G5.)

      The Extra Tele Converter function carries over from the GH2 but performs better in the new camera. It provides a 2x magnification for stills (2.4x for movies) by cropping the centre of the frame but reduces the image size to 4M. The end results are quite impressive.


      Digital zoom is also available, with 2x and 4x magnification, using interpolation to maintain the set image size. Some loss of image quality can be seen with the 4x setting.

      Sensor and Image Processing

      The sensor appears to be very similar to the one in the DMC-G5, as does the image processor. Both are covered in detail in our  review.

      Playback and Software

      Nothing much has changed in either area. Playback settings for still pictures are essentially the same as in other G-series cameras and include the same touch-screen capabilities.

      The supplied software is also unchanged and includes the latest versions of PhotoFun Studio   and Silkypix Developer Studio plus a 30-day trial version of Super LoiLoScope (a Windows-only video editing program with a game-like GUI).

      It was difficult not to be impressed with the sharpness and colour accuracy of the test shots we took with the GH3 and the two lenses supplied with the camera. The  G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 ASPH OIS  and  G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 ASPH  have been reviewed separately. Our Imatest testing was carried out on the 12-35mm f/2.8 lens as it’s the general-purpose lens.

      Raw files were converted with Adobe Camera Raw, rather than the inferior Silkyix-based bundled software. The resulting 16-bit TIFF files had plenty of depth and showed very good colour accuracy plus well-controlled saturation.

      JPEGs were a bit more subdued’ when viewed on a computer monitor or TV screen than files from the G5 we reviewed. Saturation in reds and blues was slightly elevated but easy to control at the editing stage.

      Imatest showed resolution performance matched well with subjective assessments of test shots across the camera’s ISO range. Both JPEGs and RW2.RAW files exceeded expectations for a 16-megapixel camera, with the raw files producing the expected, higher figures in the tests. Resolution held up very well with both file types across the camera’s sensitivity range, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below.

      Long exposures taken in dim lighting showed little visible noise right up to ISO 6400, even without noise reduction processing. Colour rendition appeared to be close to the natural hues we found with the G5 and this accuracy was maintained at high ISO settings.

      Noise became evident at by ISO 12800 and quite obvious at ISO 25600, although shots taken at both settings were printable at output sizes of A5 or smaller and usable at small sizes on computer screens.

      Flash exposures were evenly balanced throughout the camera’s ISO range and colour reproduction was reasonably faithful at settings up to ISO 3200. After that, the influence of ambient lighting could be seen and images were a little soft.

      Auto white balance performance was similar to the G5’s under incandescent lighting. Like the G5,  the GH3 produced neutral colours under fluorescent lights. Both pre-sets over-corrected slightly, pushing colours towards purple. Manual measurement produced neutral colours under both types of lighting and there’s plenty of scope for fine-tuning colour rendition via the touch screen.

      Autofocusing was also very fast and usually accurate and hunting was minimal in low light levels. Focus tracking was also very efficient, both when capturing bursts of shots of moving subjects and while recording movie clips.

      Video quality was excellent. Clips recorded in all movie formats were sharp and clear at all resolution and frame rate settings. Autofocusing was generally fast and the continuous AF mode kept pace with moderately fast pans and moving subjects. Soundtracks were clear and free of extraneous noise, thanks to the use of power-zoom lenses. The wind filter did a reasonably good job of suppressing wind noise.

      Our timing tests were carried out with an 8GB SanDisk Ultra SDHC UHS-1card, which boasts a transfer speed of 30MB/second. The review camera powered up almost instantaneously and capture lag was less than 0.1 seconds on average. It was totally eliminated when the camera was pre-focused.

      Shot-to shot times averaged 0.5 seconds without flash and 0.85 seconds with when the full power of the flash was not utilised. Flash recycling times averaged 5.25 seconds when fully discharged. It took 3.1 seconds on average to process each image file, regardless of whether it was in JPEG  or RW2.RAW format or an RAW+JPEG pair.

      In the continuous shooting mode, the review camera was able to record at 10 frames/second with the super high-speed setting. It took 6.2 seconds to process a burst of 10 shots.

      With continuous raw shooting at the highest frame rate, the review camera was able to record 11 RW2.RAW frames in 1.6 seconds with no sign of capture rates slowing. It took 19.5 seconds to process this burst. Eleven RAW+JPEG pairs were also recorded in 1.6 seconds but the camera took 25.8 seconds to process this burst.

      The GH3 also provides a High, Medium and Low-speed continuous shooting modes. The High-speed mode captured 10 JPEG frames in 1.5 seconds, while the Medium-speed mode   recorded at one frame/second. In both cases, it took just over seven seconds to process the burst.  The Low speed mode   recorded at a little over half a frame/second. Each frame is processed as it’s recorded in this mode.

      Footnote:  Panasonic  has posted a firmware update (Version 1.1) for the GH3, which includes several bug fixes and a number of performance improvements. Among the latter are   the ability to shoot 1080p/60 fps footage in MP4 format and the ability to connect to a  computer  via Wi-Fi by entering the computer name. Updates for the 45-150mm, 14-42mm and 45-175mm lenses provide faster focusing with the GH3.  Click here to download the latest firmware

      In summary

      Good for:
      – Photographers who want a relatively compact camera system that includes professional standard video capabilities.
      – Photographers who require superior performance and versatility when shooting stills.
      – Photographers who want fast autofocusing for shooting stills and movies.
      – Anyone who wants a camera with plenty of external controls and programmable function buttons.
      – Photographers who would like built-in Wi-Fi and GPS capabilities.

      Not so good for:
      – Photographers who want a pocketable camera.
      – Photographers who own mainly Olympus lenses (which aren’t stabilised as Olympus puts stabilisation in its camera bodies).


      Build 9.0
      Ease of use 8.5
      Autofocusing 8.8
      Still image quality JPEG 8.8
      Still image quality RAW 9.0
      Video quality 9.0
      OVERALL 8.8

      RRP:  n/a; MSRP: AU$1599, US$1300 (body only)


      • Image sensor: 17.3 x 13.0 mm Live MOS sensor with 17.2 million photosites (16.05 megapixels effective)
      • Image processor: Venus Engine
      • Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
      • Focal length crop factor: 2x
      • Digital zoom: Up to 4x (Extra Tele Conversion max. 2x with M size)
      • Image formats: Stills ““ RW2.RAW, JPEG (Exif 2.3), RAW+JPEG; Movies ““ AVCHD progressive, AVCHD, MP4,   MOV with stereo audio, 3D ““ MPO
      • Image Sizes: Stills ““ [4:3] 4608 x 3456, 3264 x 2448, 2336 x 1752; [3:2] 4608 x 3072, 3264 x 2176, 2336 x 1560; [16:9] 4608 x 2592, 3264 x 1840, 1920 x 1280; [1:1] 3456 x 3456, 2448 x 2448, 1744 x 1744; Movies: 1920×1080 (Full HD) at 50p/50i, 25p, 1280×720 (HD) at 50p, 25p, 640×480 (SD) at 25p; IPB   and ALL-Intra modes supported in MOV format
      • Image Stabilisation: Lens based
      • Dust removal: Vibrations of low-pass filter
      • Shutter speed range: 1/4000 to 60 seconds plus bulb (max. approx. 60 minutes) for stills; 1/25 to 1/16000 second for movies; flash synch at 1/160 second or slower
      • Exposure Compensation: +/-5 EV in 1/3EV steps
      • Exposure bracketing: +/-3 EV in 1/3- or 1/2-EV increments (can be combined with manual exposure compensation)
      • Self-timer:   2 or 10 seconds delay
      • Focus system: TTL contrast detection system with 23 AF points
      • Focus modes: One-area AF, Pinpoint (touch focus selection supported), face detection, AF Tracking, 23-area focusing
      • Exposure metering: Multiple, Centre-weighted average and Spot metering modes; metering range: EV0 to EV18
      • Picture Style/Control settings: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait, Custom plus Expressive, Retro, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Star Filter, One Point Colour Creative Control filters
      • Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
      • Custom functions: 20 plus My Menu registration and copyright data embedding
      • ISO range: Auto, iISO, ISO 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800 (in 1/3- or whole-stop increments), with ISO expansion to 25600 available
      • White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent lights, Flash, White set (x3), Color temperature setting (Approx. 2500-10000K)
      • Flash: Built-in pop-up flash GN 17   (ISO 200/m); range approx. 50 cm to 12 m
      • Flash modes: Auto, Auto/Red-Eye Reduction, Forced ON, Forced ON/ Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Sync., Slow Sync./Red-Eye Reduction, Forced OFF
      • Flash exposure adjustment: +/-3 EV in 1/3- or 1/2-EV increments
      • Sequence shooting: Max. 20 frames/sec. for up to 18   RAW or RAW+JPEG files with a UHS-I certified SDHC or SDXC card
      • Other features: Built-in Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b/g/n compliant), Level gauge, Vertical shooting detection
      • Storage Media: Single slot for SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards; UHS-1   compatible
      • Viewfinder: OLED Live Viewfinder (16:9) with approx. 1,740,000 dots, dioptric adjustment of -4.0 to +4.0 dpt; 100% FOV coverage
      • LCD monitor: Adjustable 3.0-inch OLED touch screen monitor with 3:2 aspect ratio and approx. 610,000 dots
      • Playback functions: Normal playback, 30-thumbnail display, 12-thumbnail display, Calendar display, Zoomed playback (Max. 16x), Slideshow (All / Picture Only / Video Only / 3D / Category Selection / Favourite, duration & effect is selectable), Playback Mode (Normal / Picture / Video / 3D Play / Category / Favourite), Title Edit, Text Stamp, Video Divide, Resize, Cropping, Rotate, Favourite, DPOF Print Set, Protect, Face Recognition Edit, protection, erase, direct printing via PictBridge
      • Interface terminals: USB 2.0, AV (PAL/NTSC), AV out/digital terminal (8 pin jack), HDMI (Type C Mini), external microphone IN (3.5 mm stereo jack), 3.5 mm headphone jack, 2.5mm terminal for remote controller
      • Power supply: DMW-BLF19E   rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 540 shots/charge with H-HS12035 lens; approx. 500 shots/charge with H-VS014140
      • Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 132.9 x 93.4 x 82.0 mm
      • Weight: Approx. 470 grams (body only)