Tuesday, 18 September 2012

GH3 comments

So, the new Panasonic GH3 camera has been announced now, after a long wait. How do I view it?

Of course, by this time, I have no first hand experience of the camera what so ever. My knowledge of the camera is solely based on images, video and text online.

In terms of technical specifications, not so much has changed. We have a higher video FPS rating at 1080p, as expected. And we have a higher video bitrate. Under the hood, there is of course a lot of technical details, for example a higher frame rate used for the contrast detection auto focus system (CDAF), which has the potential for better and faster autofocus. And there is a higher sensitivity, as well as the usual promise of a better dynamic range.

Ergonomics

The really big change is the ergonomics. The GH3 is bigger than the GH2:

GH2GH3
Dimensions (w, h, d)124 x 90 x 76 mm133 x 93 x 82 mm
Weight442g540g

The size accommodates a better grip, more space for buttons, three control wheels (the GH2 had one single only), more connectors. As the camera does not really take up that much more space in the bag, I see this as purely a positive thing. The ergonomics of the GH1 and GH2 left quite a bit to be desired. The layout is rather cluttered, and it is easy to press a button by a mistake. The GH3 is going to be much easier to handle, especially with a large lens.

On the flip side, one could argue that the whole purpose of the Micro Four Thirds system was compactness. So why introduce a larger flagship model?

Sensor

The GH3 deviates from the predecessor GH cameras in a significant way: It no longer offers the oversized, multi aspect sensor.

With the multi aspect sensor, the GH1 and GH2 could take photos at 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratios while retaining the same diagonal field of view. This has the advantage of utilizing the lens imaging circle better. More importantly, it could record videos at the 16:9 aspect ratio while retaining the same field of view as well.


Without this feature, the lenses effectively lose some wide angle feature when switching to video. It means that the wide angle property that you were used to when using the GH2 are going be a bit disappointing when switching to the GH3. The difference is not too significant, but noticeable.

When using a fisheye lens on the GH2, for example, you get a 180° diagonal coverage in both photos and videos. With the GH3, though, you get the 180° diagonal field of view only in the 4:3 still image mode, and less than that in video mode. This applies to the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye lens for example.

Conclusion

The GH3 takes the Micro Four Thirds system into the professional territory: With better ergonomics, splash protection, better video bitrate and connectivity. Sadly, it also comes at a significantly higher price point.

While it doesn't live up to all the expectations people had, I am confident that the GH3 will be loved by the users.

Those who are put off by the size increase could still look to the Panasonic G5. While it does not offer quite the same feature set as the GH3, it is still a quite impressive camera given its size.

9 comments:

  1. In my opinion they are not seriously focusing on the still market. They preferred to invest in further strong point that isvideo and not to turn the system as a whole as a top competitor in both photo and video.

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    1. I have to disagree with you. When I look at the GH3, and the new f/2.8 X lenses, then it is clear to me what Panasonic is aiming for: To create an alternative to the classic photojournalist still camera package. The GH3 does not look and feel like a video optimized camera, but rather like a modern pro DSLR, albeid with some video capabilities added.

      If they were truly aiming to satisfy the video needs only, then the new 12-35mm and 35-100mm lenses should have had power zoom, and perhaps even powered focus operated with a lever. The focus is of course powered already, but operated with a ring, which is not as easy to handhold while video recording as a lever operated focus.

      And besides, a video optimized camera doesn't look like the GH3. Take a look at the Panasonic AG-AF100, Sony NEX VG10 or Canon C300 for some examples of what video optimized rigs look like.

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  2. And what you think about GH3 + f/2.8 X vs. Nikon D600?

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    1. In terms of image quality exclusively, I would guess that the Nikon D600 is going to be the best. So it comes down to how important size is for you. If size is important, then you could consider the GH3 over the D600.

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  3. We have to wait for the reviews and see the photos. I think almost all the pro or semi pro photographers , prefer a more robust system ( apsc , full frame ) more lenses, more brands, and no so expensive. And m4/3 was born for second camera and for people who want dslr quality on small package. Gh2's alternatives were m4/3 cameras, (Oly omd, pana g5). Now the gh3 has to compete with ( pentax , sony , nikon) . The apsc cameras has better sensors, small bodys , and cheapest prices. Gh3 is bigger, expensive, and im waiting for the stills results. So for people who like me come from m4/3, and a gh2, this camera force me to think on other systems or brands. So gh3 bring semi-pro to m4/3, like panasonic said, and check out people like me who wait for a gh2, with better sensor.

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    1. Yes, these are interesting comments. As you say, with the larger GH3, it needs to compete with DSLRs of for example Pentax, which are already rather small. On the other hand, by this time, there is probably quite a big Micro Four Thirds user base, who are already invested in the lenses, and for whom the Sony and Pentax cameras are not an interesting alternative.

      Also, the GH series was never intended to be volume models. They are intended to sell at a premium price to those who want the best. So perhaps Panasonic are happy if most GH2 users upgrade, and if they sell some extra cameras beyond that.

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  4. For the last four days I have a chance to try and use the GH3 camera: http://www.flickr.com/photos/igor29768/7996112088
    The camera actually a pleasure to hold: while the GH3 is more noticeably larger than GH2, the weight difference (about 100 g) is less noticeable and compensated by much better grip.
    Without the battery grip I can easily shoot the GH3 holding with one hand.

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  5. I just sold my GH2 14-140mm and stayed only with my GF2 with 20mm1.7 and with some Canons FD.
    I liked the 14-140mm because it was too well stabilized to video, but the GF2 filming with these lenses without IS is terrible.
    Is the In-Body Image Stabilization from Olympus as good as the in-lenses IS from Panasonic?
    What camera from Olympus do you recommend for me to use with the manuals lenses for my filming?

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    1. So far, it is only one Olympus camera which supports IBIS during video recording: The Olympus OM-D E-M5. People have been reporting mixed results from this, some complain about noise from the IBIS system.

      I would guess that future Olympus cameras will support this as well, but at this time it is only the E-M5.

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