Sunday, 30 December 2012

GH2 vs GH3, AF speed comparison

All new premium Micro Four Thirds cameras come with a claim to have the fastest AF ever, and this applies to the Panasonic GH3 as well. The GH2 improved upon the GH1 by adding 120fps AF readout from the sensor (in bright light), and the GH3 ups this to 240fps. However, this feature is only available with the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8 zoom lenses, and then only with the most recent firmwares. Probably, this only works in bright light, otherwise, one would guess that the camera chooses a slower sample rate.

I've tried to measure the focus speed of the GH3, compared with the GH2. I did so in two lightning conditions, moderate indoor light (6 EV), and very low indoor light (3 EV). I also used two lenses, the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN and the GH3 kit lens Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8.

I tested them by setting the cameras on a tripod, with centre spot focus mode enabled. And I put a small figure on the table in front of the cameras, with a distance of about 40cm. When turning on the camera, the lenses are usually reset to around infinity focus.

I video recorded the process using a GH1 camera. To measure the time the camera needs to focus on the figure and take the picture, I've analysed the audio, to find the time from my finger taps the shutter button, until the camera snaps the picture.


Here are some example tests in moderate light (6 EV):



And the results are:

Lens / CameraGH3 (6 EV)GH3 (3 EV)GH2 (6 EV)GH2 (3 EV)
Sigma 30mm0.54s0.63s0.61s0.52s
Lumix X 12-35mm @ 35mm0.23s0.74s0.43s0.45s
Lumix X 12-35mm @ 12mm0.18s0.25s0.27s0.28s

In the table, we can note that in the GH3 excels in good light with the Lumix X 12-35mm zoom lens, especially in the wide setting. This is as expected: The GH3 can use the higher framerate for the AF sensor output in bright light.

In dim light, though, the results are a bit unexpected: The GH2 comes out the best. This may be down to the fact that the GH2 is more mature, the firmware has been updated some times for better AF performance. I guess the GH3 will too, and probably the AF performance will be tweaked for the better in the future.

There is also the odd result that the GH2 and Sigma 30mm combination performs better in very low light than moderate light. I would attribute this to some random variations. After all, these are just single observations.

Conclusion


The GH3 performs very well in reasonable light, especially with the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 kit zoom lens. However, in very dim light, it is not as good as the GH2. However, keep in mind that the GH2 has a more mature firmware.

3 comments:

  1. Even the Olympus OM-D is not so much faster. For moving subjects the AF from all mirrorless cameras is still not really usable. Nor is the electronic shutter. Sad story. I keep the GH2 and like the G5. Lumix GH3 and OM-D don't meet my expectations and I find them to expensive in comparison. So I have to keep my EOS-Range.

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    Replies
    1. You are right that the continuous AF of mirrorless cameras is still quite poor, compared with high end DSLRs. If you need AF-C, e.g., for photography of birds, sports, etc, then stick with DSLR systems for some more years.

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    2. And another comment is that the AF-S speed, which I measure here, is generally more than fast enough with the Micro Four Thirds cameras. I rarely experience that the focus speed is too slow, even in relatively poor lightning.

      As you say, though, the AF during movie recording and for moving subjects can be quite poor with Micro Four Thirds cameras.

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