Sunday, 10 March 2013

New firmware for GH3

Panasonic has announced that a firmware upgrade for the Panasonic GH3 will be available by the end of March. The firmware upgrade improves the autofocus performance on some newer zoom lenses, like the Lumix X PZ 14-42mm and Lumix X PZ 45-175mm lenses. It also makes it easier to connect to Wifi when using Mac computers, and adds a video mode.

When the new firmware is released, some people will try to decipher the firmware, and try to make changes to it. Most likely they will not be able to add genuinely new features, but perhaps they can make changes to parameters like the video bitrates. This is usually called "hacking the firmware". The GH1 was popularly hacked, giving the possibility to use a higher video bitrate.

Panasonic can also, if they invest the time and resources, add new features to the camera with a new firmware upgrade. Here are some of my ideas for new features, or changes to existing settings:

Dropping RAW images when the buffer is full in continuous drive mode

The GH1 and GH2 were plagued with horribly slow buffer clearing speeds. The GH3 improves significantly on the predecessors in this area, however, you may still run into problems with taking consecutive images fast enough for when recording both RAW and JPEG images, even with a fast SD card.

My suggestion is a new setting, in which the camera only records both the RAW and JPEG files as long as the buffer is not full. When the buffer is full, it could revert to only recording the JPEG image. That way, you can sustain a high frame rate for a longer time.

And you can use one single mode at all times, without having to change mode when you need to take a lot of consecutive images. Such a feature will give you access to the RAW images most of the time, except when you happen to need a long series of consecutive images.

Remove the electronic shutter ISO 1600 limit

The GH3 has a very useful electronic shutter feature. However, it is limited to ISO 1600. Perhaps Panasonic have introduced this constraint for a reason, there might be some adverse side effects when using higher ISO. But anyway, allowing for higher ISO in electronic shutter mode could be useful, even if there is some risk of degrading the image quality slightly.

Auto ISO available in Manual mode

In the Manual (M) exposure mode, the auto ISO features are dropped. This is a strange choice to me: If the auto ISO settings were available, you could set the aperture and shutter speed manually, and the camera would select an appropriate ISO to match the exposure, if possible. If you need to set the ISO manually in M mode, that is of course still possible.

The Pentax DSLR models support this feature, and I think it is very useful. This could easily have been fixed with a firmware upgrade.

Focus peaking mode for manual focus assist

Some Sony camera models feature "focus peaking", in which an outline is highlighted when an object is in focus. This is useful for manual focusing, especially during video recording.

A Panasonic engineer was quoted saying that this could not be done with the GH3, due to image processing constraints. Perhaps this is true, but I still think that some focus peaking feature could have been implemented into the GH3.

To add to the confusion, a Panasonic engineer has later been quoted saying that the focus peaking mode could be added with a later firmware upgrade, but not now in March.

Other ideas?

Do you have ideas for other features Panasonic could cram into the GH3 using a firmware upgrade? Please suggest in the comment field below!


  1. Heho...

    1. How about the possibility to display the remaining space on the SD-Card (as GB)? After shooting video a while, i have no idea how much space is already taken up. A display of 29:59 is so what no helpful.
    2. Fixing the broken iISO-Feature. If you try using the iISO feature in low light, you will soon be annoyed by it's unrelialibility. This will be espacially apparent while shooting bursts. Most shoots are too long exposed, but, intermittiend, some way to high.For example: 3200-3200-3200-12800-3200-3200-12800-.... The correct IS0 6400 seems to be avoided at all costs. (and yes, a limit at 6400 is kinda workaround)
    3. Fixing the dysfunctional exposure correction in video mode at low light. Dialing up or down has no effect until you hit +/-2EV. Great!
    4. I like real flat picture profile.
    5. Including shutter speed in the customizable parameter settings which can be saved in C1/C2/C3. Try to define a setting for, lets say 1080p25 at 1/25s at C1 and one setting for 1080p50 at 1/50s at C2. Switch beetween them and ask you wtf!...
    6. Redesign of the almost indistinguishable "Icons" of the video-settings quick menu screen.
    7. Flash correction must be accessible at least through Fn-button settings. (DAMN!)
    8. The possibility to turn of the automatic 10s switch-off "feature" which hides the settings. (extremely annoying for video)
    9. More flexibility for the wheel settings. (redundant exposure control feature)
    10. Consolidation of the weird AF-Logic which controls the behaviour in video mode with the one for photo. (and in consequence a for video meaningful use of the thumb AF-control right of the EV)

    .... i could go on an on.... but that's enough for the time beeing

    greetings from Berlin,


    1. Yes, these are very good points! I have also spent a long time searching for the flash compensation, only to find it deep in the menus.

      And the display timeout for the information icons is just silly: The LCD screen is still on, so how does this save anything? No battery power will be saved, that's for sure.

    2. How to adjust the build-in flash output relative to the metered amount. If you have “Auto Exposure Comp” set to ON in the flash menu, when you have the flash open and are in “A”,”S” or “P” mode (does not work in “M” mode), press the exposure compensation ”+-”-button on top and use the top (index finger) scroll wheel to adjust the power of the flash from -3 to +3 in 1/3 steps. In manual mode, however, the top scroll wheel doesn't change the flash output in any way, and you really do have to delve into a sub-sub-menu.