Some camera manufacturers have been trying to solve this by adding phase difference sensors (PDAF) on the imaging chip, like the Nikon 1 and Canon EOS M cameras. However, the real world benefit of that solution is still undecided.
Panasonic have said in interviews that the on-sensor PDAF solution is not going to be used for Micro Four Thirds, at least not anytime soon. Rather, Panasonic expects to achieve better continuous autofocus performance by using faster image readout from the chip, better image processing algorithms, and more processing power. Have they achieved this with the most recent Panasonic GH3?
To compare the autofocus performance during video recording with the GH2, I used a Lego Technic contraption to move a cardboard box back and forth at a steady pace. I then set up both cameras, in turn, with the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 lens at 35mm f/2.8 at close range, and recorded video at 1920x1080, progressive, 25fps. Comparing the resulting footage, it is easy to see which camera better finds the focus during the movement. Here is the video footage, for comparison:
It's easy to see that the GH3 achieves correct focus more often than the GH2, in fact, about twice as often, according to my frame counting. The GH3 also has a better overall sharpness: It is possible to see the offset printing pattern more easily with the GH3. This could be partially due to the multi aspect sensor feature that the GH3 misses: It means that you get slightly narrower field of view when using the GH3, as compared with the GH2, and hence, more enlargement of the subject.
One of the new features of the GH3 is the 240fps contrast detection autofocus (CDAF) sensor readout. The GH2 only does 120fps, maximum. The smaller print in the GH3 specifications state that the 240fps is only possible when using the newest f/2.8 zoom lenses, the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 and the Lumix X 35mm-100 f/2.8.
And can the camera use the 240fps feature during video recording? Probably not, since the sensor is busy reading the image at 25fps for the video stream anyway. I previously compared the GH2 video AF performance during 25fps and 50fps video, and found that it does better at 50fps, indicating that more frequent image readout is better for the AF performance. As long as the shutter speed is faster than the video rate, there is surplus time between the frames for CDAF readout. Perhaps the GH3 camera can utilize this for better AF performance?