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Panasonic Lumix GH3 Digital Camera Review$1,299.00
The GH3 has a number of things going for it in the handling department. The first thing that you'll notice when you pick it up is just how well-formed the grip on the body is. It's a nice, plush rubber that fits right into your hand, with a recess for your fingers to easily hold onto. The camera is only barely smaller than your average entry-level DSLR, but the weight is well distributed through the body, making the camera very easy to hold onto and shoot with for extended periods of time.
The camera's shutter button is expertly placed right where your index finger falls, and the placement of the other control buttons—white balance, ISO, exposure compensation, autofocus mode, AF/AE lock, and video recording—don't require stretching your thumb to any great degree. You do have to change your grip position to work the rear dial for menu navigation, but the two main control dials are both right within easy reach. That you get all this, weather sealing, and a durable magnesium alloy body at a weight that doesn't feel cumbersome is a testament to how well the camera handles.
Also contributing to the entire experience is the articulating rear OLED screen and the OLED viewfinder. The Viewfinder is large and accommodating, with a bright screen and comfortable rubber eyecup. The articulating 3-inch OLED monitor is also very bright, with sharp enough details to make focus checking very easy. It flips out from the body sideways—keeping it out of the way of most tripod plates—so that it can face toward your subject, flip into the body to protect it, or face directly up or down to help frame tricky shots from any angle.
Buttons & Dials
An expression of modernist simplicity, the GH3 is not: there's a cubic ton of buttons on this thing. To a complete beginner, the back of the GH3 is going to look like an airplane cockpit. There's five (!) customizable function buttons, not to mention dedicated buttons for various other shooting functions, autofocus, a dedicated record button, and three control dials. Oh, and there's also dedicated dials for drive mode and shooting mode.
On a lower-end camera, this would probably be overkill, but it works on the GH3. It'll take some time to set up the GH3 properly, and even more time to remember what you set all the various keys to do, but it's a refreshing degree of customization compared to a camera like the Sony NEX-7, which offers very few physical buttons on the camera.
The buttons themselves are engineered very well, and it's clear that a lot of thought went into the placement of each, their shape relative to their surroundings, and their feel. Most of the buttons have a nice audible click to them, with the shutter button offering just the right amount of resistance.
We do have a few complaints, namely with the placement of the DISP button and the rear control dial relative to the large grip on the back. The rubber grip extends to the back, with a protruding hump near where your thumb rests providing even more grip. The DISP key and the rear dial are both recessed slightly into this rubber, which can make them difficult to press and turn, respectively. It's ultimately a minor complaint, but it's fairly glaring on a body that's otherwise engineered so well.
Panasonic has also included an articulated 3-inch OLED display on the back of the camera, for times when you can't or don't wish to use the electronic viewfinder. The screen has a resolution of 617k pixels, but text and fine image detail are much sharper than with traditional LCDs due to the OLED construction. The screen is also touch-sensitive, allowing you to make adjustments quickly and easily without sound—crucial when shooting video. This gives the GH3 a great deal of flexibility when controlling the camera and framing shots. It's really the best of both worlds, especially for video shooters, who get the benefit of full weather sealing and the articulating LCD.
Electronic viewfinders have come quite a ways in the last year or so, and the GH3 is a prime example of that. The GH3's viewfinder is responsive, bright, and detailed. There's very little quality falloff between viewing your image on the rear OLED screen and the viewfinder, which is quite an accomplishment.
We're still not ready to say that it's better than the optical viewfinder you'll find on a traditional DSLR, as fine details—especially in the shadows—are harder to judge. The EVF provides quite a few advantages, as well, including the ability to navigate the menu, adjust exposure with live preview, use an on-screen horizon level, and benefit from on-screen shooting information. It also allows you to use the finder while recording video, which is impossible with an optical viewfinder on a DSLR.