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Panasonic Lumix GH3 Digital Camera Review$1,299.00
Kit Lens & Mount
The Panasonic GH3 comes with two kit options, one with a 14-135mm zoom lens and a smaller Vario G X 12-35mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. We were able to test utilizing the 12-35mm variant and found it to be an exceptionally sharp, well-designed lens. The 12-35mm covers a useful wide to standard focal length with a 3x zoom ratio. It's fast enough—especially given that JPEGs look clean through ISO 3200—and it provides solid coverage and better than usual performance for a kit lens.
The 12-35mm lens also features a powered image stabilization system triggered by a switch on the lens, as well as both zoom and focus rings. The zoom ring has a rubberized texture that differentiates it from the smaller, metal focus ring. The focus ring lacks hard stops, but it's quite responsive and accurate when trying to manually focus.
The DMC-GH3 uses Micro Four Thirds lenses from both Panasonic and Olympus, with the lens mount sitting flush against the body. The Micro Four Thirds system is quite advanced at this point, offering lenses for nearly every type of photography, as well as many adapters to other popular lens systems.
The GH3 uses a newly designed 16-megapixel Live MOS Micro Four Thirds image sensor. The sensor provides a crop factor of around 2 compared to full frame image sensors. This is most relevant if you're thinking of pairing the GH3 up with lenses from other companies that were designed for full frame, 35mm cameras. A 50mm full frame lens will thus behave more like a 100mm lens on the GH3, which may be a benefit or a hindrance depending on what type of shots you're looking to get.
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.
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.
The GH3's flash provides a normal output power for a camera of this type, popping up from its built-in location above the electronic viewfinder. The flash has a guide number of 12 meters at ISO 100 (an equivalent measurement since the GH3's native ISO speed only goes down to 200), though it tends to be very bright over the first few meters, washing out color. The flash has an electronic latch, activated by a dedicated flash button on the left side of the EVF. The latch won't release if the camera is powered down, preventing accidental damage were it to be hit while in a bag. The flash recycles fairly quickly, though you can only shoot single exposures, as the camera deactivates continuous shooting with the flash up.
On the left side of the camera you'll find the GH3's various input/output ports. It's all the usual suspects here, with a proprietary AV/digital connection to USB, a mini-HDMI port, and a 3.5mm mic jack. Keeping up with the competition, the GH3 also includes a 3.5mm headphone jack for monitoring audio, as well as a flash sync port on the front of the camera. On the bottom you'll find another set of pins behind a rubber flap, allowing for a vertical battery grip to be attached to the body.
The GH3 also includes wireless connectivity built-in, though our late pre-production model wasn't able to properly demonstrate it. The GH3 will ship with the ability to transfer files from the camera directly, or link up with an Android or iOS smartphone to provide remote viewfinder capability.
The GH3 packs quite a lot of battery life for a fairly compact camera, with a removable, rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. The battery is model number DMW-BLF19E and has a listed capacity of 1860mAh, good for around 550 shots by CIPA standards. It's a battery roughly the size of the ones you see in a typical DSLR, taking up a good chunk of the space provided by the large handgrip on the camera.
On the right side of the camera you'll find a small plastic door that slides out to reveal the memory card slot. The slot is compatible with SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards and should be able to accept all current SD-format cards on the market.