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- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3
- The Panasonic GH3 is the biggest, most ambitious Micro Four Thirds camera yet
Panasonic GH3 Review$1,299.00
The Panasonic GH3 is the biggest, most ambitious Micro Four Thirds camera yet
The GH3 is Panasonic's flagship Micro Four Thirds camera, offering a DSLR-like form factor, a built-in flash, a large grip, and an articulating LCD. The GH3 is the follow-up to the popular GH2, with improved video quality and recording options, essentially doubling down on what made the GH2 so successful. The camera's collection of customizable buttons, in-depth manual controls, weather seals, and high-quality video features should appeal to enthusiast photographers and videographers alike.
DSLR video is a competitive business, and the $1299 GH3 has its sights clearly set on the $3499.99 Canon 5D Mark III. We've gone hands-on with a late pre-production model to see if it can unseat the latest king of DSLR video.
Editor's note: We conducted this review with a GH3 running the pre-production firmware version 0.5. We've been assured by Panasonic that image quality, video quality, and exterior physical design are final, so we've conducted our full performance review. The only expected differences between our model and an off-the-shelf version are firmware bugs and finalized weather sealing, which ours did not have.
Design & Usability
The GH3 comes fully loaded, pushing the idea of a compact system camera to its limits.
The first thing that you'll notice when you pick up the GH3 is just how well-formed the grip is. It's a nice, plush rubber that fits right into your hand, with a sculpted recess that your fingers naturally fall into. The camera is only marginally smaller than your average entry-level DSLR, but the weight is well distributed through the body, making it very easy to hold onto and to shoot with for extended periods of time.
The camera's shutter button is expertly placed, precisely where your index finger falls, and the location of the other control buttons—white balance, ISO, exposure compensation, autofocus mode, AF/AE lock, and video recording—are all within thumb's reach. You do have to change your grip position to work the rear dial for menu navigation, but the two main control dials are both within easy reach. That you get all of this, along with 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.
The GH3 has the video chops to match the Canon 5D Mark III, with plenty of features to make still photographers envious as well.
When Panasonic set about designing the GH3, its engineers consulted with dozens of professional photographers and videographers for ideas on how to improve on the GH2 formula. That consideration clearly shows, as the GH3 offers a long list of features that many writers and photographers have been clamoring for.
The GH3 also features an articulating OLED touchscreen, 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks, NTSC and PAL framerates, and a maximum resolution of 1080/60p. The two features we sorely missed were focus peaking and zebra patterning. With Panasonic clearly paying extreme attention to detail everywhere else, these truly feel like glaring oversights.
As for still shooters, the GH3's new 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor is designed for reduced noise. Its native ISO range of 200-12800 is expandable to 125-25600. The GH3 also features an incredible amount of control, with three dials and dedicated buttons for white balance, ISO, and exposure compensation. Almost every button on the camera features some sort of customizable function, making this one of the most malleable bodies on the market. On the whole, it's a dauntingly capable camera in a body that's a hair smaller than your typical entry-level DSLR.
The GH3 offers formidable image quality, quick operation, and in-depth control in both video and still modes.
The Panasonic GH3 appeals to a vast swath of the market. Its combination of video quality and still performance easily place it among the best compact system cameras on the market, and indeed it even won our Best Mid-Range Camera of the Year award for 2012.
When it came to stills, we were very impressed with the GH3's accurate JPEG color reproduction. With the 12-35mm f/2.8 kit lens mounted, the camera also produced remarkably high resolution figures. Noise levels were well-controlled up through ISO 3200, with minimal application of noise reduction. RAW files were unsurprisingly much noisier, but we found that the GH3 easily matched the *Olympus OM-D E-M5 and its Sony-produced sensor for high ISO performance, though they both lag behind DSLRs with larger APS-C and full-frame sensors.
The GH3 may be the best Micro Four Thirds camera yet. And it's without a doubt the best video-capable system camera we've ever tested.
Our time with the Panasonic GH3 convinced us that it's the best mirrorless system camera to date. Bodies like the Sony NEX-7 have shown excellent performance, and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 has incredible styling and control, but the GH3 brings it all together—with high-quality video to boot.
Compact system cameras have always been born of compromise; smaller sensors yield smaller cameras, but smaller sensors are usually not as capable as larger ones. Just a hair smaller than most entry-level DSLRs, the GH3 compromises very little. In our opinion, that's a smart trade-off in a camera with such grand aspirations; the GH3 is bigger than its mirrorless rivals, but it also has a large, comfortable grip, a fantastic OLED electronic viewfinder, and tons of physical control built right onto the body.
Actually, it's downright shocking how few compromises the GH3 makes to achieve its size advantage. With a durable magnesium alloy body, weather sealing, an articulating OLED touchscreen LCD, five customizable function buttons, three control dials, and direct controls for just about every major shooting parameter, there's very little you miss out on with the GH3. Granted, we still prefer the huge, bright viewfinder on the Mark III, but the GH3's electronic viewfinder provides significant advantages of its own, such as in-finder exposure correction, menu navigation, focus assistance, and a horizon level. That you also get a mic jack, a headphone jack, exceptional build quality, and full manual video control will certainly have some 5D Mark III owners examining their return policies.