Posted Jan. 23rd, 2013 by Daniel J. Cox

Testing Panasonic’s Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3

January 3, 2013

Many of you may already know that Panasonic recently released the Lumix GH3, their newest addition to their growing line of Micro Four Thirds cameras. Being a big fan of the Micro Four Thirds system I scrambled, searching the web, calling contacts and eventually got my hands on this highly anticipated photographic tool. It was hard to come by. All local channels received none on initial release. The Internet sellers were all sold out. My last chance was a newfound friend at Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles, and it was Ray who put it all together for me. Thank you Ray and Samy’s Camera. You can see some of my favorite images shot exclusively with the Panasonic Lumix GH3 by clicking on the following link, Into the African Bush with the Panasonic GH3. If you want to see our guests having a great time there’s a gallery of images here. Our Guests Enjoying Kenya

D470974 Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3

pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3The Canon 600mm F/4 with photographer attached is on the left. On the right is me shooting the Lumix GH3 with a 100-300mm F/4-5.6 lens. In the Micro Four thirds world all lenses are multiplied 2x so the Lumix 100-300 is actually equivalent to a 200-600mm lens. The same long magnification as the massive Canon lens.

I’m writing this on my way to Kenya, a trip we do annually, and in my briefcase is the GH3 with a 100-300mm F/4-5.6 lens attached. Also in my briefcase is a 15 inch Macbook Pro Retina, cords for two external hard drives, the drives themselves, my travel docs, cell phone and the many incidentals all of us typically travel with. In other words, the GH3, even with the attached lens, is small. For those unfamiliar with the Micro Four Thirds system, it’s essential to know that all the lenses designed for the Lumix line, as well as Panasonic’s consortium partner– Olympus, need to be multiplied by 2X. That being the case, a 100-300 is actually a 200-600mm lens, a fabulous range for wildlife and nature.

Zpanasonic gh3 beauty Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3

pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3Panasonic’s Lumix GH3.

Does it seem too good to be true? I have to admit it does. But that’s why I also have nearly 40 pounds of Nikon gear in a Lowepro roller as well. That said, I’ve never been afraid to give leading edge technology a try. I was one of of the earliest adopters of digital capture among the folks in the field of nature. There were so many ney sayers early on. My first digital camera was the Nikon D100 and the files from that camera were superior to any 35mm film I ever shot, including Fuji Velvia. I still sell many of the images I produced with the D100 so my early adoption didn’t hurt from a marketing perspective. I’m hopeful the same will hold true for the GH3 and I’m excited to start putting it through the paces. I’ll be shooting the new GH3 for the next two weeks and when I’m finished I’ll be sharing with you the pros and cons Panasonic brings to the industry.

Back in the United States: January 19, 2013 

Fast forward a little over two weeks and I’ve now captured just shy of 12,000 images with the GH3. To say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. Quite frankly this camera exceeded all my expectations. When I review my images at 100% it’s hard to believe such an inexpensive package produced such stunning results.

Before I start with a fairly detailed analysis of how the camera performed, I should first explain my desire to test it. It all began with the Panasonic Lumix GF1, a small, light, nicely designed picture making machine that produced remarkable images in an impressively small package. All of that, AND it had interchangeable lenses. Part of the benefit to Micro Four Thirds cameras is their lack of a DSLR-like mirror box. Instead, all viewing is done by way of the rear LCD or an electronic viewfinder. Remove the mirror box from any camera design and you substantially reduce size and weight. Remember the 40 pounds of traditional camera gear I mentioned earlier? Now you know why I’m excited about smaller and lighter. As much as I loved the early G series cameras, they were no match for my full featured Nikon system. The GH3 on the other hand is Panasonic’s first crack at changing the professional camera paradigm and they’ve done an admirable job. Lets’s get to specifics.

D471082 Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3

pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3Waiting for an elephant to pass on the road in Samburu. Kenya. Shot with the GH3’s baby brother camera the Lumix GX1 and 14-42mm X lens.

The GH3 Manual

Most photographers hate manuals and I’ve never heard anyone make a positive comment, ever, about a camera manual. Though manuals are no fun I think we can all agree they are a necessity of ever expanding options, especially when it comes to advanced technology. As my father Jack Cox would say, “If all else fails, read the manual”.

When I first started shooting the Lumix cameras I was amazed at how poorly they were written. Working with a new brand gave me something to compare Nikon’s manuals to and from that I gained a tremendous amount of respect for Nikon’s ability to explain their camera’s features.

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pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3A screen shot of the GH3’s manual highlighting the touch screen option.

Thankfully, Panasonic has made huge leaps forward with their manuals and I now feel they’re every bit as good as any others I’ve HAD to read. The GF1 manual was like reading something written in another language. It’s interesting to watch Panasonic move ahead so quickly from the vast improvements of their manuals to the advanced features in their cameras. Attending to and drastically improving the details of their manuals is another sign Panasonic is in this game for keeps.

Gh3 Basic Specs

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pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3A list of the general basic specs of the GH3

Ergonomics and Handling

Right off the bat I noticed a big improvement regarding the layout of controls on this camera over its predecessor the GH2. Buttons such as ISO, Exposure Compensation, and White Balance are placed right behind your shutter finger and are easy to reach. Like Nikon and most all other camera manufacturers, Panasonic chose to place the Main Command Dial on the upper right, rear corner of the body, just like my Nikon cameras. The sub command dial on the GH3 is more like Canon’s design which is behind the shutter release. I prefer Nikon’s sub command dial in front of the shutter button but admittedly that may be due to habit. The important point here is Panasonic went with a more conventional approach in its placement of dials and wheels. Only Canon has gone out on their own with the back of the camera, vertical wheel and it drove me nuts when I shot Canon for about a six month period back in the mid 90s. Yes, I had a small Canon system for a short period of time but that’s another story.

Next up are Function Buttons (Fn) galore. Six of them all told, four actual physical buttons on the body and two virtual buttons on the LCD. Fn buttons can be extremely helpful in customizing your camera to your specific needs. There are dozens of options that the Fn buttons can control so I won’t go in to details since customizing your camera is a personal matter. Suffice it to say, there is almost nothing you can’t customize with one glaring exception, that is, Exposure Compensation for flash. Not sure how Panasonic missed this option since their GX1 bodies have this feature but it’s nowhere to be found as on option on any of the Fn buttons of the GH3. The only way compensate onboard flash is to dig through the menu.

On the top right of the camera deck you’ll find a rather old school, traditional looking, large, well placed, rotating dial that is easy to grasp and read. It’s the main control for changing shooting modes such as Manual, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual Video, three different customizable group settings C1, C2, C3 as well as Scene Settings and Art Settings. It has a quality solid feel, precise click stops when changing from one mode to the other. It gives the impression of a quality design and the dial is not easily, accidentally rotated.  This common sense approach is quite welcomed in the camera world when compared to other camera manufacturers who’ve waited for updated models to add a lock to their ill designed mode dials. It’s nice that Panasonic got it right on the FIRST try.

D486123 Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3

pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3A shot of the top deck of the Lumix GH3 that shows placement of important controls including Shutter Button, Subcommand Dial, WB, ISO, Exposure Compensation, Mode Dial, On/Off switch, Fn button for WiFi.

Just to the left of the Main Command Dial and to the right of the EVF, is a switch that incorporates Auto Focus settings of AFS/AFF, AFC and Manual focus. This adjustable AF switch surrounds the AF/AE Lock button. It’s right there where your thumb can access it with ease for switching from Single to Continues AF. Additionally, the AF/AE lock button can be customized for use as a rear AF start button, just like my Nikons. You have to make sure you turn the shutter button AF off first, via the Custom Functions menu, so one doesn’t override the other when shooting. This is a very important AF option that Canon invented and Nikon adopted. Now Lumix has joined the trend to give us the ability to separate the AF Start function from the Shutter Release button. The advantage to this is well known by many who use it for more effective composition. More in another post about the benefits to separating AF and Shutter release.

There is another vertically rotating command wheel in the back, similar in fashion to Canon’s invention on the back of their cameras. I haven’t’ found a need for it other than to scroll through images on the back LCD. Maybe there’s something I’m missing pertaining to its use in the shooting mode, but if so I haven’t found it. Another button gives you a Quick Menu for changing the most common menu settings that eliminates the need to dig through the menu. I have to say I don’t find it that useful. Might just take some getting used to.

dmc gh3kbody back 7002 Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3

pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3Back side of the GH3 with it’s specific controls such as AF Start, Depth of Field Preview, Video Record and others.

Additionally there’s another Fn button that changes AF Pattern options. Patterns that include Face Detection AF, Tracking AF, 23 Area AF, 1-Area AF, and a very handy Pinpoint AF. When selecting Face Detection and 1-Area AF you can easily change the size of the AF sensor from a very small, square box, to a box that nearly covers the entire LCD/EVF. I wasn’t able to test the larger box on birds in flight but it makes sense that flying objects would be a natural for enlarging the box to give you a bigger square for acquiring focus on a moving object. Rounding out the AF option is Pinpoint AF which was very handy when shooting through a lot of tall grass at lions lounging on the Serengeti Plains. I just wished the Pinpoint AF would not enlarge the image, while acquiring focus. The idea of enlarging the image area, the Pinpoint crosshair is pointed at, is good in theory but the constant enlargement of the image in the EVF gets in the way of shooting quickly.  I’m hoping there is an option for shutting that feature down while in Pinpoint AF. If not now, maybe in a firmware update that will hopefully also bring us the ability to change EV on the flash.

Last but not least is another FN button at the base of the rear LCD that gives you Depth of Field Preview (DOFP). I’m a big fan of DOFP on my Nikons but the electronic EVF of the GH3 just doesn’t do an adequate job of showing the change in the depth of field. Furthermore, I wished they had placed this button on the front, right side of the camera, between the grip and the lens mount where your fingers can easily reach it when your hand is placed on the main grip. I hate to beat a dead horse but Nikon’s position of this same feature is far superior to that of the GH3.

All in all, the most impressive thing about the layout of the controls on the GH3 is how well the majority of them are placed for one handed operation. Both Nikon and Canon could take a lesson from the GH3 in this department. At one time Nikon’s top of the line cameras were superbly designed for one handed operation. In Nikon’s most current models, controls that are accessed regularly are placed in all sorts of different positions, many of them requiring the use of your left hand to push one button while the right hand turns a dial to make the change. Ease of one handed operation has always been a plus in serious shooting situations such as hanging onto a ship’s railing, shooting  out of a helicopter, dangling from a climbing rope or just holding your coffee in the left hand while shooting your kid’s soccer game with your right icon smile Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3 I’ve always been a proponent of as many controls available for one handed operation as possible and the GH3 does a great job in this department.

Now for the most impressive feature on the GH3–– the ability to easily move the AF sensor by touching the back LCD. Describing this is a bit difficult so I shot a mini video to highlight exactly what I’m going to detail in words.

When the back LCD is live, there is a yellow, square AF box visible on the LCD. As I mentioned above, you can change the dimensions of that yellow AF box to almost any size. More importantly, that same AF box can be moved ANYWHERE on the LCD screen––with the touch of your finger––giving you the ability to place your AF sensor at any spot in the picture area. Even better, when you switch the LCD off, to use the Electronic Viewfinder, the back LCD stays active but shows no image. Because it’s still live, you can hold the camera to your eye and use your right thumb to activate the yellow AF box now visible in the EVF. By placing your thumb on the back, dark, LCD, you can move the AF box to any spot in the picture area you choose, making this the fastest way to select your AF area of any system I’ve ever used. It’s impressive, effective and very, very useful.

For my time shooting the GH3 in Kenya I used only the main camera without the additional vertical grip. Overall, I think the vertical grip would have been very helpful. As I’ve mentioned, I’m all for lighter and smaller but I’ve come to realize there are limitations to how small we can go in size and weight. I think Panasonic has hit a great happy medium with the size of the GH3. The vertical grip would give it slightly more heft and size for ease of use with larger hands. Generally, it handled very well but it took a little getting used to not having the bulk of my larger Nikon lenses and cameras. I know, I can’t believe I’m saying this.

Auto Focus Capabilities

Up to this point I haven’t had a chance to run my typical AF speeding dog test with the GH3. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my technique check out my Blog entry related to the AF capabilities of the Nikon D4, D800 and D600. I’m hopeful to get a chance to run this test with the GH3 in the next week or so. That said, I still have some thoughts on what I saw and experienced the past two weeks in Kenya. There’s both good news and bad news.

Overall the GH3 has the most effective, dead on, accurate AF I’ve ever tested in overall general use. When you point the GH3‘s AF sensor at your subject it almost never misses. I’m quite confident what I’m seeing is the difference between Phase Detection AF and Contrast Detection AF. The Contrast Detection AF adjusts focus on the camera’s sensor and when it says it’s in focus, it is really in focus. It gives you a totally different feel when looking at your correctly focused images. If there is no camera movement or subject movement, the focus is exceptionally accurate and very, very sharp. Even when using what I would consider a less than professional lens, which I will highlight shortly, the accuracy of the AF gave me the feeling of using a lens that should have sold for much, much, more than what I paid for the Lumix 100-300mm zoom.

Additionally, the GH3 seemed to have no issues with the one time I was able to get it pointed at an in-flight tawny eagle or the cheetah chase we shot late one evening. Both situations produced razor sharp, well focused images except for a few of the eagle where my panning technique faltered and several of the flight images were soft due to motion blur. At no time did I feel the AF speed and accuracy were lacking, even when compared to the ultimate AF shooting machine the NIkon D4. I have to say I was surprised.  The GH3 shoots a 4fps when set to continuous autofocus. It jumps to just short of 6fps with fixed focus. It has a considerably large buffer for sustained quick-fire operation and I never did experience any down time due to a full buffer.

D485133 1 Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3

pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3A Tawny Eagle flies over head. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Now for the bad news. The biggest issue the GH3 relates to fast moving subjects and the inefficiencies of the current Electronic Viewfinder. The problem here is simple but very important. When shooting digital cameras we’ve always had the ability to Preview the image immediately after capture. This is an option on the lowliest point and shoots to Nikon’s D4. On the GH3, when Preview is active, the Previewed image can block the view of a moving subject as you try to follow the action. As an example; as I tried panning with a bird across the sky, Preview images kept popping up in the EVF to block my view. This eliminates the ability to follow focus on a fast moving flying or running subject. Keep in mind, it is possible to turn the Preview off on the GH3, which I had done, but there’s a related issue. When in Continues AF which allows capture of up to 4fps, even when the Preview option is turned off, there is still a split second vision of the image captured as it’s being written from the digital chip to the buffer. One image by itself is not a problem, you virtually don’t even notice it. However, with a  4fps burst or more, 4 split second views all run together, effectively creating what looks like a normal Preview as those images are being sent to the buffer. This choked off the view of EVF and ultimately my ability to follow the eagle as it moved across the sky. After a one time 4fps burst I could no longer follow my subject and the action sequence ended abruptly.

The answer to this would seem to be constant streaming of the camera’s view to the EVF. Apparently the way the GH3’s current EVF is set up, all images have to be written to the buffer before the EVF clears completely. As I said above, one image at a time is no problem, but a constant burst, like I shoot with a traditional DSLR, becomes seriously problematic for action shooting with the GH3. I learned to work with it to some degree but compared to what I can get with my Nikons, by virtually always being able to see the subject, there was no contest. Not sure how they’ll remedy this but it’s imperative they do before the mirrorless cameras can be taken seriously. Below is another action series I collected for your review. You can click on the image for a larger version.

Screen Shot 2013 01 20 at 6.09.19 PM Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3

pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3A trio of young cheetah cubs run back and forth across the natural rubble along a stream back. It was very tough to keep them in the frame properly since I couldn’t see the their movement due to the 6FPS burst showing in sequence in the viewfinder even though image review was turned off.

One last note on the speed of the GH3. Overall the AF speed is impressive, however, I’m not sure about the shutter button release time. Panasonic lists the GH3 Shutter release time at 0.50 seconds. Nikon’s D4 is listed at 0.42 seconds. Could I really see the difference between these two times? All I know is that I have an image of a lilac breasted roller that I shot right along side my buddy Fred Kurtz. Fred was using a D4, I was using the GH3 and as far as I can tell we pushed the shutter button at virtually the exact same time. Who knows for sure? All I know is Fred outshot me in this situation. Was it my slow reflexes or could the minutely slower shutter lag of the GH3 be responsible? I’m guessing it was me. The bird in my image is nearly completely out of frame. Fred’s on the other hand is very much in the frame. It’s the best flying shot of a roller I’ve ever seen and definitely better than anything I’ve shot. I’m going to place the blame on me and not the camera. Take a look for yourself at the two images below. I was shooting a bit tighter than Fred so that may have added to the missed shot as well. Whatever the reason Fred did a great job capturing one of the most beautiful birds of Africa.

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pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3Fred Kurtz captured the beauty of the lilac breasted roller as it jumped from its perch to fly off.

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pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3My version of the same shot just a little behind the action.

Electronic EVF Quality

Along with the issues I described above there is also a serious problem with the visual quality of the EVF. I’ve included a selection of images of a cheetah chasing a grants gazelle that I shot one evening. It was late and the light was very soft and low. The cheetah was similar in color to the grass and the chase took place much further out than I would have liked. Problems mentioned above and the very low quality of detail in the GH3’s EVF, I was barely able to keep the lens on the cheetah and the gazelle. It was hard to even see the cheetah.

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pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3The cheetah hunt takes place late in the evening. The distance of the chase and the color of the cheetah made it difficult to keep the chase properly composed since I couldn’t even see the cheetah in the Electronic Viewfinder. The GH3 could really use an EVF at least as good as what seems to on the rear panel LCD.

The reason was due to the extremely poor details visible in the EVF. Poor light, a cat the color of grass running at nearly 75mph and the compilation of short, mini previews clogging up the EVF, all contributed to a lack of ability to keep the animals in the frame. I got a few images but missed just as many. Why not put an Apple like retina display within the EVF? I’m certain that would solve the quality issue. When it comes to action images even one miss could be the one that makes the cover of National Geographic. Capture it and you’re a hero. Miss it and you’re broke.

Lenses

For my time in Kenya I specifically went out and bought the Lumix 100-300mm zoom. As many of you might know, in the Micro Four Thirds cameras, you have to multiply all lenses  X2. So in this case the 100-300 was actually a 200-600mm lens with a variable aperture of F/4-5.6. This lens surprised me like nothing I can recently recall in the testing of any camera gear. It was a lot sharper than I anticipated.

This inexpensive zoom retails for $499.00. It’s smaller and much lighter than my Nikkor 70-200. It has a reach equal to my $12,000.00 600mm F/4 Nikkor. And, it’s sharp. Not as sharp as my Nikkor but for what it is I was pleasantly surprised.  I’m still having a hard time believing what it helped me produce. I haven’t done any official lens tests and I generally never do. I leave that up to DXO and DPReview but in real world shooting situations it was excellent. I shot it wide open much of the time due to a fear of higher ISO’s on the GH3 which we’ll get to in a moment. It seemed as good wide open as it was at F/11 with the exception of some vignetting. Most all frames were acceptably  professional in detail and quality and none of them could be disqualified from publication consideration due to lack of image clarity and sharpness.

The 100-300mm includes in-lens image stabilization and it works very well. I also like the fact that that the EVF warns you if your shutter speed doesn’t equal the length of the lens you’re shooting. A red hand icon pops up on the screen to warn you there may be issues with motion at slower shutter speeds. Overall the 100-300‘s image stabilization is very good although I’m not sure it’s equal to the VR capabilities of my Nikkor lenses. Just a gut feeling. However, overall it’s simply hard to believe all the positive attributes of this $499.00 lens.

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pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3Panasonic’s G Vario 100-300mm zoom lens.

The other lenses I shot included the 7-14mm, 14-42X and the 45-175mm zoom. I love the 7-14 for it’s sharpness and wide view. However, it’s tendency to flare is a big drawback I hope an eventual update will address. Several of the Lumix lenses incorporate Nano Coatings as do Nikon’s newest lenses. The first Nikkors I shot with Nano Coatings convinced me it was well worth replacing all lenses I had that didn’t’ incorporate nano coating technology. It’s especially helpful with reducing flare and something the 7-14 could seriously benefit from.

The 14-42X lens is my standard carry everywhere lens. I typically keep it on my GX1, the combination being small and compact allows me to carry it in my briefcase at all times. It’s sharp though a bit sensitive to harsh conditions. I wrecked a 14-42X lens this summer after being caught in two sand storms while photographing brown bears on the beaches of the Alaska coast. It’s not considered a pro lens so I can’t complain too loudly. Overall it’s produced fabulous images.

Next on the list is the 45-175mm zoom and it’s a sleeper. I’ve really come to love this lens. It’s extremely light, zooms electronically which is more fluid and responsive than the manual zoom of the 100-300. Remember, you have to multiply all these lens numbers X2. Thus, the 45-175 is a 90-350mm zoom. That’s an excellent all around great range. And it’s also extremely sharp. The zoom mechanism is internal so there’s no lengthening of the barrel as you extend its reach. It’s a very nice touch that gives the impression of using a fixed focal length optic.

Finally, I should mention two lenses I don’t have but I’m looking forward to trying. They’re two new optics by Lumix in the range of 12-35mm F/2.8 and the 35-100mm F/2.8. Do the math and they end up being the equivalent of a 24-70mm F/2.8 and a 70-200mm F.2.8. Both have Panasonic’s finest optics and are weather sealed for what Panasonic says is professional use. Each lens is targeted squarely at professional photographers who appreciate the faster F/2.8 aperture and the pair are getting excellent reviews across the web. You can see a review here by an English gentleman named David Thorpe that I found quite interesting.

Shooting the GH3 at High ISO’s

All of the positive attributes I’ve mentioned above would be useless without being able to shoot in conditions with low or little light. In the world of nature photography, many of the subjects I document are most active when the sun hangs just above the horizon at either end of the day. If it’s cloudy, the lack of light is even more challenging as it was a couple of days ago when we found a leopard guarding a freshly killed impala in the limbs of an acacia tree.

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pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3A comparison shot between the Lumix GH3 on the left and a Nikon D4 on the right. Without a doubt the D4 has more detail and resolution but for most shooters the GH3 would be more than adequate. My guess is the issue had more to do with the quality of lens, even though the Lumix 100-300mm is very good and in other situations I would consider excellent.

This beautiful cat spent the best part of the late afternoon hiding among the thorns and leaves making it impossible to get a good view. But we waited, and as the sun crept closer to the earth’s edge, she got up, stretched, and then made her appearance. By this time the sun had fallen below the horizon and a bank of clouds added another layer of diffusion. It was, by all accounts, very poor lighting.

I had been trying the GH3 in other situations at 1200, 1600 and even 2000 ISO. When we found this leopard I suspected I would be pushing the envelope of what the GH3 could deliver so I grabbed my D4 and photographed the cat with a 600mm F/4 attached. I boosted the ISO of the D4 to 3200 and shot with no worries. After getting a good collection of quality frames I knew this would be a great test for the GH3. I set the D4 aside, grabbed the GH3 and changed the ISO to 3200. I shot several frames, then brought it down to 2000 ISO and eventually down to 1600. Each reduction in ISO I had to concentrate even more on keeping the camera steady. But overall I captured some very sharp frames. The images at 3200 ISO were unfortunately unacceptable. But the 2000 ISO frames were beautiful. I’m going to do some comparative printing of the two exact frames from the D4 and the GH3 to see how things will look at 24×36 inches. I’ll update this when those are finished. Overall, I’ve been quite impressed with the high ISO settings on the GH3. Are they as good as the D4? No. But for what the GH3 is I’m once again pleasantly surprised and was left shaking my head in amazement when I saw the comparisons on my computer screen.

Overall the GH3 has ISO ratings that include Auto / Intelligent ISO / 200 /400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200 / 6400 / 12800 (Changeable to 1/3, 1EV step) (Extended ISO125-less under 200, ISO more over 12800-25600 Available) (Up to ISO3200 in Auto). A big range but my experience wasn’t all the positive over 2000 ISO. That’s still pretty good however and would be considered amazing if it wasn’t for my experience with Nikon’s D4.

Shooting Video

Up to this point we’ve discussed nothing but the GH3’s ability to shoot still photographs. However, Panasonic designed this camera to be a serious video machine as well. The predecessor to this camera, the GH2, gained virtual cult status as a fabulously small and capable video production tool. Its size was an advantage for cinematographers wanting to place cameras in tight spots and places the typical movie camera just couldn’t fit. The GH2’s video quality was so good it competed with cameras costing tens of thousands of dollars more. Take a look at this blog post I wrote several months back. The Red Scarlet versus Panasonic’s GH2.

Screen Shot 2013 01 24 at 5.24.52 AM Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3

pin it button Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3This is a list of all the video options on the GH3. As you can see it’s extensive and I thought it would be much easier to include all pertinent info by sharing this screen shot from Pansoinc’s GH3 spec page.

Some of the improvements on the GH3 video capabilities are getting a lot of attention. Lumix has updated the mic input to the larger and more standard 3.5mm input compared to the 2.5mm on the GH2. They’ve also included manual audio levels when recording, a headphone jack for monitoring sound, as well as a higher bit rate. What is bit rate? For those wanting a bit more technical details take a look at this video by the lockergnome that does a pretty good job explaining what bit rate is all about.

The GH3 has a better system for Auto Focus while shooting in the video mode. Video recording can be set to AVCHD, AVCHD Progressive, MP4, and MOV, all video encoding in the GH3 is H.264. I know this is all a bit technical but suffice it to say the the AVCHD setting is considered extremely high quality. For us still guys moving to video, figuring this all out is just part of the process. As still shooters we’ve been spoiled. Video is a lot more technical but just think of learning this material as keeping our brains active icon smile Testing Panasonics Newest Micro Four Thirds Camera: The GH3

When shooting video, whether on the GH3, the D4, D800 or D600, I will often set the camera based on how I envision the end product I’m producing. If I’m doing something related to teaching, I don’t need all the data of AVCHD. The .MOV or MP4 settings give me all the image data needed for a web tutorial and they don’t take up as much space. If I’m hoping to capture documentary material for a wildlife film I would most certainly shoot in the highest quality possible which is AVCHD on the GH3. As a still photographer I just think of these different formats being similar to a small, medium or large JPEG. If we want to get more movies on our card or hard drives we shoot a smaller type of file. Same for video.

I recently found a great blog post that compared the GH3 with Panasonic’s GH2 and Gh1 as well as Nikon’s D600. You can get more in-depth details about how the GH3 stacks up by reading the Chase Jarvis Blog where Ben Pitt gives a highly technical rundown of the sensors on all the cameras mentioned and how they compare.

In conclusion, by no means is this a complete run down of all the GH3 can or can not do. Like all my reviews, this is just my experience with a new camera in a real world situation.  I’m certain there will be lots of others who do a more complete analysis and I’ll look forward to seeing what DXO has to say as well as DPReview. Overall I’m extremely happy with the results I shot on my trip to Kenya. The GH3 did a superb job, especially taking into account how inexpensive this camera is, as well as the lenses that go with it. Will this system replace my Nikons at this point? No. But I can’t help thinking the cat’s out of the bag with this Micro Four Thirds camera system. I’m quite confident that any camera company not paying serious attention to Panasonic does so at their own peril. The GH3 exceeded all expectations and will remain a major part of my current photographic tools. Don’t let it’s diminutive size fool you. It’s a serious contender.

One final thought that’s interesting to contemplate for the future of the obviously ongoing development of still/video cameras. I’ve been thinking about where this is all going how this all may shake out. Here’s what I’ve been thinking.

We have Sony that has been a dominant force in video for decades. A few years back they decided to get in to the stills game by purchasing Minolta and they now have their feet firmly planted in both industries with quality stills and video options for all their dedicated shooters. Then we have Canon that also has a long and successful history in video with an equally successful stills department. Two major forces in the imaging world that are doing both stills and video in a serious manner.

Then comes Nikon and Panasonic. Two highly successful companies trying their hand at things new to their business model, specifically video for Nikon and stills for Panasonic. I’m having a hard time imagining how they will compete with two heavyweights such as Sony and Canon. One answer might be to merge and combine the amazing video capabilities from Panasonic with the spectacular stills capabilities of Nikon. Who would buy who? I’m guessing it would be Panasonic bringing Nikon into its fold. Who knows if this will ever happen but the times are changing fast and the competition is furious. I for one would love to see the merger of Panasonic and Nikon so we could get the best of both worlds under one roof. Only time will tell. Until then I’ll be shooting both systems depending on the job. The GH3 offers a great alternative for projects where I just don’t need the slightly faster frame rates, super high ISO capabilities and legendary Nikkor optics. Then again there is always tomorrow. The digital imaging business is changing so fast none of what I just spent two days writing may matter. Stay tuned.

Incidental thoughts taken from my field notes:

Pros

-Very light body and lenses. It’s an absolute joy to carry around

-Changing the AF sensor is the best on any camera I’ve ever used. This feature is what all cameras will have at some point. The GH3 has it now.

-AF sensor is active even when LCD goes out. You can move AF sensor with thumb while looking through the EVF. Same comments as above regarding this must have AF option.

-Microphone plug is the larger more common size. Makes it easier to find Mics that are easily compatible.

-I love the power zoom of 45-175mm zoom. It does not extend when zoomed all the way out.

-Able to use all lenses from the Olympus Micro Four Thirds system though none of the Olympus lenses have built in stabilization since Olympus provides IS via the digital sensor.

-Water resistant body and lenses.

-Wireless strobe capabilities are a plus but there is no ability to change settings on remote strobes. Would love to see that option added.

-Lots of Function buttons.

-Easily the best one handed camera being produced today. Better than all other pro bodies costing thousands more.

-ISO quality is excellent up to 2000 ISO

-Quality of back panel LCD is fabulous. iPhone like pinch to zoom, swipe to scroll. Color and clarity is superb.

-Excellent layout for the Menu system on the back LCD. Very intuitive and easy to use.

-Love the pop out swivel screen/LCD on the back. Allows for very creative angles for stills and video.

-Inside EVF and on LCD you have immense amounts of information regarding all settings currently being used. If it’s too much you can switch it all off.

-Graphics on back LCD such as Exposure Compensation, Manual Exposure settings etc. are very polished and refined looking. Not a necessity but very easy on the eyes and we are photographers after all. It’s nice to see things that are beautiful and the graphics on the back LCD of the GH3 qualify in that department nicely.

-Love the idea of the WiFi built in. However I’m struggling to make it work with my iPad.

Con’s 

-No Fn custom function for setting up Exposure Compensation for the onboard flash. My GX1 even has this option. Seems someone fell asleep at the design table on this issue.

-Shutter speed adjustment changes FPS rate for some reason. I’m not talking about changing from 1/500th to a 1/4 second. The frame rate change is very noticeable when changing from 1/500th to 1/250th. Not enough to effect actual capture time but definitely noticeable in how fast the camera is shooting. I can’t figure this one out.

-When in AFC the image in the EVF is slightly blurry as along as the GH3 is focusing continually. Shoot the image and it’s sharp. It doesn’t’ seem to be a problem other than bothersome to the eye. In AFS the image in the EVF looks sharp and properly focused.

-Color quality in EVF could be much better.

-EVF needs to be as sharp and detailed as the rear LCD or an Apple Retina display.

-Unable to shoot through EVF with sunglasses on without turning off the Auto EVF setting that detects when I would raise the camera to my eye. This is a nice feature when not using sunglasses. There is a sensitivity setting for this feature but it doesn’t seem to go far enough to allow the use of sunglasses and accurately detect when your shaded eye is pressed to the EVF.

-When moving the AF sensor around the LCD or EVF, the AF sensors outline turns bold and brighter yellow, signifying it’s now active. In this state, I have the ability to change the size of the AF sensor either larger or smaller. It would be nice if I could have turned off this option to resize. The reason being that I would have to press the shutter button to reactivate the AF sensor. Pressing the back focus button did not reengage the AF sensor. It was necessary to press the front shutter button first which added an additional step before AF was reactivated. This wouldn’t be an issue if you don’t use the back focus button for AF.

-On GH3 the front subcommand dial is placed behind the shutter button as opposed to in front and down from the shutter button on the Nikon cameras. It’s basically on top of the camera grip as opposed to being in front of the camera grip. Behind the subcommand dial is WB, ISO and +/- EV compensation. By having the subcommand dial on top, the WB, ISO and +/- button are somewhat difficult to reach. I found I had to raise my right index finger further backwards than is comfortable to access these buttons. By putting the subcommand dial in front of and below the shutter button, as Nikon does, would eliminate the difficulty in reaching these buttons.

-Would love to have seen them include a built-in GPS.

-I would love to see a nano coated version of the 100-300mm lens with a constant F/4 aperture.

-Manual zoom on the 100-300mm lens is a bit sticky and extends the lens out a great deal when shooting at 300mm.

 

 

There are 56 comments on this post…
  1. Michael BarrettOn Dec. 24th, 2013

    Hi Dan,

    Great review. Just picked up a GH3 to replace a GH2 that was stolen earlier this year. So glad that home insurance covered the replacement. Can’t wait to get out and make some real world photo comparisons. While waiting for an SD card to arrive, I’ve immersed myself in the manual. Regarding some earlier comments about the shutter click, there is a menu item in the custom menu called silent mode. If you turn it on, the shutter is absolutely silent. Almost eerily so as one commenter remarked, but the item is in the custom menu, not in the beep item of the the setup menu as mentioned elsewhere in the comments.

    Michael

  2. BartekOn May. 20th, 2013

    Daniel, have you managed to do the dog test?

  3. KyleOn May. 20th, 2013

    I believe you can turn the preview of the image off in the settings. You should be able to select how long it displays or turn it off altogether.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 20th, 2013

      Kyle, I did as you suggested already. All Preview options are turned off. Even so, if you shoot at the 6FPS the previews still show up. If you shoot only one frame you will never see the preview when it’s turned off. At the multiple FPS setting the images get backed up, so to speak, and then do show up in the EVF. It’s not noticeable at one frame at a time.

  4. DANIEL HUBBARDOn Apr. 26th, 2013

    Daniel,
    Did you have a problem with the color cast on the gh3 viewfinder? Just received mine and despite adjustments, it is still too orange. Wondering if unit is bad or is this just the GH3? Otherwise, a great camera! Please advise and thanks . .. Dan

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 2nd, 2013

      Daniel, sorry for the daly to this question. I’ve been out of the country for several weeks. As far as a strange green cast, no I have not seen this on my GH3. Hope that helps.

  5. Buff CorsiOn Feb. 21st, 2013

    I bought a GH2 for video to lighten the load. I’m pretty happy with the results but am looking forward to the GH3 being available so I can pick one up. My question: does the GH3 autofocus work better than it does on the GH2? I’m talking only about video, and I find that even on relatively static subjects the focus searches at times. Highly annoying, of course, when it ruins the clip. I probably should perfect using manual focus, but would love to have the GH3 have solid autofocus in video mode.

    Also, it looks like you’re using a fluid head? Do you use that for stills as well?

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 23rd, 2013

      Buff, I haven’t had a lot of experience with AF on the GH3 in video mode. Hope to do more tests shortly. Yes, I’m using a fluid head for both stills and video. I hardly use a tripod with any lens shorter than 79-200 so the tripod collars on the larger lenses allow me to go vertical when I need to.

  6. CSOn Feb. 4th, 2013

    Thank you for your comments (re: green cast in Panasonic images and possibly in other cameras). I ran into this on bythom.com: “The Kermit Syndrome
    Jan 24, 2013 (commentary)–It seems that I’m seeing another round of “my Nikon produces incorrect colors” and “my Nikon images are green” comments in my In Box…”, but it seems he’s referring more to the LCD instead of files out of the camera.

    Interesting that you would suggest it’s your own perception and day-to-day preferences! I still can’t seem to find WB settings that give me the pleasant look I imagine is there and that I see in images such as yours (the D4 leopard). I should also consider time of day; maybe I’m always out at the same times, seasons, and locations (kids’ soccer!) and am getting green reflections off the grass more often than I realize. I’ll have to think about that one…and keep searching for that little bit of Lightroom tweak that gives me what I think I want.

    Safe travels!

  7. RobertOn Jan. 31st, 2013

    If you push the exposure compensation button on the top of the camrera you can change exposure compensation with the front wheel and flash level with the top wheel. Great implementation imho.

    regards robert

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 31st, 2013

      Robert, thanks for the tip. That will be awesome. On my way to Patagonia and will be shooting the flash a bit more than lat trip. Look forward to giving your tip a try

  8. RomelOn Jan. 29th, 2013

    Dan,
    Enjoyed reading your article! I also just got the GH3, and very happy with it. But one thing I miss from my Nikon D7000 is the Fn button on the front which I would set to AE lock, and use me thumb for AF-ON. On that note, don’t you find the AF/AE button a bit far to reach, especially if you use the AF-ON technique constantly?
    Cheers!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 30th, 2013

      Rommel, I’m ok with the rear AF/On button but I do agree with your desire to have an Fn button on the front of the camera like we do on the D7000 and most other Nikon’s. Thanks for adding your voice. Stop back often to see further updates on the GH3. I’m headed to Patagonia for two weeks and will again be shooting the GH3 right along side my Nikon D4, D800 and D600 to see how it compares.

  9. DaveOn Jan. 28th, 2013

    I also have a GH2 and the picture preview can be turned off in one of the menus. That use to iritate me trying to take pictures of my wild kid in action.
    I am sure the GH3 is similar and the default which is to show a preview can be turned off.
    Thanks for the detailed review. I am looking forward to the dog test although I suspect the autofocus is not as good at tracking.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 29th, 2013

      Dave, I did turn all Image Preview options off but would still get a slit second image of the captured picture in the EVF. It would only show for a fraction of a second. When I would shoot a series of high speed bursts, those split second previews all ran together, creating what looked like one regular Preview which then blocked my view of the action taking place. I’ll delve in to the manual again, I’ve missed things before, to see if I have the EVF completely turned off. Good to hear you’re pushing the envelope yourself with your own project on wild homo sapiens (your wild kid in action:) Thanks for adding your voice and your experience with the GH2.

  10. Paul LatoucheOn Jan. 28th, 2013

    You will have to set the burst mode to medium speed to get live view. With AFC at high speed, indeed you’ll get about 4 fps, but you won’t get live view.
    Anyway, that’s the way it works on the GH2.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 29th, 2013

      Thanks Paul. Great to have you involved and sharing info.

  11. CSOn Jan. 28th, 2013

    The image of the leopard in the tree (beautiful!) is rich, natural, and warm with the D4. The GH3 shot has the cooler, greenish cast that seems to be endemic to the G series or to Panasonic (as, say, compared to Olympus). I have and use a GF1 that also does this. I was going to make the G5 my next body (finally) but see a similar cast in some online images and am considering the OMD E-M5 as a result.

    Is that cool/greenish cast typical of GH3 images as well?

    I’m not very successful making images warmer but keeping them natural looking using Raw format and Lightroom.

    Thanks, and great article/post!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 29th, 2013

      CS, You are right, there was an unpleasant greenish cast on the GH3 image in this situation when viewed with no WB changes. It was especially noticeable when compared to the D4. But I didn’t notice this problem very often. It was only now and again in certain situations, generally low light and cloudy. Overall I’ve been very pleased with the colors coming straight out of the camera. Not perfect but most often very pleasing. Quite frankly, I have this same issue sporadically even with my Nikons. I’ve just attributed some of the intermittent, less than perfect color casts out of the GH3 and D4 to a the imperfections of the human eye on any given day. Some days I like things warmer, some days cooler. Not sure any camera company will ever be able to nail down an exact replica of what the photographer wants at any given moment. They’ve come but we all have our own inherent preferences. That’s the beauty of Aperture and Lightroom and digital capture. We can tweak it to our hearts desire.

  12. Paul LatoucheOn Jan. 28th, 2013

    Dan,
    You CAN get Live View during Burst Mode, but only at medium (4 fps) or slow (2 fps) speed. As you wrote, when using fast speed (6 fps), you can only see your last picture’s preview, so of course it is harder to follow a moving subject.
    I don’t own a GH3, but it seems to work the same on my GH2. On GH2, at medium speed, I actually get some live view between shots, but keep in mind that there’s also a black screen for a fraction of a second just as the shot is taken (similar to a DSLR but sadly screen turns black for a longer time on GH2).
    Great review.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 28th, 2013

      Paul, do you actually have to set the camera to 4fps or does it automatically give you the Live View when you go to Continues AF which is also 4fps? Will definitely check this out this next week. I’m headed to Patagonia for another two weeks shoot. Hope to see flying condors and may be able to test this out. Thanks for adding your voice. Good information for all.

  13. SirioOn Jan. 28th, 2013

    Thanks Daniel for this precious informations.
    It is a bad and a good new, the bad is that GH3 is only a IPX3 (he beleve!)
    The good new is that the Olympus OM-D with his IPX2 is not so bad, watch this video:
    http://youtu.be/79jPiaW2-Us
    Then, may be Panasonic itself don’t know exactly how many weather resistant is the GH3.
    The Pentax seam to be a IPX5. I just have to give it more care in cave… Aaaaaahrgghh!!! What a pity! Now I’m undecided.
    If you want to know my kind of work you just watch my last:
    http://youtu.be/s832mhJlT9k
    Thanks for all
    Sirio

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 28th, 2013

      Sorry for the less than perfect news. I do understand why you would want the optimal sealing. good luck on whatever you choose and stop by any time.

  14. SteveOn Jan. 28th, 2013

    Daniel, when using the electronic shutter you also need to turn off the fake shutter sound form the menu. Then it will be totally silent.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 28th, 2013

      Good to know. Thanks Steve. Stop by anytime. We appreciate your input.

  15. BillOn Jan. 28th, 2013

    Dan – thanks for the detailed, pro review. I am a prosumer GH1/GH2/GH3 still/video shooter who came from Nikon and Canon entry level SLRs/DSLRs (N70, D50, T2i). Your observations pretty much mirror mine (no pun intended :)). The GH3 is the best video or still camera I’ve ever owned.

    One thing – the “sound” of the electronic shutter can be turned off in the “setup/Beep menu. Once you do that (and turn off the autofocus confirmation beep), the camera is absolutely silent – almost eerily so. Combined with the wifi remote shooting function I have already gotten some really good candids.

    Best,

    Bill

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 28th, 2013

      Bill, thanks for joining the discussion and filling me in on a couple of the features I was fuzzy on. Stop by any time and let us know how your use of the GH3 is going. Always love hearing from folks out working to make great photos.

  16. ThomasOn Jan. 27th, 2013

    Thanks for testing and writing a review on this camera. I’m in the market for a mirrorless camera to use as a back-up. The Wi-Fi feature seems very cool. Have you been able to get it to work better with your iPad though?

  17. SirioOn Jan. 27th, 2013

    Hello Daniel
    What I mean about water resistant is exactly what you can do with the Pentax K30:
    http://youtu.be/qtF4z7uKYoY
    Obviously you can not put it into the water, but at least resit of splashes like in this movie.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 27th, 2013

      Sirio, this video is impressive. I’m working on finding your answer. Will let you know probably tomorrow. Have a good evening.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 28th, 2013

      Sirio, I heard from one of my contacts at Panasonic this morning regarding your question about whether the GH3 is waterproof or not. Unfortunately, this is his response.

      “The GH3 is by no means water proof. I believe the official rating is IPX3, while the Olympus OMD is only an IPX2. It guards against minor moisture such as a few drops of rain, external and internal condensation and so on. It is not intended to sustain any direct water flow. The IPX rating only applies when it’s used with either the 12-35 or 35-100 lens that also carry the same spec. Sorry, not recommended. I’m aware of the Pentax. Wish I could say yes, but I don’t want anyone to be disappointed. This might be of some help to you http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Code

      Bob Kozlarek
      Sr. Product Engineer
      Digital Still Camera / Audio Products

      So I guess for now we’re out of luck in the waterproof department but the new Gh3 and updated lenses do provide better than normal water resistance. The video you shared, highlighting the Waterproof Pentax, will most certainly inspire others to do the same or similar. That’s an amazing video and impressive that Pentax has taken serious adventurers such as yourself so seriously. Thanks for the question

  18. John RappoldOn Jan. 27th, 2013

    What a great review, and spot on in my opinion. Amateur photographer here. I keep landscape cityscape photography. I bought the GH3 and I’m extremely happy with it. I also have the GH2. My lenses are the 7-14,20,14-140, Nikkor 50 f/1.8,and the new Olympus 60 f/2.8 macro. After reading your review, I’ll probably pickup the 100-300 sometime this year.

    Two features of the GH3 that seem to get overlooked are the intervalometer and electronic shutter. The electronic shutter is a bit limited, but coupled with the nice intervalometer feature can save a lot of physical shutter clicks when shooting timelapse.

    I shoot a lot of video, and one of the main advantages of the New MOV codecs is that they hold shadow detail better in post.

    One of my goals this year is to try star Trail Photography. Because of that, I and the fact that I shoot lots of video and timelapse, I am bought the grip.

    Unlike the grip for my old D90, the grip for the GH3 only accepts one battery, so you’ll need to remove the grip to change out the in-camera battery. Not a big deal for me, but I can see others being really bothered. My gripe is that once the grip is attached it makes it difficult to open the LCD. Very annoying. Build quality and wheel/button features are nice, but but I think it is a bit overpriced at $300.

    Thanks again for the great review and I hope to read more of your m4/3 thoughts.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 27th, 2013

      John, thanks for your input. I did see the Time Lapse feature and can’t wait to give it a try. The electronic shutter I don’t really get. I tried it and I thought it was going to be silent but it wasn’t. Just sounded like a made-up, electronic click to replace the actual physical click. I didn’t spend a lot of time with it so maybe there is a way to silence the click of any kind completely. I just ordered the extra battery grip so your thoughts on that are very appreciated. I too thought it was a bit pricey but looking forward to trying it out. Thanks for adding your voice. Stop by anytime and let us know what you’re thinking. We love unexpected guests. Now if I could just figure out how to get a cup of coffee through the internet to share with you folks who drop in unexpectedly.

  19. SirioOn Jan. 27th, 2013

    Hello
    I am a caver, I would like to know how really is the GH3 water resistant. Can I put it under the tap to clean it?

    Have a nice day.
    Sirio

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 27th, 2013

      Siro, good question. I’ve not tried it. Let me see if I can get an definitive answer on that. I’ll check with some people who should know. Thanks for the question and adding your voice.

  20. Marcus AdamsOn Jan. 25th, 2013

    Thanks Daniel. Yes, the gear is en route to me and I should have it next week. I have been experimenting with the Fuji X-Pro 1 but that really has not worked out for me as a very spontaneous shooter. If you are a planned, meticulous shooter then it can certainly deliver, but not for me.

    I’d love a D4 but they are just so much here in NZ and I think I can get pretty fair results from the D3s. Nikon lent me one for a week and I really liked the controls over the D3s for the most part.

    As a people and places shooter, a 200mm (sometimes with a TC 17) on a FF camera is more than enough really so I don’t own or use the Big Guns. On the M4/3 system of course, I can (as you did) go way up the range without the size and weight (and cost!) penalty.

    The GH3 looks awesome and I think the GH4 in 18 months – 2 years will be truly a DSLR killer for anything but the more extreme requirements.

    Have you tried any of your Nikkors on the GH3?

  21. Marcus AdamsOn Jan. 25th, 2013

    I don’t shoot wildlife professionally – more people, places and things.

    I am going to South East Asia for 2 months this year to shoot for an exhibition and am taking a Nikon kit based on the D3s and the Holy Trinity, with the 24mm f1.4 which is the best Nikkor ever made, I think.

    I am also taking a new GH 3 kit of one body and the two new f2.8 lenses. One kit will exceed 10kg and the other a mere 1.2kg! Given that the carry on limit is 7kg, you can see which one I want to work for me…!

    The Nikon kit is superb and I love using it. However, I hate carrying it. It’s fine here at home where it is house/studio to car to location and back or short internal flights etc but lugging it safely and insuring it for international shoots is a PITA.

    I’m hoping that the GH3 will deliver enough performance for me to leave the Nikon stuff at home next time. It has the added advantage of cost, too – the GH4 will be $1800 and the D5 will be $8500!!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 25th, 2013

      Marcus, thanks for joining the discussion. I know very well what you mean by the big gear not being a problem unless you travel. Last year I was on the road for 250 days with a kit that contained many lenses (except the 24mm f/1.4 which I would love to have) including the 14-24, 24-70, 70-200, 105 Micro, 200-400 and 600 F/4, a D700, D800, D600 and D4. And yes I do see a chiropractor. Thank goodness for rolling equipment cases. I used to carry the same in a backpack twenty years ago when I really had more brawn then brains. I truly do love my Nikon gear and my biggest disappointment is Nikon’s lack of a serious mirrorless camera option. That being the case I still plan to shoot both systems based on my needs at the time. I have to say that for all my travel shoots, that don’t require the big monster telephotos, it’s been all Panasonic lately. I think you’ll be happy with your smaller kit for travel. Good luck and stop back on the Blog to let us know how it goes. Safe travels and have a blast. It sounds like fun.

  22. Portrait of Steve Henry

    Steve HenryOn Jan. 25th, 2013

    Dan, I cropped Fred Kurz’ image to the same magnification that you published above. Looks to me like there’s about maybe .03 seconds difference there. It’s realllly close. Had you been zoomed out like Fred, you’d have gotten the shot.
    Cheers, Steve

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 25th, 2013

      Steve, you crazy man. Why didn’t I think of that? I was still dealing with jet lag when I wrote that Blog. Thanks for watching my back. Fred’s a good photographer, fast on the trigger. Great image of a flying roller. Really appreciate your input and the time you dedicated to figuring that out. Be well.

  23. AdamTOn Jan. 25th, 2013

    Great post, Daniel.

    As Rambalac mentioned, you can set the GH3 so that the front dial controls flash compensation. It’s a little bit hidden in the menus. You go to the record menu settings>Flash>Auto Exposure Comp and turn it ON. Once you do that, when you press the exposure compensation button you can control flash compensation with the front dial and regular EV with the rear dial. Unfortunately, however, this is only possible in A, S, and P modes. Not available in manual mode. Hopefully Panasonic will correct this in a firmware update.

    As you noted, it’s correct that the .mov video settings have the highest quality (though AVCHD is close for practical purposes). I think most videographers have concluded that the 50mbs mov modes are actually better than the 70mbs All-I settings. I concur with that assessment.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 25th, 2013

      Adam, thanks for your input. I’ll take a look at the suggestion you make for setting the Flash Exposure Compensation up. That would be a great additional feature. Also, thanks for adding your voice to the AVCHD discussion. That’s what I love about this business, you learn something new every day.

  24. ed nazarkoOn Jan. 25th, 2013

    As a longtime Nikon shooter who fell into m4/3 initially for its briefcase size, I was nodding my head all the way through this read. I did a two week shoot in Cuba early last year where I took one Nikon D700 and a few lenses (3/4 of the camera backpack) and two m4/3 bodies – GH2 and G3 – with five lenses, three zooms and two primes. No doubt the Nikon outperformed in action settings, like Tropicana dancers, but most of my best selling images were shot with the m4/3. I’m not at all a telephoto guy (your comments on the 100-300 match my experience) – 90% of my shots were with the 7-14mm zoom or the 12mm Olympus lens, just as when I shoot Nikon in similar settings, 90% is with the 14-24. I’m printing the m4/3 full frame for shows at 18×24, and photogs who know me have asked if I had started cropping my images, assuming they had to be from my Nikon gear because of the sharpness and contrast. I’ve found ISO 3200 works fine (mostly) if you nail exposure, and then when processing the raw file adjust the images’ darks (push shadows down) and nudge mid-tone contrast. As a long time transparency shooter, I don’t feel I lose much doing that, the DR is still much larger than what I used to work with. I’m not ready to abandon the Nikon gear yet – I do love having ISO 6400 and above to work with, and m4/3 still has too many failings on fast subjects (I too test on speeding dogs – my frisbee dogs). But, I am often using m4/3 alone for event work, portraits, and travel shoots.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 25th, 2013

      Ed, Excellent contribution! Thanks for sharing your insights.

  25. RambalacOn Jan. 24th, 2013

    You can change flash compensation with exposure button. One wheel for exposure and one for flash compensation. I dont remember exactly but probably you need to changes some TTL mode to auto for that. Found it in manual.

  26. Al DolegaOn Jan. 24th, 2013

    Great review! One note though- you have the quality of the different video files a bit mixed up. The GH3’s .MOV files are actually the highest quality (50 or 72Mb/s), then comes AVCHD at 24Mb/s, and then MP4 is the lowest quality.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 24th, 2013

      Al, Thanks for the correction. So .MOV is higher quality than AVCHD? Any others out there that can clarify that?

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 24th, 2013

      Al, I did some checking and you are right. I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. Ken Stone has a great thread about AVCHD and ProRes comparison. I’m pretty new to the video world so it’s this type of conversation that helps me learn as well as others. Thanks again for adding your voice. Her ise a link to Ken Stones FCP Blog and the thread that discusses the AVCHD and ProRes difference.

      http://www.kenstone.net/discussions/read.php?3,38384

  27. Doug BrayOn Jan. 24th, 2013

    Sorry, I had not completed my comment when I accidentally sent the previous comment. I would like to add the following:

    Perhaps, the lower ratings are due to the size of the lenses and the optics of the smaller lenses cannot compare with the larger lenses.

    The lens quality and the other cons mentioned in your review lead me to believe that it will be it while before I will be able to jettison my 40 pounds plus of Nikon gear.

    Doug

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 24th, 2013

      Doug, thanks for your input. I’m not sure it’s going to be as long as you might think for the truly professional quality lenses to start showing up. The 100-300 I used extensively in Africa is an extremely inexpensive lens but at F/7.1 it is impressively sharp. I’ve heard that Panasonic is working on a 150 F/2.8 which will be the equivalent to a 300mm F/2.8. Once lenses like this start making their way into the system I’m confident they’ll truly be the professional optics we’re yearning for. Until then, I’m actually very pleased with what is currently available. It can always be bette but my goodness the GH3 was fun to shoot with and especially carry around.

  28. Doug BrayOn Jan. 24th, 2013

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you for the review. I am always interested in what’s happening with the 4/3 system.

    As you may remember, when we first met in Churchill in 2005 I’was shooting with the Olympus E-3. One of the things that attracted me to the Olympus 4/3 system was the smaller size of the camera and lenses. As you know, I moved on to Nikon however Debra still likes using The Olympus E series. We also enjoy the size and convenience of our Panasonic GX1.

    Although I am not done extensive research, it appears to me that even the highest rated MFT Lenses still do not compare with the high end Nikkor lenses, At least, in the DXOMark ratings.

  29. Gerry HeineOn Jan. 24th, 2013

    Dan,
    Great comparisons and info. Nice to hear real world experiences with the GH3 compared to cameras I am familiar with. Especially interesting to hear your experiences with the 100 – 300 lens as the few reviews I have seen seem to be conflicting.
    A couple of questions, what is the highest ISO you regard as usable on the GX1, and do you use the auto ISO settings within limits on the Nikons as Fred mentioned? The higher ISOs are so impressive on the D4 and D600, I am much more comfortable bumping the settings up, but have not fully trusted the auto settings yet.

    Thanks for great article, and looking forward to future trips.

    Gerry

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 24th, 2013

      Gerry, I shoot the GX1 on a regular basis at 1600 ISO. No I don’t use the Auto ISO as Fred has mentioned. He and I did go over his method of using Auto ISO and letting the ISO float so to speak. I have to say it was quite an interesting idea and something I plan to look into myself. The key to this technique working well however is having supreme confidence in your camera’s higher ISO capabilities. The Nikon D4 qualifies handily in that regard. It wouldn’t be quite as flexible with other systems since the D4 has such astounding upper limit ISO capabilities. Fred’s system does work well which is proven by his excellent results.

  30. Portrait of Fred Kurtz

    Fred KurtzOn Jan. 24th, 2013

    Jambo Dan,

    What a great extensive review of the GH3. I read it with great interest as you know I have the GX1 with the 7-14, 14-42x and the 45-200 lenses. Like you, I also took 44 pounds of Nikon equipment to Kenya including the D800 and D4.

    I shot all three cameras on this trip and I previously I would keep the shots from each camera separate. On this trip, I decided not to do that and put them all in the same daily folder. My thinking is if I liked a shot, I did not care what camera it came from. I have GX1 shots that are as good as my D4 shots when the conditions are within the parameters of the GX1.

    I will say, the D800 and D4 have completely changed the way I shoot. I previously have never been successful in shooting birds in flight. So on this trip I shot 90% of the time on manual – which I have never done before. I set the shutter speed and aperture and let the ISO float (3,200 for the D800 and 10,000 for the D4). Then for birds getting ready for flight or animals that might bolt, I cranked up the shutter speed not giving a care about ISO. The results were spectacular as I finally achieved the shots I wanted. The same leopard in the tree you mentioned I shot at ISO 6400 and 10000 with the D4 with great results. In Costa Rica last year, I had the D300 and while a great camera, I missed a lot of shots.

    I did shoot a lot of video on the Kenya trip with all three cameras. This is my first attempt at video and I was very pleased with the results from all cameras. My big problem with shooting video was using live view. There were a lot of times I had to stop a video because I could not see what I was shooting due to the brightness of the sky making it impossible to see the LCD screen. I wish you could see what you are shooting via the viewfinder.

    I am looking forward to the advancements in the 4/3’s industry and will keep caught up via your blogs. I am sure that someday I will be replacing the D800 and D4 with a 4/3’s version but I think I will have several more years of shooting them as they are great cameras.

    Thanks for a great article and a magical trip to Kenya.

    Fred

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Jan. 24th, 2013

      Thanks for your input Fred. Glad you enjoyed the post. Stay in touch and always good to hear you have your eyes wide open as well las the mind.

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