Update: Shooting the Panasonic GH3

Posted Jan. 31st, 2013 by Daniel J. Cox

In a recent Blog post titled Testing Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds Camera, the GH3, I promised I would be printing two images of a leopard I photographed with both the Nikon D4 and the Panasonic GH3. Before heading to Patagonia I had the chance to do that and I wanted to share the results. Just as I had seen on my computer, the Nikon D4 is superior to the GH3. But…. as I also mentioned in my original post, I’m seeing something I can’t quite put my finger on that just doesn’t’ add up. It seems the GH3 is sharper than what the printed image suggests. What I mean by that is, the image seems sharp but also seems to have potential movement. This also relates to the comment I made in the original post about me not being sure the Image Stabilization was as good as Nikon’s. After further investigation I’m starting to wonder if what I am seeing is a phenomenon being discussed on the web known as Shutter Shake Syndrome.

Dan comparing two images that were shot with the Panasonic GH3 and the Nikon D4.

Dan comparing two images that were shot with the Panasonic GH3 and the Nikon D4.

I wanted to get this out and update everyone interested in this comparison before I left for a two week shoot in Patagonia. Let me know if any of you know more about Shutter Shake Syndrome than I do. I hope to do more tests at the studio some time when I return.

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There are 15 comments on this post…
  1. Brad COn Oct. 4th, 2013

    I’m curious about one thing. This ‘shutter shock’ issue comes from having to close the shutter immediately before opening it, while on a dSLR using an optical viewfinder the main issue is mirror slap, due to the shutter starting from a close position. Do not dSLRs also have this issue when using Live View, or in the Sony SLT’s with a fixed mirror that requires closing the shutter and reopening?

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      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 8th, 2013

      Brad, good question. Let me check in to this. I have a contact that may be able to give us some insight. Will get back to you on this. Thanks for the question.

  2. Marcus AdamsOn Feb. 17th, 2013

    I’d like to see some data from Panasonic on shutter reliability, too.

    The GH3 is clearly being aimed at pro users and since Nikon and Canon both test the shutters of their upper end cameras and publish the number of shots you should expect between failures, I think that Panasonic should do the same for the GH3.

    We need to know what reliability to expect if we are to take it into the field and trust it to deliver work for our clients.

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      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 17th, 2013

      Marcus, I agree with you whole heatedly. I may be able to do some digging on that question. Will try and find out and report back. Thanks for the great suggestion.

  3. AndrewSOn Feb. 4th, 2013

    Daniel, I am the author of the camera ergonomics blog to which you refer. I have researched the question of image sharpness, or lack of it in M43 camera/lens combinations. My observations are
    1. Shutter shock is a problem between 1/20 and 1/200 second with some lenses, the Lumix 100-300mm being one, especially at the long end.
    2. Lumix OIS is not bad but not great either. I have found a shutter speed of no slower than 1/500sec at 300mm is required even with the lens sitting on a bean bag or similar.
    3. The Lumix 100-300 is good to 200mm but loses sharpness and contrast at the long end.
    4. Focus accuracy (on the GH2 and G5, I have not yet used the GH3) is excellent with short focal length lenses but becomes less reliable at the long end of tele zooms especially in conditions with low subject brightness range.
    Your photos may have been impacted by all four issues. Hope this helps. My conclusion is that Panasonic/Lumix has some way to go yet before their M43 cams become a viable alternative to high level DSLR’s for wildlife photography.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 5th, 2013

      Great info here and on your Blog Andrew. I agree with you about the Panasonic needing more advancements to compete with the current versions of the DSLR for wildlife and nature photography. Thanks for the important tests you’ve done and sharing this on the web.

  4. LuisOn Feb. 4th, 2013

    Sorry for double posting, but here is a more detailed explanation about it (about a 3rd down the page):


  5. LuisOn Feb. 4th, 2013

    I’m sure there are more detailed explanations of how this electronic first curtain works, but for now I found this link to the Sony NEX-7 review where it explains the benefits briefly:


  6. AdamTOn Feb. 3rd, 2013

    Olympus has a configurable shutter shock setting that allows you to adjust a delay of the first curtain shutter. I don’t have an Olympus camera, but I gather that you can set the delay in fractions of a second.

    I believe that Panasonic has something along the same lines, but unfortunately the shortest delay Panasonic provides is 1 second, which is fairly useless for anything but completely static scenes.

    Perhaps the best solution for the GH3 is to use the electronic shutter which eliminates any possibility of shutter shock (even better than delay implementations). The downsides to the electronic shutter are that you are limited to ISO 1600, can’t use flash, and you will get odd distortions (rolling shutter) with fast moving objects.

    I’ve tested my 100-300 mounted on the GH3 with and without the electronic shutter, and the results are clearly sharper with the ES — even when the camera is mounted on a tripod and IS is off.

    From what I understand, shutter shock should not be a problem at higher shutter speeds (some say over 1/125 but I would think 1/350 to be safe).

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 3rd, 2013

      Adam, more good information. This shutter shock thing is quite concerning based on what I’m reading from you and others. If this is all true, Micro 4/3’s has a very big issue to overcome. Based on what I’ve learned Shutter Shock Syndrome seems to be the culprit to the very strange softness I’ve witnessed on the leopard print shot with the GH3 which was taken at 1/80th of a second. The Nikon D4 image was shot at 1/200th and is sharp as a tack. I mention in my original blog post that I was seeing an issue that looked to me like camera movement, even though I was as solidly braced on a bean bag with the Panasonic as I was with the Nikon. I shoot static subjects all the time with my Nikons at very slow shutter speeds, 1/8th-1/200th with a 600mm lens when on tripod or solid rest such as a bean bag. It’s just never been a problem as long as I was stable. But if the camera is actually shaking so badly from the within, there would seem to be no way for a photographer to eliminate that. Hope to find out more in the near future. Thank you for your input.

  7. John CaballeroOn Feb. 3rd, 2013

    The GH2 seems to suffer from the same problem. Or at least it looked to me when I shot stills with it occasionally.

  8. LuisOn Feb. 3rd, 2013

    It’s a pity the GH3 doesn’t use that first curtain electronic shutter to start the exposure. It would solve any shutter shock syndrome, improve shutter lag, noise and shutter life (only one closing-opening per shot, not close-open-close-open). If Canon and Sony can do it, why not Panasonic? Maybe some FW update can bring it…

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 3rd, 2013

      Luis, thanks for adding your voice. Do you have any further info on the Canon and Sony first curtain electronic shutter. Would like to know more about this. Maybe you can point us to a web site describing the benefits?

  9. SteveOn Jan. 31st, 2013

    What shutter speed did you use with the GH3 on this shot. I find I need at least 1/200s to avoid shutter shock with my GH3 and 100-300.

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