Photokina 2012 Recap: Shooting with the Panasonic Lumix GH3 at the Panasonic Booth

September 26, 2012

By Bob Rose

The first digital single lens mirrorless camera, the Lumix G1, was introduced by Panasonic at the photokina show in Germany four years ago. So it only seemed fitting that they’d wait for another photokina to debut their new flagship DSLM camera, the Lumix DMC-GH3.

Claimed to deliver the highest ever picture quality with a new 16.05 effective megapixel Live MOS sensor, this $1299.99 camera (body only) from Panasonic is designed to appeal to both photographers and videographers.

Hands on with the Panasonic Lumix GH3
Although we were only able to shoot with a GH3 prototype, it was quite obvious that this is the toughest Lumix built to date and designed for a pro’s use. The magnesium alloy body was light but well balanced with most lenses I tried. It’s environmentally sealed, but the camera is most splash and dustproof only when matched to the 12-35mm and 35-100mm zooms: both f/2.8 and with Optical Image Stabilization.

It’s a little bulkier than it’s predecessor, the GH2, and there’s a new layout of controls providing direct access to most camera settings, but the Panasonic GH3 is still a comfortable Micro 4/3 body. In use, the wide aspect ratio 1.744K OLED viewfinder is about good as technology gets today (courtesy of Epson, which showed this set of electronics in their booth hoping other manufacturers will also buy it), plus it has variable diopter settings and 21mm high-eyepoint user friendliness.

The 3-inch, 610K OLED rear panel display also offers quite brilliant viewing, and can be titled and turned over a wide range of settings for low, high, front, rear and side viewing. Pros will appreciate the built-in flash and the manual connection for studio strobes too. We’re looking forward to a sample to play with to see how the all of the new components of the system work together.  

New Sensor
The Panasonic GH3’s new Live MOS sensor specifications read high sensitivity and low noise capabilities but with a smooth more natural gradation than previous sensors. And with a newly designed low-pass filter they plan to delivery sharp, moire free images. This sensor provides a lot of data to crunch so a new Venus engine brings power to the task and even has enough muscle left over to handle real time HDR and other creative image processing options.

On the sample I tried out at the Panasonic booth at photokina, the focus was fast and tracked moving subjects well. Shooting at rates up to six frames a second can put a drain on the battery so for those heavy users, the optional battery grip provides up to 540 images on a charge.

That extra battery power will come in handy when shooting in video too. Panasonic made a very concerted effort to appeal to a wide range of videographers, supporting more than a dozen video format/resolution/bit rate standards. And just to prove they were serious, Time Codes are recorded too.

Face, full area, touch and tracking AF are active while recording, and four exposure modes can be set as well. Quick-motion and slow-motion settings are there as well.

Pro Video Features
Running a sensor for long time periods is guaranteed to generate heat, thus the reason many HD-DSLR’s have time limits on how long they can record. The GH3 was built with this in mind and has the ability to disperse the heat so you can shoot longer (they say unlimited length) videos without a camera meltdown. And running a cooler sensor is a good way to keep the noise down on still photography too.

Other benefits for videographers are integral Dolby Digital noise reduction for AVCHD, the internal stereo mic, external mic imput, headphone output and HDMI out.

To top out the connectivity, the DMC-GH3 integrates an 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi module to expand the shooting possibilities. There wasn’t a demonstration unit available to show this feature (nor to confirm if it works on video) but the idea is you can use a smartphone or a tablet to both control and view and shoot what’s going on remotely.

The camera view is displayed live on your mobile device and various controls including focus, exposure compensation, ISO, WB and Photo Style as well as the actual firing of the camera are all accessible via Wi-Fi.

Though price has not been announced yet for the camera, look for the Panasonic GH3 to ship early December. For more info go here.