Review: The Panasonic Lumix GH3

_6002497 copy

I was recently loaned this camera for testing by one of my students. Due to some oddities in the distribution channel, it was first available in the US around the start of the year, and now appears to be largely out of stock or back-ordered everywhere. It still isn’t widely available in Asia. The test unit in question was loaned to me by a student, together with the 14-140 lens – available as a kit in some parts of the world.

_6002504 copy

_6002508 copy

_6002509 copy

This is not a cheap camera. The body price is around $1600, depending on where you buy it; in addition, the optional battery grip adds $300 to the price – for a total of $1900. (Update: many ave pointed out the price is 1299. At the time of writing, this was not the case. I dont think it changes the fact that youre still paying more, though. Value, as ever, remains relative.) By comparison, the Nikon D600 (which I reviewed here) is a shade under $2000, the Canon 6D is ~$1,900, and the 7D a paltry $1200. Its main competition, the Olympus OM-D (reviewed here) sells for $950. You can see why there’s a problem here: it’s got to be a much better camera than the OM-D (since for the same price as the body alone, you could buy an OM-D and a very competent 14/2.5 and 45/1.8 kit, or perhaps the 25/1.4) – this is a tough ask, because all evidence points to the two cameras having the same sensor. For all practical purposes, they have the same effective DXOMark scores, too.

_6002518 copy

_6002528 copy
The obvious comparison. Note significant difference in size: with the body cap lens, one is pocketable, and one isn’t.

Both have the same effective resolution of 16.1MP. The OM-D will do 9fps at full resolution raw; the GH3 a slightly lower 6fps, or 20fps at reduced resolution with electronic shutter. Both also have touch-sensitive and tilting monitors, with the GH3′s being fully articulated as opposed to moving in one axis only. Finally, both have built in electronic viewfinders, metal construction and claimed weather sealing – I have my doubts about this, as my OM-D experienced some issues in a high humidity environment, and the GH3 doesn’t appear to have any seals around the card compartment. You get a built in flash with the GH3, though I’d hope so: the body is enormous.

_1030097 copy

You’ll see that there aren’t a lot of images in this review: the main reason was that I really didn’t feel like shooting with the camera. This is generally rare for me, but honestly, the GH3 is one of the few cameras I’ve used in recent times that left me completely cold. I’ve never been a fan of the Panasonic UI; it’s actually gotten worse with the latest iteration, as in the interests of making the design look slick, it’s now not very clear what’s been selected, nor is it very intuitive to figure out how to move between menus and submenus – especially for those overlaid on the live view screen. However, credit should be given as there are at least ‘buttons’ marked out on the screen which makes touch navigation easy; the screen is also more responsive to a finger than the Olympus. The ergonomics of the camera leave a lot to be desired, too: though the main grip is very comfortable – amongst the best I’ve recently held – the button placement is terrible. The top deck buttons require you to move your fingers in a physically impossible way to press; the rear buttons disappear into the body and require you to hunt for them, the D-pad control dial is difficult to rotate, and none of the control dials feel particularly positive or confidence-inducing. (The OM-D might have small buttons, and some are hard to press, but I could find them by memory and touch after a few hours of shooting – not so with the GH3.)

_1030087 copy

But the worst ‘feature’ of all was the EVF. On spec, it should be good: comparable to a 0.7x (or thereabouts) full frame finder, with 1.7M dots and a high refresh rate. In use, it was horrible. Why? The final lens or optical piece or plastic bit or whatever over the EVF just before the rubber eyecup (fixed, not an option slip in, I checked) is of such low quality that if you wear glasses or move your eyes even slightly off center, the image ‘swims’ and becomes unsharp. It’s like looking through a melted piece of plastic; the view isn’t sharp or clear, and it’s very difficult to tell if the lens is out of focus, broken, or it’s just the viewfinder that’s inducing these effects. Probably the latter. You could of course just use the rear LCD, but holding such a large camera – it’s nearly the size of a D7000, and considerably larger than the OM-D – at arm’s length not only makes you look stupid, but is a surefire way to get blurry images because such a camera position is nearly impossible to stabilize. Of course, you could rely on OIS lenses, but if you’re using Olympus glass – there are no Panasonic equivalents to the 12, 45, 60 and 75mm fast primes – then you’re very much out of luck.

_1030101 copy

Finally, there’s the size issue. I just can’t figure out why the GH3 has to be so much larger than the OM-D when ostensibly, it contains the same innards. In fact, said innards may be slightly fewer in quantity given that there’s no stabilisation system around the sensor, nor does the prism hump have to accommodate a 5-axis gyroscope. The battery does hold around 50% more juice – and I was unable to exhaust it during the 300+ frames I shot during testing – which is one advantage; that said, I’ve had up to 2,000 frames on the OM-D, and 800-1000 is routinely possible. Although the body of the camera is made of magnesium, it has the same hollow, low-density feeling as the D600; it simply feels like there’s a lot of empty space inside the camera. Pair it with the 14-140 lens, and the whole combination feels front-heavy because the lens carries most of the weight. Use a smaller lens, and the combination handles better, but looks very odd because most of the M4/3 system primes are very small.

_1030113 copy

There has to be some good news here, right? Firstly, there’s a good degree of customizability in the control layout – no less than five real function buttons, two virtual on-screen buttons; a quick shortcut menu, and a healthy selection of custom functions. There is one glaringly obvious omission, though: the ability to set AUTO-ISO thresholds. There are two options for letting the camera pick the sensitivity – AUTO and iISO – neither of which are clearly explained anywhere, nor can you control the high ISO limit or the lower shutter speed threshold. This kind of omission isn’t really excusable in a camera from 2012, because it makes the feature effectively useless.

_1030116 copy

Fortunately, the camera actually does very well in the two things that matter: focusing and image quality. It focuses at least as fast as the OM-D, and in some situations, a hair faster – it’s really difficult to quantify, because both cameras are extremely fast. The GH3 just seems to hunt a fraction less than the OM-D with the same lens; it’s less noticeable on wides, and slightly more obvious on macros and teles. This gives it a very slight advantage over the OM-D when it comes to continuous focusing; that said, I still can’t make either track a moving object to the same degree of precision as any of my Nikons (D800E notwithstanding). I can’t really tell a difference between the sensors – with the same conversion settings in ACR, A-B test results look identical.

_1030144 copy

It appears that along all the dimensions that matter – color accuracy, dynamic range, acuity – they’re the same sensor. Both cameras will give excellent results to ISO 1600, good results at 3200, and are usable in a pinch at 6400 – though personally I avoid this setting as dynamic range tends to be compromised. I’d rate the GH3 as being slightly cleaner than the OM-D, however – perhaps by half a stop or so. That said, ambient lighting temperature probably has a larger effect on noise; if you stripped the EXIF and mixed up the raw file names, it would be tough to tell what came out of which camera. Both appear to have equally weak anti-aliasing filters, too.

GH3 vs OMD 200-1600
Low ISO (200-1600) comparison. Full resolution crops here.

GH3 vs OMD 3200-25600
High ISO (3200-25600) comparison. Full resolution crops here.

I’m not a video expert (or even seasoned amateur), but I do have some basic idea of what to look for; I was pleasantly surprised by how good the OM-D’s video output looked, but the rolling shutter effect with even slow to moderate speed pans was extremely obvious, regardless of lighting type (sometimes rolling shutter can be worse under phased sources). Unfortunately, the same appears to be true of the GH3: rolling shutter is equally bad. By comparison, you’ve got to be panning very quickly indeed with the RX100 to see any evidence of it at all. Aside from that, the actual video quality appears to be pretty good: compression is reasonably low, and there are few artefacts. However, I suspect that the rolling shutter issue is going to mean that this isn’t the upgrade a lot of filmmakers were hoping for.

_1030153 copy

A quick note on the 14-140 lens: it’s a surprisingly good optic, sharp across the frame in the midrange, but soft at the extreme ends due to lateral CA and what appears to be internal flare or ghosting at times. It’s definitely useable wide open – and it’d better be, because the very modest maximum aperture means that you’re already pretty much at the diffraction limit without stopping down. Also, you’re probably going to want as much light as you can get to keep noise at bay once the light gets low. This lens has a reputation for being versatile for video work, and I can see why; however it wouldn’t be my first choice for stills, as it’s both expensive and heavier than a 12/2+45/1.8 (or 60/2.8) pair, without offering anything close to the same optical quality.

_1030141 copy

In principle, there are few real differences between cameras these days – many even use the same basic components – which means that so much of whether a camera ‘works’ for you or not boils down to its handling, UI and general feel in the hand, and if there are any small make-or-break quirks. (I go into far more detail on this topic here). I think the problem with GH3 is that it feels far too much like a piece of consumer electronics, and not enough like a camera. It really doesn’t feel like there was any photographer input during the development process, or the photographers who were involved were of the hipstagram generation and don’t remember that plenty of very responsive cameras were produced without an on-screen menu. This permeates throughout all aspects of the camera – from the feel of the buttons (hard and shallow, no positive clicks) to the menus, UI and overall control logic: it just doesn’t feel like a well-thought out product, and isn’t at all intuitive in use. Don’t get me wrong: I have no doubt that the imaging potential is there – it should be, given the sensor’s provenance – and some will find the operation of the camera to suit their shooting style. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a personal bias because I very much like some of the company’s other products – the LX series, for instance – but the GH3 just left me cold. MT

If you must have one, the GH3 is available from B&H and Amazon. Ditto for the OM-D (B&H, Amazon), D600 (B&H, Amazon) and 6D (B&H, Amazon).

____________

Visit our Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including Photoshop Workflow DVDs and customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!

appstorebadge

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. Dennis Ng says:

    The reason gh1 … 3 exist is for movie, isn’t it? I thought they even a bit larger sensor for gh1 for multiple format video. Is that still true for gh3?

  2. I have two OMD5 and love them. But the above pictures taken with the GH3 look very good.

    • I’d just keep what you’ve got, if I were you. I didn’t feel the urge to switch at any point during the testing period.

    • Don’t be fool by Ming, he is the very antithesis of Facebook, he makes any pictures from any camera looks good.

      • Hardly. There are cameras that just don’t work for me..,

        • Actually I agree Ming. All your color images have the same signature and you seem to get the best out of every camera that passes your hands.

          • There are reasons for that too – if I can’t make the images I want, there’s something very, very wrong. And I’ll never show something I don’t want my name attached to.

            • Ming, if you are ever willing, I am interested to see your ‘contact sheets.’ I’m sure it will give many admiring fans a brief glimpse and insight at the thought and dedication it takes to consistently produce images of this quality.

              • I had an article on this some time back. To be honest…the answer is both not really, and it’s not possible: firstly because I don’t want to have anything subpar attributed to me by a client – I’ve worked hard for my commercial reputation – and secondly, I continually cull as I shoot and process, so I never have all the files in the first place.

  3. I think I remember seeing on EOSHD that the rolling shutter effect is a result of some settings set on auto.

  4. GH3 allows you to set the maximum ISO in Auto-ISO. Press ISO and you see the current ISO and ISO LIMIT. One control wheel sets the ISO (that can be set to auto) and another wheel sets the ISO LIMIT.

    I love how easy it is. Now give me a camera that allows me to a) set the minimum shutter speed in Auto-ISO and b) let me change it as easily as ISO LIMIT in GH3.

    • Based on the number of comments on this issue, I’m starting to think the loan body might have been early firmware – it was from a friend who in turn had it on loan from Panasonic…I stand corrected if this is not the case. It’s also possible I just had a strange combination of settings that wasn’t happy…

  5. The photos are great Ming. Btw, the photos don’t link to flickr, it says I have no permission.

  6. I had much the same feeling when I tested the GH3 a while ago. It felt dull, dead and strange to me. It was like it put itself between me and the subject in a way I didn’t like at all. Given that I have little interest in video, I went with the OM-D instead, which feels like a solid, proper camera.

    I know that the output of the GH3 is very good, and that it is technically a very good camera, but the shooting experience itself is an important factor for me. It’s hard to describe, but certain cameras give me a special feeling when I use them, which is very important to me. The OM-D and the X100 does this. The Nikon D3 did it as well.

    Interestingly, the D600 left me with the same feeling that the GH3 did. Exactly why this happens is something that I’ll have to try to find out more about in the future. Hard to explain.

    -Henrik

    • I think its because both cameras feel like consumer electronics rather than photographic equipment – they have no soul. It’s an odd and very subjective, unquantifiable thing to say, but each to his own…

  7. This was very refreshing and an enjoyable read. I’m a EM5 owner and I did preorder the GH3, only cancelling when I saw the price. I very much enjoyed the GH2, however, though I sold it to add a NEX6 to my collection. Anyway, I certainly would be curious as to how the smaller G5 would feel in your hand?!? Just curious as there are currently some great prices on the G5 which has certainly fueled the rumors of a G7 arrival.

    • stimme mit MT völlig überein, ja es musste einmal gesagt werden, dem ist nichts hinzuzufügen. fotografiere mit leica D-Lux 5 und 6 sowie V-Lux 3, bekannterweise mit panasonic sehr verwandt.

    • Thanks. I too was considering the GH3 for better build and handling, but I’m glad I didn’t buy it. The G5 is just too plasticky for me.

  8. One thing about setting the auto ISO is incorrect. You can set the auto iso. Just by pressing on the ISO button on the top plate then moving the front dial. It works for auto ISO and iISO.
    Also, it was available in Singapore. I managed to get one in early March. My experience with the GH3 is very different from yours. I too have used the Em5 and i own a EPL5. I like the button layout and I find the Panasonic Menus easier to navigate then the oly menus, which is kind of archaic. YMMV but I wanted to give your readers a fairer view.

    • I tried that, but for some odd reason it didn’t want to let me change the limits – maybe there was some other strange combination of settings I had inadvertently chosen that made it incompatible. There’s obviously a large following for the GH series, so the menu system works for some; perhaps it’s down to whatever you’re used to. I like the Olympus SCP; the menus are a bit long and archaic, but very familiarly laid out to a Nikon user.

  9. Wonderful Review Ming! Some very nice pictures as well.

    Best Wishes – Eric

  10. Not a fan of the GH3 as I prefer the size and functionality of my OM-D, but it does have “ISO Limit Set”, page 43 of the manual (I looked at the pdf). My Panasonic GX1 has ISO Limit Set elsewhere in the menu, it would be odd to remove it altogether from the GH3.

  11. Superb article – especially “The obvious [size] comparison. Note significant difference in size: with the body cap lens, one is pocketable, and one isn’t”. This is a real downer for the GH3. Now I am really looking forward to some over-saturated photos of Ming with an EM5 in his jeans pocket. /sarcasm

    But seriously, what did the article have to say? Honestly. Apart from the fact that some bloke on the internet does not fancy the UI of a particular camera?
    “You’ll see that there aren’t a lot of images in this review: the main reason was that I really didn’t feel like shooting with the camera. This is generally rare for me, but honestly, the GH3 is one of the few cameras I’ve used in recent times that left me completely cold. I’ve never been a fan of the Panasonic UI”.
    In other news, I had a go at a violin, and gave up after 5 minutes – terrible racket: I give it 0 out 10.
    Seriously, if you cannot be bothered to learn to use an instrument (software, hardware, whatever) why offer any opinion?
    Also, there are products out there which are simply not for everyone: I am too old to follow R&B; should I start a blog letting everyone know that Rihanna leaves me cold? And why should anyone care?

    • My thoughts exactly. Good photographer but this review is going nowhere other than a demonstration of someones bias towards a camera and the following lack to inform us, the readers, in the best possible way. To me it means you treat every camera in the same way,give it same “chance””and seriously try to get to know it. And then draw some conclusions. But saying that because you did not like it you did not really try it is not providing me any good info on the cam, but more about the very personal and non-objective impressions of some person. I own a GH2 and EPL5 and am not going to buy GH3 or OMD. I’ll await the next generation. But I like both cams a lot and never had trouble to get acquainted with either of both.

      • Actually, that’s where you’re completely wrong and making assumptions of your own. I DID take a whole week shooting pretty much nothing but the GH3 and I still didn’t get along with it. If I can’t make it work for me in an hour or two, I generally don’t bother. But if my readers don’t really appreciate the work that goes into these reviews – regardless of the conclusions – then I’m quite happy to stop. I will not turn into a fanboy site that praises everything to the sky in the hope of pleasing their sponsors. I am a working photographer first and foremost, and the output quality and ease of getting that output is paramount, because that’s what pays the bills. Reviewing a camera that I don’t like is a complete waste of time for me because I’ll never use it anyway. Objectivity matters.

        • Ming, I totally take your point. In fact, I would argue that subjectivity matters a whole lot! If a bunch of people do not get along with a product, there is no point in listing features, metrics, etc: the product is unusable. However, without wanting to be beligerant, I find the tendency of modern photographers a bit thoughtless: we all dismiss things way too quickly if they don’t conform to the way we do things. Amazingly, there are photographers out there who are complaining that the D800 is producing too lage files and that this slows them down = insanity.
          In any case, since this is called a review, you could try and explain who might benefit from this camera (aside from film-makers); and what it was exactly that you found so off-putting about Panasonic’s UI. I really can’t imagine what you’d have to say about a NEX or a Nikon 1 if you think that Panasonic’s menus are problematic :-)

          • I did say what I found offputting. And I stuck with it long enough to be sure and produce some good images, despite the complete uselessness of the camera to me. I’m a commercial photographer, not a review fanboy like some other sites. I don’t care about whether I’m popular with the brands or not (and that makes me unpopular with most). I care about whether the camera lets me get the results I want consistently and easily, and I’m happy to switch systems or add cameras if they do. The GH3 just doesn’t. As for the NEX and Nikon 1…there would be no reviews because I’d throw them out the window. That said, I owned and stuck with the NEX5 for a few months after release because of the size/image quality mix. But I hated the UI with a passion.

        • sergeylandesman says:

          Very well said , Ming! I think your ability to learn any camera is evident , and I trust your expertise very much.

  12. Tom Foster says:

    Hi Ming, this is off topic but I am planning a trip to Taipei and Central China(Chengdu, Jiuzhaigou Valley) In June. Do you have any tips for handling the humidity and condensation ? I am thinking about using silica gel packs but I am not sure how/when to use them.
    Thanks.
    BTW I will be using the Olympus EM5 and an e-p2.

    • Tom my experience with the EM-5 is that I had no problems with condensation.
      I recently went on a trip to Asia and in Cambodia it was hot and humid.
      I got caught in the rain a few times. No problems with the camera even took a few shots in the rain. I also dropped it and chipped the top of the case,

    • Let the camera come to ambient temperature inside a camera bag or plastic bag before taking it out to prevent condensation – do it both indoors to out and vice versa. Then when you get back – drybox time to prevent any fungus. Try not to change lenses too much in very humid environments because the moist ambient air can cause internal condensation that will cause problems later…

  13. how does image quality compare to GH2?

  14. The GH3′s “special sauce” is the quality and flexibility of its video recording in skilled hands. By not considering that, this review runs the risk of appearing as if a farmer drove a Ferrari around some muddy country roads and then reported on the car’s weaknesses.

    • I said upfront that I’m reviewing it as a stills shooter and have no experience with video. Caveat emptor.

    • mike stephens says:

      I agree with James, and would further add that this review says far more about you than the camera, I think.

      For example, it wasn’t enough to to say that you were reviewing it solely as a stills shooter because you did review the video a bit, and you even make some conclusions about the video. It’s like someone reviewing a D800E and saying “well, i don’t know much about cameras, but the image quality in the bright light we were in didn’t seem much better than my LX7. because of this its hard for me to see why you’d pay so much more for something so big.”

      You also should have mentioned that this camera was designed, from the ground up, to be an outstanding video camera (and every other review pretty much says its a video beast, much better than the EM-5 and anything else near its price range).

      I think this review suffered from other faults too, but hopefully you get the gist. You take good care.

  15. John Boyd says:

    Where did you see the body listed for $1600? I’ve only ever seen it listed at US$1,299.

    • Early release price, Amazon.

      • John Boyd says:

        Sorry, but that is just not true. The BODY was listed at $1,299 from the start on Amazon, B&H and elsewhere, so you are mistaken, or willfully seeking to be relentlessly negative in your review. Either way the price you state is wrong and further undermines your suitability to review this camera in an unbiased credible manner, given your stated dislike of Panasonic UIs, weak understanding of how to use some of its features and inability to review its superb video capabilities.

  16. Great review. I especially share your opinion about the view finder. Finally, a reviewer, who is brave enough to point this out. Many others just praise this camera without reflection. That Panasonic came up with THIS EVF after so many years of experience with mirrorless cameras is ridiculous and disappointing. The view finder is THE reason, I did not consider buying the GH3 after four years of using Panasonic m4/3 bodies. I now have an E-M5.

    And it is not only the smearing. With the GH3 finder, I found details like letters on a paper are less visible than in the E-M5 finder, and thus are more difficult to focus.

    The E-M5 finder is clearly more natural and analog to look through. Despite of its lower specs on paper. So I wonder if the technology (OLED) used in the GH3 finder is also responsible for the bad result.

    To me it is also clear that with respect to the EVF of the GH3, we aren’t talking just about opinions. The EVF finder is a construction fiasco, not just a matter of something one can get used to.

    • The finder was the biggest letdown – it seems like it’s gone backwards from the last one.

    • I have to agree with your comments about the EVF. It is terrible! When I first handled he GH3 body I was about to give in to make an impulse buy, since the body fits my hand better than the EM5; I would need both accessory grips to fit my hand better. Then I paid attention to the viewfinder and that killed the camera for me. Everything Ming said about the eyepiece is true.

      In addition, the EVF is pretty low resolution itself. At least it appears to be. I tried using the camera with manual focus lenses on an adapter, and even with your eye in the perfect position and using the magnification feature the image will not get close to sharp. It just gets less fuzzy. The Olympus EVF is vastly superior.

      PaulB

      • The EVF panel itself is supposed to be decently high resolution, but the optics in front of it just kill it. I thought – and still think – the OM-D grip price is criminal; but I bought one anyway because it hugely improves the handling of the camera. They should have made the front grip half built in, and the vertical portion optional. Doesn’t really add much bulk anyway.

        • A few weeks ago I had a chance to talk with the US West Coast Olympus Rep’s at my local dealer. I told them I would like it they would make a camera the size of the EM-5 with both grip sections attached as a single piece body without being so blocky. They smiled and replied that the #1 complaint they hear is the EM-5 body is too small. Hopefully the word will get back to Japan and Olympus management will take it seriously.

          PaulB

          • The front bit should certainly have been built in. I don’t think the overall body is too small thou – then again, I suspect that it was designed for Asian hands.

            • I’m not to sure about Olympus designing for Asian hands vs. the hand size of any other demographic, since there is plenty of variation in hand sizes amongst Asians. Olympus has always had the design ethos to make their products as small as they could be and still meet their functionality requirements. Look at the OM bodies, the point and shoot bodies, and even their endoscopes. Small and efficient use of materials and functionality carry through their products. Though the end result is the same.

              PaulB

              • Neither am I – it would be stupid given global markets – but in general, Asians do have smaller hands…I suppose it also depends on who they use to give feedback on their testing.

                • Very true!

                  Smith & Wesson had the reverse issue at one time. For the longest time Smith & Wesson revolvers came with huge grips. They were so large that most buyers replaced the grips immediately after buying the revolver.

                  The reason for this was their principal proponent and reviewer was a writer, and retired Law Man, named Elmer Keith. Who was always writing that the grips of revolvers he reviewed were too small. So once they had a grip size and shape Mr Keith liked they stayed with it. Which was fine except for one thing, Elmer Keith was a very tall man with large hands (18+ glove size). So naturally anything that fit him was too big for anyone else.

                  PaulB

                  • This is just one more reason why it’s in the interests of the camera companies to employ a wide variety of real photographers as testers so such issues can be resolved early on, and preferably not left to affect the market. Alas…few, if any, actually do. And none of us get paid, either.

        • Concerning the EVF, it may be okay with a better eyepiece optic. Perhaps Panasonic will decide they need a better viewfinder than one suitable for a low grade consumer video camera. I think we can agree that this viewfinder is more of a point and shoot finder, rather than a serious optical tool.

          PaulB

        • I changed from Pana to Oly OM-D for three simple reasons.

          1) Size does matter…..no need for a micro 4/3 with the size of small APS-C camera (I have the HDL-6 if I need to ahum, look the part)
          2) Viewfinder what were they thinking at Pana (they must have had an OM-D as reference I guess)
          3) For video I would use an old second hand GH2….works fine with the appropriate hack du jour (OM-D + GH2 second hand = GH3 dollar for dollar)

          And then:

          IBIS………………….(even with legacy glass) that is not a reason that is the USP of the Oly, no camera comes even close, build by Gandalf I should think.

          Greats, Ed.

          P.S. Realy Right Stuff also has a grip….no batteries included

  17. nor can you control the high ISO limit

    Actually that is possible: Press the ISO button and rotate the front dial to set the upper limit in AUTO or iISO mode.

  18. Interesting how subjective handling aspects are. For me, “much larger than the EM-5″ is in no way a bad thing.

    • It isn’t – but the thing is you can get a much larger sensor in a body that isn’t much larger at all…to me, one of the strengths of M4/3 is the small overall size of the package. You don’t really get that with the GH3.

      • I think the lenses offer you that size advantage. Panasonic 70-200mm equivalent 2.8 compared to Nikon & Canon versions.
        = Big difference. GH2 is simply too small for my taste and the GH3 size looks perfect. I read your review on the OLY OMD 5 camera and you said the image quality was as good as bigger sensored cameras for non fast moving subjects in decent light. In the GH3 review you say the IQ matches or exceeds the OLY. Sounds good to me!! Only thing in your review that has me worried is the EVF. :/

        • Can’t argue there. The overall system size is smaller, but it does still require larger carry/ storage options. That said, neither camera is really pocketable.

          • Also To Be fair, I think if I owned a Nikon D800E, like your good self and I was after a 2nd camera I would probably want something slightly smaller as well (like the Oly). However the GH3 should I get it will take over from the GH2 as being my main/only camera. With that in mind, I want something which feels like a DSLR in the hand and also feels much less compromising! Oh and just incase you were wondering why I don’t just buy a DSLR, I’m also a filmmaker and I strongly believe mirrorless is the way forward for hybrid cameras.

    • To Be fair, I think if like Ming, I owned a Nikon D800E (lucky man!) and I was after a 2nd camera I would probably want something slightly smaller as well (like the Oly). However the GH3 should I get it will take over from the GH2 as being my main/only camera. With that in mind, I want something which feels like a DSLR in the hand and is much less compromising! :) Oh and just incase you were wondering why I don’t just buy a DSLR, I’m a filmmaker and mirrorless is the way forward for hybrid cameras.

  19. Excellent review. As a human factors expert, it was refreshing to read in ‘my language’. I will post a link with attribution, on my Panasonic GH3 Facebook page. Just one detail. Don’t you mean ‘provenance’,rather than “providence” ?

  20. Gerald Lee says:

    It’s a good review of half the camera.

  21. Carlo Santin says:

    Am I wrong in thinking this camera is approaching the size of a DSLR?

  22. Ming, one if my buddies had one of the first GH3′s on the market. I’m a OMD owner and love the body and system and own several of the Oly primes Two things that I don’t believe we’re addressed that I noticed as standout features on the GH3 is that in silent mode there s zero shutter noise. My pro-photog friend was taking my portrait from a few feet away in my studio and I could not hear the shutter at all. Very cool. And a boon to any photog shooting on a movie set because they can forgo a blimp. The second item which is a win is zero blackout time on the EVF. On my OMD I do notice a quick second of EVF blackout when pressing the shutter buton. I hope that Oly will implement both features in future generations of the OMD. I agree with you whole heartedly about the size of te GH3, it’s way to big for what it is. Plus the thing is butt ugly, there is just nothing sexy about it.

  23. Guy McLoughlin says:

    Here in Toronto, Canada the price difference between the OM-D EM5 and the GH3 is only $150. ( http://www.adencamera.com )

    $1000 for the OM-D EM5
    $1150 for the GH3
    $ 230 for the GH3 battery-grip

    So total price for the GH3 + Battery Grip = $1380 + tax here in Canada.

    …If you shoot video the additional $150 is a very small amount to pay for an outstanding DSLR video camera, that also shoots excellent still photos. The video that the GH3 records is on par with the much more expensive Canon 5D Mk3 and Nikon D800 cameras.

    Panasonic uses optical image stabilization ( OIS ) instead of in body stabilization like the OM-D EM5 specifically for video purposes, as optical image stabilization functions better for video work. ( it would be nice if the camera had both, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect this )

    At the end of March Panasonic will be releasing a firmware update that will fix a few of the GH3 quirks, and more importantly it will open the door for high bit-rate video modifications, which enable cameras like the GH2 and soon the GH3 to shoot feature film quality movies.

    I like both cameras ( OM-D EM5 and GH3 ), but I shoot both still photos and video for a living so the GH3 was a no brainer. I bought my GH3 when it first became available in Canada around December 15th, 2012. Availability of the GH3 is very good in North America right now.

  24. Love it or hate it, those examples are some of you better photos. Give it more of a chance.

  25. Interestingly, as a professional user of Nikon D3s bodies, the GH3 was as close to perfect for me as a lighter alternative as I could wish for.
    The Olympus just felt ‘wrong’ in my hands whereas the GH3 felt much more like what I wanted – a D3s that had been shrunk in the wash. When combined with the two new f2.8 zooms, I get a kit that covers the equivalent of 24-200 at f2.8 constant (and man are they sharp too) and weighs less than a D3s with a 24-70 on.
    I’m shooting for two months in Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines this summer and will be taking both a full Nikon FX kit and the GH 3. It will be interesting to see how it compares and whether it can withstand that life.
    I agree re card slot door. I am forever accidentally opening it as it catches on the heel of my hand. That compromises any seals it may have and I now use tape to hold it shut. It should have had a lock on it.

    • Didn’t find the viewfinder an issue after shooting with the D3s?

      • Of course, but what alternative do I have? No EVF is ever going to match a 100% fov optical finder for shooting stills I don’t think. Also, as a wearer of glasses, the eye point in the D3s is far too low for me to be able to use the finder fully. I cannot possibly see the edges all at once. I lament the days of system cameras when I could have bought a High Eyepoint finder for my D3s – now that they have gone to the cheap all in one design, they are much less flexible.

        It works well enough and although I shoot video very little (and then only short sections for slide shows etc) at least I can do that with the GH3 held to my eye; I refuse to work from a rear screen and, indeed, would prefer my cameras not to have them at all.

        • Dennis Ng says:

          It need some qualification of what still is. I use a77 and d600. For moving thing I agree optical VHF and in fact in some cases even rangefinder where you can see more is good. For still shoots, I think esf and live view is better than optica vfl. Of course not when I take my 8×10 and more likely my 4×5 gear but 135 optics is not very good for still shoots. Even model shoot is no good as one may have hook it up to have a larger screen to check. Jokingly a 16mb nikon 1 with tile and shift an ipad 4 screen is better – 8×10 like you can check those tiny bits. Especially for people like me who only do that once a while for fun.

          For gh3 which in my mind as it comes from gh2/3, it is always a video camera. Nikon 1 I am trying for my nikon gear and nex5 for my small camera. They are better for video as noted down in discussion later here that full frame has a lot of issues when doing video. Unlike still a large screen may not help (5″ may be needed for monitor) as too many things going on. You really cannot just check focus of the eye or miss the audio issue. A smaller format is better for small video maker. Of corse if you are big production I is different.

          Btw, nikon 1 is quite okish if one swallow its limitation if one has to carry nikon gear.

  26. Arnoud van Houwelingen says:

    I would also prefer the OM-D If i only shoot stills. But If you want a hybrid camera and want to shoot stills and video (equally in my case) than it’s a no brainer and you should go for the GH3. The video quality is so much better compared to the OM-D. You get much more a cinematographic feel with the Gh3 (or hacked GH2) then with the OM-D

  27. Hi Ming – another small issue is having to switch on the ability for the camera to use a manual lens such as the voigtlander 17.5mm. This is an issue for both still pictures and video.

    Cheers
    Shaun

    • I find the native lenses generally do much better than the adapted ones, so I didn’t notice because I didn’t bother trying it with non-M43 glass.

    • Richard Pickett says:

      It is correct that there is a setting for manual lens use, “Shoot without lens”, but this only has to be set on and left, it doesn’t stop you also shooting with native electronic lenses. Hardly an issue.
      There is a very active thread on Dpreview over this review, which brought me to your site for the first time. Re-reading the article, I find it fair enough as an honest expression of personal opinion. I bought the camera mainly for video use but am finding it great for stills too. I agree about the viewfinder, it is simply not sharp enough and is disappointing from Panasonic, but there are some indications that the later copies are much better than the early versions like mine. The size and ergonomics are not an issue for me at all. The camera is really comfortable to hold, as you pointed out and, coming from the GH2, the size feels “just right” – the older camera now seems too small and cramped. It doesn’t feel too heavy and balances well with longer lenses. The output is great for both stills and video. A shame that it left you so cold!

  28. Excellent review, Ming. I agree with you that for shooting stills, the Olympus OM-D would make a much better choice than the GH3. However, I am considering getting the GH3 solely for its video function. The only issue I have is that depth-of-field even at f/2.8 is equivalent to f/5.6 on a full frame. However, the fact is that auto-focus in video is much faster than that of the D800 or D4 which I also use for some video work. The GH3 with its articulating back and quick auto-focus allows me to shoot pretty much unobtrusively. With the D800, I have to shoot video with the camera rigged with a follow-focus unit and viewfinder because even with all that technology out there, none of the DSLRs can boast of even half-decent accuracy in auto-focus.

    • Guy McLoughlin says:

      When shooting video the m43 format has a distinct advantage over the Full Frame format because most people are going to shoot Full Frame video at f/4.0 or higher to ensure that enough of their subject is in focus. ( you don’t want to shoot an interview and have the person’s eyes in focus, but have their nose and their shoulders out of focus )

      So if you are shooting an interview with your GH3 using an Olympus 45mm lens at f/2.8 and ISO 800 ( this is a typical one person set-up for me ), you are going to have to shoot with a Canon 5D Mk3 using an 85mm lens at f/5.6 and 3200 ISO to match the depth of field and exposure.

      Also, you have to consider that most of the high quality m43 lenses are designed to be used wide open, where the Full Frame equivalents may need to be stopped down 1-2 stops to reach optimal sharpness and contrast.

      • So at the end of the day…it’s a wash. You have better base image quality from the full frame sensors, but lose it because you have to stop down and crank ISO. Lens performance is academic because you’re going to stop down the FF glass anyway…

        • Guy McLoughlin says:

          Yes, in terms of video image quality, it is pretty much a wash, but the GH3 costs a lot less than either a Nikon D800 or the Canon 5D Mk3 cameras.

          The one video advantage the GH3 has over the Full Frame cameras is offers full 1080p resolution video at 60fps where the FF cameras max out at 30 fps. ( 60fps is useful for moderate slow-motion and shooting sports events )

          Once the GH3 firmware is hacked ( like the GH2 was ), then the GH3 will move into a league of it’s own as far as video production goes.

          Here’s a link to two feature films shot with the GH2. Upstream Color won at this year’s Sundance 2013 festival, and Musgo won at this year’s Slamdance 2013 festival. ( Upstream Color will be shown in selected movie theatres in North America in April 2013 )

          http://nofilmschool.com/2013/02/panasonic-gh2-shane-carruth-upstream-color-musgo/

          • Good point on 1080p. As for the hacks…surely buying a product on the expectation of things that might or might not happen through a third party is a little risky?

            • Guy McLoughlin says:

              I think the GH3 hack is a given. The programmer that made the GH2 hacks has been preparing for the GH3 for quite a long time now, all that is missing is for Panasonic to release a GH3 firmware update, which is coming at the end of this month. So I would expect to see GH3 firmware modifications by late Spring – Early Summer. ( May – June 2013 )

  29. I believe the main reason the GH3 is so large (I own one BTW, I didn’t like the E-M5 ergonomics and some of the issues with it, so horses for courses) is it needs to handle the heat from running very high bitrate video (up to 72Mb/s) for extended periods. Hacked GH2s could go fairly high in bitrate, but they could cook (which, I understand, is why Panasonic never did a firmware version supporting those modes).

    I’ll agree the EVF isn’t great, but you do get used to it, I’d still rate the optics it uses as the poorest of any EVF I have used, but the display overall isn’t too bad (although it’s 16:9, so in 4:3 you don’t use all the pixels).

    • Thats true, the camera does get noticeably warm after being on for some time. Agree on the EVF panel itself – the spec is great on paper, and it isn’t a resolution or DR issue – it’s the damn optics they put in front of it.

  30. wow! looks like GH3 took a beating here…although the points you had against the GH3 is IMO valid…especially the size! why does it have to be so damn huge?! i learned (and quite surprised) that GH3 and OMD share the same Sony sensor.

  31. sgoldswo says:

    Hi Ming,
    Thanks for the review, as ever the pictures are very good. I did have the same reaction as you to the UI when I first got a G5 (which I bought as a back-up to the E-M5) but it won me over such that I bought an GH3 when it was released and now the E-M5 is the backup. I agree with you that cameras need soul, but I haven’t found that lacking on the GH3 at all and I find the controls and VF good (in fact superior to the E-M5). In contrast I hated the NEX-7, which I found to have a consumer electronics UI of the highest order. As to size, it is much bigger than the E-M5 and people need to bear that in mind – it isn’t as big as an entry level DSLR though given the short distance to the sensor in comparison. I wonder if this is a marmite camera – people either love it or hate it.

    I would also query if the unit you received was final spec (you seemed to query that above).

    In any event, thanks for the review (even if I have a different opinion, what you say is always interesting).

    Cheers

    SImon

    • Apparently it was final spec…

      • Oh well – all I can say is that my experience of mine was a lot different. In particular I found the VF excellent and superior to the E-M5, X-Pro1 and NEX-7. If you did find blurring I would query if its a defective unit. On size, I think its large relative to M43s cameras. it isn’t so large compared to other mirrorless cameras (I just put it next to my X-E1 which is wider and almost as high – my X-Pro1 is definitely bigger than it) nor is it the size of a DSLR.

        Anyway, thanks again!

        • The number of people also finding the finder optics lousy would seem to suggest this isn’t an isolated case. The demo units I tried on my last trip to Japan were the same. As for your Fuji, the sensor is also larger…

          • I think issues like this EVF thing are always exaggerated by internet fora. If you ask a lot of people who think they have a problem what they are seeing its blurring when they move their eyes off centre. To me that isn’t an issue with an OLED VF – the NEX-7 and X-E1 do exactly the same thing (worse) and the EVF is (very) bright and clear looking forward. You are also more likely to hear from people who are unhappy – I saw a recent forum thread where almost all who said they liked the GH3 praised its VF, but its not those people who keep the posts turning over on this topic.

            Agreed, the sensor is larger on the X-E1, but the lenses are larger for equivalent FOV too such that the overall package is bigger. Lens size is more significant issue than body size (for me) in using mirrorless cameras and that’s where I find the GH3 shines.

            The 35-100mm panny was uncomfortable to use mounted on the E-M5 even with the grip, but it’s fine on the GH3. Realistically the GH3 represents a (further) divergence of the system that isn’t so surprising given the number of larger lenses that have been released in the last 12 months or so. For those who want that larger body and like the Panny UI and VF there is very little to dislike and much to like. That’s not to knock the E-M5, it’s just not really in competition with the GH3 – they are difference cameras for different purposes for different people.

  32. I should probably also point out that the GH3 was a lot cheaper than the E-M5 where I bought it (the UK). Thanks again

    SImon

  33. Reinhard says:

    I found this review interesting, because it´s the total opposite of my personal conclusion…

    I come from 25 years of Canon photography. I used a 5DII since 2009 with great results, but the weight of the total equipment is getting boring! So I looked for MFT and tested the OM-D last summer. It´s a great (and awesome looking) camera, but the handling was awful for me. The knobs are too small, the camera can only be held in a satisfactory way with the optional grip. The menu is a disaster. But the results are really good, giving me all I need. At photokina in August I got a GH3 in my hands and said WOW! It fits perfect into my hands, everything feels really good and the handling was very good for me. The camera is really big (especially for MFT) but the lenses are still small, so my equipment bag is really lightweight! I bought my GH3 in december, it was one of the first available in Germany. It costs 100 Euro more than an OM-D, so the GH3 is just a little bit more expensive (and actually the difference is nearly the same).

    Final conclusion: It´s good that all companies employ different designers and as a result the cameras come out different. If the GH3 wasn´t the GH3 as it now, I wouldn´t have bought it! But that´s my opinion and I think it´s just fair to admit, the other people say the same about the OM-D…

    • This is why we have options. Different things work for different people – fair enough. I have fairly small hands, so the OM-D’s grip is fine for me.

  34. I found this review interesting, because I had an OMD and sold it after using a GH3 for a couple of weeks. For me the GH3 is so much better a stills camera and yet this review seems to miss all the strong points.

    From a stills perspective:

    Battery life is superb easily lasting a full day on one battery. WIth the OMD I always needed a charged spare.

    Touchpad focusing is a revelation. While looking through the viewfinder you can move the focus point to wherever you want.

    Number of buttons and dials means I rarely need to go into the menu system. I can set the camera just the way I like it. With the OMD the buttons feel really cramped and there are not enough of them.

    The Viewfinder is very natural to look through and keeps up brilliantly even when moving the camera around quickly. The OMD can only do this when you set the refresh rate to fast but then you lose so much detail. Whilst I was happy with the OMD viewfinder before owning a GH3 I found it less so once I had experienced the GH3. Yes you need to get your eye position right to get a perfect view. This becomes second nature very quickly.

    The camera feels allot faster to focus and I have also found it to be much better at focusing in low light.

    The single focus point can be set to be small enough to be accurate. With the OMD the single focus point is much too large. Yes I know you can change it to be smaller with the magnify button but that is hardly intuitive and does not stay set.

    The magnified picture in picture to assist manual focusing is really useful and much better for me than magnifying the whole screen.

    The camera’s size is perfect. The GH2 was always too small for my hands feeling cramped and dinky. The grip size makes using larger lenses much more comfortable. Yes you can put the grip on the OMD, but I really didn’t like having two shutter buttons and changing the battery quickly is hopelessly clumsy as you have to remove it.

    I don’t use flash very often, but having it built in is much better than a separate unit that you have to remove a weather seal on to fit. On the rare times I need a flash it’s there to use instantly.

    The silent shutter is also really nice option to have. Your subjects have no idea how many photos you are taking – I like that.

    Camera styling is personal. But the OMD always looked to me like it was trying too hard. It also draws attention and comments as it is cute to look at. I like that the GH3 looks at a glance like a regular consumer DSLR. Just a functional tool.

    So I am not trying to knock the OMD. I really enjoyed my time with it, but for me I am much happier shooting stills with the GH3.

  35. david mantripp says:

    Veering off topic here, but….. I never really understand all the fuss people make about Olympus menus. Admittedly I’ve been using them since the E-1 was introduced, and in fact even before, with the 4040, so they’re second nature to me, but even so, what’s the big deal? There are a lot of functions, but they’re organised logically. Others do it a bit differently, but some I’ve used, Fuji and Sony for example, try to be so clever that they end up with a serious case of form over function. A few years back, Olympus menus used to get praised by reviewers, and they haven’t changed, fundamentally. And on top of that, as far as I know the Olympus “Super Control Panel” concept, which makes menu diving much less necessary, was well received and widely imitated. The only menu system, and camera UI, which in my view is significantly superior to the average is the Ricoh GRD/GXR implementation. That is outstanding. But the Olympus approach seems to be about par for the industry… (well, I’d admit that Live Control is an abomination, but that seems to have been Olympus imitating someone else)

  36. Hello Ming Thein,

    I do not have the GH3 nor the OM-D

    The following statement however got me curious: “This lens has a reputation for being versatile for video work, and I can see why; however it wouldn’t be my first choice for stills, as it’s both expensive and heavier than a 12/2+45/1.8 (or 60/2.8) pair, without offering anything close to the same optical quality.”

    I think you were using the 14-140mm. Did I get that correct or do I read wrong, can you get the 12/2 plus the 45/1.8 for less than the 14-140mm?

    And, would one not expect that a prime has better quality versus a zoom like a 14-140mm.

    But if you can tell me where I can get bot Olympus lenses for less than the 14-140mm I will be very happy indeed.

    Thank you
    Iris

  37. A Great camera with great feature.. love it man all the pictures.. :)

  38. Sorry to say, I disagree with most of your review points above … sounds like you are reflecting your personal preference here. I have had the GH3 for 3 months now and I love almost everything about it, especially the size, look and feel, usability, menus and button placement. I had a G1 before and own a OM-D too … There are always pro’s and con’s to every product out there, and there is so much to the GH3 not covered above.

    • That IS the point of the review. It reflects the preferences of the reviewer. Notice I didn’t ding it on image quality. I don’t like the product – you do – we have choice for a reason.

  39. Johannes says:

    Panasonic GH2/3 made for pro video and short film not photography. If only doing photo…there is NO point in paying for these big M43s. I don’t know why they even bother having stills capability. GH Panasonic are meant to be rigged up as cine cams…not compete with little Olympus. Hope GH4 has no stills capable so photographers stop messing with things that don’t understand.(not to you but generally…I hate this crossover between photographers and directors).

    • Blame a) the marketing people, who want to sell a general product to as many people as possible; b) the photographers who keep asking me to review stuff I have no interest in; c) the commercial photography market now that doesn’t value work and can’t differentiate between poop and chocolate thanks to either non-career photographers spoiling the market, instagram and the like, and lack of education – the result is that in order to make a living, we have to cross over at some point.

    • Reinhard says:

      Sorry Johannes, but it´s long ago that I heared such rubbish…
      The GH3 is a great still camera and I´m having a lot of fun and great pictures with it. This camera is of course not the best choice for everyone, but that argument is the same for a D800, a 6D or K5…
      I can repeat my short list of arguments for the GH3 (these arguments are working with me, maybe not for you): Great body, fits perfectly in my bigger hands. The AF is much better then with any Canon I used before, because I can set the AF-point to every place within the picture. I´m not doing sports, so I don´t need tracking, but perfect sharpness where I want it. Also there are no problems with false focus, if the camera says “focus ready” it´s perfectly ready. The weight saving for the overall equipment comes from the smaller lenses, the total backback with fisheye, wide zoom f4, standardzoom 2.8, telezoom 2.8, macro (and more) is several kg less then with my 5DII and the same lense range.
      Yes, the quality of my 5DII is better, but generally it´s good enough for really great 30x45cm prints and that´s work for me!

      So if the camera works not for you I understand that. But don´t make such general statement.

Thoughts? Leave a comment here and I'll get back to you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 23,972 other followers

%d bloggers like this: