There are a boatload of new capabilities in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 that are bound to please a lot of video shooters, the GH series' core fan base. The GH2 was an expensive consumer camera with some really nice video features; the GH3 is an updated version designed to meet the needs of the indie and pro videographers who somewhat unexpectedly gravitated to the GH2.
It's practically an entirely new camera: new body, new sensor, new autofocus system, new OLED LCD and EVF, new video codec, useful new still and video features, and Wi-Fi connectivity. The body's now dust-and-splash sealed over a magnesium alloy chassis, with a more streamlined control layout. According to Panasonic, the sensor plus the new version of the image-processing engine have an optimized low-pass filter for reduced moiré, an expanded dynamic range with the company's most recent noise-reduction algorithms, and improvements in white balance for more accurate color.
Most notable for videographers, Panasonic took the surprising step of adding a full-fledged high-bit H.264 codec to circumvent the bit rate and frame rate limitations of AVCHD, which was really designed as a playback- rather than capture-optimized format. Now the camera supports up to an 80Mbps bit rate, 1080/60p and 24p, as well as an All-I codec (that's all interframes, with no temporal compression). Other really useful video additions include timecode (both record run and free run, drop frame and NDF), a headphone jack, focus peaking, audio levels control, and clean and uncompressed HDMI out. Panasonic has expanded the slow/fast recording options with 40 and 50 percent framerates.
For still photographers, there are now intervalometer and multiple exposure options, plus an electronic shutter mode for silent shooting.
Here are its competitors (as far as I can tell, given that Panasonic has not determined the price yet):
|Olympus OM-D E-M5||Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2||Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3||Sony Alpha SLT-A99V||Sony Alpha NEX-7|
|Sensor (effective resolution)||16.1MP Live MOS||16.1MP Live MOS
|16.1MP Live MOS
||24.3MP Exmor CMOS
|24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS
|17.3mm x 13mm||17.3mm x 13mm||17.3mm x 13mm||35.8mm x 23.9mm||23.5mm x 15.6mm|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 200 - ISO 25600||ISO 160 - ISO 12800||ISO 180 (expanded)/ ||ISO 50 (expanded) / ISO 100 - ISO 51200 / ISO 102400 (expanded, via multishot NR)||ISO 100 - ISO 16000|
17 JPEG/11 raw
Unlimited JPEG/7 raw
13 raw/14 JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure)
1.44 million dots
1.5 million dots
1.7 million dots
2.4 million dots
2.4 million dots
|Autofocus||35-area contrast AF||23-area
|n/a||dual phase-detection system
11 cross type;
102pt focal plane
|25-area contrast AF|
|AF sensitivity range||n/a||0 - 18 EV||n/a||-1 - 18 EV||0 - 20 EV|
|Shutter speed||60-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes; 1/250 sec. x-sync (flash-dependent)||60-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 2 minutes; 1/160 sec. x-sync||60-1/4,000 sec.; bulb||1/8,000 to 30 secs.; bulb; 1/250 sec. x-sync||30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec. x-sync|
|Metering||324 area||144 zone||n/a||1,200 zones||1,200 zones|
|Metering range||0 - 20 EV||0 - 18 EV||n/a||-2 - 17 EV||0 - 20 EV|
|Image stabilization||Sensor shift||Optical||Optical||Sensor shift||Optical|
|Video||1080/60i QuickTime MOV @ 20, 17Mbps||AVCHD 1080/60i/50i @ 17, 13Mbps; 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps; 720/60p/50p @ 17, 13Mbps||H.264 QuickTime MOV |
1080/60p/50p @ 50Mbps; 1080/30p/
1080/60p/50p @ 28Mbps; 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps
|AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/30p @ 12Mbps||AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/30p @ 12Mbps|
|Audio||Stereo; mic input||Stereo, mic jack||Stereo; mic input; headphone jack||Stereo; mic input; headphone jack||Stereo; mic input|
|LCD size||3-inch tilting touch-screen OLED
|3 inches articulated touch screen
|3-inch tilting touch-screen OLED
|3 inches articulated
|Battery life (CIPA rating)||360 shots||340 shots||500 shots (est)||410 shots||350 shots|
|Dimensions (inches, WHD)||4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7||4.9 x 3.5 x 3||n/a||5.9 x 4.5 x 3.1||4.8 x 2.8 x 1.7|
|Body operating weight (ounces)||15.1||15.7||n/a||25.9 (est)||12.4|
|Mfr. price||$999.99 (body only)||$699 (est)||tbd||$2,799.99 (body only)||$1,199.99 (body only)|
|$1,299.99 (with 12-50mm lens)||$999.95 (with 14-42mm lens)||tbd||n/a||$1,349.00 (with 18-55mm lens)|
|$1,099.99 (with 14-42mm lens)||n/a||tbd||n/a||n/a|
|Ship date||April 2012||December 2012||tbd||October 2012||November 2011|
Panasonic instead compares it with dSLRs, but I think that's a bit misleading; if you want an optical viewfinder, you're not going to consider the GH3 at all. But that aside, its features fare pretty well compared with all but the full-frame cameras -- because if you want full-frame, Micro Four Thirds isn't even a blip on your radar.
Unless Panasonic managed to make the image quality or performance worse, current users of the GH2 with an investment in compatible lenses are likely going to consider this a must-have upgrade -- unless it's prohibitively priced. Unfortunately, it's impossible to make any initial judgements without having that all-important data point. To me, $1,800 to $2,000 would probably be a fair price for the body. I'm really looking forward to trying the GH3 out.