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G3 suitable as compromise video/stills camera?

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by markus, Dec 28, 2011.

  1. markus

    markus Mu-43 Rookie

    Dec 28, 2011
    Hello -

    First of all, this place looks like a good resource. I'm glad I found it.

    Short question: Is the G3 suitable as a compromise video/stills camera? Or am I going to be unhappy with the video? My main criteria: smaller in size, very easy to use video (for my wife), and suitable still photos for me.

    Long background: I consider myself an ameteur still but have been into photography for years, I've even had some pix published but mostly car racing stuff not anything too artsy (ie - Grassroots Motorsports, a euro VW magazine, etc).

    Current gear:
    - Canon S90 for highly portable pocket cam. Great pix and decent video for what it is.
    - Panasonic 3CCD mini video tap camera - about 6 years old, just died. Was used for video of my children (4 & 6).
    - Nikon D200 with f2.8 glass for racetrack and rare moments where I get to go hiking and be artsy.

    So - I'm thinking that a decent G3 setup could handle 80% of my needs. When I don't want to lug anything I take the S90. When I want to lug alot of weight I take the D200. The 80% in the middle I shoot family/kid pictures and video with the G3, also maybe the occasional arsty shot.

    As mentioned one main criteria is I want my wife to be able to use the setup. I was caught by one line in the dpreview that said something like "shooting video with the G3 is mostly a point and shoot affair". My wife is ok with the S90 but finds the D200 to be too heavy/big for her hands and too complex.

    What I'm cross-shopping:
    - G3 with new flat 14-42x zoom lens.
    - D5100 or D7100 that can do video with my existing f2.8 glass (worried too big/complex for wife).
    - Maybe S100 or newer pocket cam with HD video? This would be the easiest/most portable solution - but within a couple hundred of the G3 setup and obvious sensor size limitations. Also whereas the video on the S90 is just adequate to me, I don't think the S95 or S100 is really that much of an improvement?
    - GX1? I'm really leaning toward one of the newer Panasonics as the new sensor supposedly has much better jpg's and much better autofocus times. The GX1 really looks hot to me in some ways, but by the time I add the optional electronic viewfinder I think it's $200-$400 more than a G3?

    So there it is. It really sounds like m4/3 has made large jumps in quality. While I don't expect still shots to rival my D200 totally, I expect still shots to blow away my S90 and for video to also blow away the S90 or any mini-videotape based system. Does that sound about right or will I be let down?

    Thanks for taking the time to read my rambling, was at the bar and they had extra Christmas Ale that just really needed to be consumed.

    - Markus
  2. M4/3

    M4/3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 24, 2011
    Both the still and video quality of the G3 appears to be pretty good: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3: Video and Image Quality

    If I were you, I'd study the reviews of the G3 and Olympus E-PM1 at the various review sites like the one above and Digital Photography Review
    And to study video quality, go to Youtube and use "Panasonic G3 test" and "Olympus E-PM1 test" as your search words.

    A year ago I also wanted a still camera that was capable of good video and I ended up with a $900 Canon T3i. But this Canon was my first non-Olympus camera and I found it's colors looked artificial and digital as compared to the pleasing lifelike colors I was used to. I ended up discovering an inexpensive $350 Olympus E-PL1 Pen camera delivered both the appealing color I was after as well as a sharper, more detailed images despite its small size. It's 720p video was pretty good too, but I yearned for even more detail and so bought a Panasonic SD90 camcorder for $375 which does super detailed 1080/60p video. The SD90 also introduced me to the vastly superior image stabilization, zooming power and autofocus a dedicated camcorder can deliver as compared to a still camera that does video. I ultimately discovered the $599 Panasonic TM900 camcorder delivered even more stunning video detail color and audio quality so I bought one and sold the SD90.

    Thus I currently belong to the camp of owners who think it's better to own a dedicated still camera and dedicated camcorder if one's main objective is top notch still and video image quality. But if you only need "pretty good" rather than the "best possible" video quality (and have a $500-600 budget) both the Panasonic G3 and Olympus E-PM1 could work for you.
  3. elandel

    elandel Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 16, 2010
    Milan, Italy
    I think G3 is actually the best buy for money. It delivers excellenti IQ and very good video capabilities.
    I'd take this one. Buy the way look at the G3 image thread and you can see how the IQ is with this camera. I just posted a couple of shots in jpeg OOC.
  4. yourguitarhero

    yourguitarhero Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 29, 2011
    What about a GH1 or GH2? They are the video-orientated Micro 4/3rds cameras. GH2s are reduced just now.

    There is a special video lens too but it is pricey. The 14-45mm kit lens could be a good, inexpensive option though.
  5. markus

    markus Mu-43 Rookie

    Dec 28, 2011
    M4/3 -

    Thank you for posting this! Especially since it isn't really quite what I wanted to hear. I appreciate your feedback though as it does make me think about my choices, and how I'm really going to use things vs. just rationalizing....

    I guess basically for me - I'm willing to make some compromises in order to reduce my load. The vidcam just died when we were on vacation over thanksgiving with our girls up in Canada. For that trip, I had the S90 in my pocket and a sling backpack with the vidcam, D200, 17-50 and 50-150. Many times the vidcam got left in the pack (or not taken on other trips altogether) because of time/space.

    I'm hoping with the G3 would be more likely to have it with me, therefore...more likely to get video and stills. In the above scenario, I could see taking the S90 for really portable/pants pocket type situations - and using the G3 for everything else?

    - Mark
  6. Chuck Pike

    Chuck Pike Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 3, 2010
    Charlotte, NC.
    make up your mind soon.

    I just pulled the plug on the G3 this morning from B&H. They have several on site listed as discontinued so I felt I didn't want to wait any longer. I also checked out the comparison of the GX1 vs the G3 on the DPreview site, and then went with the G3. The cost with the EVF and extra battery would put the price of the GX1 around $1,000 where I was able to pick up the G3 for $621. I also owned the D200 and gave it up because of the weight, but have been using my SB800 Nikon flash on my GF1. I print a lot, and the prints from a D200 with the 17-35mm f/2.8 lens are equal to my prints from the GF1 using the 14-45mm lens. That was a happy suprise as I thought I might be giving up something. What I can't tell you is about shutter lag. I have only missed a shot once because of it, but I am not sure about auto racing, but that was with the GF1. The G3 has a newer and therefore better sensor.

    Images for books, magazines and calendars | photosbypike
  7. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Yes, the GH2 is a much better choice for video than the G3! The GH2 also has external audio through a 2.5mm stereo mic jack (all the Olympus PENs can use the optional 3.5mm stereo mic jack, which is a little more standard a size). A video camera with only built-in mics is like a photo camera with only a pop-up flash! You need that external audio capability to get professional quality footage, unless you use an expensive recording device (which would then have to be carefully synced in post production).

    I would even say the GH2 is an all-round better camera than the G3, but that's my personal opinion. ;) 

    As for specialized video lenses, Micro Four-Thirds has a short enough mount to work with all kinds of video lens formats! Then there's the Carl Zeiss CP.2 (Compact Prime) set which is available in native Micro Four-Thirds mount... The adapted options will be a lot cheaper though, and Micro Four-Thirds will take them all.
  8. elandel

    elandel Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 16, 2010
    Milan, Italy
    It's all about what you're looking for.
    For me the G3 is best for my needs.
  9. pcnyc

    pcnyc Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 15, 2010
    is your existing 2.8 stablized? optical stablization makes a difference if you are hand holding it.

    how about getting a $30 flip mino or something? super easy to use and the quality is quite good, definitely enough if you are just making home video of the kids. takes up no more space than your typical cellphone, and with that and your camera, you can take pics and video at the same time.
  10. John M Flores

    John M Flores Super Moderator

    Jan 7, 2011
    I don't have the G3, but I do have the GH2 and the GF2. The G3 falls somewhere in between the two. I use the GH2 and a variety of native and adapted lenses for more serious video shooting. I use the GF2 more playfully for unboxing videos and personal grab shots. The one button video record is great, and the resulting videos are quite nice even if they are "only" 720p.

    If the image quality and control offered by the GH2 can be described as great, the GF2 (and G3 I presume) should be very good. Less control, but do you really need to choose between 24p and 30p for a home movie? Is 720p enough to capture personal memories? I'd say yes.

    If anything, lenses and lighting will be more important that the actually body - G3 vs. GH2 vs. whatever. Get lenses like the Panny 14/2.5, 20/1.7, PanLeica 25/1.4, and the Olympus 45/1.8, and you'll be quite happy with the resulting image quality.

    The only place where a small chip video camera may have the G3 beat is AF. All of the M43 cameras I've used for video will hunt for focus from time to time, some more than others, and some lenses more than others. But when the focus is locked, the M43 cameras look great. For lots of action, a small chip video camera may be better.

    Overall, I think that the G3 should be fine for home movies and the needs that you described.
  11. atomic

    atomic Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 3, 2011
    Welcome Markus, it's good to have another grassroots motorsports fan here. To use an automotive analogy, getting one camera for video and stills is much like buying one set of tires for summer and winter. All-seasons will definitely do the job in almost any situation, but for the ultimate performance you'll want a dedicated tire for each season.
    That said, I have an Olympus E-PM1 which I'm currently using for both. It is very easy to shoot video with, and very good audio can be achieved by attaching a mic via the olympus hotshoe 1/8" stereo jack (a $60 accessory, comes with a t-mic and a cable to get it away from the camera). For stills, I'm really impressed with what this little camera can do. The only thing I am apprehensive about is what I can expect for motorsports photography, which I haven't yet had a chance to try. Comments here have suggested that AF may not be fast enough, and there's a lack of fast telephoto lenses in m4/3.
    I just got the VF-2 ($200 electronic viewfinder accessory) for xmas and the image quality is superb. It makes it easier to get good photos because I can really see the fine details while I'm composing and focusing. Plus it just feels more comfortable putting the camera up to my eye than holding it at arms length.
    For me, while an imperfect solution, the size more than makes up for the compromises in image and video quality. I don't think twice about carrying the pen around, so I get more photos and more videos. Since giving me a camera is kind of like giving a monkey a typewriter, the more I use it the better chance I'll end up with a "shakespeare" or two. Also, people find the E-PM1 much less intimidating than a dedicated video or dslr camera. If you take pictures or video in public this can make a huge difference. It allows you to blend in with the point and shooters at concerts, and out on the street.
    Good luck with your decision. I hope we can trade some motorsports tips here when the weather gets warmer.
  12. markus

    markus Mu-43 Rookie

    Dec 28, 2011
    Hey Atomic -

    Thx for the feedback. While I like your tire analogy, I'm also kind of thinking what you said above - this might be a really good compromise for me. I got my hands on a G3 and will be testing it over the weekend.

    In regard to motorsports, I have my concerns on whether the current batch of m4/3 cameras will be able to consistently get good results in that environment. Note I said consistently, I'm sure some guy or gal already is getting good results. I just know with my D200 and 50-150 f2.8 I can shoot all day at the track and keep 90%. I think with m4/3 that % would be much lower. Main reasons being - current batch of telephoto lenses all have higher f-ranges (limits light coming into camera so probably effects autofocus), no optical viewfinder (which probably slightly effects image view/focus viewpoint?), etc.

    Of course, I'm just guessing on the above - and since I'm stuck here in Ohio I won't get a chance to try until April....

    - Mark
  13. atomic

    atomic Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 3, 2011
    Mark, I think you're probably right about motorsports photography. I'm really hoping for a fast tele lens that I can afford. I got to use a friends d300s at the track a few months ago and it was amazing, but I can't justify the expense. I'm hoping the new generation AF performance in the E-PM1 is good enough to keep my happy for a while. I'm in New England, so I won't get a good opportunity to test before April either.
  14. Duke Mac

    Duke Mac Mu-43 Rookie

    Aug 10, 2011
  15. atomic

    atomic Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 3, 2011
    Sweet! Thanks Duke, that looks right up my alley!
  16. G1 User

    G1 User Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 20, 2010
    The G3 can record AVCHD in 1920x1080, that can be put on a DVD for TV viewing
    In Motion JPEG 1280x720 for Computer DVDs or Video Uploads to the Web...

    If your plan is for family recording and the like... not production (like Ned uses it for), then the G3 will fill your need nicely... if you plan to dabble in video production on a serious note.. then the GH2 is the one to get...
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