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Some thoughts on the GH3 after renting one

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by ajm80031, Jun 3, 2013.

  1. ajm80031

    ajm80031 Mu-43 Regular

    I'm a current GH1 owner and just shipped back the GH3 I'd rented. I'd rented it off the internet as no store local to me has one, and with a price tag of $1,300 (USD) I'd want to be sure I really liked the camera before spending that kind of money. At the same time I also rented a Sony Alpha A58 (as I have a collection of Minolta and Konica-Minolta lenses gathering dust) and a Sony RX100 to see what all the fuss was about. Most of my comments here will be about the GH3, using the other cameras for comparison purposes.

    I tried taking the cameras out and shooting as I typically do. The RX100 ended up getting the most use because it's easily pocketable and I could have it with me much of the time.

    Video Quality

    The GH3 really shines here, as expected. It supports much higher bitrates than the other cameras, and the benefits are clearly evident when you play back your clips. The GH3 seemed to capture more detail, handled movement much better (the amount of "mud" when panning was very low), and I think even handled colors better. My GH1 is hopeless at 1920i when there's any movement. The RX100 actually did surprisingly well with its 24Mbit 60p setting. The A58 was a disappointment. Despite supporting a max bitrate about the same as the RX100 and being interlaced rather than progressive, panning or shooting moving objects (e.g. traffic on a busy street) resulted in a lot of jutter. So much so that I reset the video settings to make sure it really was on the maximum quality settings, and as I was unable to improve it I think I'd recommend against using this camera for video where much movement will be recorded.

    If anything, I think the GH3's video quality exceeds my needs.

    Stills quality:

    In most lighting conditions, the images from the GH3 were competitive with the RX100 and A58. It never blew highlights on me, even in very contrasty scenes, and I had better luck teasing additional detail out from the shadows using Lightroom on the RAW files than I can manage from my GH1. Color rendition was a bit different with all of the cameras I was using (even when having set white balance from a reference card), unsurprising as they all use different sensors. Interestingly in one particular lighting condition (overcast and rainy, shooting foliage and bricks) the A58 was the clear winner with a lot more apparent "depth" to the images, but in all other lighting conditions was about equal with the other cameras.

    One thing to note is that, while all three cameras have significantly higher resolution than my GH1 and and seem to provide more "headroom" in the raw files for manipulation, none of them "knocked my socks off" -- yes, they're better than my existing camera, but not so much that I *have* to upgrade right away for better stills performance.

    Handling:

    The GH3 shines here as well. I'm not thrilled with the camera being larger/chunkier
    than my GH1, but weight is close to the same and the overall layout seems to be very well thought out. With 7 programmable function buttons, I actually had trouble remembering which functions I had instantly available vs. those I had to dive into the menus on. I didn't have much chance to use the touch-screen, but suspect I'd use it a lot for spot-focusing or metering. Menus are well thought out and logical. Oh, and I never accidentally hit the video record button, something that still happens to me with my GH1 after 3+ years of ownership.

    Both Sonys had pretty decent menu systems as well, a pleasant surprise because some previous Sonys I've used buried commonly used settings under piles of novelty settings. Having good menus with the RX100 is a must because the camera is so tiny it has very few buttons. Also, I really prefer viewfinders to rear screens, and found the lack of one of the RX100 to be the potential deal-breaker with it. The A58's handling was only "okay" -- I really dislike that the left-hand side of the body is so short and contoured that it's impossible to hold onto the camera with your left hand (have to grip the lens instead) and found the placement of the menu button to be awkward.

    I really preferred the GH3's fold-out screen to the A58's "tilt up and down" only implementation.

    Viewfinder:

    It was easy to reproduce the "smearing" issue that's been reported with the GH3, just get your eye off-center. Still, once I had the diopter adjusted properly for me, it was mostly a non-issue. Video refresh rate is much, much better than my GH1. The fold-out fully articulated touchscreen is really good.

    The RX100 has no viewfinder, a big negative to me. It also has no fold-out screen. The A58's viewfinder was about as good as the GH3's without the smearing issues, but the fold-out screen only angles up-and-down, making it hard to get glare off the screen in some situations.

    Features:

    The GH3 is awash in them. I found the visual level to be especially useful, as I have an unfortunate tendency to tilt the camera a few degrees without noticing. Wifi worked although the connection method seemed a bit clunky. With the camera in my hands for only a few days, I didn't use the vast majority of the functions.

    The one place where the A58 outdoes the GH3 here is with focus peaking. When using autofocus this was no big deal as the touch screen could be used to tell the GH3 where to focus (and it was accurate enough that I was pleased with it), but when focusing manually I found it much faster and intuitive to focus using focus peaking.

    Both Sonys have built-in image stabilization, an advantage over the GH3.

    Conclusion:

    I really liked the GH3. For the price, though, it may be overkill for an amateur like me who fits photography in around a fairly demanding job and family life. A camera with somewhat lower specs, focus peaking, and a lower price might be a better fit. That could describe the upcoming G6, and as I'm not in a huge rush to get a new camera I'll probably wait until I've had a chance to check one out (B&H expects to them to arrive on June 28th, hopefully rental places will have them available shortly thereafter) before making a decision. I've saved all the stills and video clips I took with the three rented cameras to I'll be able to compare results pretty readily.

    The RX100 deserves its reputation for surprising quality out of a tiny package. The stills and video are both very good, and the image stabilization works well. If it were $300 I'd probably buy one right now as a secondary camera. $650, though, is a lot for a secondary camera that has a major drawback (no viewfinder).

    The A58 was only okay. The handling issues mentioned above mean I never really warmed to it, and the video issues with moving objects put it out of contention. It might be worth checking out the A65 or A77 as both are higher-end cameras without getting as pricey as the GH3.

    I'd also be interested in the OMD-EM5 from a stills perspective. But video appears to be an afterthought rather than a well-integrated function, so it seems to be aimed at a different customer than me. Might be worth checking out just-in-case, however.
     
  2. Kirill

    Kirill Mu-43 Regular

    78
    Feb 13, 2013
    Tallinn, Estonia
    I also (still) have the GH1. The GH3 would make sense to me if it had a multi-aspect ratio sensor like its predecessors did. That would be one killer feature justifying it being so large and expensive. No MAR sensor - no deal.
     
  3. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    836
    Feb 29, 2012
    I have all 3 GH models, and in terms of handling, the GH3 is a huge jump up. So much faster with write speeds, and that buffer size is on another planet, 24 raw capacity and with a fast UHS card, I can spool off another batch within a second or two.

    The battery is now the same size as my 7D, so it'll be interesting how far I can go with it.

    The biggest sell for me is the wifi capability, I want to do some remote shooting for wildlife, and so far, the responsiveness in testing is very encouraging.
     
  4. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 13, 2012
    Chicago-area
    David Dornblaser
    If I can ask, what lenses will you be using?
     
  5. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    836
    Feb 29, 2012
    I have the 100-300, but I'm looking for a 45-175z, as I can also remotely zoom that lense.

    I also have a number of legacy primes that I can adapt.
     
  6. rhaab

    rhaab Mu-43 Rookie

    21
    Mar 19, 2013
    I don't like the viewfinder, I'm almost always using the fold out screen for pictures. But I think I'd still be using the fold out screen more if the viewfinder was sharp. I'm still getting used to manual focus since the only lens I have is a slr magic 25mm
     
  7. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 13, 2012
    Chicago-area
    David Dornblaser
    Thanks.

    FWIW - my perspective is that I agree with folks who like more than one body. A GH3 and OMD are a great combo.