This new, not-so-compact system camera offers the best of Panasonic’s digital imaging technology in practically every area. We get to grips with the company’s flagship Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3. Read the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 review...
Build and handling
It may be the most substantial GH-series model yet, but the Lumix DMC-GH3 is still lightweight and slots into the hand comfortably. DSLR users will immediately feel at ease with it. The textured handgrip provides a solid hold, and many key controls are placed intuitively around the camera within reach without having to adjust one’s grip. The camera is especially well balanced with larger lenses in the system, such as the 14-140mm.
At 132.9×93.4x82mm, the GH3 is closer in size to an entry-level DSLR or even more enthusiast models such as Sony’s Alpha 65 than it is to a small CSC like the company’s own Lumix DMC-GF5. However, the compactness of a system is only in part about the camera body. I am really starting to see the true benefit of the four thirds format as a compact system camera. For the time I spent testing the GH3, I had it packed in the padded section of a small rucksack along with 25mm f/1.4, 45mm f/2.8 macro, 7-14mm f/4, 12.5mm f/12 3D, 12-35mm f/2.8, 35-100mm f/2.8 and 14-140mm f/4-5.8 lenses, and the whole lot weighs less than 2.5kg. Most of these lenses would be classed as professional in an SLR system. A full-frame DSLR camera and 70-200mm f/2.8 lens weighs the same as this entire kit, while packing the equivalent kit for a pro DSLR would weigh twice as much and require a much bigger bag. So not only are there plenty of lenses from which to choose, but one can pack both light and small, too.
One of the number of firsts for a Panasonic Lumix G camera is that the magnesium-alloy body of the GH3 is weatherproof, allowing it to withstand light rain and dust, so long as it is used with a weatherproof lens. To date, the new 12-35mm and 35-100mm lenses are the only units of this type. Optical stabilisation is provided through such lenses rather than in the camera itself.
For a camera at any level, the GH3 has a lot of buttons, including dedicated buttons for ISO, white balance and exposure compensation on the top-plate and five customisable function buttons (with an extra two via the touchscreen), most of which double as another control. Each of the seven function buttons can be set to any one of 37 controls, which cover virtually every one of the GH3’s key controls. It takes a good memory to remember a large number of customised buttons, but through these controls direct adjustments can be made.
The AF mode switch is in a handy position and offers the single, continuous and manual-focus modes. There is also a drive-mode dial for the high-speed shooting, exposure bracketing, single and timer modes. With no mirror and therefore no mirror shake (slap) during exposure, the camera merely needs its timer mode when mounted on a tripod for a steady shot. The camera also has an ‘electronic shutter’ for silent shooting. This is extremely useful when trying to take photographs on the sly, be it in a church during a wedding service or when on the streets within earshot of your subject. When the electronic shutter is activated, the controls on the camera are limited; for example, the sensitivity range is available up to ISO 1600 only.
The built-in flash has a respectable GN 12m @ ISO 100 output (equivalent), and now covers an angle up to 24mm. There is a hotshoe port to which an optional external flashgun can be attached, too. Other optional extras include, for the first time, a battery grip, which further makes the GH3 suitable for power-hungry videographers. With two batteries in place, the camera has a claimed 1,200-shot battery life. Even with one battery, the shot capacity has been improved from last time round.
All in all, the handling of the GH3 left me wanting for little more.