Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3: Video and Image Quality

by Jim Keenan Reads (728)
Editor's Rating
9.00

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 9
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 10
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 9.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Video Quality
Video quality out of the G3 was quite good overall – among the best I’ve seen out of a still camera with a video component. Full HD video is only available in the AVCHD format, which requires compatible equipment in order to view. The more universally recognized Motion JPEG (MPEG) format is limited to 720 HD resolution.

Audio is recorded in stereo. Maximum recording time for an AVCHD clip is 13 hours, 3 minutes and 20 seconds, subject to battery and memory media limitations. MPEG captures are limited to 2GB in size. The one button video capture is seamless, and when set for continuous AF the G3 is quite good at adjusting focus as subject distances change during capture. Audio proved to be susceptible to wind noise, but there is a wind cut feature available via internal menu.

As good as the G3 did in video production overall, it also served up a fairly distinct dose of rolling shutter effect with relatively modest pan speeds. Rolling shutter effect is a characteristic of the CMOS sensor that can produce a skewed image of vertical lines as the camera is panned across a field of view. The effect was present and noticeable in our G3 (both AVCHD and MPEG formats), but the camera still has a very capable video component.

Image Quality
Default images out of the G3 are very good with regard to color fidelity and sharpness in the IA/IA+ modes – in part, I suspect, because the camera employs features such as Intelligent Resolution in the mix of settings for auto shooting. IR basically identifies portions of the image consisting of outlines, high detail areas and soft gradation areas and optimizes edge sharpness and detail areas while smoothing the gradation areas. Here’s a couple of default auto shots at the mission:

Panasonic G3 Sample Image

Panasonic G3 Sample Image

IR is disabled as a default in the manual modes, but may be user enabled. I found shooting aperture priority with default settings a bit too soft for my taste. Here’s a shot in aperture priority at default settings, then with IR set to standard and then high levels, and finally with IR set to high plus additional contrast and sharpening:

Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Default
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
IR Standard
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
IR High
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
IR High with additional sharpness

The IR shot with the additional inputs gets my vote.

The G3 presents a “photo style” color palette consisting of standard, vivid, natural, monochrome, scenery, portrait and custom options. Here are the first four:

Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Standard
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Vivid
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Natural
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Monochrome

In addition, there’s the “creative control” shooting option that offers expressive, retro, high key, sepia and high dynamic looks:

Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Expressive
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Retro
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
High Key
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Sepia
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
High Dynamic

The G3 also features Panasonic’s intelligent dynamic range (IDR) settings to attempt to broaden the camera’s apparent dynamic range. Here’s the mission breezeway in aperture priority with no IDR enabled, then again with high levels of IDR. While IDR seems to have some effect, there’s not much to choose from between the standard and high settings.

Panasonic G3 Sample Image
IDR Off
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
IDR High

While the 14-42 isn’t going to get you too “close” to distant subjects, the 16 megapixel sensor will allow for some fairly aggressive cropping to chop out some of that distance. The original shot comes out of the G3 at 15.31 x 11.48 at 300 dpi – while the first crop measures out at 12.77 x 8.52 inches at 300 dpi. The second crop goes really aggressive and ends up at 11.09 x 7.4 at 300 dpi.

Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Original
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Crop 1
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Crop 2

Auto white balance was used for all the shots in this review and did a good job in most light, but shot warm with incandescent lighting. The G3 offers daylight, cloudy, shade, incandescent, fluorescent and flash presets, 2 custom settings and a temperature option spanning 2500 to 10000 degrees Kelvin in 100 degree increments.

Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

Panasonic’s multi metering mode did a good job overall with normally lit scenes, but did clip some highlights on occasion in high contrast scenes. A lot of the shooting was done with our typical “May gray” weather pattern here in southern California, and the overcast can make for some horrendously bright skies that play havoc with metering when they intrude into a scene. There are center-weighted and spot metering options available.

When he reviewed the G2 back in June 2010, DCR contributor Andy Stanton commented that the G2’s high ISO performance might have fallen a bit short of DSLRs at the time. Since then cropped sensor DSLRs have raised that bar, with both the Nikon D7000 and Canon 60D I’ve reviewed turning in excellent high ISO imagery. As a Four Thirds sensor camera, Panasonic starts the ISO fight almost with one hand tied behind its back – the Four Thirds sensor is larger than those found in even high end compact digitals, but smaller than the APS-C sensors residing in everyone else’s DSLRs but Olympus. All else being equal, with similar resolutions on different sized sensors, the larger sensor usually wins the noise race.

The good news for Panasonic fans is the G3 appears to deliver better high ISO noise performance than the G2, even with a resolution increase from 12 to 16 megapixels. The not-so-good news is it still seems to fall a little short of the newest generation DSLRs. I don’t think it’s as good as the D7000 or 60D, and I think the D3100 just edges it out at 3200 ISO (there’s no 6400 ISO in the D3100).

Breaking things down, I don’t see much to choose between 160, 200 and 400 ISO – all look virtually identical. Even 800 looks very similar at first blush, but a close inspection shows that fine details are beginning to suffer, even though the overall image doesn’t seem to show much increase in grain.

Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 160
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 160, 100% crop
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 200
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 400
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 800
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 6400
Panasonic G3 Sample Image
ISO 6400, 100% crop

ISO 1600 shows a slight but distinct increase in noise with more pronounced grain, although fine details seem to hold their own at this step. ISO 3200 shows a fairly dramatic drop – more grain and fine details getting almost smudged. ISO 6400 is another steep drop off, lots more grain and fine details becoming more indistinct.

Additional Sample Images

Panasonic G3 Sample Image Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Panasonic G3 Sample Image Panasonic G3 Sample Image
Panasonic G3 Sample Image Panasonic G3 Sample Image


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