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Hands On with the Impressive Panasonic Lumix-GH3
by Dragan Petric -  9/21/2012

[click to view image]This much awaited device presented at Photokina 2012 is the mirrorless Lumix DMC-GH3 - the third incarnation of the first ever Micro-Four Thirds camera. Like its predecessors, the DMC-GH3 uses the Micro-Four Thirds sensor. However, while all other manufacturers readied physically smaller successors for this fair, this Panasonic model is actually bigger and heavier than its predecessors and feels like a real DSLR when held (and looks like it too).

Despite a lush event stand, the Lumix DMC-GH3 is the only significant novelty Panasonic has prepared for Photokina, leaving visitors disappointed with this Japanese manufacturer. Mirrorless cameras were envisioned to offer the quality of DSLR cameras in a format which is significantly more compact than what the average DSLR manages, something that is not the case with this camera (an additional external battery grip was connected to the only exhibition unit, as seen on the image, however, it did not hide the fact that the camera is oversized).

There are two reasons why this camera is so big, as Panasonic heads told us. First, Panasonic is proud of the fact that GH1 and GH2 earned a reputation as some of the best video cameras you can buy without spending several thousand dollars - and a larger size lets the company continue and add to this heritage. Secondly, the new model has more practical and bigger dials, a bigger back screen, as well as more dedicated buttons (white balance, ISO and exposure compensation).

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In practice, however, it seems that the biggest advantage of greater dimensions is a more natural grip which then results in more stable camera usage, resulting in steadier and sharper images - but there will be no doubt be purchasers who find Panasonic's explanation (according to which equipment compatibility and better controls are at question) good enough.

The Micro-Four Thirds sensor at the heart of the GH3 is a 16-megapixel, Live MOS chip and, with a Venus 7 FHD processor, it results in a substantially faster experience over previous models. It's now possible to use continuous shooting at 6 images per second, with auto-focus response times hitting 0.07 seconds. Of course, the camera also shoots Full HD video with Live View on a 3-inch OLED back screen, which can flip out 180 degrees (great for self-portraits). Also, videos can be stored as MOV (h.264), MP4 and AVCHD format. 

These are very impressive specifications which are, like the dimensions, reminiscent of professional cameras. It seems that the Micro-Four Thirds sensor size was selected to maintain a cost savings over DSLRs. Thus, the initial disappointment of Photokina visitors with this device might thaw once they see its options, especially if they are thinking about purchasing a new device with the intention of using it for recording videos. In this case, Lumix DMC-GH3 is an interesting alternative to DSLRs.

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Of course, I should mention how Panasonic has updated its new flagship for the era of connected cameras: this model comes with Wi-Fi support. As a photograph is taken or video clip is recorded, the user can transfer the content to a smartphone or tablet powered by Android OS or iOS with a free Panasonic app.


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