Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Bonanza Of Details About The Panasonic GH3

The GH3 stands a chance at being the video/photo hybrid camera to own. I have high hopes for inevitable tests of the sensor and its video capabilities. Still, there are some points that are available now that are cause for concern.

The Sensor

Thanks to a recent interview over at Imaging Resource, we have a large number of great data points. First, and I think most importantly, we now know that physically, the GH3 does not have a multi-aspect sensor. The designers wanted to make a large number of improvements to the sensor, and the resources required to do this essentially negated the larger sensor. They seemed to indicate that they still wanted the multi-aspect sensor, so we may yet see it again in the GH4. I, for one, don't really care about this feature. It's not an issue with larger lenses attached with adapters, but native m4/3 lenses vignette more severely on the 1.86x sensor. For photography, not much of an issue. For video, though, it can be annoying.

In that same question, they also dropped that the sensor is going to be an in-house Panasonic design. There had been a lot of questions about whether the sensor was going to be a Sony, as is found in the Olympus E-M5, but the engineers said that they were limited by the sensors available from the "sensor group." It is always possible that the sensor group was working with extant Sony sensors, which would help to explain the lack of the 1.86x sensor, but I think that this confirms that the sensor is a genuine Panasonic creation.

The engineers provide an excellent data point that provides some insight into the sensor's dynamic range. They say that it is an "extended dynamic range," and if the numbers they provided are even slightly accurate, that's going to be very true, and a huge upgrade to the GH2. The engineers say that the theoretical limit for the pixel saturation should be 45,000. The actual number will be lower, but even if it is half the limit, it will be good. We can use SensorGen for actual data, and the E-M5 has an actual limit of 25,000. The comparatively pathetic GH2 has only 11,000. What's going to be most important is an increase in the quantum efficiency, in which Panasonic is weak since the GH1, which was both objectively and subjectively the best sensor that Panny has made.

Unfortunately, they also revealed some distinctly non-marketing speak details when they said that the "sensor isn't specially designed, so it just scans normally." They talked about this in reference to the read rate being 1/10th of a second, which does mean that the sensor takes 1/10th of a second from the first pixel to the last pixel being read. Apparently, with standard sensors, the read rate is based on the pixel count, and that means that the GH3's rolling shutter is going to be no better than the GH2. Disappointing, to say the least.


One place where the GH3 is not at all disappointing is in the feature department. The GH3 is so loaded with features as to be a little overwhelming. Thankfully, unlike many other companies, Panasonic's features are real features. You know. The kind that customers actually want and don't think that they want they read the sign when in the store.

The biggest one is the extensive connectivity features. Bluetooth and WiFi provide all manner of connections, including full video controls via a tablet or smartphone.

The biggest detail though is that usage of WiFi allows the potential for any and all kinds of connections, including XLR connections. The engineers in the aforementioned interview said that this isn't currently on the slate, but if it's possible, you can rest assured other companies and hackers will make it happen.

For me, the most important feature was always focus peaking. I was excited to hear that this would be coming to the GH3, but now, we hear otherwise. The GH3 will not have focus peaking, and that is a massive disappointment. The engineers were incredibly evasive on the question of this and zebra-striping to indicate overexposure.

They said that they have limited resources and must focus on many products. If this is indeed true, then Panasonic is still just as stupid as we've become accustomed to. The GH3 is the only Panasonic product about which anyone gives a rat's ass. It is the very definition of a halo product, and being affordable makes it the ideal halo product. That Panasonic isn't putting everything that they can behind it would be a display of magnificent stupidity.

Which is what makes me think that this reason is a lie. I suspect that Panasonic is holding off on things in an attempt to figure out how to squeeze more money from the situation. Their stupid pricing of their zoom lenses  illustrates this executive drive in action.

This is not the time for Panasonic to half-ass it. They need to go all-out. And if they don't, Sony will eventually pass them.

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