Sunday, September 16, 2012

More Panasonic GH3 Details Leak

A few more deets on the GH3 have dropped and they reveal some things of interest. Most importantly, of course, is the price. It's higher than I would have hoped, but considering the numerous body enhancements, it's not unreasonable. Body-only is $1,299, a not-insignificant $400 more than the GH2 at launch.

Well, what do we get for that extra $400? We get a new sensor, but that's never worth an increase in price. The market is much more competitive than it was when the GH2 released, meaning that for the GH3's value equation to remain the same, it needs to actually be cheaper.

But back to the sensor; it appears to be another multi-aspect sensor as with the GH2, with 17.2Mp resulting in 16.05Mp images. I'm hoping that the sensor at least matches the new Olympus E-M5. It was the first sensor to make m4/3 a legitimate competitor to APS-C and if the GH2 doesn't do the same, it kills itself as a photographic tool. It may still be very useful as a video tool, but it will be camera non grata for those wanting to freeze moments. Regardless of what PR reps and arrogant, online photographers trying to justify their love of Leica say, the sensor matters a lot. If it's not up to snuff, the camera is crap, no matter how good other elements may be.

From the photos, it's obvious that the tactile interface of the camera has received a major overhaul. At the risk of sounding overly effusive, the camera looks fantastic. Everything about it exudes an aura of pro. I'm especially excited about the mechanical scroll wheel on the back of the camera. I'm glad that this feature appears to be picking up steam in the camera world.

The body is beefy as hell; much better than the plastic body of the GH2. This is a significant and welcomed upgrade. It's unfortunate that the camera isn't be called weather sealed. They say it is "dust and splash resistant," whatever the hell that means. Again, comparing it to the E-M5, it had better be the same level of sealing.

Contained within that body is the single most exciting element of the camera: a cooling system. Frequently, that's the biggest reason the frames for holding video hardware are so large; they must accommodate the heat sinks and sometimes even liquid cooling required of high-output digital sensors. I've seen people dismantle cameras to attach heat plates to draw away heat and allow for extended shoots.

The camera is going to have extensive tethering support for everything from laptops to cell phones. Could this camera get any better? Oh? It can? How? A 71-freaking-megabit codec, that's how! We'll have to wait and see how this plays out, but the few tid-bits available from those who have handled the camera are already lavishing it with praise. This is from a pure video perspective, mind you, and it's the photographic elements that are of slightly greater interest to me.

Here, there are a couple of disappointing elements to the design. First, the max shutter speed of 1/4000 is annoying, as is the flash sync of only 1/160th. Again, the smaller sensor allows everything associated with the sensor to be cheaper/easier to make. The sensor only drops down to ISO 200, an infuriating practice that seems to be growing more common. I suspect companies are doing this because it allows them to "trick" the sensor into doing something it otherwise wouldn't be able to do. I'm not sure how, but Olympus' wild mis-calibration of the E-M5, with ISO 200 being more like ISO 130, makes me confident that this is on purpose.

All things considered, the GH3 is shaping up to be a fantastic camera. It all hinges on that sensor. If it can match the E-M5's chip, the GH3 will be the m4/3 camera to buy, and will immediately become the video tool of choice for anything below the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. I think I know what I'm asking for from Santa.

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