Monday, September 17, 2012

Panasonic GH3 And Lenses Announced

Lookin' good.
We now have all possible information on the new GH3, and it is everything we thought it would be.

I'm still upset by the 1/160th flash-sync and the max 1/4000th shutter speed, but I'll move on. Afterall, this is a hybrid camera, and by that they mean that video features are really the focus. And as I mentioned in my earlier post, this camera doesn't get any better for video. Well, I mean it could get better, but not by much.

It still includes a pop-up flash, because camera companies think we're all masochists. But other than that, the ergonomics are a massive upgrade. It puts it in the same size range as small SLR cameras, but that's like comparing and armor-clad Ford Focus to a minivan. Yeah, they're similar in size. My only real significant disappointment in the design is the lack of a second SD-Card slot.

The 71.something megabit video codec is exciting for two reasons. First, out of the box, this camera will be capable of broadcast-quality work. Second, the camera will of course be hacked not long after release, meaning that sky-high bit rates are not far off. And considering that the stock GH2 was able to handle some pretty crazy bit rates in stock form, I shudder to think what the GH3 will be able to do.

Sadly, we will have to wait to see what the sensor is capable of in photography. We're not completely without information, though. First, we know that the sensor is not a multi-aspect sensor. I suspect that this was because of the significant vignetting caused by using m4/3 lenses with anamorphic adapters on the GH2's 1.86x crop sensor. By switching to a standard 4/3 sensor size, anamorphic work will be much easier.

Second, with the official announcement now behind us, Phillip Blooms Genesis promo video has been made available for download, so we can see the full bit-rate version. The version embedded is the Vimeo stream, which is running at something like 8Mb. Head over. Download. Enjoy.

Panasonic GH3 launch film: Genesis from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

So what can we glean from the video? One, the video is noticeably superior to any other SLR-styled camera that I've seen. The 5D Mark III is the only other camera that support bit-rates as high as the GH3, and it's video quality lags the GH3 by a wide margin. There's good gradation in the shadows and sky, but not mind-blowing. Dynamic range does indeed appear to be much improved over the GH2, which gives me hope for the photographic tests and the inevitable comparison to the E-M5. Detail is fantastic. Unfortunately, the codec is blocking out some of what will be apparent in final photographs. So in the end, the video tells us more about the codec than about the camera. What it says, though, is promising.

In addition to the camera, Panasonic also dropped two new lenses, and both of them are absolutely drool-inducing. A 42.5mm f/1.2 prime, and a 150mm f/2.8(!) prime. These are both exciting and infuriating. They won't hit the market for eighteen months, and even then, if Panasonic's past is any indication, they won't be readily available because Panny will manufacture five of them. It also pisses me off because this stupid-early announcement is meant to do one thing: beg people to not drop Panasonic in favor of Sony.

Panny knows full well that Sony has kicked them in the proverbial balls over the course of the past year. One would also hope that Panasonic is aware that they borked the hell out of the significant lead they had in the mirrorless market. Sony has dominated the market, the conversation, and the innovation for twelve, solid months. Simply promising lenses nearly two years into the future is fucking pathetic. If the GH3 hadn't been a home run, I would have jumped over to Sony just to spite Panasonic. At least it's not as bad as what Canon released.

The one lens that Panasonic actually announced is the 35-100mm. It's price is even higher than the 12-35mm, at an eyebrow-raising $1,500. I was disappointed with the performance of the 12-35mm, and thought that it's actual price shouldn't have been over $1,000. At $1,500, this lens better be one hell of a performer. These prices also don't bode well for the eventual prices on the 150mm and the 42.5mm. Panasonic is getting greedy, with no reason whatsoever to do so. Still, they are at least not as bad as Sigma with the SD1.

Getting back to the GH3, was it worth the wait? I'd say yes. Assuming that the sensor is solid, it is the best m4/3 camera on the market. In most features, the E-M5 is much less compelling. That said, the E-M5 is much smaller. I see the E-M5 as the true successor to my beloved GF1 and the GH3 is the successor to... the GH1. If I was to choose one, I'd pick the GH3 any day of the week. It's larger and heavier, but it's a tool and was designed as such. The E-M5 was designed with size and style considerations. There's nothing wrong with that, but since I can't afford both cameras, I'm buying the GH3.

Obviously, I'm going to wait for the sensor tests, but if early impressions are correct, I think congratulations are in order to m4/3. I'm staying put.


  1. Really enjoyed reading it and yes I am also counting on GH3! I am also considering E-PL5 as pocketable companion to it!

    1. You should take a look at the GX1. It's larger, but it's available now for cheap and the sensor is decent. The controls are fantastic, too.

      I haven't used a Pen in a couple of years, but I've heard nothing but complaints about the control scheme for the Pen L and M lines.

      Again, it's annoying because Olympus doesn't know to whom they are selling their cameras. No control dial? What are they thinking?!


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