Shop for Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 (Body Only)

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There are a boatload of new capabilities in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 that are bound to please a lot of video shooters, the GH series' core fan base. The GH2 was an expensive consumer camera with some really nice video features; the GH3 is an updated version designed to meet the needs of the indie and pro videographers who somewhat unexpectedly gravitated to the GH2.

It's practically an entirely new camera: new body, new sensor, new autofocus system, new OLED LCD and EVF, new video codec, useful new still and video features, and Wi-Fi connectivity. The body's now dust-and-splash sealed over a magnesium alloy chassis, with a more streamlined control layout. According to Panasonic, the sensor plus the new version of the image-processing engine have an optimized low-pass filter for reduced moiré, an expanded dynamic range with the company's most recent noise-reduction algorithms, and improvements in white balance for more accurate color.

Most notable for videographers, Panasonic took the surprising step of adding a full-fledged high-bit H.264 codec to circumvent the bit rate and frame rate limitations of AVCHD, which was really designed as a playback- rather than capture-optimized format. Now the camera supports up to an 80Mbps bit rate, 1080/60p and 24p, as well as an All-I codec (that's all interframes, with no temporal compression). Other really useful video additions include timecode (both record run and free run, drop frame and NDF), a headphone jack, focus peaking, audio levels control, and clean and uncompressed HDMI out. Panasonic has expanded the slow/fast recording options with 40 and 50 percent framerates.

For still photographers, there are now intervalometer and multiple exposure options, plus an electronic shutter mode for silent shooting.

Here are its competitors (as far as I can tell, given that Panasonic has not determined the price yet):

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 Sony Alpha SLT-A99V Sony Alpha NEX-7
Sensor (effective resolution) 16.1MP Live MOS 16.1MP Live MOS
16.1MP Live MOS
24.3MP Exmor CMOS
24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS
12 bit
17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 35.8mm x 23.9mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 2.0x 2.0x 2.0x 1.0x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 160 - ISO 12800 ISO 180 (expanded)/200 - ISO 3200/12800 (expanded) ISO 50 (expanded) / ISO 100 - ISO 51200 / ISO 102400 (expanded, via multishot NR) ISO 100 - ISO 16000
Continuous shooting 9fps
17 JPEG/11 raw
Unlimited JPEG/7 raw
29 raw+JPEG
13 raw/14 JPEG

6 raw/unlimited JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder EVF
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
1.5 million dots
100% coverage
1.7 million dots
100% coverage
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
Autofocus 35-area contrast AF 23-area
contrast AF
n/a dual phase-detection system
11 cross type;
102pt focal plane
25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a 0 - 18 EV n/a -1 - 18 EV 0 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 60-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes; 1/250 sec. x-sync (flash-dependent) 60-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 2 minutes; 1/160 sec. x-sync 60-1/4,000 sec.; bulb 1/8,000 to 30 secs.; bulb; 1/250 sec. x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec. x-sync
Metering 324 area 144 zone n/a 1,200 zones 1,200 zones
Metering range 0 - 20 EV 0 - 18 EV n/a -2 - 17 EV 0 - 20 EV
Flash Included add-on Yes Yes No Yes
Image stabilization Sensor shift Optical Optical Sensor shift Optical
Video 1080/60i QuickTime MOV @ 20, 17Mbps AVCHD 1080/60i/50i @ 17, 13Mbps; 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps; 720/60p/50p @ 17, 13Mbps H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p/50p @ 50Mbps; 1080/30p/25p/24p @ 80, 50Mbps
1080/60p/50p @ 28Mbps; 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps
AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/30p @ 12Mbps AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/30p @ 12Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Stereo, mic jack Stereo; mic input; headphone jack Stereo; mic input; headphone jack Stereo; mic input
LCD size 3-inch tilting touch-screen OLED
614,000 dots
3 inches articulated touch screen
460,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch-screen OLED
610,000 dots
3 inches articulated
921,600 dots
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
Wireless connection None None Wi-Fi None None
Battery life (CIPA rating) 360 shots 340 shots 500 shots (est) 410 shots 350 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 4.9 x 3.5 x 3 n/a 5.9 x 4.5 x 3.1 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.7
Body operating weight (ounces) 15.1 15.7 n/a 25.9 (est) 12.4
Mfr. price $999.99 (body only) $699 (est) tbd $2,799.99 (body only) $1,199.99 (body only)
$1,299.99 (with 12-50mm lens) $999.95 (with 14-42mm lens) tbd n/a $1,349.00 (with 18-55mm lens)
$1,099.99 (with 14-42mm lens) n/a tbd n/a n/a
Ship date April 2012 December 2012 tbd October 2012 November 2011

Panasonic instead compares it with dSLRs, but I think that's a bit misleading; if you want an optical viewfinder, you're not going to consider the GH3 at all. But that aside, its features fare pretty well compared with all but the full-frame cameras -- because if you want full-frame, Micro Four Thirds isn't even a blip on your radar.

Unless Panasonic managed to make the image quality or performance worse, current users of the GH2 with an investment in compatible lenses are likely going to consider this a must-have upgrade -- unless it's prohibitively priced. Unfortunately, it's impossible to make any initial judgements without having that all-important data point. To me, $1,800 to $2,000 would probably be a fair price for the body. I'm really looking forward to trying the GH3 out.