Genesis – is this the Reverie moment for the GH3?

Could this be the moment Panasonic finally get the wider acceptance they deserve for the GH line?

Here’s the first promotional short movie shot on the Panasonic GH3 by Philip Bloom.

As you can see it looks splendid. Some lovely shots in there and great choice of optics. Love the train station set and the tracking shot in the desert cafe. Some nice dynamic range going on there. It is hard to see any flaws image quality wise and dynamic range looks and codec looks much improved over the GH2. There’s a big difference to the camera encoding chip being designed for ALL-I and it being hacked in by changing the firmware.

But this clip for now is only a 7Mbit streaming 720p file so again we need to wait to really see what it can do.

Low light performance looks very good, though the Voigtlander Nokton 25mm F0.95 and SLR Magic 12mm F1.6 certainly help with that. Although I have the Olympus 12mm F2 I do find myself constantly drawn back to the less clinical SLR Magic lens, it really does have a lot of character and it’s very cinematic. I will do a comparison between the more clinical and technically perfect Olympus and the SLR Magic soon. (SLR Magic by the way are releasing a ton of very exciting fast primes at Photokina which I will have a hands-on with next week).

The train shot – actually shows rolling shutter is reduced I think. That train was moving through the entire frame extremely quickly and the camera was dead-on straight to the platform so you got the slanted vertical lines. But had that been shot on the GH2, my experience tells me it would have been a lot more slanted!

No shoot is perfect and no promo video is ever 100% perfect – here’s a dust blob on the sky in one shot, there’s the slanted train and in a different promo shot from the leaked YouTube video there’s some flickering lights (mismatched shutter speed or shooting 24p in a PAL country). But each image was actually rather lovely nevertheless and small mistakes do happen. Would I have left those shots out if I was editing? Probably. But I’m fussy!

As you can see the short movie doesn’t lack for shallow depth of field. I’ve never found mimicking full frame much of a problem on a 2x crop sensor. Though the sensor was actually 1.86x on the GH1 (Super 35mm is 1.5x) – the GH3 looks more like a standard aspect ratio chip to me so back to 2x again. In terms of the lenses, the way to mimic full frame is to open up to a fast aperture on a 12mm or 25mm and bring your camera slightly closer to the subject. With the wider focal lengths it is difficult to isolate your subject if they’re further away. For those times I use a Zeiss 85mm F1.4 which acts like a very fast telephoto.

Lenses wise the only thing the GH3 is missing at the moment is a decent Canon EF adapter. The Birger (ARGHH!) never seemed to materialise, bafflingly. The others I just found rather clunky and compromised. We want aperture control on the body for the next one, as well as IS support please!

Above, the classic promo which helped popularise DSLR video and turn heads towards Canon – Reverie on the 5D Mark II

It seems Panasonic are going for the semi-pro / pro type of customer here, like Canon do with the 5D Mark III. This should fight the perception that some people have of Micro Four Thirds cameras being toy like. When you pick up a big heavy 5D Mark III with 135mm F2.0L and that loud mirror clap goes off, and you’re looking through the optical viewfinder, it does feel more serious than the tiny OM-D E-M5. But what does it have to do with filmmaking and the end result? Those aspects are what count and it seems the GH3 will deliver – a huge step up.

It will be interesting to see what spec the other codecs are in the GH3, and the HDMI output. There’s a 50Mbit mode. Quicktime Mov format like the 5D, and MP4. No MJPEG mode any more? Well MP4 somewhat supersedes that. What about Ex-Tele crop mode though? That was a superb feature on the GH2 despite a few image quality quirks in that mode sometimes. I can’t see a mention of Ex-Tele on the spec sheet so it will be interesting to see what happens on Monday.

The other question is over the film modes. Last time we had a rather disappointing Cinema Gamma. Nostalgia and Smooth gave better results to my eye. There was no flat picture profile and dialling down the contrast and sharpness didn’t make as much difference as it did on other cameras. Maybe we will have a new cinema mode.

The GH3 may be notable for being the first camera under $10,000 for doing high bitrate ALL-I in 1080/60p. Yes 60p not just 48p, 30p or 24p. The specs aren’t yet 100% confirmed in detail yet though so I will have to wait and see if 1080/60p is AVCHD 2.0 spec on the GH3 or if it is also part of the custom ALL-I 72Mbit mode. The FS100 only does 1080/60p in 28Mbit and it does look far too compressed for my liking. Using a external HDMI recorder like the Blackmagic Hyperdeck Shuttle is only a solution for 24/25p because it doesn’t support 1080/60p. So if you want that in-camera the GH3 has an advantage there over cameras like the C300, C100 and FS100.