Panasonic GH3 review: Pro-level video for a fraction of the price? Yes, but that’s not the only reason we love this mirrorless camera


posted Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 6:04 PM EDT

Panasonic's flagship GH-series cameras have been widely praised for their video capabilities and have long been in demand by professional videographers and filmmakers. However, the product engineers behind the company's latest compact system camera, the Panasonic GH3, didn't focus solely on upgrading its movie mojo. They developed a brand new 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor, and added an advanced optical low-pass filter. Together, these help the GH3 deliver excellent image quality across the board. Both still photos and videos trump that of its predecessor, the acclaimed GH2. In fact, the camera's sharp and detailed images rival those of most mirrorless models on the market, and only fall short in terms of high ISO and dynamic range to the best APS-C-sensor-type CSCs.

But don't get us wrong. We know that where the Panasonic GH3 truly stands out from the competition is as a video camera. Its die-cast, magnesium alloy body is small and lightweight, but the GH3 is rugged, weather-sealed, and suited for "run and gun" video shoots out in the field. The camera also comes loaded with a deep set of advanced video tools -- typically found on professional-level cameras -- that make it not only a more-than-capable option for videographers, but also a bargain-priced one.

That said, the GH3 isn't intimidating. It's entirely approachable for enthusiast photographers, especially those serious about wanting to shoot more high quality video. The GH3's movies are astoundingly good, especially when you shoot at the highest bit rate of 72Mbps, which produces HD video with very low compression and top quality. What makes the Panasonic GH3 even more of a joy to use for all types of shooters is its fast autofocus system. It simply locks onto a subject and captures sharp still images and video faster than many DSLRs.

While the Panasonic GH3 is a mirrorless, compact system camera, it's designed to look like a DSLR. And that's both good and bad. On the upside, it's comfortable and comforting to hold, with an excellent hand grip that's perfect for long shooting sessions. Also, it boasts a ton of external controls, including five customizable function buttons. These make taking pictures on the fly easier and more instinctive, rather than having to dive into electronic menus to change settings. On the downside, the GH3 is quite a bit bigger and heavier than most other CSCs, which many photographers often choose for their portability.

Where does the camera rank among the best mirrorless models we've ever reviewed? Read our in-depth Panasonic GH3 review and find out! In addition to a full shooter's report, we also provide our lab test results, image quality comparisons against other top cameras, and a comprehensive video section that details the GH3's deep filmmaking feature set and quality.