Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3: The Hacker's HD Video Camera Gets Its Bits Juiced

A whole community of filmmakers -- amateur and pros alike -- turned the Panasonic GH2 into a surprisingly successful camera. It turned out that a simple hack could allow the camera to record ultra-sharp 167Mbps, 1080p HD video. The results were spectacular. With the new GH3, Panasonic has beefed up its stock camera to look more like the powerful hack.

Let's start first with the GH3's photo powers: the camera has a new 16-megapixel micro four thirds sensor that can now take photos all the way up to a standard ISO of 12,800. In the past, people had complained that high ISO picture quality on the GH3 was too noisy, and Panny says it has fixed this. The GH3 also has a new contrast AF system that is supposed to be one of the fastest out there. As with any claims -- especially about the speed of autofocus -- we'll believe it when we see it.

But what's really impressive is the camera's video quality specs. Panasonic took a tip from hackers and now the GH3 can record HD video at a bit rate of up to 72Mbps -- that's not as high as what the hacked firmware can do, but it should still capture a lot of detail for a camera at this price point. Unlike many other cameras, the GH3 can record video at 1920x1080 at up to 60fps. Unfortunately, it won't be able to sustain that at the full 72Mbps; when you shoot at higher frame rates, your bit-rate will be limited to 50Mbps.

The camera's hardware has been upgraded as well. As with many other new cameras these days, the GH3 comes with built-in Wi-Fi that allows you to move your photos and videos wirelessly from the camera to another device. Panasonic also beefed up the GH3 so that it's now splashproof and dustproof. The tiltable touchscreen makes adjusting controls a breeze. There's also an electronic OLED viewfinder that will be attractive to photogs who can't stand shooting on a 3-inch LED alone.

What has us excited about the GH3 isn't one single feature -- it's that the camera seems to embrace just about every technology out there, from its touchscreen and Wi-Fi to its high-quality video specs. It weighs about 550 grams without a lens, so considering how much camera you're getting, the DSLR-mimicking design is surprisingly efficient. There's no word on what this beast of a camera will cost when it's available, but we're hearing numbers in the ballpark of $US2000 -- nearly twice what the GH2 cost. That's a huge bummer, but if this camera is as powerful as it looks, it might just be worth the money.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3

Price: TBC • Sensor: 16MP, micro four thirds (17.3mm x 13mm) • Max ISO: 12,800 (standard) / 25,600 (expanded) • Video: 1920x1080 60/50/30/24 • Max drive: 6fps at full resolution • Screen: 614,000 3-inch touch LCD • Storage: SD card slot • Weight: 550g

[Panasonic]