Photo Credit: Danny J Kirsic
We recently picked up the Panasonic GH3 for our copter arsenal and wanted to share a comparison between the GH3 and our faithful GH2. While this post is meant to showcase the images and features of the two, much of the following is inexact science and biased towards the necessary features and settings that help us make these cameras fly.
Our hacked GH2 was the first camera we flew on our Cinestar 8 multi-rotor, mostly filming with Nick Driftwood's Orion v4b patch. The patch is stable at 24p and handles the endless motion of the moving copter well. The GH2 packs a major punch when it comes to image quality and its size and weight allow us to keep the copter in the air for extended periods of time. See the video below, which was shot entirely with our GH2's:
Panasonic's GH3 is a larger body than its predecessor and comes filled with new features for both video and stills. Its size will continue to get us laughed at by those unfortunate few who judge cameras based on size rather than image quality. Depending on what record mode you choose, the new body offers bit rates of 72, 50, 28, 24, 20, 17, 10 and 4Mbps. For our testing, we shot 24p at 50Mbps with the GH3's new QuickTime wrapper.
To roughly match bitrates, we shot with Chris Brandin's 44M patch on the GH2. Both cameras were set to "Standard" with Contrast=0, Sharpness=0, Saturation=0 and Noise Reduction=0. White balance was matched in every shot. All footage was filmed with Panasonic's 14-42 kit lens. See the ground-based test below.
Note: This test is not exact science. While it won't answer every question about how the two cameras compare, it's an accurate representation of what a GH2 and GH3 look like side-by-side when shooting with comparable bitrates and settings. Feel free to discuss your opinion on the two camera images in the comments below.
Note: Head over to http://www.personal-view.com/ and immerse yourself in everything GH2 & GH3. It's a great community full of people striving to make these little cameras shoot the best image possible. Please take the time to donate!
How does the GH3 fly?
The GH3 flies nearly identical to the GH2. We didn't put a timer on it, but two parallel 4S batteries got us well over twelve minutes on the CS8 and we only brought the copter down because we wanted to check takes. As with every camera, mounting and balancing the GH3 on the Freefly 3-axis gimbal provided initial challenges, but the adaptability of the gimbal allowed us to place the camera to our liking. (We do recommend a right-angle HDMI adapter.)
Below is some ridiculous GH3 footage from our Cinestar 8 multi-rotor. This footage is for testing purposes only. We dialed in picture settings by shooting on "Standard" with a -4,-2,-2,-5 configuration. The images were graded in Apple Color. Enjoy!
This GH3 Test Footage showcases some of the SICKEST moves we've ever flown:
The image below is a comparison of the original .mov file and graded frame from our GH3 test shoot.
Features we like about the GH3 that the GH2 doesn't have:
1080p at 60fps: The $16,000 Canon C300 doesn't even offer this. (There are a lot of things we like about the C300 though.) Ninety-percent of the time we shoot at 24P, but now we have the capability of shooting over-cranked without having to stick a different camera on the copter.
Clean HDMI output: The GH2 takes footage shot at 720p60 and converts it to interlaced when an HDMI cable is attached. Shooting and monitoring at 60p on the GH2 without an FPV camera is impossible. The GH3 takes care of this ridiculous quirk and allows us to monitor our over-cranked footage.
The new QuickTime wrapper: We can review footage the instant it has been transferred to a computer. For those of us still killing it in FCP7, the .mov files can be dropped directly into Compressor for conversion. Also, no more hoping clients have VLC player!
Extended Battery Life: A day of shooting (from the copter) can now be accomplished with two batteries instead of five or six. But at $80 a battery, we can't wait for the Chinese knockoffs.
Faster Auto Focus: Able to focus at 240fps, the GH3 does a nice job with its faster autofocus functionality. There is still some "searching" when tracking an object. Will we use this feature in the air? Not right now. We set focus to infinity in manual mode, but as gimbals evolve and longer lenses become part of our setup, we've got a camera capable of tracking moving objects.
Features we don't like about the GH3:
The Electronic View Finder: It's horrific. The EVF casts a magenta tone over the image and is far from sharp. Focusing is tough. Fortunately, the camera's bright and vivid OLED touchscreen makes up for the EVF miscue.
Wifi: It's a very cool concept that allows realtime viewing and control of settings on iOS or Android devices. However, at the time of this posting, it's missing a ton of features that would actually make it useful. The iPad image freezes when recording begins, meaning you can't see anything the camera is recording. Also, recording can only be stopped at the camera itself, unless you set a specific time limit on a shot. You cannot review playback of video. The iPad recognizes video files are present, but will not allow review. For now, there are too many flaws that make Wifi more of a hassle than solution.
GH2 or GH3?
Both! Yes, the GH3 offers new functionality. Much of which help us meet client needs. But the GH2 has years of testing and patches under its belt, making it capable of producing an incredibly beautiful picture. We'll continue to keep both cameras in our bag...while waiting patiently for the GH3 to be hacked.