The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 is a small 4:3 camera, weighing in at 544g when fitted with its “default” lens, the Lumix G Vario 14/42mm f3.5-5.6 Aspherical. The 4:3 sensor gives the equivalent focal length for full frame 35mm exactly double. This particular 4:3 sensor is 16 MPix.
The GH3 has all that you would expect from a camera aimed at the serious enthusiast, plus a few unusual extras like 3D capture if you buy the interchangeable H-FT012E 12mm 3D lens. Images can be recorded as jpeg or RAW, Single capture or bursts of up to 20 frames per second (depending on the resolution set). There is no Image stabilization built into the camera but many of the lenses, including the 14/42 are equipped with IS. The monitor screen is not massively high resolution at 614K but it is fully articulated and touch sensitive, allowing for features like touch AF which lets you to choose the focus point on the screen by simply touching it.
The styling is like a small SLR camera, but the view through the viewfinder is of a 1.4Mpix equivalent monitor, so like other hybrid cameras, there is no mirror to be flipped out of the way between viewing and capture. The video capture is full HD: 1080p and with the wide range of lenses available this makes for quite a versatile camera. The lenses are Micro 4:3 mount, so there are Panasonic’s own lenses and offerings from a host of other makers across a wide range of budgets.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 is a good performer: scoring 71 overall in the DxO Mark testing it is joint second of all 4:3 cameras that have been measured. The top scorer and the camera that matched it are both Olympus, the Pen E-PM2 at the top and the 2.
Being very good should be expected, the Panasonic is the most expensive Hybrid 4:3 and among the most expensive of all 4:3 cameras, but if you group the 4 highest priced, 3 from Olympus and the Lumix the scoring now favors the Panasonic.
Finding the right comparisons to make
There are a number of comparisons that would seem to be appropriate for the Panasonic Lumix DMC GH3. Some demonstrate how good the camera is and others are not be quite so favorable.
One particularly interesting aspect of establishing an appropriate comparison is the absence of either Canon or Nikon. Neither the Canon EOS M nor any of the Nikon 1 range score as high and while cheaper than the Lumix there are better alternatives. In the Hybrid sector Sony stands out. The top Hybrid: Sony’s NEX-7 has a DxO Mark score 10 points ahead at 81. Three other Sony models also beat the Lumix, the NEX-6, NEX-5N and NEX-C3. The NEX-7 is much more expensive and has a 24MPix sensor but the NEX-6 has specs similar to the Lumix, though with a physically larger sensor and it beats the Lumix in all measures: 78 overall, a full bit of color depth, 2/3 EV in dynamic range and about 1/3 EV in low light.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 vs. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2
Taken as a part of the Panasonic range the Lumix DMC-GH3 is the newest and highest priced. It is much better than the previous model: the Lumix DMC GH2 which had a DxO Mark Score of 60. The GH2 was quite a disappointment, it scored lower than the 12Mpix, Lumix DMC GH1 which had an overall DxO Mark score of 64 and was launched back in early 2009. The GH2 remains the second best of Panasonic’s Hybrid cameras.
Panasonic Lumix DMC GH3 vs. Hybrid Cameras
As a member of the broad range of hybrid cameras that includes APS-C cameras and ones with sensors smaller than 4:3 the Panasonic is joint 7th. The group is dominated by Sony NEX cameras: 6 of the top 10 coming from Sony, but what stands out is that while the Lumix is the second most expensive hybrid camera, it is eclipsed by the Pentax K 01 which is only 2/3rds the price and has a DxO Mark score of 79.
Panasonic Lumix DMC GH3 vs. similar priced cameras
An Alternative way of looking at this would be to ask what you could get with the same budget? Cameras with an indicative price between $1000 and $1500 include some very good kit, top of the rankings here being the Pentax K-5 IIs which has a DxO Mark score of 82 and sells for nearly 10% less.
Panasonic Lumix DMC GH3 vs. Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs. Olympus Pen E-PM2
The brand that scores equal to, or higher than the Lumix, but has the same lens mount – Micro 4:3 – is Olympus with the PEN E-PM2 at DxO Mark score of 72 and the OM-D E-M5 which scores 71. They have virtually the same color depth, fractionally lower Dynamic Range and fractionally higher low light performance. If you read through the other specifications they match one another almost point for point except that the Olympus PEN E-PM2 has no viewfinder and the screen is fixed, without tilt, though the OM-D E-M5 does. Both the Olympus cameras are cheaper, the PEN E-PM2 is nearly half the price, so the viewfinder may be a sacrifice worth making for a photographer looking for a really compact system camera. It is worth noting however that the measurements for both the Olympus cameras did show significant variance between the measured ISO and the Olympus’s stated ISO, around a full EV, since it appears to be consistent it is something that you could easily work around but it is there nevertheless.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC GH3 is a very good camera, among the best tested by DxO Mark in this format. It is small and light and will make an excellent camera to travel with and fulfils all of the requirements that a serious enthusiast is likely to have. However, it is pricey for a hybrid and it has competition from several directions. The Olympus is even smaller and lighter and scores slightly higher but it does lack a viewfinder. For a similar price you could be buying either the Pentax K 01 or the K-5 IIs, both of which have scores consistently higher than the Lumix but obviously with the overhead of a bulkier and heavier piece of equipment to carry. You could also be looking at the Sony NEX-6 which is the closest technically, scores better and is cheaper. There is no escaping from the conclusion that the Panasonic Lumix DCM GH3 is going to be the ideal camera for some people, but for others the better choice would be some more detailed research.