Panasonic GH3 - Review and User Experience - Part 2 - Body Layout

For my full Panasonic GH3 Review and User Experience - CLICK HERE

I never normally take much time looking over the body layout of cameras, but in the case of the GH3 I think its important to show just what this has available for the manual changing of settings. Rather than keep the body mininalist and have these settings available via menus only, Panasonic have chosen to put a lot of these on the body itself.  Something I personally applaud. 

Firstly the front on view shows the styling and the substantial grip section, which extends when the battery grip is added. Note the flash synchro socket in the top right hand corner. I personally love the look of the camera. Its not that miniature DSLR / bridge camera look of the GH1/2 and I think the GH3 looks more stylish and yes I have to say it, more "professional". Below are some comparisons with the G5, shot without the battery grip. As you can see it is Panasonics biggest m4/3 body. It strikes me its around the same size as Panasonics 4/3 camera the L10.

You can see from the back view that both the top plate and rear of the camera have more controls than the G5. So lets have a look at whats available.

As you can see there are White Balance, ISO and +/- compensation buttons on the top plate plus the first function button which defaults to wi-fi. There are two thumbwheels and you can see the built in stereo microphone either side of the hotshoe. The mode selecter dial on the right is slightly bigger than the one on the G5. No "scene modes" here, though the idiot button ("intelligent" auto) is still with us, interestingly no longer red and prominent. Hopefully when we get to the GH4 it will have disappeared altogether. On the left you will see an interesting addition. A drive selection button. I have one on my Nikons, but this is very welcome on a m4/3 camera.

 Here is the back of the camera.

As you can see lots of options here. Another 4 function buttons, plus an AF/AE lock button (in just the right place incidentally) which has an AFS etc. selection switch. The red video on/off button is also here together with playback and display option buttons. I haven't been able to try all these in real world use yet, but my initial impression is that they are pretty well laid out. Personally I would have liked the buttons to all be slightly larger, but its certainly nice to see so many possibilities to change settings manually and of course it is very DSLR like.

There is also some duplication of buttons on the battery grip, for when the camera is held in portrait orientation. Including a nicely positioned AF/AE lock again and a function button and thumbwheel. As you can see this is real luxury, "pro" camera stuff and of course all VERY useful. 

You can also see the SD card slot. At the moment this is the only thing that doesn't work well for me. Its very easy to open. Not a bad thing you might say, but I've found that just moving my hand around on the grip flips it up, which is not what I want. It also feels a bit flimsy. Plus would it have been a problem to allow space for two cards? One for stills and one for video would have been nice. 

Finally an image showing the battery grip fitting. This is very similar to how the Olympus OM-D grip fits to the camera. I'm no great fan of the one battery in the camera, one in the grip system and personally prefer the cameras battery compartment being disengaged when a grip is attached and both batteries then being in the grip only. This means that you can leave the grip mounted and not have to remove it to charge the internal battery. However Nikon do this as well so its not unusual.

So pretty much DSLR type functionality here, and its obvious that Panasonic are going for a completely different market here. This isn't a camera for happy teens out on the town wanting to upload their drunken escapades to facebook, this is a camera aimed straight at DSLR owners wanting something smaller and lighter and for CSC users who want more versatility and more customisation.

I must repeat again that in the pictures this might look like a bit of a brute, but contrary to my initial representation of the camera as some kind of CaNikonesque "big boy" wannabee, its actually something different. It does feel very light to me. Its 550g including battery, which is obviously more than other Panasonic m4/3 cameras, but then the Pentax K-5, often regarded as a small DSLR is 200g heavier. It is almost exactly the same weight as a Nikon D5200, but thats before you take Nikon lenses into account and also when you start to think about what the Nikon doesn't have compared to the Panasonic.

Panasonic are obviously going for the Enthusiast / Semi-Pro and Pro markets here. And yes I know there are Pro photographers who wouldn't be seen dead using one of these and aren't even going to listen to what it might be capable of. But there are also, I suspect, those who are giving it a lot more than a cursory look. 

We only have to look back a short while to realise that every pro photographer in the world would have bought one of these without a thought a few years ago. But then things move on. There are now 24MP and 36MP cameras out there, with burst modes that mean you are in effect shooting video type frame rates when you shoot stills and options that mean you can almost send the camera out on its own to do the job while you relax with a beer. However there is a real niche for this camera I think. The first is obviously the Photographer / Videographer, which many of us are having to become these days. The GH3 is an obvious choice for someone like this, particularly if the video side of things is slightly more important. However the camera will work for a stills photographer too. 16MP gives top-class A3 reproduction and we sometimes forget just how big a file size that is. For glossy magazine, coffee-table book reproduction 16MP IS enough. Its even big enough for high-end commercial and advertising work. There may be some jobs that it can't handle, but there really aren't that many of those. Plus when you take the quality of the files into consideration it isn't a problem to upsize them anyway.

I'll come onto this more in later posts, but I think you can see from this post that the GH3 offers somewhat more than what we've been used to with m4/3 up to now. Some may see it as a move away from what they want, but as far as I'm concerned this is exactly what I hoped to see.

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.

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