Panasonic GH3 - Review and User Experience - Part 5 - More thoughts on using it "in the field"

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


Its an odd feeling, walking along with a high performance camera, battery grip, and two pro-spec constant aperture fast zooms without buckling under the weight. The GH3 shows just what its possible to achieve with the 4/3 format, and while it certainly has its critics and there are certainly question marks as to where it can go in the future, at this moment in time it is a system that offers a very real alternative to DSLR's and everything thats associated with them.

Some might think however its too DSLRish for them, some might think that the 16MP sensor is somewhat lightweight with what else is available and for those people there are of course plenty of alternatives. But this camera is surely going to either fill a niche or create one of its own. 

I like CSC's on the whole, though I will admit to sometimes getting frustrated with the results of the reduced size. Leicas, for example, are small cameras, but the controls are sized pretty much as photographers would expect them to be, consequently it is a relatively easy camera to operate. Some CSC's are designed more like mobile phones and just as I struggle with my Blackberry and the small buttons and the touchscreen that has a mind of its own, I often find some of my smaller cameras to be less than intuitive. Its not as though I don't have a level of dexterity, I've played guitar and keyboards for most of my life so I have a decent level of control and touch, but again and again I struggle to make some of my cameras do what I want, quickly and positively.

The GH3 is somewhat different. Though some of the buttons and dials are not as big as I would like, generally its better than most other cameras of its type. I really like the Olympus OM-D, but some of the buttons on that are really small and difficult to access accurately. This is obviously exaggerated in the current season. Cold fingers are much harder to get working sensitively than warm ones, and gloves make some operations impossible. I often wonder if camera designers ever try out their creations in cold environments and less than optimum conditions. Do they just check them out indoors? I have no idea what winter in Japan is like, but certainly here in Northern Europe, cold weather performance is very much an issue.

Yesterday, though as you can see nice and sunny, was really cold. Due to a side-effect of taking medication to control migraines, I suffer from "white finger" anyway. When I get cold, my fingers loose all their colour and on many occasions all the feeling as well. When its really cold keeping my hands in my pockets doesn't help much and gloves are a real problem. I've tried virtually everything. The ones with the fingertips exposed don't help and I've been trying a pair designed to operate mobile phones with and they still don't have the sensitivity I need. What happens in practice is I just put up with as long as I can and then have to stop, return to the car and warm up. 

The GH3 advertising from Panasonic is very much geared to showing it as an outdoors travel camera. And to a large extent I think its pretty successful. As I said above with some of the problems I have, its better than most CSC's in cold conditions. Its also nice to have the shower-proofing. Some of the best light for landscape photography is either just before or just after heavy rain and though I usually manage to get to shelter before getting soaked, there are occasions when I've failed to do that and its nice to know that the camera and lenses I use will probably survive getting wet.

I'm also impressed with the handling the camera offers. With or without the battery grip, there's certainly more to hold onto than most m4/3 cameras and again this is useful in cold weather. The electronic shutter is fast, positive and vibration free, and yesterday I discovered that in combination with the image stabilisation I could get pin sharp pictures from the 35-100mm f/2.8 lens down to 1/15th. sec. However I certainly didn't get 100% sucess rate at this speed, but it does show what is possible. 

There is also a nice solidity to the camera that I like. Though I have nowhere near enough use to back this up, it feels reliable and well built. I've written in previous posts that it doesn't feel metallic at all. However metal doesn't always mean tough anyway and I certainly have never had complaints in terms of long term use about Panasonic cameras in the past.

It was interesting that after returning home, I was watching television and up came one of the Panasonic T.V. ads. showing a photographer shooting away on the streets of Istanbul with a G5. There are two more I've seen. One in Yosemite valley with a G3 and another with a Photographer shooting in Iceland with a G5. Now I realise that these people are being paid to use Panasonic cameras and whether they would use these cameras given the choice is obviously open to question, but Panasonic do sell this well. The GH3 promotional videos they released when the camera was announced also do a good job in showing the strengths of the camera. Showing photographers working in the outdoors, shooting landscape and travel images without being weighed down by camera bags full of gear is a good way to promote the camera, and this is very much the way I use my m4/3 cameras and indeed what I think they are best at. 

The GH3 is never going to beat my D800E for resolution, and as for my Sigma DP2 Merrill, its not even close, but it gives me the option to carry a range of lens options without either struggling with the weight or being restricted to just one focal length. And that to me is its great virtue. Add in the depth-of-field advantage which means I can use fast shutter speeds at wider apertures without minimising the DOF and of course add in the fact that its very rare to get 4/3 sensors covered in dust. In fact its very rare to get dust on the sensors at all. At least in any kind of quantity that causes problems. I'm sure the GH3 is going to work very well for in what I do and it does have pretty much everything I want. And thats before I've even looked at what it will do with video.

The sunny weather is going to stop for a while, so I'll be doing some tests and comparisons in the next few days to see what the camera is capable of in terms of high ISO etc. But before that happens here's a few more shots from yesterday.







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

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