Panasonic GH3 - Review and User Experience - Part 9 - High ISO - Summary - Raw or Jpg?

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With all the activity of the last three posts:-

which I've been revising and updating, I thought it might be an idea to summarise my thoughts on the GH3 and its performance at high ISO's.

1. ISO 1600, 3200 and 6400 are useable. Above that, the files are very unpleasant to look at.
2. It seems that they are very close, if not the same as the Olympus OM-D. Leading me to the conclusion that, yes this is probably the same basic sensor unit.
3. The jpg. processing however seems worse than on the OM-D. Less detail, more smearing of detail.
4. Processing from Raw in Photoshop / Lightroom Adobe Camera raw, seems to offer no advantage, unless its followed up by the use of further noise reduction in Photoshop itself.
5. For reasons I cannot detail, processing the files in Rawker software for Macs, gives really impressive results.
6. Using the above software, the files are very close to results from a Sony NEX-6.
7. The GH3 and also the OM-D, show the best results at high ISO for m4/3 cameras so far.
8. The supposed advantage of APS-C sensors over these latest m4/3 sensors at high ISO's is less than before.

I suppose the part of this that might be of concern is that the jpg. processing of the high ISO files on the GH3 is not great. Comparing the results with the OM-D and NEX-6, the Panasonic rendering was clearly the worst. Using raw and Rawker software particularly shows that the files themselves are actually very similar to the other cameras, but Panasonic don't make a particularly good job of keeping detail in the files. There are a lot more artefacts added, and some of them are quite nasty. 

There also seems a tendency for the GH3 to produce darker files at the same ISO. Showing either differences in metering or an accurate representation of the ISO or both. It is I think worth making sure that if you are shooting at these high ISO's, that you don't underexpose. From what I've seen it seems a good idea to maybe add 1/3 or 2/3 exposure which improves the results.

However, despite these considerations, I think it is possible to say that the GH3 does now compete well with APS-C cameras. The 16MP sensor in the NEX-6 is a very good sensor and is in lots of other cameras. With careful processing its possible to get very close to those kind of results with the GH3, making it somewhat closer to a genuine all round camera than I might have initially thought.

This is still pretty much an intellectual exercise for me, since shooting at high ISO settings is a very small part of what I do. In fact the only time I usually do it is to shoot tests like this. 

However, if someone throws lots of money at me to shoot a wedding, I'd be happy to use the GH3 as my primary camera. I would though forego my usual practice of shooting jpgs., do the whole thing in raw and process all the files via Rawker. This is obviously not an option if you use a PC, since its Mac only software. However, if you are looking at shooting less than the number of files that would get taken at a wedding, it is possible to work on the raw files in Photoshop and get a similar result, though it takes somewhat longer. All of this is because the jpgs. are not well done. We can only hope that Panasonic are aware of this and come up with a firmware update that improves them. There is a fair amount of competition around this level of camera and I really do think these jpgs. need to be better.

However, if nothing else it does show the benefits of shooting and processing raw files.

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