Superproducer Ted Hope on...

September 3, 2012

Panasonic GH3 Camera Rumors: Higher Bit Rate Codec, Wider Dynamic Range, and More

The forthcoming Panasonic GH3 has some big shoes to fill, especially given the popularity (in hacked form) of its predecessor, the GH2. That camera came out on top in a poll we conducted as the favorite scene of No Film School readers in the 2012 Zacuto Shootout -- with the far more expensive Arri Alexa and Sony F65 digital cameras rounding out second and third. While that poll involved a test with subjective lighting, it's clear that the hacked GH2 can hold its own, especially for a camera priced under $1,000. Rumors have been flying recently about the specs of the GH3, and if they turn out to be true, there will be significant improvements in the camera's codec, dynamic range, and auto focus, as well as the addition of some potentially interesting new features.

Photoshopped mockup of the GH3

According to 43Rumors, the following camera details came from reliable sources:

  • 16 megapixel sensor
  • All-I 72 Mbit/s codec
  • ISO range of 100 to 12,800
  • Fast Auto Focus
  • Focus Peaking
  • Ability to control the GH3 via your iPhone, iPad, or Android device
  • Cloud/back-up storage through the Lumix Club
  • Increased dynamic range (more so in the shadows than the highlights)
  • No Global Shutter
  • 12-35mm X kit lens
  • Improved EVF quality
  • Weather sealed
  • External vertical battery grip

Assuming this information is correct, the GH3's high bit rate and intraframe codec could produce a higher quality image than an unmodified GH2 (24 Mbit/s interframe codec) or an AF-100 (24 Mbit/s interframe codec or 28 Mbit/s interframe with the firmware update) -- although it remains to be seen just what flavor of intra codec the camera will have. We also won't know yet whether it will have 4:2:0 or 4:2:2 color sampling, and whether the bit depth will be 8-bit or 10-bit. The extended ISO range and the increase in the dynamic range of the shadows would be welcome improvements for shooting in low light and preserving shadow detail, but I'll be interested to see if there is an improvement in noise over the hacked GH2 at 12,800 ISO.

As for other features, focus peaking would be a significant step in the right direction. In using focus assist on the AF-100, I've found that it's only really visible on wide shots, and is either harder to see or nonexistent on closer shots. I'm also excited to see what functionality will be included in the wireless control apps. Will it just allow access to basic functions like the remote for the AF-100, or will there be an option to control focus and aperture?

Other questions loom as well: What inputs and outputs will be included? So far the only thing 43Rumors has heard is that "Filmmakers are going to have all the connections they need for a professional production." Does that mean uncompressed HDMI out? XLR inputs or the usual 1/8" mic jack? Will it have waveform and vectorscope built into the software? Will there be an option to shoot in 1080 60p? Will the auto focus be fast and smooth? We'll probably have to wait until Photokina for the answers to all of these questions.

There probably won't be a lot of incentive to switch to this camera from a hacked GH2 at first (since the Driftwood hack gives you access to 176 Mbit/s data rate and an intraframe codec), but if the GH3 has a better intraframe codec, less noise in higher ISO's, a significant dynamic range increase, and an increase in capabilities from an inevitable hack by Vitaliy Kiselev and/or Nick Driftwood, I could see the GH3 becoming a favorite camera among low-budget filmmakers.

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20 Comments

"We also won’t know yet whether it will have 4:2:0 or 4:2:2 color sampling, and whether the bit depth will be 8-bit or 10-bit."

Unlikely to be able to get all that out to a reasonably specced SD card in realtime.

I'd like to see duel card slots with asynchronous multi-pass encoding (to the second card) LOL!
(like that's ever gonna happen). Until that happens, we're still not doing the best we can to make those commodity storage cards "do a man's job".

September 3, 2012

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Do you think that you can have all these specs under $1000?

September 3, 2012

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Nygel bissel

The price is expected to exceed 1000$, it's one of the things we can be sure of. The GH3 + 12-35 kit price will be around 2000$ according to several rumors...

September 3, 2012

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Trankilstef

AVC-Ultra:
The Panasonic AVC-Ultra family defines an additional three new encoding parameters within the MPEG-4 Part 10 standard, utilizing up to the 4:4:4 Intra Predictive Profile, as well as an additional low bitrate proxy recording mode.

The most efficient new parameter within AVC-Ultra is by Panasonic called, AVC-LongG. AVC-LongG enables compression of video resolutions up to 1920 × 1080 @ 23.97, 25 and 29.97p, with 10 bits of pixel depth at 4:2:2 color sampling, at data rates as low as 25 Mbit / sec.

More over, the AVC-Intra Class 50/100 is now extended to Class 200 and Class 4:4:4. The Class 200 mode extends the bitrate to 226 Mbit / sec for 1080/23,97p, while the Class 4:4:4 extends the possible resolution from 720p to 4K with pixel depths at 10 and 12 bits.

The bitrate settings for Class 4:4:4 varies between 200 and 440 Mbit / sec depending on the resolution, frame rate and bit depth. Both the Class 200 and the Class 4:4:4 are Intra-only coding modes.

The AVC-Proxy mode enables extremely fast ENG content delivery and offline edits of 720p and 1080p video at bitrates varying between 800 Kbit to 3,5 Mbit / sec at 8 bits of pixel depth.

if they really want to pack 4:2:2 10bit 1080/60p in gh3 with 80mbit/s they can do it, let´s wait and see

September 3, 2012

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matt

I am getting very exited about this camera. From what I have heard from some people that seems to be in the know, it will be very very good. I think the only limitation will be sadly 10 bit. It seems that Panasonic has been listening and that they are ready to take the dslr video from the void left by Canon. A weather sealed metal body, HD viewfinder, in built intra codec and what what will be important to me, better Dr.

September 3, 2012

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Danyyyel

I'm also excited about this. I can't help but wonder what the price will be like, though. What I'd love to see is a rigorous (visual) comparison of this, the Blackmagic camera, and the C100; I can't help but think that in a lot of settings they'd all be fairly indistinguishable.

September 3, 2012

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cows

Contrary to some I hope that the price remains very competitive, that is a 1k body. Even with all the new video tech, I would find it a bit of a hard sell to be priced above a Nikon d7000 for example. It must appeal to all the dslr users that are more focused on video and that the price is not prohibitive for them to move brand. The fact that the M43 format can accept nearly every lens format is another plus for people to at least buy the body.

In fact if the rumors are true this camera could be a bit disruptive like the 5dmark 2 was four years ago. In terms of pure image quality and cost it will put a lot of pressure on all the 8 bit type of camera below and above it. Compared to the C100 what it would be lacking is mainly internal ND and low light shooting. But on the other hand it will have higher internal codec (god knows where the hack will put it) and slow motion capabilities that the C100 lack completely and at-least for 5 times less. In fact what I see is C100 users buying gh3 body as a second unit for slow-mo.

September 4, 2012

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Danyyyel

What about dynamic range? "Improved" doesn't tell us much since the GH2 has pretty bad dynamic range, even for its price.

September 4, 2012

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cows

OH NO! Here we go again! I can hear it now from all the Panny users... "ALEXA, F65 AND RED KILLER FOR LESS THAN 1000 BUCKS!" AAAGGGHHHHHH!!!! Just shoot me now, please!!

September 3, 2012

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dixter

This already beats the c100.
Is it still micro 4/3 sensor?

September 3, 2012

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Wrango Davenlo

How so, exactly? I'd say at best it's to early to say. Unless they've made fundamental changes in the way images are captured (which is unlikely) it will have lower resolution than the C100 and the dynamic range could reasonably be expected to be lower too. Presumably the GH3 will have middling low light performance as well. That said, the codec sounds like it probably is quite a bit better, and it sounds like it would have better color depth than the C100 even with an external recorder.

I think in terms of use cases the GH3 might have more in common with the Blackmagic camera than the C100. Both the GH3 and Blackmagic could presumably produce more appealing images (than the C100) with tightly controlled lighting, but the C100 sounds like a strong contender in available light/location situations.

That said I imagine it will have more in common with the Blackmagic camera with respect to price as well, but even the price hasn't been announced yet.

I'll admit that from a not-actually-buying-any-of-these standpoint I'm most intrigued by the C100, because despite all of it's shortcomings I think its images might look a lot closer to the F3 than the FS100, even though the latter is the more common comparison for other reasons.

September 3, 2012

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cows

I have no idea why I started using "its" and "it's" interchangeably.

September 3, 2012

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cows

I think it is not mentioned here but it is a given from the rumors that it has 1080p at 60p, some even say we might see 720p at 120fps.

September 4, 2012

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Danyyyel

If it does 720 at 120fps I'll buy one just for that.

September 4, 2012

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marklondon

Panasonic already has the hardware but in its compact camera like the lx7. So it could definitely be in the gh3.

September 4, 2012

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Danyyyel

As far as outputs are concerned, I would really like to see a headphone out so I can monitor the sound that's being recorded to the card. Right now I'm managing with a dual system, and syncing later, but when I'm travelling or working as a one-man-band, it's really difficult to manage all that data.

Hopefully that falls under one of “all the connections they need for a professional production.”

September 6, 2012

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I hope they sort out the flakey HDMI output so that when set to 720p50, the camera does not revert to 1080i50 when an HDMI cable is connected. Either that or enable composite live video out in place of the current, and totally redundant, composite for playback only.

September 6, 2012

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So many people have become experts in modern camera assessment and evaluation, I will wait until Zacuto says something about GH3 then I will pay attention. By the way I do shoot with GH2 not hacked yet. and I get paid for the work I do.

September 7, 2012

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This is the video just in case any of you missed it. Featuring Phillip Bloom and a couple others. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Yi2AShFdCDk#t=166s

September 14, 2012

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“Filmmakers are going to have all the connections they need for a professional production.”

HD-SDI? Yeah, right.

September 23, 2012

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Daniel Mimura