panasonic gh3 rumors higher bit rate wide dynamic rangeThe 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.

Panasonic-gh3-mockup-rumors-higher-bit-rate-wide-dynamic-rangePhotoshopped 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.