In this article I will be comparing Sony NEX-6 versus the Panasonic Lumix GH3. In my opinion those two cameras are among the most interesting mirrorless cameras which introduced this year. The difference in price is around $450 with the Panasonic being the most expensive one. Both cameras are aimed towards enthusiasts, while the GH3 is also aimed toward professionals too, especially when it comes to video. With so many new CSC cameras on the market, it’s hard to pick one that stands above others the most. Every camera as its strengths and weaknesses. Being able to understand the differences between the Sony NEX-6 and Panasonic GH3 will help you make a choice that you will feel comfortable with. OK, let’s start!
The NEX-6 is the latest of Sony NEX Mirrorless cameras. This camera sits below the NEX-7 (Sony’s NEX flagship) but abive the NEX-5R. This camera was designed to be a good mix between the NEX-7 and the NEX-5R, but without the higher cost of the NEX-7 mode. I know many people who wanted to get the NEX-7 but just couldn’t afford buying it. The NEX-7 costs around $260 more than the NEX-6, so it’s not a very big difference, but let’s not forget that you need to purchase a lens or two, and some photographers prefer getting the lower-end model and invest in good glass. The NEX-6 also costs $150 less than the E-M5 (Olympus CSC flagship).
So Sony made a nice move closing the gap between the 5N and 8, but what this means to us. The Sony NEX-6 enjoys a wide range of very useful feature which includes 2.3M-dot OLED True-Finder EVF, 16.1MP ASP-C sensor, Wi-Fi sharing capabilities 1080[60 video recording, 921K-dot 3-inch LCD, 10 fps burst and a wide variety of software-based features. The first feature that I personally think is the most important is the existent of an Electronic Viewfinder. I remember the day the Sony NEX-5N was out and when I first saw some high ISO samples images taken with it, I really wanted to get this camera, but I didn't. It lacked an EVF and it was a deal breaker for me. The image quality was just gorgeous, out of the ordinary, something that you won't get to see everyday, beating some of the leading DSLR cameras at that time. The only option was to get the NEX-7, but that was way to expensive for me.
Some people might make a compromise and buy the Sony NEX-5N and get over with it. I personally a very picky person, and because I don't own any E-mount lenses, I could just snoop at what other companies have to offer and get another cameras instead, not a Sony's one. The thing I like about Sony its innovation. If a few years ago Sony wasn't a reliable name in the consumer market digital camera's industry, today it's one of the biggest names. You can trust Sony to invest a lot of funds in making great cameras. I always get excited to see what Sony will introduce next.
One thing that I found missing is the lack of all-metal body as the NEX-7. The NEX-6 body is made with metal top and front plate but the other parts are made of polycarbonate. Of course if I can get a high-end CSC for a cheaper price than the NEX-7, I understand that I have to give something off. Just consider the fact that the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is made of metal has weather-sealing capabilities (splash proof / dust proof). In general it means that if you want a weather-sealed camera, you need to add $250 more, that's without talking about the differences between the E-M5 and the NEX-6, and there are differences of course (this is for a later comparison).
I just want to add that I really like the design of the camera. It looks like a 'pro' model if you know what I mean, more resembles the exterior design of the NEX-7, and it's larger than the 5R. Considering the fact the some of you will purchase at least one telephoto-zoom lens, the size of the NEX-6 seems just right to balancing the weight, look and feel of long and heavy lenses. Still the camera is quite compact. You can visit compact camera comparison tool and see how the Sony NEX-5R looks alongside NEX-6 and NEX-7.
So to keep things simple: If entry-level mirrorless cameras is not your cup of tea, you need an EVF and you are willing to pay more to enjoy those features, the NEX-6 is a very good option, probably one of the best options we have right now. The only camera that can drag me to spend more money is the Fujifilm X-E1 to be honest. If it itches you to spend more and get a 'pro' model, I recommend reading my Fujifilm X-E1 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 comparison.
Panasonic Lumix GH3
The Panasonic GH3 can be easily compared to the Olympus E-M5, it's one of the most anticipated digital cameras on 2012. If you ask me what camera I would like to have for my next birthday, I would say the GH3, hands-down!
The Panasonic GH2 was announced on September 21, 2010, this means that GH2 owners waited two years to get a replacement. Believe me, those guys won't upgrade to any other camera but the GH3. Of course meanwhile they could play with various hacks and enjoy all the possibilities and great features that those hacks brings to the GH3. The GH2 was probably one of the most important cameras that find itself at the hands of both amateurs and professional videographers. It was proven to deliver exceptional video quality, and with the hack it was just mind blowing. Just search for Panasoni hack on YouTube or Vimeo and you'll see what I mean.
The Panasonic Lumix GH3 has been excepted by the community with open arms, but not without some criticism, especially about its size and external design.
You can see from the above image (via camera size) that there is quite a big difference between the two cameras. they are almost the same height, but the GH3 is wider and is more filled compared to the volume of the GH2 camera. Ugly? no, just different. The GH3 was criticized for being at the size of an entry-level DSLR, and in some aspects it is. But wait a minute… It’s a Mirrorless camera / CSC, it suppose to be smaller?
I personally think that it doesn’t really matter, you won’t be able to put it in your pocket anyway, and you’ll bring a camera bag if you have two or more lenses, so who cares. What matters is what’s inside! (I actually love the design to be honest).
The GH3 features a newly developed 16.05MP Live Most Sensor, wide ISO range from ISO 200 up to ISO 25600, Venus Engine VII FHD, 3-inch 642K-dots OLED Touch Screen, 1,744K-dot OLED EVF, being able to choose video compression either ALL-I or IPB, headphone socket, weather sealed body (splash proof / dust proof), optional battery grip, excellent battery life, 3.5mm stereo mic jack and much more.
The Panasonic GH3 is one of the most fully-features mirrorless cameras on the market, if not the best. You just don’t find such a big arsenal of useful features on other cameras. The GH3 is video-oriented camera, more than the GH2 is. It just won’t be fare to compare the GH3 vs E-M5 when it comes to video, the GH3 was designed to be an ultimate HD camera that will find itself at the end of enthusiast and pros alike.
When you look at the least of the Panasonic Lumix GH3 features, you might ask yourself “Is it worth the $450 over the Sony NEX-6?”. Of course that depends (I know that you hate that I say that). If I had to make a choice, I would probably look at it a bit differently, as I was buying myself into a new system, not just the camera. I personally would have taken a closer look at the lenses and accessories that are available for the specific model that I plan to purchase. Some of you might find that there are specific lenses that you eager to shoot with and one company has it and the other does not. Some people will appreciate the ability to attach a Panasonic’s battery grip to improve ergonomics for those with large hands and to be able to shoot more photos and videos with your camera.
Panasonic mirrorless cameras are well know for their wide variety of features, they are really feel more DIGITAL. Even when you visit Panaosnic’sGH3 page on Panasonic.net you blow away with all the information, icons, awards and those gorgeous images of their products. Having said that, I think that the GH3 commercial ad is just terrible (but who cares ).
Panasonic GH3 vs Sony NEX-6 Specs Comparison Table
|Sony Alpha NEX-6||Panasonic Lumix GH3|
|Announced||Sep 12, 2012||September 17, 2012|
|Body Construction||Metal top/front plate, Polycarbonate||Metal / Polycarbonate|
|Sensor||16.1 megapixels (effective)|
APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm)
Live MOS Sensor
17 x 14 mm
Micro Four Thirds
Supersonic wave filter
|ISO||Still images: Auto (ISO 100-3200), Selectable (ISO 100-25600) Movies: Auto (ISO 100-3200), Selectable (ISO 100-6400)||200 - 12800|
|Focus Points||99-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF||23-area contrast AF|
Angle Adjustment : Up: Approx. 90 degrees, Down: Approx. 45 degrees
|Eye-Level Viewfinder||0.5" XGA OLED EVF|
100% Field of View
|Shutter Speed||30 - 1/4000 sec, bulb||60 - 1/4000 sec|
|Built-in Flash||Yes (GN6)||Yes (GN12)|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/160 sec||1/160 sec|
|Continuous Shooting||Up to 10 fps in Speed Priority, Regular 3 fps||Up to 10 fps|
|Exposure Compensation||Still images: +/- 3.0EV (1/3EV steps), |
Movies: +/- 2.0EV (1/3EV steps)
|±5 EV (at 1/3 EV steps)|
|AE Bracketing||With 1/3, 2/3, 1, 2, 3EV increments, 3 frames||±3 (3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)|
|Video (max. res)||1080p60/24|
Video Format : AVCHD Ver. 2.0 (Progressive), AVCHD, MP4
Audio Format : Dolby Digital (AC-3) / MPEG-4 AAC-LC, 2ch
1080p30 / 72Mbps (ALL-I)
1080p24 / 72Mbps (ALL-I)
720p60 / 72 Mbps (ALL-I)
1080p60 / 50Mbps (IPB)
1080p30 / 50Mbps (IPB)
1080p24 /50Mbps (IPB)
MP4: (all IPB)
1080p30 / 20Mbps
720p30 / 10Mbps
580p30 / 4Mbps
AVCHD Progressive (all IPB):
1080p60 / 28Mbps
AVCHD (all IPB):
1080p24 / 24Mbps
1080i60 / 24Mbps
1080i60 / 17Mbps
|Dimensions||120 x 67 x 43 mm||132.9 x 93.4 x 82.0 mm|
|Weight||287 g (0.63 lb / 10.12 oz)||550 g / 19.40 oz|
|Camera Features||- Advanced Control Dial and Quick Navi|
- New Multi)interface Shoe
- Picture Effect mode
- Clear Image zoom
- Charge camera via USB
- Wi-Fi Sharing
- Auto Portrait raming
- Auto HDR
- 6-image Layering
- Fast Hybrid AF
- Sweep Panorama
- Anti Motion Blue mode
- D-Range Optimizer
- Smile Shutter
- Face detection
- 6 Creative styles
- Manual Focus Assits
- Anti-dust Sensor
- PlayMemories Camera apps
|- Shutter Delay function
- Electronic Shutter function
- Support Wireless control of Flash system
- Flash Synchro Socket
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Built-in Mic + 3.5mm mic socket to connect an external stereo microphone + mic level adjustment
- Eye sensor AF
- Touch Pad AF
- Level Gauge
- Creative controls for both stills and videos
The Sony NEX-6 Features that I really like and I think are most important:
- APS-C size Sensor
- Fast Hybrid AF (contrast-detection + phase-detection)
- XGA Tru-Finder OLED 2359K-dots EVF
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- 1080p60 (progressive) videos
- 10 fps burst
The Panasonic GH3 features that I really like and worth your attention:
- Weather-sealed body (splash and dust proof)
- Fully Articulated Touch Screen LCD
- 10 fps burst
- ALL-I / IPB compression Full HD videos, including 1080p60 (progressive IPB)
- 540 shots battery life!
- Flash synchro socket
- 3.5mm mic jack
- Wireless control of flash system
- 3.5mm headphone jack to monitor recorded audio while shooting videos in real-time
- Optional battery grip
- 1,533K-dot EVF
The Panasonic GH3 is a different beast, no doubt about it. Both cameras have a high-res electronic viewfinder, with the Sony being better of the two. That by itself put those two cameras in a different category compare Olympus PEN for example and lower-end models from Panasonic and other manufacturers. The GH3 was designed to be the best HD digital camera on the market, and Panasonic achieved just that by adding ALL-I compression (improved image quality over the more compressed IPB), 3.5mm jack for headphones and mic.
The Sony Alpha NEX-6 does have a larger sensor (APS-C vs Micro Four Thirds). The guy from Photo News and Reviews channel on YouTube have uploaded some Panasonic GH3 high ISO sample images that I think you should look at here.
The GH3 high ISO image quality is EXCELLENT! – I mean up to ISO 800 (including) the image looks amazingly clean as noise starts kicking in at ISO1600, but still image quality is just superb considering that it’s a Micro Four Thirds sensor. This is at least as good as the NEX-5N images that I’ve seen. My Nikon D3100 DSLR with ASP-C doesn’t even come close to that.
The GH3 has the ability to differentiate between various parts of the image (e.g. between smooth areas and edgy area) and apply different Noise reduction algorithms and in different strength to those specific areas. So NR is not applied to the whole area of the photo equally. That leads to much better looking images when shooting in higher ISO sensitivity. After viewing those images, I can say Panasonic has done an amazing job with the GH3.
At PhotographyBlog you can find some high ISO sample images of the Sony NEX-6. The Sony NEX-6 also result in very good high ISO performance, but considering the difference in sensor sizes, I’ve learned to appreciate the quality of the GH3 sensor to be honest. Both cameras deliver excellent image quality and certainly shows a next generation sensor capabilities. With each generation of cameras (maybe two) we can see an improvement in high ISO performance. Sony is known to be the world’s leader in sensor manufacturing. Being able to shoot at ISO1600 with relatively low noise opens up more opportunities for amateur photographers. Of course we’ll need to wait until dpreview uploads sample images to it’s comparison web application to see the differences clearly (need to compare the same scene under same lighting conditions).
So Which One To Get?
I must admit that the Panasonic GH3 is a dream camera and I’m pretty sure that those who can afford it will get the GH3 over the NEX-6. For videographers it’s not even a quetsion so I won’t bother talking about that. The thing is that the NEX-6 might be the perfect CSC for under $1000. You get to have high quality OLED EVF, large APS-C sensor, Wi-Fi, fast autofocus system, etc. If you don’t need the EVF, you might also want to take a second look at the Sony NEX-5R. Maybe it’s not fair to compare the NEX-6 against the Panasonic GH3, it just put it in an uncomfortable position and shows its weaknesses.
As I told you before, when you choose a camera, take a look at the whole package. I personally prefer getting the GH3 for its video capabilities, weather-sealing, EVF and battery grip, but the most important thing for me is to be able to choose lenses from a very broad selection of Micro Four Thirds lenses, not just from Panasonic. This is probably important not less than the camera itself.
There are some foundational differences between the two cameras and I’m pretty sure that after reading this article you are aware of them. Peaking one shouldn’t be so hard because they seems to be aimed to different audiences. Take your pick, both won’t disappoint you when it comes to image quality and performance. In some cases you might be better to get the NEX-6 and invest the extra money on a better / extra lens.
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