Panasonic GH3 vs GH2 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 Comparison

September 19, 2012

Panasonic GH3, GH2 and Olympus E-M5 on orange background

The Panasonic Lumix GH3 is probably among my favorite announcement made in Photokina 2012. I personally was a big fan of the GH2, but its been two years since the GH2 was announced and it was definitely time for a replacement. I was also surprised that the GH3 didn’t get so much attention in the media, I was expecting much more enthusiasm. So many Panasonic GH2 owners have been anxiously waiting for a new model to upgrade to, and finally this day arrives. With a great excitement I will cover all the important things you should know about the GH3 and compare it to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 – It will be interesting, so continue reading.


Panasonic Lumix GH2 Background Info

For those who are joining the party late, the Panasonic GH2 was probably the most successful Panasonic camera ever, especially for video enthusiasts. A whole community of videographers both amateur and professionals used the GH2 to shoot some amazing videos which are shared all across the web. One of the things that will be remembered is the GH2 hack, which is actually a new unofficial firmware that can be install on the GH2 and make the GH2 capture 1080p videos at very high bitrate in AVCHD intra (i-frame- coded). There are various type of hack files that can change the the camera settings for various types of shooting style needs. The hacked GH2 was even able to give touch competition to the Canon 5D Mark III (GH2 with the EOSHD Unified Patch)in its own game.
Those who are interested to know how people hack the GH2, this video will give you a step by step instructions.
Note: This article do not recommend for people to hack their GH2 cameras, You do that on your own risk.  You might damage the camera and prevent it from operating.



This make more filmmakers get the GH2 and patch the camera to perform to their standards. No doubt that by increasing the bitrate and making other modifications, what you get is amazing image quality, and let’s not forget that we are taking about a Micro Four Thirds sensor. With a $600 M43 camera you can get even better results than what you get with a $3500 Full Frame DSLR camera.
Panasonic cameras gained high reputation for their video capabilities although not all of this credit should go to Panasonic, rather for those who gave people the option to hack the camera. Even without the hack the Panasonic Lumix GH2 is an excellent camera with great sensor that provide sharp images and very good high-ISO performance. The GH2 was also known for its large arsenal of features and exceptional amount of manual control when shooting video.
There is so much to get excited about the GH2, it’s an amazing camera even in today’s standards. Of course the GH2 is getting old and people expect a new model to upgrade to. so finally the GH3 is here and we can get excited together and hopefully buy one for ourselves.


Panasonic GH3

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 is finally here and it brings some exciting new features and wrapped with a new design. Of course the first thing you’ll notice is that the GH3 look much bigger than the GH2, but in reality is not that big, only 3.8mm taller, 6.2mm thicker and 8.9mm wider. It looks much bigger because the added buff to the camera upper area which now feels the empty space there and makes the GH3 look much more beefy.

Panasonic GH3 and GH2 size comparison

Panasonic GH3 and GH2 size comparison (via


The image above is from website and it’s clearly shows the difference in camera design and size difference between the GH3 and GH2. I went to read some user opinion on various blogs and forums and its seems that some people don’t like the new design, others really like it. The thing is that this camera is a Compact System Camera, and it’s even a bit larger than the Nikon D3200, which is an entry-level DSLR with  APS-C size sensor. People expect CSC to be smaller, much smaller due to the smaller size sensor.

Panasonic GH3 alongside Nikon D3200

Panasonic GH3 alongside Nikon D3200 (via

I am not here to over-analyze this, but I for those who buy the GH3, I don’t think that should be any problem with the camera’s size – the y look for what’s inside, rather than just the size of the camera. People with big hands will certainly feel that the camera feels more secure in their hands and feels more ‘professional’ if you know what I mean. The funny thing is that people complained about the Olympus E-M5 size, what they are going to say about the GH3?!



The GH3 body is weather-sealed (dust and splash proof) and is made with magnesium alloy. The build quality was made to satisfy the demands of enthusiasts photographers. We can see that many vendors decide to release weather-sealed cameras with their high-end camera and that was certainly done to make the GH3 a competitive model against the E-M5, which is also a weather-sealed camera.

Oh, and let’s not forget, the GH3 was also constructed with a heat-dispersing design to allow you to shoot longer videos and enable extended recording of high-quality photos.


Optional Battery Grip

For some of you it might some awkward using a battery grip with the GH3, but for many photographers grip improved the ergonomics of the camera, especially when you mount a long lens and flash with it, it just stabilizes the weight better and also allows you to shoot more photos and videos with an added battery. The DMW-BGGH3 battery grip is also weather sealed with the same weather-sealing degree as the GH3 body.

DMW-BGGH3 battery grip

DMW-BGGH3 battery grip



Newly Developed 16MP Sensor and Venus Engine

gh3 sensorThe Panasonic GH3 DSLM camera utilizes a brand new 16.05-megapixel Live MOS sensor. Panasonic designed this sensor while focusing on minimizing the amount of noise to minimum possible with today’s technologies. There is also this newly designed low-pass filter which according to Panasonic: “The new filter optimizes the conventionally conflicting effects of increasing resolution while suppressing moire” (source). The GH3 has a wide ISO range from ISO200  to ISO12800, which that can be also extended from ISO125 up to ISO25600. Above all that, the GH3 now features a new Venus Engine that also help surpass noise even further across the entire focusing range when shooting in high senstivity.

The Venus Engine takes advantage of two noise reduction technologies, the 3DNR, a 3D noise reduction that separates noise in smoother and edge parts of the image and automatically adjusting the amount of NR for specific areas of the photo. The second is MNR, Multi-process Noise Reduction which optimizes noise reduction according to the brightness parts of the image. That means that darker areas where noise is more pronounced will be treated differently, giving you much better looking photos when shooting in low light and high-ISO sensitivities.

This is actually where Panasonic really shines, when it comes to micro optimizations that are not gimmicky, and they are doing incredible job to help the camera shoot much clearer stills and videos. The Panasonic GH3 NR engine is segmenting image parts and applying very precise and advanced NR algorithms to those specific parts. Even when you shoot photos with long shutter time, the camera automatically applies specific NR algorithms to tackle noise fot this specific type of shooting.

Further more, the high precision AE and WB is optimized for optimal and accurate exposure and color reproduction, so you get beautiful rendered images and videos that make the photo/video look the same as you were looking it live with your own eyes.


AF Speed

The DMC-GH3 features ultra high speed AF system, also knows as ‘Light Speed AF’. GH3 AF is very fast and also very accurate. The GH3 contrast detection AF system will give you better performance compare to phase-difference AF on DSLRs,. The GH3 offers full-time AF with face detection and tracking function (Full area with Touch AF, Pinpoint AF, 1-area AF, 23-aera AF, AF tracking and 1-area AF in Face Detection).  It’s worth mentioning that the Panasonic GH3 doesn’t utilize phase-detection anymore, it utilizes only the power of contrast-detection AF.

Of course the most interesting part of the AF system is when it comes to shooting movies.  The GH3 offers full-time AF, AF tracking and Face recognition AF in movie mode.  The GH3 was further optimized for subject tracking accuracy, which is very important for those who shoot videos with autofocus, rather than using manual focus. If you decide to use manual focus, the GH3 have what called ‘MF Assist’ which enlarge the part of the image where you pointing the lens to and allows you to make precise focusing  (very useful for macro shots).


Video Recording

With the GH3 is seems that it’s almost only about videos. The GH3 is a very movie oriented digital camera. Panasonic added more video recording capabilities to the GH3 that I think many of you will certainly find useful. The GH3 can capture Full HD 1080p60 [NTSC] 1080p50 [PAL] videos as well as 30p/25p and 24p. So you get to enjoy all the popular video framerates that most videographers shoot with.

Worth mentioning that when you shoot at Full HD @ 60 fps, you are shooting at 60 progressive frames, not interlaces (1080i60). This means that every frame gets all the information, no export 30p to interlaces frames, you get the best quality possible, no compromises.

Furthermore, the Panasonic DMC-GH3 is capable of recording videos at 72Mbps (ALL-Intra) bitrate or 50 Mbps (IPB). The ALL-I codec will give you a hell lot better image quality compare to the very-compressed AVCHD on previous models (non-hacked ones).

If you are new to those terms, you probably want to know what’s the difference between ALL-I and IPB?


ALL-I vs IPB – What’s the Difference?

All-I and IPB are compression methods used to reduce the size of the video file. These are two different ways of compressing the movie files.  Intraframe (All-I) is favorite among video editors and professional  because this codec compresses each frame individually. With ALL-I all frames are treated as key frames, but as I said, each frame is still being compressed, but no other compression is being made as each frame in the video is a single image. Interframe works differently and applies compressions to every set of frames and the data is actually stored in a group of picture or GOP.  Shooting with ALL-I gives much more flexibility for those who edit videos frame by frame for example.

All-I will result in bigger files because it’s less compressed.  You can use IPB and increase shooting capacity. That means that if you decide to shoot with ALL-I, prepare to buy a large capacity fast memory card. People who choose to shoot ALL-I are those who are looking for the very highest quality. Furthermore, editing ALL-I videos using a photo editing software requires less computer processing power because there is not need to render the frame based on the data that is extracted from the GOP.


If you intend to edit your videos, you should certainly choose the MOV H.264 recording format on your GH3. Then you can choose to shoot in either 60p, 30p or 24p. Each frame rate provides the two compression methods that I’ve mentioned above, either IPB or ALL-Intra. This specifications are true to both 1080p and 720p resolutions.

It’s worth mentioning that the the (non hacked) GH2 shot cinematic 24p in AVCHD 1.0, and now with the GH3 you can shoot also in AVCHD 2.0 and  ALL-I mode. Also note that all MP5 and AVCHD videos are shot using inter-frame compression, not intra-frame (ALL-I). To get the best image quality possible and also best for video editing, you should choose Quicktime MOV H.264.

The Panasonic GH3 also features ‘Clean HDMI’ output. Clean HDMI is an ability of the GH3 or any camera that features it, to feed a live recordable signal from the camera sensor trough the HDMI port without the settings menu that you see via the EVF or the back LCD.


Panasonic GH3 Sample Video

Panasonic GH3 launch film: Genesis from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.
The above video was shot using the GH3 camera. Make sure you watch it in HD.


More Features Worth Mentioning

Of course I’ve just covered only a few of the features, but those above are probably the most significant ones. Here are some great features that you can find on the GH3:

  • 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
  • 614K-dot Free-angle Rear touchscreen monitor
  • Level Gauge
  • 1,744K-dot OLED 100% FOV Electronic Viewfinder
  • Creative controls for both stills and videos (e.g. Expressive / Retro / High Key / Low Key / Sepia / Dynamic Monochrome / Impressive Art / High Dynamic / Cross Process, etc.)
  • approx. 540 shots battery life


As you can see, the Panasonic GH3 is a VERY impressive camera and will appeal to stills photographers, but mainly to amateur and professional videographers. The GH3 was certainly improved over the GH2 in many aspects. But one question still remains, will people hack the GH3 too?


Panasonic GH3 vs GH2 vs Olympus E-M5 Specs Comparison

I’ve made a nice comparison table that will give you a good understanding about the differences between the GH3, GH2 and Olympus E-M5. You can clearly see the pros and cons of each camera.

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This short but important specs comparison table really shows where the DMC-GH3 shines over the other cameras. This includes the 3.5mm mic and headphone jack, video frame rate and compression options, built-in Wi-Fi, excellent battery life, LCD and 16:9 OLED viewfinder.

Of course when it comes to video recording, the GH3 just put the GH2 and E-M5 to shame.. ok, maybe I was too harsh, but no doubt that the GH3 is the best video recording tool of the three, and probably among many other cameras, including DSLRs. It’s important to note that I am not comparing the GH3 to a hacked GH2 camera. Who knows, maybe tomorrow we’ll see a hacked GH3 that can double the current bitrate.  What I do know is that the GH3 is a vastly improved camera over its predecessor and certainly a well worthy upgrade for GH2 shooters.

There is so much to get excited about the GH3 and you can see why people love Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras so much, because Panasonic really knows how to make great cameras. By just browsing their website you can see that the aren’t leaving any detail behind. They write about any feature with great details and explaining about all the technologies that are inside the camera.  I can’t recall any other company that does that so well. You can also see that Panasonic includes many technology innovations inside their cameras, and it’s not just a new sensor, body or viewfinder, there are plenty of features that are not gimmicky and all designed to help you get the best image quality and help you get better looking photos and videos. I am telling you this because I’ve shot with both DSLRs and Micro Four Thirds, especially with the GH2 on my trip to Italy.  I’ve learned to enjoy shooting with my friends’ M43 cameras and learn to appreciate Panasonic as an innovative company.

Regarding the E-M5 vs GH3. I think that you can clearly see that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 is a very movie-oriented camera, and it beats the E-M5 when it comes to movie recording features, it’s much much better than the E-M5 for video enthusiasts.  Having said that, for stills, the E-M5 can certainly give the GH3 a good fight. The E-M5 have built-in sensor-shift image stabilization mechanism, 35-area contrast AF, 1/250 sec Flash sync, 9 fps burst, higher ISO range and you get to enjoy its great retro design + weather sealing capabilities.

If you aren’t into video recording and mainly or only shoot stills, the E-M5 is in my opinion, the best Micro Four Thirds camera that we have on the market to date. The new E-PL5 also look very interesting of you search for a more affordable model. According to Olympus the E-PL5 enjoys the same sensor of the E-M5 and has the same image quality, but of course it has much less features.

I really love the image stabilization, weather-sealing, viewfinder and the overall look of the E-M5.


Any big disadvantages with the GH3?

Well, I really tried to force myself to be very picky and find things that might trouble some people. So first of all I believe that some people might hate the new design, size and weight of the GH3. I’ve already read some comments about people that are disappointed with the overall design change. Some people even mentioned that the lenses look kind of small on the camera.

According to what I’ve read on the web the GH3 sensor is not multi-aspect ratio sensor like the GH1 and GH2. Furthermore, the GH3 has uncompressed HDMI output with 4:2:0 and not 4:2:2. Again I’m not 100% sure about that at the time of writing this review, but I will update this section when I have a definitive answer.

Panasonic also decided to not go with the flow and use Phase-detection AF on chip, rather then base its AF performance on contrast detection alone. The thing is that in reality, if you want to track fast moving subjects, there is nothing better then phase detection. Hybrid AF will certainly allow you to enjoy both worlds and promote a more accurate focusing. People reporting a relatively lower AF performance when shooting fast moving subjects compare to what you get with phase-detect AF based cameras. When it comes to tracking AF, phase-detect is more consistent, and that’s what some people wanted to see on the GH3, especially after waiting so long for a new model to replace the GH2.

Th thing is that Sony already taking advantage of that Hybrid AF (99 phase-detect AF points with a 25-area contrast system) in its Sony NEX-5R and NEX-6 and by doing so it certainly brings some DSLR features to CSC. Sony new NEX cameras also feature 1080p60 (progressive). It seems that Sony moves forward where Panasonic wants to stay behind.  I think its too early to make a judgement about the AF performance, but I am like you, can’t think about a reason why Panasonic won’t utilize the Hybrid AF technology too, why not enjoy both worlds, no matter how fast and accurate the contrast AF is.

Indeed, contrast-detect AF has been improved a lot and its continue to improve in each generation of new cameras. We can expect to see the GH3 performs better than the GH2, but how much? – we still need to wait and see.

All in all, the pros outweigh the cons by a mile. The GH3 was designed form the ground up for video recording, emphasizing on low light performance and new technologies to improve the user experience (like the new OLED EVF). Panasonic want to market the GH3 as its Pro level Micro Four Thirds camera.


Panasonic GH3 Sample Images

In time we’ll have many sample images to enjoy. As for the time of writing this article I’ve found some nice sources with some great sample images taken with the Panasonic Lumix GH3 camera. Let’s take a look.. – GH3 special image gallery called “A Special Place in Time” featuring some very colorful sample images. – a collection of GH3 pictures (zip)

I will add more links when they become available.



By now you probably know that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 is the best Micro Four Thirds video tool on the market, and one of the best Micro Four Thirds cameras alongside the E-M5. The GH3 brings a wide arsenal of features that many photographers will find useful.  The GH3 was designed to take gorgeous photos, especially in low light, and that’s true for both stills and videos. The ALL-I compression , headphone and 3.5mm mic jack,  fully articulated LCD, and increased bitrate is a very welcomed feature that many enthusiast videographers will love. The new OLED viewfinder and LCD, performance improvements, weather-sealing.. the GH3 is a well worthy update and upgrade for those who already have the GH2.

The Olympus E-M5 is still is a great camera for stills, It’s smaller and durable, has the 5-axis IS and has proven to deliver exceptional image quality.  The question that still remains is not about the video capabilities of the GH3, but the AF performance and high ISO performance of the E-M5 against the GH3. If the GH3 will be able to compete well against the E-M5 (or Win), we might find ourselves crowning a new king for the Micro Four Thirds system.  I personally think that when looking at the whole package and all the features of both cameras, the GH3 offering is hard to beat.

The current price of the GH3 is $1300, OM-D E-M5 is $1075 and GH2 is $700 (prices from Amazon for date: 9/19/2012). So the GH3 is more expensive than the Oly. Those who bought the GH2 for video, those people won’t think twice and won’t debate between the GH3 or E-M5, the GH3 is a much better video recording tool.  I would consider buying the E-M5 if video is not my main concern and I search for a ‘pro’ level micro Four thirds camera that is already a proven / tested product. The E-M5 is a must buy for every enthusiast who want to jump into the M43 system. If future test show that the GH3 result in batter image quality and AF performance, I would probably think again and consider spending more to get the GH3. Did I mention that the GH3 has Wi-Fi connectivity?


Buy Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 Mirrorless camera from B&H Photo – Click here!

Buy Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mirrorless camera from B&H PHoto – Click here!


Waiting for your comments.. Thanks 🙂


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