Panasonic Lumix GF6 vs GF5 vs GH3

April 9, 2013

Panasonic GF6, GF5 and GH3 mirrorless cameras

On April 6, 2013 Panasonic announced the Lumix DMC-GF6, an entry-level Micro Four Thirds mirrorles camera. In this post I will be comparing the GF6 versus GF5 and GH3.  The GF5 is the model that the GF6 replaces and the GH3 is Panasonic’s flagship Micro Four Thirds model. You will get to know the differences between the three models, so you can make a smarter buying choice when you go to the store and buy the camera or order it online — so let’s begin!

I will start with a short introduction to the GH6 and GH3 ach model and continue to the actual comparison itself — where I will add the GF5 to the comparison as well.

 

Panasonic Lumix GF6

Panasonic Lumix GF6 camera in redThe Panasonic Lumix GF6 replaces the GF5 and hosts many new features to make this new updated model a very attractive to new comers.  The GF-series are Panasonic’s series of entry-level compact and stylish mirrorless cameras. The GF6 features a 16MP Live MOS sensor and an updated Venus Engine both were designed specifically for the GF6 camera. Panasonic worked on improving the sensor’s sensitivity, use advanced noise reduction system and all to allow the camera to capture very high-quality images, even at very high ISO sensitivity levels.

The GF6 utilizes the highly accuraet and fast Light Speed AF for super fast autofocusing, including full-time AF and tracking AF for video recording.  Panasonic also integrated a new Low Light AF feature that has its name suggests, it allows the camera to focus better in low-light.

The Panasonic GF6 boasts a 3-inch 1040K-dots touch-screen monitor at the back which it tiltable (180°) as well. You can even tilt the screen upwards so it can face forward for easy self-portrait shots.   Just for comparison, the GF5 had a 3-inch 920K-dot Fixed touch-screen, so it’s a new updated to the screen with the new model. One of the nice features that the touch-screen offers you is “touch AF” in video, which allows you to quickly focus on a subject by just touching it on the display. Panasonic also added the “Touch AE” feature, which changes focus and exposure as a single tap on the subject.

The GF6 can record 1080p Full HD videos in both AVCHD and MP4 formats, all with full-time AF and Dolby Digital stereo sound (stereo mic are on the top panel on the left side). There is a dedicated video record button at the top of the camera so you can easily start recording videos. The stereo mic also integrated with zoom noise reduction system and auto wind cut function to help you get high quality sound with your videos.

Another exciting new feature is the availability of NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, which allows you to initialize a Wi-Fi connection between two NFC-compatible devices (ie. smartphone, tablet) at one touch. This allows easy sharing of photos between the GF6 and the mobile device.  There is also a great option to tell the camera to do that automatically using the “Instant Transfer” function. So when you take the image, it will instantly transferred to the device of your choice. Of course there is always the option to use the Wi-Fi capability to transfer your photos and videos to your home computer via wireless access point.

As other Pannasonic Compact System Cameras, the GF6 hosts plenty of artwork functions and effects that allows you to easily edit your photos exactly the way you want them and be very creative with the results.  In the GF6 Panasonic introduced a new function called “Stop Motion Animation” which makes it much easier to produce Stop Motion animation videos. Another great feature is the “Clear Retouch” function which helps erase unwated objects from the image with a single click.

GF6 offers all the manual controls you can expect from an advanced camera but also features the “Advanced iA+” Intelligent auto mode for beginners that are doing their first steps in the digital photography world. The GF6 is an entry-level camera, but in no way it means that it’s a simple camera.  It’s hard not to get impressed with all the technologies that Panasonic put into this newborn and I’m pretty sure that it will find its way to even more people who are moving from point-and-shoot to more advanced cameras.

 

Panasonic GH3

Panasonic GH3The Panasonic GH3 is Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds flagship model. It was announced on September 17, 2012 — this camera signifies Panasonic’s commitment to excellence in the CSC arena.  The GH3 as its predecessor, the GH2 — both have been very popular among enthusiasts and professional videographers. Panasonic gain its trust among videographers and therefore GH cameras are well known for their high-quality videos and advanced video functionality apart from stills.

The GH3 is built with magnesium alloy and it feel like a professional grade camera when you hold it in your hands. It has a 16.05MP (effective) Live MOS sensor and Venus Engine featuring 3DNR (3D Noise Reduction) and MNR (Multi-process Noise Reduction) for very effective noise reduction algorithms for allowing the camera to effectively combat noise in bright adn dark areas in a very effective way when shooting in high ISO.

The GH3 utilizes a newly designed low-pass filter, which according to Panasonic, the new filter was optimized to enhance resolution while make an excellent job in suppressing moire as well. The low-pass filter actually lower the resolution of the image, that’s why we see new DSLR cameras without it, in order to get as much possible details from the scene as possible — but that leads to more noticeable moire in the image. So Panasonic developed this new low-pass filter to optimize the conflicting effects.

The GH3 features Light Speed AF for very fast and accurate focusing. This AF was tested by hundreds of photographers who confirmed its superiority over many of the current DSLR cameras on the market. There is also a focus mode levelr which allows you to choose the right AF type that fits your needs. GH3 supports Full-area focusing with Touch AF, Pinpoint AF, 1-area AF, 23-area AF, AF Tracking, 1-area AF in Face Detection.

When it comes to video, the GH3 is probably the most attractive cameras on the market. It can record 1080p60 (progressive frames) videos and also offer 24p and 30p for those who prefer working with those frame rates. More than that, the DMC-GH3 allows you to choose between 72Mbps All-Intra or 50Mbps IPB.

Other features include: Electronic Shutter Function (vibration-free operation, no pixel shifting), Shutter Delay Function (reduce the effects of handshake), ISO limit set, Long Shutter Noise Reduction (automatically removal of noise reduction specifically designed for slow shutter speeds),  HDR (several images processed into a single high dynamic range image).

The Lumix GH3 can shoot at 6 fps in burst mode at Full Resolution and even go up to 20 fps when electronic shutter is used. The Panasonic Lumix GH3 was designed for speed and performance. It hosts of many technology innovations that put Panasonic ahead of its competition in the Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens camera’s market.

The GF5 features will be available as a comparison in the next section — where you can see what changed in the GF6 over the GF5.

 

GF6 vs GH3 vs GF5 – Comparison

In this section you will find a comparison table which compares the GF6 versus the Lumix GF5 and GH3. This will give you a good look at the differences between the three cameras. I’ve also added a side note column where you can find more detailed information about the differences between the specs, if those exists.

GF5, GF6 and GH3 cameras side by side size comparison

GF5, GF6 and GH3 cameras side by side size comparison (via camerasize.com)

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Which one is the best for video shooting, GF6, GF5 or GH3? – There are many differences between the three cameras as you can see from the comparison table above. It’s a good practice to understand the key differences, which will allow you to choose the camera that fits your shooting habits. The GH3 is in no doubt the best camera for video enthusiast and professionals, which offers 1080p60 and the option to choose between All-Intra or IPB (MOV video file format). The GH3 also gets an uncompressed HDMI and 3.5mm mic and headphone jack which is the best option for better sound quality and audio monitoring — all in all its the best choice for those who want the best tool for shooting videos.

Let’s take a look at some sample videos taken with the three Micro Four Thirds cameras.
Panasonic Lumix GF6 Test Video

Panasonic Lumix GF5 Sample Video

Panasonic Lumix GH3 Sample Video (25 fps, 72Mbit)

*Make sure you watch it in 1080 resolution. Also I recommend visiting Vimeo and find many high quality videos there that demonstrates the capabilities of each camera.

 

None of the cameras come with a built-in GPS receiver for geo-tagging. The GH3 allows you to use your smartphone to get the location data and embed it in the image metadata. You do that by going into the Wi-Fi settings, select a destination device, than you’ll see the device on your phone as well, just tap “connect” and the connection is made. The two devices now talk to the other. I highly recommend watching this video to get a better understanding how to connect your smartphone or tablet device with your GH3 camera.

You’ll also appreciate the build quality and weather-sealing of the GH3. It’s the only dust and splash-proof camera of the three, which makes it an excellent camera for outdoor photographers.  The GH3 is also the only one with a viewfinder, an electronic one. This features might make many people to prefer the GH3 over the entry-level offering.  Of course we cannot deny the fact that the GH3 is much larger than the Lumix GF5 and GF3 cameras, which is also something that you need to consider. Small as the GF5/GF6 cameras are, you can’t put them in your pocket. Don’t forget that you have to attach a lens to it as well — so in any case you’ll need a small bag to carry either cameras.

Another reason to favor the GH3 is its viewfinder, which is absent in the other GF3 / GF5 and GF6.  Some photographers just can’t live without it. You feel more connected with the subject when you view it through the viewfinder, easier to make precise focus and better when shooting in bright daylight compare to the back LCD that all digital cameras have. Just note that it’s not an optical viewfinder, but rather a Electronic one, which is actually a tine LCD screen that  is built in the Viewfinder compartment. This is a high-resolution EVF, not the cheapo ones found on many bridge cameras.

I really like the NFC feature on the GF6. Anyone nowadays have a smartphone. Smartphones don’t have the advanced optics as digital cameras have and by using NFC you can take gorgeous photos with your camera, and easily share them online by transferring images to your phone — then you can share them on Facebook, Twitter, send them by email, etc. This is one feature that I”m pretty sure that will make the GF6 more attractive for beginners than the GF5.

The GF6 also utilizes a tiltable LCD compare to the GF5′ fixed one, it will allow you to take photos in high angles  and shoot self-portrait easily by tilting the device to point forward.  Panasonic also added a mode-dial at the top of the camera, which helps setting up the exposure or scene modes without digging deep into the menu, which takes time. Add the improve image processor and sensor with an improved noise performance,  improved, AF  and light metering sensor, faster (0.47 sec) startup time, there are plenty of reasons to get the GF6 over the GF5 and even update to the new model from those who come from the GF5.

 

Conclusion

The GF6 new features convinced me to get the GF6 over the GF5 and its a worthy upgrade as well for those who previously purchased the Lumix GF5.  The GF5 is still a great camera and will cost less of course. I think that in the days that everyone has a smartphone — you find the NFC feature very useful for sharing photos online.  Mobile phone cameras have very limited optics capabilities, so by taking advantage of the NFC connectivity, it will help you share gorgeous photos.  Both the GF6 and GF5 lacks a hot-shoe, so you can’t attach and external flash to the camera, with the GH3 you can. If you need this feature, you can also check out the Panasonic GX1 which has a hot-shoe connector.

The GH3 is much more expensive camera, and if you decide to go with it, make sure that you intend to take advantage of its features. If you just want a mirrorles camera that can take excellent photos and you can live without the GH3 additional features, get the GF6 and be a happ photographer.  The GF5 and GF6 give much better value overall, they are compact and take great pictures. I personally thought that the GF6 would be even smaller than the GF5,  but it seems that in order to use a tiltable display and added more functions to the camera, they had to use a a bit larger body. Nevertheless, a bit larger body is not actually a bad thing,  it provides better ergonomics.

If you want my recommendation, get the GF6 is you want a compact Micro Four Thirds camera that can take very high quality photos, has NFC for easily transfer photos to your mobile phone, has very fast AF, tilting 180-degree touchscreen display, function mode dial nad built-in Wi-Fi.

Get the GF5 if you want a more bargain camera, which as the time of writing this article costs approximately $400 with a 14-42mm Kit lens. It’s a compact Micro Four Thirds camera with very fast autofocus. It lacks the tilting LCD, which I found it useful for shooting videos.  I personally think that the GF6 is worth considering over the GF5 due to its many new features (see comparison table) which I think are very useful for both beginners and advanced photographers alike.

Three excellent Micro Four Thirds cameras, I’m sure that you can’t go wrong choosing either, but make sure that you pick up the camera that best fits your photography style, rather going with the camera that has the best features. You can save money on the camera body and get a better lens instead, which very important in order to achieve better image quality and expand the creative things that you can do with your camera (ie. using a wide-angle lens instead of a the normal zoom kit lens).



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