Two years after unveiling the LUMIX DMC-GH2 at Photokina 2010, Panasonic has pulled back the curtains on its new flagship digital single lens mirrorless camera. As you might expect, given the elapsed time since the release of the GH2, the new LUMIX DMC-GH3 offers significant improvements over its predecessor. These include an upgraded sensor and new image processor, 60p video capture and a maximum bit rate of 72 Mbps, a weather-sealed body, plus an OLED viewfinder and rear panel double act.

With body-only dimensions of 5.23 x 3.68 x 3.23 inches (132.9 x 93.4 x 82 mm) and weighing 16.58 ounces (470 g), the DMC-GH3 is a good deal larger and heavier than the GH2 before it (in fact, it's almost DSLR size) yet is still described by Panasonic as being compact. The megapixel count hasn't increased but the new king of the digital mirrorless single-lens camera range features a newly-developed 16.05-megapixel (17.3 x 13 mm) Live MOS Sensor and refined Venus Engine image processor with four CPUs for rapid image and video processing.

The company says that onboard 3D Noise Reduction and Multi-process Noise Reduction technologies combine to faithfully reproduce both bright and dark areas with minimum noise across the entire focusing range. The GH3 has a standard ISO sensitivity range of 200 to 12800, which can be extended to 125 and 25600, it can snap up to six frames per second (fps) burst shooting at full resolution (or 20 fps at a reduced resolution of 4-megapixels) and it gets a new Low Pass Filter for maximum image resolution and minimum moiré.

Panasonic says that the camera's weather-sealed magnesium-alloy body should help it to withstand the extreme conditions of heavy field use. There's a new ergonomic grip, and a new control layout places three dials on the front and back, together with various single-function buttons and a rear jog dial. Five physical buttons and two more on the touch panel are open to user customization.

Framing up a shot can be undertaken using the 1.7 million dot OLED Live Viewfinder or free-angle (rotates 180 degrees to the side and tilts 270 degrees up and down) 3-inch, 614k dot OLED touch display. HDR, time-lapse and multi-exposure photography is also catered for with the new camera, but it's what the videographer can look forward to that's grabbing all the headlines.

Panasonic says that the GH3 offers more format and bit rate options than ever before. Movie makers can record Full HD video in a choice of AVCHD, AVCHD Progressive, MP4 or MOV formats with the frame rate at 60p (NTSC), 30p (NTSC) or 24p, and up to a competition-trouncing 72 Mbps (ALL-Intra) or 50 Mbps (IPB) bit rate compression. The camera automatically generates multiple seamless files to allow for potentially unlimited continuous recording (in NTSC regions at least, PAL regions are still restricted to recordings of under 30 minutes at a time).

Panasonic also claims to have eliminated heat problems usually caused by prolonged recording, by revamping and redesigning the arrangement of electronic components and internal structure within the GH3. Full-time, full-area Light Speed AF, tracking autofocus and face recognition AF are all made available to the videographer, and a Slow/Fast Motion mode offers to slow down the recording action to 40 percent or speed it up by up to 300 percent at full resolution. The camera eases post production by embedding SMPTE-compliant Time Code in either Rec Run or Free Run count-up methods, too.

There's a built-in stereo microphone with wind-cut feature, and audio is recorded using Dolby Digital for AVCHD Progressive/AVCHD videos and Linear PCM for non-compressed video recorded in MOV format. An external microphone can be plugged into the 3.5 mm audio in jack, and there's a 3.5 mm output for headphone monitoring. Audio can also be played back through the camera's mono speaker.

Rounding out the specs are a built-in 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi module for wireless control of camera operation or remote monitoring via a smartphone or tablet, mini-HDMI out for direct connection to a big-screen TV or monitor, and a 1,860 mAh Li-ion battery that should be good for at least 500 stills.

Optional accessories include a detachable battery grip, an external TTL flash and a stereo shotgun microphone. A new splashproof and dustproof LUMIX G X VARIO 35-100mm / F2.8 / POWER O.I.S. fast telephoto zoom lens has also been added to the LUMIX G lens range to support the release of the GH3.

The LUMIX DMC-GH3 carries a suggested body only retail price of US$1,299.99, with an estimated shipping date of November 30.

Product page: LUMIX DMC-GH3

Panasonic has produced an introduction video for the GH3, which can be seen below.

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