One of the things I like most about Panasonic cameras is the way they reproduce color. The Lumix GH3 impressed me from the very first shots I made under mixed lighting in Kuala Lumpur’s international airport and continued to do so in my weekly jaunts capturing street life in and around Saigon. The GM1, though no bigger than a pack of cigarettes, boasted even better colors as well as improved low light performance. In fact, since picking up the GM1, I hardly shot with the GH3 at all, until I realized the impossibility of getting steady handheld shots with the Vario 35-100mm lens on such a small body. And the soon-to-be released GH4 promises not only 4K, but increased low-light performance and dynamic range as well. In less than 1-1/2 years, Panasonic will have released some half dozen interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras that have all received praise for their outstanding still and video capabilities.
Yet the Internet forums are filled with comments by users who insist that Panasonic’s skin tones are chalky or plastic-y looking and that Panasonic’s pro zooms produce images that are overly clinical and lacking in character. According to some, the micro four thirds sensor performs poorly in low light and is unable to deliver pleasing bokeh. In order to ascertain whether these criticisms had any validity, I decided to conduct a small real-life test. And I could think of no better location to do this than Saigon’s Central Post Office, a neoclassical building designed by Gustave Eiffel and constructed in the late 19th century. The interior is painted pink and white, suffusing visitors in the front hall in a warm glow. All but the first few shots were taken with the GH3 at ISO 800 with the Vario 35-100mm lens wide open, using standard profile with contrast, sharpening and saturation all turned down a bit. In a couple of instances, you can see the autofocus struggling; and the lens’s stabilization can’t compensate for my bad shaking. I welcome your comments and suggestions.