Sunday, December 30, 2012

WiFi export to Mac - works but not really

Today I spent another 3 hours trying to make GH3 to export images to a Mac. At the end it has worked but with some reservations:

  • First of all export works with Windows shares only (SMB/CIFS), no other protocols are supported.
  • Second, a complete NETBIOS implementation is required for GH3 can find the sharing hosts. That means that you need a running Windows computer at any time you want to export images from GH3 to your Mac or to an Airport Extreme-connected hard drive (or Time Capsule). Even if you have had successfully transmitted files before, but turned the Windows machine off and now press "Select a destination from History" on GH3, it tells you "No destination found" - same as if you try to setup a connection from scratch. Another implication is that PC wifi export works only inside of a single LAN. E.g. if, for example, you have 2 LANs connected by a router netbios traffic will not survive at that router boundary and export will not work.
  • On Airport Extreme set up disk sharing security to "With accounts". If you set it to "Disk password" or "Device password" GH3 will crash completely so that you will have to pull the battery to reset it. When security set to "With accounts" GH3 will ask you for the user name and password as required.
  • I also tried the NAS4FREE FreeBSD based NAS server. It does contain NETBIOS implementation - so GH3 shows the list of servers when NAS4FREE is turned on (that's why I'm pretty confident that it should lie on netbios). However, its implementation seem to be incomplete, or possibly GH3 implementation relies on some quite specific Windows features not supported here. Anyway after you select a server GH3 hangs and you have to pull the battery again.

For me, though I made it running, the requirement to have a Windows machine running at all times when I want to export images render PC export option completely useless. I only hope that Panasonic will catch up at some point and make it working also for Mac. They state in the GH3 User Guide that it shall work for Mac, so we have hope.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

First test results

Today was a nice weather and I walked a little with the new camera. Specifically I wanted to try HDR feature and high ISO astro shots.

Well, unfortunately handheld HDR shots do not really give you any usable image quality, even using a stabilized lens at 12mm. What is acceptable for iPhone is a no-go for a 1000+$ camera. And if you do invest time to set up a tripod why not just spend a little more to post-process from RAW on a computer? The win in flexibility and image quality is enormous. Good news however is that RAW files do keep a plenty of dynamic range: pseudo-HDR from a single RAW file is very well possible.

The above image is shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom 4.3 (click on the image to see larger). Considering that the sun is in the frame the performance is pretty amazing.

Continuing with the positives I'm really happy with the high ISO performance of the camera.

Here is a 100% crop from the second image.

RAW f2.8 13" at ISO2500, no noise reduction applied.

What I see:

  • No signs of chroma noise - just nice film-like luminance grain.
  • No banding issues that plagued GH1 (and so far I know also GH2) at longer shutter speeds and high ISO.
  • Absolutely usable up to ISO3200.
  • Since it is a full moon today I didn't really had a chance to test ISO6400. Though this will definitely require some de-noising, with downscaling to 1080p it may still be usable for timelapse.

As I said I'm pretty happy with the performance.

By the way, there is "one more thing" that makes this camera the best camera for astro photography I ever used: switching on the Constant Preview setting under Custom settings pane allows you to live preview how the current aperture and shutter speed affect the image. For astro photography it means that you finally can frame your shot without guessing by the completely dark viewfinder what is going to be in frame. It can take up to the shutter speed time until everything is completely settled but it is still much faster than making a test shot and then try to move the camera blindly to get the framing.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Electronic shutter

Basically, electronic shutter allows to shoot completely silently in situations where you need it: street photography, wedding photography, making photos during presentations, etc. There are three things to mention however:

  1. By default after switching over to electronic shutter the shutter sound is generated electronically even though there is no mechanical shutter movement. You can switch it off completely in Setup/Beep menu.
  2. If you close down the aperture on an electronic lens you will hear aperture closing down sound when you release. It is much more discrete than shutter sound but still audible in silent environment. For complete silent shooting either shoot wide open or use completely mechanical lenses (without electronic coupling).
  3. When using electronic shutter under certain types of lighting you may notice banding. It is caused by interferences between current frequencies and sensor readout speed. If you see it in your image the only way to get rid of it is to turn electronic shutter off.

In theory, there is also another use of electronic shutter: high sync speed flash photography. As the theory goes, since there is no physical curtain covering part of the sensor as a flash pops, it should be possible to sync flash at any speed, opening possibilities to overpower sun with a small flash on a bright day. Unfortunately, we are out of luck here: flash is disabled when using electronic shutter. I think the cause is the same why we see banding with certain types of light: sensor readout is in fact not instant but reads the sensor line by line (rolling shutter instead of global shutter, see this interview of Mr. Inoue from Panasonic).


A short overview of the current WiFi implementation on the GH3: what it can and cannot do.

  • Control your camera using a smartphone or tablet (Remote Shooting menu). For that you will need the Lumix Link app that is available for both Android and iOS. You can look at Nick Driftwood's video to get first impression of how it works:

    The Lumix Link app is not the most intuitive app I used, nor it has a full feature set to control everything on the camera - just basic settings are supported. But it does work, it works without any major issues, could be invaluable in situations where you just cannot touch the camera physically and it is free.
  • Show you images on TV. You will need a DLNA-capable TV for that.
  • Tethered shooting (Send Images While Recording menu) and transfer images (Send Images Stored in the Camera menu). These work either with a smartphone / tablet or a PC. I tried for more than one hour to make it working with a Mac - without success. It can be that I miss something or my configuration is invalid - the user guide tells nothing of what protocols are required on the client side or how this shall be configured. Or it may be just a bug in the implementation. I will keep trying and will share the results with you as soon as I know more.

Overall, my impression is that PC part is, let's put it this way, a little rough. Whereas it has just worked with a direct connection using my iPad I had continuous troubles connecting over Wifi access point, including one time that the display turned black and the camera stopped reacting even to turning off - I had to remove the battery to restart. What I know now is that this assumed to work with SMB protocol (Windows file sharing, works also on a mac) because once I could come that far that I could select a server. It seems FTP is not supported though.

On the other side, Will Crocket from seem to have accomplished connecting GH3 to an Apple's Time Capsule without any issues.

I don't own a Time Capsule so I cannot confirm it. But next days I will try to connect a USB drive to my older Airport Extreme base station and let you know if that works.

GH3 Tipps & Tricks

Today I got my new Panasonic GH3. In fact I do own a GH1, which I haven't upgraded to a GH2, so I followed the GH3 news from the beginning. I knew it will be awesome for video, with much improved high ISO compared to my old GH1 - the main reason to upgrade for me. And will add a lot of new features like Wifi, silent electronic shutter, HDR in camera, timelapse mode, etc., etc.

After playing with the new camera for a couple of hours today, however, I found that though the camera feels great - like a first real "pro" MFT camera yet (OMD is a great camera but you need an add-on grip to hold it properly), the feature density is so high that one really needs a user guide to understand how some features work. Unfortunately the user guide delivered with the camera again assumes that we are dummies that never heard any technical term. Specifically with Wifi it hasn't helped me at all - I had to do everything by trial and error. So I decided that it may be a good idea to share what I found or will find with the rest of the world - it could be a great time saver.