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Old March 16th, 2013, 12:39 AM   #1
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GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

Very sad and worried. I think I will have to send my brand new GH3 back for a refund.

Just came back from my first real shoot, which was ruined due to focus problems. It was a symphony dress rehearsal, shot from the balcony. Luckily I had two cams, so I might be able to salvage something.

Unless someone can tell me how to enable expanded focus while recording, I can't use the GH3. (BTW, I would not mind peaking, but peaking is no substitute for expanded focus where my eyeballs can LOOK and confirm the focus is as sharp as possible)

In manual mode, the expanded focus only works when NOT recording. After the recording starts, turning the ring changes the focus, but without expanded mode, it is impossible to get it exact. Auto-focus, either continuous or touch, did not accurately lock on - I learned this to my horror after getting home.

I never dreamed that the GH3 would be crippled like this. I have NEVER encountered a video camera where the expanded focus only works when not recording! Even baby cameras like the NX70 and NX30 have this! What was Panny thinking?!?

It is really sad because when it IS in focus, the image is incredibly sharp!

I don't want to wait and wait for a mythical firmware upgrade. The clock is ticking on my return window.

I'll call Panny support on Monday, but I have sick feeling I know what they will say.

Sad, Steve

Last edited by Stephen Crye; March 16th, 2013 at 12:41 AM. Reason: Added
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Old March 16th, 2013, 03:22 AM   #2
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

Have you thought about a monitor which takes a HDMI signal from the camera? I don't know whether the picture quality degenerates once the record button is pressed but I do know, via a friend's GH2, that you an get a very good image on a monitor.

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Old March 16th, 2013, 07:12 AM   #3
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

Focus Assist or "expanded" focus only works in non-recording video mode on both the GH2 & 3 models. The auto focus, while excellent in decent lighting, will go on a hunting expedition suddenly after working fine for a while in low light conditions. Face detection really works but can go awry in low lighting if the person turns away.

There are three ways around this with the GH series; use the viewfinder (not the LCD) for live focusing, get a LCD loupe (unfortunately still missing in action for the GH3) or attach a monitor via HDMI. The GH3 HDMI is very clean and you should be able to focus in most live situations with it going to a decent LCD monitor.

The main problem you are having may be attributable to trying to use the GH3 in a situation more suited to a regular video camera. The focus is very touchy on all DSLR cameras, not counting the lack of par-focal lenses that stay in focus thru out the zoom range, and live events with unexpected things happening really need a camera with a stabile focal range. If you are planning on more live event work, perhaps returning the camera and getting a semi-pro video camera would be a good idea. Believe me, I use a GH3 for theatrical events in venues too small for my big pro video camera and it's very hard to keep in focus 100% of the time. 90% is a goal. I also have a GH2 with a LCD loupe which is easier to manual focus. Some day I will get a smaller high quality video camera.
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Old March 16th, 2013, 10:46 AM   #4
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

I've been using my ipad via wifi as a monitor but unfortunately the live feed stops once you begin recording which prevents focus monitoring. An external hdmi monitor would probably work best.
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Old March 16th, 2013, 12:14 PM   #5
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

Steve - expanded focus only works before the shot, not during.

That said, on the GH3, for those who don't know, tapping the Fn3 button a couple of times will expand the focus - as opposed to the GH2's method of pushing in on the control wheel twice. This was a little frustrating for me until I figured it out. Good thing I hadn't reconfigure the Fn3 button away from the default :)

If none of this works for you, I hope you're able to get your money back without any problems.

Cheers and good luck,

Bill
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Old March 16th, 2013, 04:25 PM   #6
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

Thanks to everyone for the replies!

I had considered all those options, but they really don't work for me.

What is so very frustrating and making the decision tough is that with the 35-100mm F2.8 lens and the 50 Mbps H.264 mode, I've finally found a cam with fabulous sharpness. I'm just blown away by the image quality. CA and fringing are nearly nonexistent. The ETC actually works - I get the equivalent of 400+ mm using the 35-100 zoom - tack-sharp. IQ Beats the pants off the NX70, NX30, NX5, Panny AC-160a and PMW-100. The bokeh is just right - more than 1/3" but not horrible like APS-C or full frame (Bokeh is difficult to deal with when recording live events)

But this focus thing is MADDENING. And it need not be. Panny could fix this with firmware in a couple of ways. Let me first summarize my test results from this morning - if I get anything wrong, please jump in because I'm admittedly a noob with this camera.

Continuous auto-focus hunts like crazy in most situations. Ok, fine turn it off. But in movie mode with it off, the Live Preview still has continuous AF! This almost made me lose my mind until I turned on the recording and the continuous AF stopped. Not a big deal, but surely this was a goof on Panny's part. So, with continuous AF off, I'm shooting. Half-presses on the shutter button cause it to try to lock on, works pretty good most of the time, but fails about 1 in 20 tries. Also, the touch screen AF works more or less, even dragging the little square around *usually* results in the camera focusing on what is in the square. It also fails often enough to cause frustration. It's not as reliable as the spot focus on Sony touch screens, and there seems to be no spot meter, but this is kind of useable.

Then I tried different positions of the lever around the AF hold button. It has 3 positions: AFS/AFF, AFC, and Manual. In Manual, it turns off the ability to use half-press shutter AF, and then the dial on the lens can be used for sloppy imprecise focus (because there is no peaking or expanded focus). Next I try AFC - it would be really cool if that would turn on continuous AF, but it does not. In fact, there seems to be no change in operation when the lever is in AFC or AFS/AFF mode. (Perhaps this only works for stills - which seems crazy, for stills, I can't fathom messing with a bunch of complex focus modes when what you want is a picture that is in focus when you snap the shutter)

OK, so the lever can't be used to turn on AFC. A quick way to enable AFC would be nice, seeing as sometimes AFC would help. I think, "no problem, I'll assign that to a function button". WRONGO - it can't be assigned, and too add insult to injury, AFC off/on seems to be unavailable via the menus while recording.

Stinging from those defeats, I then turn my attention to the AFS/AFF/AE hold button. I think, "wow, perhaps I could turn continuous AF on before I hit the record button, and then when I see that my subject is in focus, lock that focus setting via the button". WRONG again, (and this is in the manual), the button has no effect after recording has started.

grrrr

I'f wishes were fishes, I'd have Panny extract the guts of the GH3, insert them in a body similar to the PMW-100. Grow the fabulous capacitive touch screen to 3.5" . Fix all this silly stuff with focus. Leave the photo modes, but emphasize the video features. Give it 2 SD slots and XLR, but also keep the 3.5mm mic input. (In other words, sort of the Panny equivalent of the Sony EA50 in m43 format, but with an ENG shape).

I'd pay $2.5K for the body without lenses!

Steve

Last edited by Stephen Crye; March 16th, 2013 at 04:35 PM. Reason: typo + extra info
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Old March 16th, 2013, 04:45 PM   #7
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

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Originally Posted by Bill Bruner View Post
Steve
That said, on the GH3, for those who don't know, tapping the Fn3 button a couple of times will expand the focus - as opposed to the GH2's method of pushing in on the control wheel twice. This was a little frustrating for me until I figured it out. Good thing I hadn't reconfigure the Fn3 button away from the default :)

Bill
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Fn3 will only do that when in MF mode, and NOT recording. This is the problem, and is why I started this forum topic. We need to have expanded focus while recording video.

Steve
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Old March 16th, 2013, 06:47 PM   #8
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

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Originally Posted by Stephen Crye View Post
Stinging from those defeats, I then turn my attention to the AFS/AFF/AE hold button. I think, "wow, perhaps I could turn continuous AF on before I hit the record button, and then when I see that my subject is in focus, lock that focus setting via the button". WRONG again, (and this is in the manual), the button has no effect after recording has started.

grrrr

I'f wishes were fishes, I'd have Panny extract the guts of the GH3, insert them in a body similar to the PMW-100. Grow the fabulous capacitive touch screen to 3.5" . Fix all this silly stuff with focus. Leave the photo modes, but emphasize the video features. Give it 2 SD slots and XLR, but also keep the 3.5mm mic input. (In other words, sort of the Panny equivalent of the Sony EA50 in m43 format, but with an ENG shape).

I'd pay $2.5K for the body without lenses!

Steve
Yes, I would like to stay in manual focus and have the option while recording to briefly enable the auto-focus and once the button is released the camera goes back to manual focus.

Second, like a lot of people, I would like to have some sort of focus peaking available. In the GH3 focus peaking has been first rumored as impossible given the limitations of an already crammed full of features camera and then recently as a possibility by firmware upgrade. The GH2's LCD has an inadvertent form of focus peaking due to an LCD quirk that's only visible with a magnifier loupe. The GH3's LCD might have it, I have yet to check.

Some of the problems you described have not been my experience but I will up the ISO to get a more workable DOF in uncertain circumstances.
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Old March 17th, 2013, 06:33 PM   #9
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

Stephen, you should be able get focus unless you're having problems with your monior, lcd or eyepiece. Unless you're shooting very low f stops your critical DOF should be OK and have no trouble focussing within the range.. Maybe open up to 5.6 or so so you have a bit more latitude. I never rely on AF unless I'm trying to get a quick reference before I go to manual. But yes, peaking would solve all our problems.
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Old March 17th, 2013, 08:19 PM   #10
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

Thanks again to everyone for all the feedback, ideas and sympathy ...

If the GH3 with the 35-100mm lens I bought was just not so darn sharp it would be easy to reject it. But, I'm blown away again and again by the image quality.

Last night I was playing around with some night time lapse from my back yard. The attached still is one of about 200 I shot at 3 sec intervals. F 2.8, 1 sec exposure, indoor white balance, electronic shutter. The atmosphere was not stable, so the most distant lights (10+ miles away) are not pinpoints because during the 1 sec exposure the twinkle effect blurred them. When you view it, be sure to turn off any jpeg smoothing (I use the great freeware FastStone viewer, highly recommended.)

Notice the nice, controlled flare on the bright blue light in the lower left corner. This is soooo much better than all the other cams I have tested over the last year. The results in Movie mode at 50 Mpbs IDO 320 pretty much look the same, given that the resolution is only 1920x1080,

I used manual to get the focus just right.

BTW, has anyone else noticed that the live preview image is not nearly as sharp as when the recording starts? I'm using 2.5x reading glasses to scope out the screen, and I was worried about the blurriness until I hit the record button and watched it snap into sharp clarity.

So ... I'm leaning toward keeping the GH3, hoping against hope for firmware upgrades that fix some of the annoyances ... like the 10-sec auto-shutoff of the details on the screen, focus stuff, and more. (I wonder if the eventual hack would incorporate these kind of fixes?)

Steve
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Last edited by Stephen Crye; March 17th, 2013 at 08:28 PM. Reason: typo
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Old March 17th, 2013, 08:25 PM   #11
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

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Originally Posted by William Hohauser View Post
The GH2's LCD has an inadvertent form of focus peaking due to an LCD quirk that's only visible with a magnifier loupe. The GH3's LCD might have it, I have yet to check.

.
Funny you mention this, I noticed it last night when focusing on books in my bookcase. With the 2.5x reading glasses ,when in focus, there is sort of a moire thing that happens. It seems to only occur when pointed at scenes with high-contrast lines.

I would hate to rely on it, though. I'd also like to avoid shelling out $500.00 for an external monitor with expanded focus ... I really don't want to have to mount the GH3 in a cage with all kinds of stuff hanging off, but I might end up doing that anyway to use an external battery.

Steve
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Old March 18th, 2013, 09:04 AM   #12
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

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Originally Posted by William Hohauser View Post
The main problem you are having may be attributable to trying to use the GH3 in a situation more suited to a regular video camera. The focus is very touchy on all DSLR cameras, not counting the lack of par-focal lenses that stay in focus thru out the zoom range, and live events with unexpected things happening really need a camera with a stabile focal range.
True, I already have one pretty good ENG video camera, I'm using the GH3 as a second cam.

Since Oct. 2011 I have been searching for my second camera. I have bought, tested, rejected and sent back: three Sony NX70s, a Sony NX5, a Sony VG20 and a Panny AC-160a. All had various combinations of unacceptable problems; most related to image quality (CA/fringing, vignetting, poor corner focus, excessive coma and flare, or lack of true 1920x1080 resolution.) Most recently I was waiting for the JVC HY-GM600, but it does not have 1080 60p and JVC finally admitted that they could not fix that with firmware. I was looking at the Sony EA50, which as a lot of great features, but the DoF on APS-C sensors is even shallower than m43, and I had already been frustrated by that with the Sony VG20.

If only the Sony PMW-100 took SD cards and also had 1080 60p! Ditto the Canon XF100. Those cams have the exact size I'm looking for. I have to lug two cams up into the mountains sometimes, so anything bigger is not good - the NX5 was too big.

Sick of waiting nearly two years, I decided I would get a DSLR and do some night time lapse. I almost bought the Nikon D7000, but in the nick of time I realized that the GH3 was out. For years I had, with some amusement, noticed the legions of GH2 owners, always quick to jump in and tout the abilities of their cameras. So, I decided to chance it.

My big fear right now ... as soon as the GH3 is outside of my return window, someone will announce a new cam with all the features I have been waiting for! Then it will be eBay for the GH3 ... hopefully it will hold its value.

Last edited by Stephen Crye; March 18th, 2013 at 09:07 AM. Reason: typo
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Old March 18th, 2013, 09:15 AM   #13
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

It is frustrating to have these DSLRs fall short on features, but they are still cameras!

Stephen, are these gigs for pay or for free?

I would never film a live event without an external monitor for each camera. So work with the features the GH3 does have and get external monitors! Problem solved. :)
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Old March 18th, 2013, 02:52 PM   #14
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

I have a HM600 on order specifically for my live event work. 1080p is not a requirement for me, usually I prefer to shoot 720p at live events. I will use my GH3 as a wide shot at 1080p if that's needed. This way when I edit in 720p I can zoom in on the GH3 footage with no resolution loss.

Many of the live events I cover an external monitor would not work as I sometimes get placed in audience seating areas.
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Old March 19th, 2013, 10:02 AM   #15
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Re: GH3 - no expanded focus while recording!

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Stephen, are these gigs for pay or for free?

I would never film a live event without an external monitor for each camera. So work with the features the GH3 does have and get external monitors! Problem solved. :)
Nothing I do with video is paid. I'm not good enough; even if I were, not sure I would want to have the specter of clients hanging over me ...

I refuse to buy extra gear to overcome design flaws in anything. Also, I can't lug extra monitors (and the power sources for them) to the tops of mountains. My gear has to be light and self-contained. Event videography is just one of many passions.

Last edited by Stephen Crye; March 19th, 2013 at 10:19 AM. Reason: typo
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