By Patrick Avenell

Panasonic Australia yesterday officially unveiled the new Lumix DMC-GH3 compact system camera ahead of its retail launch in January 2013.

Soon to be the flagship model in the Lumix Micro Four-Thirds range, Panasonic will be forging a new path with its positioning for this mirrorless camera, which is being touted as a competitor to fully-fledged DSLRs from Canon and Nikon, according to marketing manager Doug Campbell, rather than technologically similar models from Sony and Olympus.

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The impetus for this push is two key pieces of research that Panasonic has sourced from GfK Retail & Technology (Australia).

The first is analysis of the most important purchasing decisions for consumers. The top three responses were quality of lens (50 per cent), size and weight (48 per cent) and the megapixel count (37 per cent).

Panasonic boasts the widest range of lenses in the compact system camera category, plus users of the GH3 can affix any third party lens adhering to the Micro Four-Thirds standard. Due to the smaller form factor compared to DSLR cameras and the GH3 weighs considerably less, and is much more portable when travelling with lenses, compared to models like Canon’s EOS 60D.

The 16.05-megapixel count isn’t among the highest in resolution — 20-plus models are increasingly prevalent — but Panasonic shares its rivals’ ambition to move the focus off megapixels and onto ISO levels and the frames-per-second speed.

The second piece of datum Panasonic has highlighted is the rapid growth of the mirrorless camera market. From negligible units in 2009, this nascent camera format has grown around 15,000 units each year, to sit at just below 50,000 units for 2012. Panasonic’s forecast is for the category to be worth over 70,000 units by the end of next year.

This growth is attributed to compact camera users stepping up to interchangeable lens systems for better picture quality and DSLR users stepping down for greater flexibility and ease of use.

To further cater to semi-professionals and videographers, Panasonic is heavily promoting the Full HD video recording of the GH3. Optional accessories targeted at this market include an additional battery grip to double battery times (DMW-BGGH3E, RRP $399), an external microphone (DMW-MS2E, RRP $449) and an external flash (DMW-FL360LE, RRP $399).

Panasonic called on 5-time Gold Logie winning television journalist Ray Martin — he stressed several times that he is not a paid ambassador — to present the GH3 at the launch press conference.

“I’ve got a [Canon] 5D that I no longer use, with three expensive lenses, because I find that travelling the road with 60 Minutes, the last thing we need is another box,” Martin said. “What I do normally is take my Lumix with a couple of lenses, put them in a suitcase and away we go.”

Although the DSLR suppliers have been aggressively promoting Full Frame cameras at previously unheard of price points, Campbell said there no plans to release a Full Frame Lumix camera. He said this was because Panasonic requires sale volume that would not be present on such a model.

The Panasonic DMC-GH3 will be available in January 2013 for RRP $1,599 (body only). For readers interested in all the details regarding the GH3, click here to read Panasonic’s media release.

The new GH3 with battery grip sans lens.

For the video enthusiasts, Canon has a new audio accessory.

A shot this journalist took yesterday using the Starburst filter that UnderCurrent loves so much.

And another, this time not using Starburst.