Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 review
Review Date : Mon, 29 Jun 2009
Author : Mat Gallagher
- Sample Photos: See sample images taken on the Panasonic GH1
Panasonic Lumix GH1: The Micro Four Thirds System gains a new member, and with an impressive arsenal of video functions it could just be the best yet
|Pros:||HD movie mode, articulating LCD screen, build quality, supplied lens|
|Cons:||High price tag, white balance issues, slow burst mode, shutter lag|
When the Panasonic Lumix G1, the first Micro Four Thirds camera, was announced at the end of last year, the company promised a version with video to follow. Today, we are more surprised when a new camera doesn't feature HD video, so its inclusion in the Panasonic Lumix GH1 may not seem revolutionary. However, this diminutive pseudo-SLR camera offers some of the most advanced video features seen on a still camera to date, and some equally impressive creative functions for still shots, too.
The Panasonic GH1 has tackled one of the major problems for SLR-styled video - namely, sound. A new lens gives near-silent focusing, enabling the GH1 to offer continuous autofocus during shooting without picking up lens motor noise. For the more advanced users, it also offers the opportunity to shoot video with full manual control and using external microphones, while Panasonic's own AVCHD video format claims better compression and smoother action. But the Pansonic GH1 promises to be more than just a G1 with added video and, despite its almost identical appearance, some subtle improvements have been made to improve the still shooting capabilities as well. For more on the GH1's video see our page of user videos taken on the GH1.
Panasonic Lumix GH1 review: Features
The GH1 outputs the same 12.1 megapixel image as the G1, but it does this from a 14 megapixel sensor rather than the 13.1 previously. This allows an identical 4000 x 3000 pixels in the 4:3 format, but higher pixel counts in its alternative aspect ratios including 4128 x 2752 in 3:2 and 4352 x 2448 in 16:9.
The camera's ISO offers a respectable range from 100 up to 3200, plus an Auto function. It also offers an Intelligent ISO mode that detects when a subject is moving and ups the ISO speed to capture a sharp subject.
The drive modes include a burst fucntion, which can be set in low-speed mode to give two frames per second, or at a higher rate of three frames per second. There's also a single shot mode, a self-timer and an auto bracket.
The autofocus system uses a contrast detect system from the image sensor. When focusing manually the camera allows a magnified view of the centre area for more accurate control. Within the AF you have a choice of face detection, focus tracking, 23-area and single point focusing from anywhere on the image. Add to this an AF assist lamp and a focus lock and you have a pretty comprehensive selection.
Panasonic Lumix GH1: Metering
The metering uses a 144-zone multi-pattern system and offers a choice of Intelligent Multiple, centre-weighted and spot modes. Exposure compensation is offered up to +/-3EV in one-third steps, while there is also a choice of 25 scene modes.
On top of all this you can select the Intelligent Auto (iA) mode, which automatically selects Mega Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), the Intelligent ISO, scene selection, face detection, AF tracking, and Intelligent Exposure, to leave you free to concentrate on taking the picture.
The film modes allow for twelve different colour settings that mimic 35mm effects such as Nostalgic and Vibrant, and a range of black and white settings.
White Balance can be left to Auto or set via one of five presets. There are also custom settings, and colour temperature adjustment.
The GH1 is an exceptional camera, but more than anything it is an exceptional video camera. In terms of still imaging it has some improvements on the previous G1 model, though these are not significant enough on their own to justify the huge price difference. The GH1 does come with an impressive lens, which does come some way to explain the price increase, and this is a great addition for both still and for video use. As this review was going to press, Panasonic announced an update to the GH1 and the 14-140mm lens, which is expected to give improvements to the camera's burst rate, video stabilising and other performance issues. If this is the case it may answer the minor gripes we have - all apart from the price - making this an even better proposition.