Panasonic DMC-GH1 Micro Four-Thirds camera
HD video with a super smooth lens, what's not to like?
In use, the menu and quick menu access on the camera are excellent. Lumix compact users will recognise these immediately, and others will find their way very quickly. There are menus for recording, playback and global choices. On the top is a Q Menu, which takes you to a step through of all functions on the screen without having to leave the Preview window.
Compact users will feel very much at home with the navigation menus
There is also a quick Film menu underneath it for getting into the different looks that come pre-programmed – Black and White, Vivid and so on, plus a couple you can customise yourself. It’s very nice for keeping consistency of a sort – sharpness, contrast, amount of saturation – though most may well shoot flat and then do all that in the editing post-production process to have more control. You can check out the sample shots to see the various preset flavours.
Another great feature that seemingly works better than the competition is the stereo microphone built into the flash pop up. Audio capture utilises the Dolby Digital Stereo Creator recording format and – while the mic itself has no separation to speak of – it does record what is in front of it very well. In situations where you have time, you would double track using a separate specialist audio recorder but, for run-and gun, this on-board mic is perfectly adequate.
That said, the DMC-GH1 really could do with headphone out socket to check the quality of the signal and to check that your external mic's batteries haven't died, as there is a mic input. Yet this appears on a 2.5mm jack, which is a bit unfriendly. Panasonic makes its own DMW-MS1 microphone, which is a perfect fit, of course, or with an adaptor you can add your own shotgun. Unfortunately, the recording levels can’t be adjusted manually but, to be fair, audio control like that belongs to semi-pro camcorders and beyond.
Apart from some AVCHD livery, the dedicated record video button is one of the few items that tell you this is a hybrid. You can shoot stills whilst it is recording video and you don't have to take your eye away from the viewfinder. Yet when gripping the camera it was easy to start recording by accident, so this function was soon disabled from the menu, which is an excellent option.
Mic input, but no headphone monitoring, alas
For stills there are the usual program modes available; varying in how much control you want. In Program AE, the camera automatically selects the shutter speed and aperture – you ride the ISO. Scene Modes offer a multitude of presets with camera taking care of business. Aperture and shutter Priority – sure you can guess – yet one important thing to note is the DMC-GH1 can shoot video in any record mode.