Flash is good for about 2.5m and features the usual red-eye reduction, slow synchro w/red-eye reduction and off. Flash exposure compensation has a ±2 EV range in 1/3 EV increments – quite a professional feature. Exposure too, has similar fine-tuning and bracketing that can be applied over three, five or seven frames. Good to see, but this is maybe a hang over from the days of film, as it’s unlikely 1/3 EV difference either side could be detected on most people’s dusty monitors.
A pop-up flash is there if you need it
When used with studio flash the DMC-GH1 produced very accurate colours – a little too sharp, but easy enough to tone down in the options. Firing a radio trigger off the hotshoe, the shutter sync was a very respectable 1/160th. Still, you should be able to go higher than that given that this camera has no mirror mechanism. Indeed, rather than go above ISO 800 on this camera, use a tripod or a wall if a slow shutter is needed or resort to flash. The sensor is a reasonable size, but it is still going to get a bit de-saturated and impressionistic up at ISO 1600.
The camera’s sensor can be set to shoot at four different aspect ratios for stills – 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1. Serious users will want to use all of the sensor and avoiding cropping but others wont touch their pictures before they are printed, so these are artistic choices. Of course, the DMC-GH1 shoots RAW as well as numerous JPEG sizes, so almost all white balance issues can be processed later using the supplied Silkypix Developer Studio 3.0 SE software for and Mac and Windows. With a mini-HDMI connector, HDTV playback of video and images can be viewed but you can’t see live HD direct from the camera.
The lens is not amazingly fast in light terms, being much better at the wide-angle end of things. However, it's not cheap either and contributes a large part of the cost of this kit. Having said that, it is a great piece of engineering. The only downside is the current choice of lenses that are compatible with all aspects of video capture on this camera. Once this is extended, this camera system will be used in a lot of tight spots that are beyond the reach of ‘proper’ movie cams. Indeed, the DMC-GH1 proved its worth whilst working on the Howard Jones music video Soon You’ll Go and was given the task of the crane view shots shown in the samples page.
The Panasonic DMC-GH1 shoots very pleasing stills with excellent metering, yet where it excels is in being able to offer filmmakers something very cheap in comparison to pro video cameras with larger sensors. It features several frames rates and very acceptable audio for syncing which is perfectly useable for grab interviews. But the mastertroke is the two format video recording: the snatch and grab MJPEG 720p and the camcorder-quality 1920x1080 25p AVCHD.
This camera stole a march on its very new rivals, the Nikon D300s and Canon EOS 7D, so now the choice will be more about the lenses you already own, or intend to own. Given the big names behind the Micro Four-Thirds system, it looks like it’s here to stay. So, if you have an inkling for filmmaking, and are prepared to grow with this new format, then the DMC-GH1 is the camera for you. ®
James Cumpsty is a professional photographer and videographer working in the music industry.
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Panasonic DMC-GH1 Micro Four-Thirds camera
1080p 50i into 25p? No EU HD time limit? Why not 24p for direct-to-Blu ray?
On Panasonics's site, the spec says that the sensor captures at 50i but outputs at 25p. Is this worth being concerned about? do other cameras capture purely at 25p with no such conversion?
No mention of a maximum time limit per continuous recording. Some digital stills cameras have this limit to avoid the EU camcorder tax. Which might explain a previous poster's comments about why the price increase compared to a stills-only camera. So it appears that the recording limit is only limited by the memory capacity of the card recorded onto. Great.
Why 25p and not 24p? 24p is possibly the most common frame rate for Blu-ray. Recording at 24p would mean less or no reprocessing or re-encoding if you want to record your footage onto Blu-ray. Blu-ray provides a reasonably robust and permanent medium for achiving and sharing. Thinking about the whole solution chain from capture to archiving is missing from a lot of manufacturer's minds it seems. Though Panasonic's dedicated standlone Blu-ray recorders likely support recordings from SD from this camera also made by them.
an £800 premium over the G1 for hd video?
I paid less for my D90 a year ago. The G1 is a lovely piece of kit, but why almost a triple hike in price on the GH1 just for adding the ability to take movies?
Paris, because she knows all about being overpriced and pointless.
Yes, but is it any good as a stills camera?
El Reg seems to be reviewing this mainly as a video camera rather than for stills. OK fair enough but you're claiming it's stolen a march on the Canon's 7D and Nikon's D300s both very, very good stills cameras.
How does the GH1 compare to these two in handling and at high ISO?
Also, as a system how does it compare to offerings from Nikon and Canon? Nikon's CLS, for example, is great for is great for off camera flash.
I'm guessing that how you want to use your camera is going to be more of a deciding factor than which lenses you already own. I.e. Do you want a small, compact and versatile all rounder or do you want something to shoot indoor sports in low light, etc.
These little micro 4/3rds cameras look like a great, very flexible compromise but personally I'd still primarily be interested in using it as still camera.
Four Thirds isn't for everyone
The ability to add an external mike to me would be the biggest selling point in this camera, the turnoffs are the noise at high ISO's and the Four Thirds mount.
Considering how small the sensor is I'm surprised the pictures have as low noise as they do, however my Nikon D700 has a full frame sensor and doesn't start showing any noise until ISO 5000. Unless people are buying new into the system the Four Thirds mount is a pricey proposition for what you actually get, and there's not a huge choice of lenses. Also, LCD displays still haven't caught up to a simple reflex mirror.
However, zip over to Youtube and the video quality is actually pretty good. An external mike takes away all the problems with hearing the focus motor or your hands as you move or adjust anything on the camera. And manual controls? ooooohh.....by comparison my Nikon D90 backup camera literally just captures the live view, and has a well known problem with the video wobbling or jiggling if you pan too fast or don't hold it steady.
So one of these would be nice to get, but not for the price.
high iso banding?
whats with the banding the iso 1600 and higher pics? grainyness is to be expected but the lines are odd.