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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Panasonic GH1

Panasonic Digital Cameras


Panasonic GH1 Review

Review Date: June 22, 2009

Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur

Panasonic GH1
Photoxels Editor's Choice Award - Compact DSLR 2009 


The Panasonic Lumix GH1 is a Digital Interchangeable Lens camera targeted to serious and advanced amateur photographers. It has 12.1 megapixel resolution on a FourThirds (17.3 x 13.0 mm) Live MOS image sensor. It is positioned as a DSLR-level camera and accepts interchangeable lenses on the micro FourThirds (mFT) mount.

The Panasonic GH1 has excellent image quality (including excellent low-light performance) up to ISO 400 with plenty of details preserved (good detail up to ISO 1600) and good colors.

Lumix 14-140mm
10x Optical Zoom
Wide 28mm Tele 280mm
Wide 14mm
(28mm, 35mm equivalent)
Tele 140mm
(280mm, 35mm equivalent)

One of the advantage of a DSLR is the ability to use interchangeable lenses suited for specific jobs. The Panasonic GH1 comes with a new 10x optical zoom lens as standard kit lens: the optically image stabilized Lumix 14-140mm f/4.5-5.8 lens provides a 28-280mm equivalent field of view. In the above pictures, we show the coverage for 28mm then 280mm.

The Panasonic GH1 has full exposure flexibility with PASM modes, and Program Shift.

The camera also provides exposure compensation (with Auto Bracketing) and Custom (Manual) White Balance. A Histogram can be displayed in both Live and Playback modes.

Shutter speed ranges from 1/4,000-60 sec. in PASM, plus B (approx. 4 minutes) in Manual Mode.

99mm [198mm], Program, Pattern, 1/20 sec., F5.8, ISO 100

The actual macro capability is a function of the lens you use. The Lumix 14-140mm kit lens allows you to focus only as close as 50cm (2.64 ft.). However, it has the advantage of maintaining that closest distance at any focal length, which means that you can use Tele macro. This is not much "macro" so hopefully Panasonic (and Olympus) plans to introduce real macro capable lenses in the near future. Other micro FourThirds lenses that are available include the a 14-45mm F/3.5-5.6 standard zoom lens, and a 45-200mm F/4.0-5.6 telephoto zoom lens, both introduced earlier with the G1, and a new super wide-angle 7-14mm (14-28mm equiv.) F4.0 lens. Planned for the future is a fast fixed 20mm (40mm equiv.) F1.7 lens. By using the appropriate mount adaptor, you can use existing FourThirds lenses (DMW-MA1 mount adaptor), as well as Leica M (DMW-MA2M mount adaptor) and Leica R (DMW-MA3R mount adaptor) lenses.

The AF Area can be manually moved to any of 66 x 49 "areas" (i.e. pretty much anywhere on the screen) by simply using the CURSOR buttons to select an AF area and the area size can be also reduced or increased by simply rotating the Front Dial (important to increase the accuracy of the Contrast Detect AF).

There are three metering modes: Multiple (Multi-Pattern), Center Weighted and Spot.

White Balance Indoors
AWB Maual WB
AWB Manual WB

As the above two pictures show, the auto white balance (AWB) indoors under (2 energy-saving) fluorescent artificial light bulbs tends toward the yellow. Fortunately, there is Manual WB and WB ADJUST that are easy to set and provide excellent results. As expected, AWB works well in natural light.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 100
ISO 100
ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 3200  
ISO 3200  

The Panasonic GH1 has 6 ISO settings going from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. If you need finer ISO adjustments (e.g. ISO 100, 125, 160, 200 instead of simply ISO 100 and 200), you can set the ISO Sensitivity to 1/3EV. ISO LIMIT SET allows you to limit the maximum ISO the camera will select when you've selected Intelligent ISO or ISO AUTO. The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate the noise at the available ISO Speeds. At ISO 100 to 400, noise is under control. Noise starts to be slightly visible at ISO 800 but is still very acceptable. Loss of detail is apparent at ISO 1600 and noise is quite visible at ISO 3200. Overall, excellent noise handling.

Chromatic Aberrations

CA is under control in everyday shots and is not much of a problem even in high contrast shots. The corner delimited by the red square at middle left, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right, shows minimal to no purple fringing.

Long Shutter Speed
67mm [134mm], Manual, Spot, 60 sec., F18, ISO 100
Manual WB, Self-timer 10 sec., Tripod Used
Noise Reduction ON

The Panasonic GH1 allows the use of a long shutter speed of up to 60 sec. in PASM modes, therefore allowing very nice night photography. Generally, with image sensors, noise becomes more prominent at slow shutter speeds. You can turn Noise Reduction ON in MENU - REC - LONG SHTR NR - ON; you'll notice a longer processing time (approx. twice as long) before the next picture can be taken.

To test this noise reduction algorithm, we take an extreme low-light indoors shot. I experiment a bit to obtain the optimum exposure, eventually settling on 60 sec. at F18. Even at this long shutter speed, the Panasonic GH1's noise reduction seems to be working great, producing a nice smooth blurring effect of the background. To obtain focus lock on Bamm-Bamm's eyes, I had to reduce the AF Area size to the smallest possible.

The Panasonic GH1 allows you to save an image in the RAW file format. I am able to shoot 4 RAW images one after another in about 3-4 sec. (which is quite impressive) and then the buffer is full. As each image is saved and space is made available in the buffer, you can fire off another shot.

In Continuous Shooting High, you can take max. 4 RAW images in 2 sec. (@ 2fps), and max. 4 RAW images in 3 sec. (@ 1.3fps) in Continuous Shooting Low. This is slower than the published 3fps and 2fps for Continuous Shooting High and Low, respectively. It takes about 4 sec. to write a RAW image to memory card (I used a regular 4GB SDHC SanDisk card). Note that these times do not include the extra processing times you'll experience if Noise Reduction kicks in. You can also select to save a RAW+JPEG (Fine or Standard).

I was able to take 24 JPEG Fine images in 10 sec. (@ 2.4fps) in Continuous Shooting High, and 42 JPEG images in 30 sec. (@ 1.4fps) in Continuous Shooting Low (seems like you can take an unlimited number of shots in Continuous Shooting Low; I stopped after 30 sec.).

I set the camera to ISO 400, shutter speed 1/100 sec., Picture Size Large, and everything else pretty much turned off. Your performance times may vary depending on your camera settings.

At Picture Size = Large, a 12.1MP image is compressed down to anywhere between 4.5MB and 7MB. A RAW image occupies about 13.8MB.

We find the overall image quality of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 at ISO 100 to be excellent with good details in the shadows and highlights. Images up to ISO 400 are also low in noise. ISO 800 is very usable.

The pictures in the Panasonic GH1 Photo Gallery page provide a good sample of what the camera is capable of. I have provided unprocessed samples at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop Elements) as well as the 4000x3000 pixels original size (click on the image for the original version). Any of the 800x600 image that is adjusted for levels and/or sharpened in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended to the file name. Original images are never adjusted.

You can safely assume that most macro shots and slow shutter speed shots required the use of a tripod.

I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels. For those who have their monitor resolution set to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit and you should not have to scroll to see the whole image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels resolution, start the slide show and then scroll to the right to position the image within your screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode, and the image should fill your screen nicely. Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor display back to normal mode.

To return to this page from the Photo Gallery, click on the animated graphics of the camera.

Please open and download the original size version only if you need to and only once to your hard drive -- and save me some precious bandwidth. Thanks!


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