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Panasonic GH1 Review
Date: June 22, 2009
Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur
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.
10x Optical Zoom
(28mm, 35mm equivalent)
(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.
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.
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.
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.
|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
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