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Color reproduction

Here you can see a generated GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart, place your mouse over any of the labels below it to see the color reproduction in that mode. Select a camera/setting combination from the 'Compared to' drop-down to see comparative boxes inside each patch.

Generally speaking there's very little difference in the color response (hue) of modern DSLRs - the visual difference is down to different default saturation and tone curve. Like the G1 the GH1 has relatively muted colors and contrast compared to many entry-level cameras at its default 'standard' setting, but there's plenty of different 'looks' to play with using the Film Modes.

Panasonic DMC-GH1 Compare to:  
      
      
      
      
StandardDynamicNatureSmooth
NostalgicVibrantStandard B&WDynamic B&W
Smooth B&WAdobe RGB

Artificial light White Balance

The GH1 has some trouble with auto white balance in artificial light (though to be fair it's hardly on its own in this respect - few DSLRs excel in this area). In incandescent light the GH1's auto white balance is already slightly struggling and surprisingly the results get even worse when you use the incandescent preset. The auto mode also delivers sub-standard results under fluorescent light and there is no Fluo white balance preset. On the plus side it should be mentioned that the GH1's manual white balance system (complete with two custom presets and a two-axis WB fine tune system) is one of the most sophisticated you'll find in any camera in this class. So, if you take the time to adjust white balance manually, you can achieve perfect results.

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red: 6.2%, Blue: -8.4%, Average
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red: 8.7%, Blue: -11.8%, Poor
 
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red: 6.0%, Blue: -14.2%, Poor
 

Flash

The GH1's built-in pop-up unit does a decent job. Flash images are usually well exposed and show good skin tones. There is also an AF illuminator lamp on the front of the body to aid the focus in low light.

Intelligent exposure adjustment

Like most digital cameras these days the GH1 one comes with a dynamic range enhancement feature, the Panasonic variant is called Intelligent Exposure Adjustment. You can switch this feature completely off or set a maximum level (Low, Standard, High). The camera will then apply the 'optimal' amount of exposure adjustment up to this maximum level. It can be pretty difficult to trigger the system and only in contrejour scenes like our example below does the GH1 apply the maximum level of iExposure.

Interestingly while most similar features on other cameras aim at increasing the level of highlight detail Panasonic is much more concerned about the shadow areas in your image. Intelligent exposure slightly increases sensitivity (even if you have set it to a fixed value) and then modifies the tone curve to lift the shadows.

This is exactly what's happening in our sample shot which we shot at ISO 100. When Intelligent Exposure is set to 'High' the GH1 increases ISO to 160 at the same shutter speed and aperture and adapts the tone curve. In the resulting image the shadow areas have been lifted but the highlight areas look virtually identical to the standard shot, so don't expect to reduce blown highlights by activating Intelligent Exposure.

Intelligent exposure off Intelligent exposure high
ISO 100, 1/1000sec, F6.3 ISO 160, 1/1000 sec, F6.3

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

Like its sister model G1, the GH1 delivers solid image quality in most situations and there aren't really any major image quality issues to report on.

At default settings and at low sensitivities the GH1 produces consistently high quality out-of-cam images without a need to alter any of the image parameters. The JPEG output shows natural tones and colors and is free from any kind of processing artifacts. However, the GH1 is sometimes slightly let down by its 14-140mm kit lens. While it's not any worse than equivalent lenses such as the Canon or Nikon 18-200mm zooms away from the center it struggles to deliver the resolution that the GH1's Live-MOS sensor would theoretically be capable of. A 28-280mm equivalent zoom range is extremely useful and the lens has been optimized for shooting video (stepless aperture, silent focusing). Therefore some loss of detail towards the edges of the frame is a price that many users will be happy to pay for the extra flexibility.

In the center of the frame (or with an excellent lens such as the Zuiko 50mm F2 that we use for our studio tests) the captured image detail is quite impressive though. The GH1 pulls as much detail out of a scene as the best crop-sensor DSLRs on the market. The GH1's JPEG engine is doing a very good job but shooting in RAW and converting the files still gives you a small amount of extra pixel-level sharpness.

In low light and at higher sensitivities the GH1 is not doing a bad job either and performs even slightly better at the highest ISOs than its sister model G1. The noise that is produced by the Panasonic Four Thirds sensor is fairly effectively counteracted by the imaging engine's noise reduction algorithms and the GH1 can keep up with the better entry level DSLRs. Its high ISO images show an appealing balance between noise reduction and detail retention. At ISO 1600 noise starts to kick in much more aggressively (especially 'bands' of chroma noise in the shadows) but even the ISO 3200 output is still usable for smaller prints or web albums. Careful exposure always helps to minimize this issue as well.

The GH1's metering almost always works in a very reliable manner, in normal light situations we hardly ever saw a need to intervene manually. However, the GH1's fairly steep default tone results in a tendency to clip highlights a little earlier than most APS-C sensor DSLRs. Like on the G1 the smaller photosites of the Four Thirds sensor have a slight dynamic range disadvantage to start with but this is exacerbated by the GH1's very steep tone curve. Again, there's no need to worry too much about this but it's useful to be aware of the issue. Simply expose extra carefully in high contrast situations and/or shoot in RAW to have the option of applying a tone curve that's a little more gentle in the highlights in your RAW converter.

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