Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 Review
While live view on DSLRs still often looks like something that has been bolted on after a last minute request from the marketing department (for instance, in most cases the AF is so slow that it's not usable at all for moving subjects), the GH1 is a camera that has been designed around live view from the beginning and it shows. With the dedicated Micro Four Thirds lenses the GH1's contrast detect AF is as quick as the 'traditional' phase detect systems on most DSLRs. Operation is always coherent and not too dissimilar to Panasonic's compact cameras.
Live view display modes
On the GH1 you can chose between a viewfinder and LCD type display and you can set those independently for the EVF and the rear LCD. Commendably, the behavior in all screen modes is remarkably consistent - the command dial controls exposure compensation in most 'scene' modes, or one of the shooting parameters in the 'P, A, S and M' modes. In these modes, pressing the command dial toggles to control exposure compensation, the other shooting shooting parameter or program shift, depending on the mode. Accessing the other settings just requires pressing the Q.Menu button at which point the arrow keys or command dial allow navigation and a press of the 'set' button or command dial engages the setting.
Note that not all settings are available in all modes (Scene modes and Intelligent Auto modes have a reduced set of options).
|LCD mode with detailed shooting information and histogram||Viewfinder mode with detailed shooting information|
|No shooting information||Grid type I|
|Grid type II||Grid type III|
|One really neat feature is the ability to position the live histogram anywhere in the frame. You can also add framing guides (including custom guides you position yourself).|
Live view magnification
Just as in playback mode you can magnify live view by pressing the enlarge button (or back out again with reduce). While magnified you can use the multi-controller to move around the live image.
|The live view can, naturally, be magnified.|
Live view Depth-of-Field preview
One very useful feature is depth-of-field (DOF) preview. When the DOF preview button is pressed the camera stops the lens down to the selected aperture which provides you with an accurate representation of the depth-of-field of the final image. This system has advantages over the optical viewfinder in that it doesn't darken and can correctly represent the effects of large maximum apertures.
One totally unique (as far as we know) feature is the G1/GH1's shutter speed effect preview. This changes the refresh rate of the live view to mimic the shutter speed selected, producing a fairly accurate representation of how blurred subject movement will be in the final shot. This is exactly the kind of feature that shows how a truly 'ground up' digital camera system can offer significant advantages over the current crop of 'one foot in the past' digital SLRs.
|Normal Live View||DOF preview button held at F22|
|Press Display to preview the effect of the current shutter speed (here the spinning players appear as a total blur). This isn't a still; it's a live view with blurring.|
The introduction of live view to SLRs has seen an increase in the prevalence of compact camera-like features and the ability to preview parameter changes on the image. The GH1, as a live view only system camera, has more than its fair share of toys and (inevitably, this being Panasonic) a plethora of scene and subject modes.
|Pressing the Film Mode button brings up this menu from where you can choose one of six color and three black & white color modes. In each case you can also change the contrast, sharpness, saturation (color modes only) and noise reduction in 5 steps (from -2 to +2). There are two 'My Film' memory registers for creating and saving custom color modes. A final 'Multi Film' mode offers film mode 'bracketing' (up to three shots in your choice of film mode).||My Color mode (accessed from the main mode dial) offers a quick way to experiment with three tonal parameters; Color (hue), Brightness and Saturation. In each case you get an 11 step (-5 to +5) range to play with.|
|As with most recent Panasonic compacts there are five 'Advanced Scene Modes' (again accessed from the mode dial) - Portrait, Scenery, Sports, Close-up and Night Portrait. Each of these has four or five sub sections with more specialized subject modes. With any scene mode selected pressing the DISPLAY button brings up a short description of the mode.||The Scene mode (SCN on the mode dial) offers five rather specialized options: Sunset, Party, Baby 1, Baby 2 and Pet (the last three give the option to overlay the age of the child or chihuahua on the shot).|
Contrast Detect AF
Aside from the viewfinder, our biggest worry about the viability of the GH1 - and all non-reflex interchangeable lens cameras - is the reliance on sensor-based contrast detect autofocus. Our experiences so far - with the live view modes on current DSLRs - haven't been promising; all are painfully slow and most are close to unusable for any non-static subject.
When we visited Panasonic in Osaka last year to talk about the development of Micro Four Thirds we were assured that our concerns would be unfounded; this is a system designed from first principles on the basis of live view only operation, and a lot of work has gone into the design of new contrast detect focus algorithms. This, we were told, along with the extra processing power of the new Venus HD engine, would mean contrast detect AF that was at least as fast as current entry-level digital SLRs using the traditional phase detect AF.
The good news is that Panasonic's engineers have kept true to their word; the focus is not only astonishingly fast for a contrast detect system; it's easily as fast as any conventional SLR in this class. And unlike even most mid-range SLRs you get 23 area auto AF and the ability to place a single AF point almost anywhere in the frame - and that's before you throw in Panasonic's remarkable subject tracking AF and Face Detection. Panasonic seems to have overcome the main problem currently associated with using live view on an SLR (focus speed) and in so doing produced a truly usable live view-only camera.
The GH1 offers four focus modes; Face Detection, AF Tracking, 23-area-focusing and 1-area focusing.
|In Face Detection mode the camera will identify and lock onto a human face.||In single area AF mode you can set both the position (using the SET button then the arrow keys) and the size (using the dial) of the chosen area.|
|In 23-area AF the camera automatically selects the right area(s) of the scene from 23 points.||Panasonic's unique AF Tracking mode starts with a central focus area.|
|Half press and the focus point will 'lock on' to the subject.||Even if the subject - or the camera - moves, the focus point will continue to track it. It works well and is very fast.|
|Manual focus is performed using the focus ring on the lens. If you've activated the MF assist function the image will be magnified to 5x or 10x as soon as you turn the focus ring. It's surprisingly usable.|
Live view AF video clip
Below you will find a (very) short video clip showing the contrast detect autofocus in action. The clip starts a fraction of a second before the half-press activation of the focus system (with the focus preset to infinity) and ends after the 3 second record review has ended and the live view has returned. As you can see, the focus moves very quickly from infinity to its closest focus point.
Please note that this video has been taken from the Panasonic G1 review. The AF operation on the GH1 is identical.
Overall handling and operation comments
The GH1 is smaller than even the smallest DSLRs but, thanks to its good sized grip and reassuring weight, always feels solid and stable in your hand. From a control interface point of view the Panasonic offers the best of two worlds. You can use it almost exactly in the same way as you would use an SLR, with your eye to the viewfinder and controlling the settings via the various external controls; despite being built around Live view the GH1 will behave in pretty much the same way. However, if you're upgrading from a compact camera and don't want to change the way you operate your camera, you can simply use the LCD to frame a shot and control settings on-screen via the Quick Menu and status display, just as you would on a compact. The GH1 offers various control options and you simply pick the one that suits you best.
While on the new generation of movie-enabled DSLRs the operation of the movie mode can not always exactly be called straightforward, on the GH1 the motion picture capability has been integrated with the stills image controls almost seamlessly. The movie button at the rear of the camera can be pressed at any time, without turning a mode dial into movie position, to start and stop recording. Video is often shot from a slightly lower position and therefore the swivel screen, which can occasionally be useful for taking still images, suddenly becomes a must-have feature, although in bright sunlight the electronic viewfinder makes a viable alternative.
All in all, the entire user interface including menus has an intuitive and concise design and within a few days of shooting with the GH1 you'll know your way around the camera very well and will probably have developed your individual 'style of operation' using a mixture of external and Quick Menu controls.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Specifications
- 3 Body & Design
- 4 Body & Design
- 5 Body & Design
- 6 Operation & Controls
- 7 Operation & Controls
- 8 Operation (Live View)
- 9 Displays
- 10 Menus
- 11 Menus
- 12 Performance & IS
- 13 Photographic tests (RAW)
- 14 Photographic tests (Noise)
- 15 Photographic tests (Noise)
- 16 Photographic tests (DR)
- 17 Photographic tests (Kit Lens)
- 18 Photographic tests
- 19 Movie Mode
- 20 Compared to
- 21 Compared to (JPEG)
- 22 Compared to (JPEG)
- 23 Compared to (JPEG)
- 24 Compared to (RAW)
- 25 Compared to (RAW)
- 26 Compared to (RAW)
- 27 Compared to (Higher ISO)
- 28 Compared to (Resolution)
- 29 Compared to (Resolution)
- 30 Conclusion
- 31 Samples
This week Chris and Jordan are joined by renowned macro photographer Don Komarechka, who demonstrates a few simple techniques that can improve your macro photos in a big way.
The group that provides Canon users with programs to expand the feature set of their cameras has begun cracking the new EOS R mirrorless firmware.
The Pixel 3 represents another step forward in computational photography for Google's smartphone. We're just getting started with our testing – for now take a look at some sample images, including 'computational Raw' files available for download.
Lens Rentals Founder, Roger Cicala, has given the Canon EOS R one of his signature camera teardowns.
Nikon says firmware version 1.03 "Fixes an issue that in rare circumstances would delay the shutter release or the start of the autofocus operation."
The Kickstarter campaign for Yashica’s digiFilm Y35 camera has produced a wave of complaints about delays in shipping product as well as cameras that don’t work.
Pixelmator today released Pixelmator Pro 1.2 Quicksilver, a major update to its image editing app for Mac.
Although Raw performance of the EOS R is very similar to the 5D Mark IV, Canon's done some tweaking on the JPEGs - take a look at our studio scene to see for yourself.
If you've backed one of the company's crowdfunding projects, the reward will not arrive and you won't get your money back either as Meyer Optik Görlitz's parent company, Net SE, is completely dead.
The importance of APS-C, a future a7S model in development and why customers want two card slots – read our full interview with Sony's Kenji Tanaka.
Google's Super Res Zoom technology uses pixel-shifting methods to achieve zoom results comparable to some optical solutions. Google has published an in-depth explanation on its AI blog.
CyberLink has release the latest version of its photo editing and design program PhotoDirector.
Toy manufacturer Tomy has launched a no-battery-required smartphone printer that is remarkably like the one Holga has been promoting via a Kickstarter campaign but which is already available for $40/£39.
A handful of Sony users have noticed a particular model of SanDisk SD cards is showing errors when used with Sony a7 III camera.
The Fujifilm X-T3's 4K video more than lives up to its impressive specification, making it one of the most capable video cameras we've ever tested.
VSCO has made it easier to find the right presets for your photos with a few interface changes to its smartphone app.
TinyMOS is back with NANO1, an all-new astrophotography camera that's one-third the size of the TINY1 it announced three years ago.
Huawei's latest flagship device comes with the widest range of focal lengths of all current smartphones.
After shaking up the Lightroom ecosystem with Lightroom CC last year, Adobe has released version 2.0 of the cloud-centric photo organizer and editor. We look at new features like People View, how far Lightroom CC has come in its first year, and where Lightroom is headed.
Today, at Adobe MAX 2018, Adobe previewed Photoshop CC on iPad, a full-featured, desktop-class version of Photoshop for iOS.
The weather and has most definitely taken a turn toward fall here, and our shooting opportunities have followed suit. We brought the Canon RF 35mm F1.8 along to a harvest festival of sorts and a few of our usual haunts.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has signed House Bill 1346 into effect, which imposes a fine upwards of $300 to drone operators who invade the privacy or harm the physical wellbeing of citizens.
Sigma is a company in flux, but CEO Kazuto Yamaki is undaunted by the upcoming prospect of developing lenses for eight lens mounts. The challenge will be keeping the company's identity along the way.
If you've been meaning to convert all of your old photos, video, and audio to digital formats, but simply lack the time or willpower to get through it all, a new service from Kodak will help you get the job done.
Almost all new cameras include impressive video features, but for the best results you'll often need an off-camera recorder. Chris and Jordan take a look at the brand new Ninja V from Atomos, and explain why it might just be one of the most useful tools you can add to your camera.
Collect allows you to transform 360-degree into a more easily digestible format by transforming it into directed traditional videos.
Sick of using your plain ol' keyboard to edit your photos in Lightroom and Photoshop? TourBox is hoping to expedite your post-production workflow using a clever combination of dials, buttons, and knobs.
Bag and accessory manufacturer Hex has launched two bags as part of its latest collection: the Clamshell Backpack and DSLR Sling.
Crank out instant photos with Holga Digital's new analog printer, currently being funded on Kickstarter.