Cinequipwhite's Blog


Thoughts about the new 1080/24P capable Panasonic GH1 camera by Ryan Glover
July 23, 2009, 12:04 pm
Filed under: Cameras, Gear, Review | Tags: , , , , , , ,

 

I have been playing around with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 for a few weeks now and so I thought I would post some of my thoughts about this new camera. For my first test footage, please watch the GH1 Picnic! video previously posted to this blog. As well, take a look at the Anton Bauer UL2 head replacement video which was also shot on the GH1. They are two great and different examples of what this camera is capable of.

This is in no way an attempt at a proper, exhaustive and/or highly technical review. For that, I would recommend you read the extremely in-depth review at Dpreview, found here: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicdmcgh1/

First, a little history:

The GH1 is 12.1 MP digital camera with a Micro Four Thirds lens mount.  It is different from all other DSLRs because… in reality, it’s not a DSLR. Digital and film SLR’s have a mirror that allows the optical viewfinder to view through the camera’s lens. The GH1 and its predecessor, the G1, are a ground up re-working of the interchangeable lens digital still camera concept. These cameras have no mirrors and have only an electronic view finder and LCD. Removing the mirror-box allows the cameras to be much, much thinner and lighter. This design results in an incredible short back flange distance which allows users to (using various adapters) mount almost any lens imaginable (sensor coverage is another story). Speaking of the sensor… it is half the size of a 35mm still photography negative and much, much larger then 1/3” or 2/3” sensors.   

Now, a quick list of what makes this little cam exciting on paper (at least to me):

12.1 MP still photos.

10x OIS 14-140mm Kit Lens.(this lens was built with HD in mind and can even auto focus silently in video)

-1080/24P AVC HD video recording

-720/60P AVC HD video recording.

720/30P Photo JPEG HD video recording.

Large CMOS sensor (half of still 35mm film, only slightly smaller then s35mm motion picture film resulting in very excellent depth of field control and low light ability)

Flip out, swiveling LCD screen.

8 ‘film modes’ (preset, yet tweakable colour and black and white looks)

Built in stereo microphone.

Uses inexpensive SDHC cards.

-Ability to take all sorts of lenses.

My experiences, thus far:

I have thoroughly enjoyed using this camera to take both stills and video. I have been shooting a lot of test videos and have been mainly using vintage Canon FD manual focus prime lenses with an adapter I bought from eBAY. I have been using Tiffen ND and polarizing filters to allow my aperture to stay large for the DOF characteristics.

I have been transcoding my footage to Apple Pro Res 422 and editing in Final Cut Pro. 

As I see it:

PROS:

-The HD is SHARP. Very, Very sharp. Both in 1080 and 720 modes.

-Cinema like DOF. Isolating subjects using selective focus is a breeze.

-Low light sensitivity is excellent. Select ISO’s from 100-1600 in 1/3 EV steps.

-The swivel screen is seemingly sharp enough to focus in HD on the fly.

-The 10X focus assist is very handy.

-The menus are very simple and easy to navigate through.

-CMOS skew is minor in 1080 mode and barely apparent in the 720 modes.

-VERY light weight 385 grams (!!!!) and very compact. (shoot ANYwhere)

-Kit lens is amazing… sharp, versatile and auto focuses silently in video modes. (a tad slow though at f/4)

-Other lenses… you can use the excellent new M4/3… or almost any other lenses you can imagine (using adapters). Using vintage lenses is an awesome way to get a lot of great quality, smooth focusing lenses for very cheap.

-MANY ways to customize your image in camera.

-Excellent white balance control.

-Long record times. A little over 2 hours of 1080 on a 16gig SDHC card.

 CONS:

-Lack-luster implementation of AVC codec. The camera’s 17mb/s bitrate can result in heavy artifacting and loss of fine detail during fast camera moves over detailed, deep-focus shots. The 1080 mode is slightly more susceptible to this. I personally haven’t found this too big a deal… although folks with more professional (or broadcast minded) standards may. I find that usually the artifacting is usually hidden with motion blur during playback.

-1080 mode records the 24P in a 60i stream. We’re all used to this by now from DVCproHD. The GH1, however, does not use advanced pull down flags… making it trickier for NLE programs to pick out the extra frames. But it can be done.

-The LCD does exhibit some blooming colours or slight blurring from time to time. Takes some time to get used to, not a major issue for me.

-30P only for Photo Jpeg mode… this mode is immune to the AVC artifacting issue as it’s a non long-GOP codec… a 24P mode using this codec would be nice.

-The biggest issue for me so far, is the CMOS sensor’s tendency to show fixed pattern noise in underexposed areas (more noticeably at higher ISOs) When filming in low light situations that contain flat surfaces of consistent colour, vertical streaks can appear over areas that are under exposed. However, if you’re able to achieve a properly exposed image, even at 1600 ISO the image is excellent though… it seems to affect underexposed areas most and I’m still learning about this phenomenon and how to work around it.

Conclusion, thus far;

This camera is great…  for me. This camera may not be great for you. If it is not suitable for your purposes, then select a camera that is. I will use it shoot narrative pieces and web content with (what I expect will be) stunning results. I’ve been using mostly the 720/60P mode and dropping the extra frames to get 24P. This process nets me the best resolution to compression artifact ratio.

It is not a dedicated video camera and so obviously it lacks a lot of things people are used to. Things like; XLR inputs, controllable audio gain, built-in NDs, servo zoom, the usual ergonomics.

So, no, it’s NOT perfect… but then again it’s a consumer camera with interchangeable lenses and a 4K sensor that’s almost as big as motion picture film… for less then $2,000…

 * I will continue to post updates and footage as I become more familiar with the camera. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have *

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4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hello. Thank you for this great info! Keep up the good job!

Comment by johnny

thank you! I really liked this post!

Comment by teinby

Thanks for the review.
Mine is in the post. Can’t wait.

Comment by Gordon

Great review! Does this have the option of being able to use a lavelier mic?

Comment by Marshall Wayne




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