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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 review

Panasonic's latest camera tries to get the best of both compact cameras and SLRs

Our Verdict

Despite solid all-round picture quality and a wealth of features, the GH1 costs more than double the price of the original G1 package. For the same money or less, you can get a 'full size' DSLR like the Canon 500D or Nikon D90, complete with super-zoom lens

For

  • Great picture performance
  • HD video
  • Takes useful SLR features

Against

  • Costs as much as a regular DSLR

Firmly ensconced in the middle ground between digital compact camera and DSLR, Panasonic's new DMC-GH1 picks up where the original G1 left off.

It looks and feels like a mini-DSLR and offers the advantage of interchangeable lenses, but there's no lip-up mirror to drive an optical viewfinder.

This cuts down on the size, weight and complexity of the camera, and another bonus is that 'Live View' shooting mode is always available, along with magnification for accurate manual focusing, but there are various trade-offs.

The electronic viewfinder image is quite noisy in low-light shooting conditions and its jerkiness is a pain when panning.

Like the original G1, the new model uses the Micro Four Thirds format, based on a sensor which is considerably larger than those of compact cameras, enabling a tighter depth of field for creative blurring of backgrounds – especially useful in portrait shots.

Even so, at any given equivalent focal length, the depth of field is still nowhere near as tight as on a full-frame DSLR and rather looser than DSLRs with a crop factor of 1.5x or 1.6x.

The crop factor of the GH1 is 2.0x, so the 14-140mm 10x zoom kit lens has a useful focal-length range equivalent to 28-280mm, along with minimal distortion throughout, although it's a bit soft at the edges of the frame at either end of the zoom range when shooting wide open.

Given that the ability to change lenses is one of the major attractions of the GH1, compared with straightforward compact cameras, there aren't many alternative Micro Four Thirds lenses available. Panasonic's offerings boil down to an ultra-wide 7-14mm, a 45-200mm telephoto and a standard 14-45mm zoom lens.

Panasonic dmc gh1 top

So if you want a fast prime or macro lens, for example, you'll need to splash out an extra £140 for a DMW-MA1 adaptor so that you can it regular Four Thirds lenses to the camera – the MOS image sensor is situated right behind the lens mount, so there's simply not enough room to it a regular lens.

Dust dangers

Whereas the sensors of DSLR cameras are hidden behind a mirror assembly and shutter, the GH1's sensor is exposed, just a few millimetres behind the lens mount, so getting dust and dirt on your sensor when changing lenses is a much more major and ever-present danger.

Like most compact cameras, there are various scene modes as well as the usual P, A, S, M shooting modes and a fully automatic setting. You also get three user-defined custom modes for dialling in and storing your own settings.

The GH1's full HD movie mode (1080/24p) is feature-packed too, with a mini HDMI socket for connecting direct to HD TVs and built-in stereo mic. It's one of the most advanced 'video DSLRs' yet.

Panasonic dmc gh1 rear

Outright stills image quality is generally very good, with a wealth of Standard, Dynamic, Nature, Smooth, Nostalgic and Vibrant colour film modes to choose from, plus a few black & white modes and customisable user settings.

There's a similar abundance of adjustments for almost all camera settings, although the menu and control systems are fiddly to use. For example, there's a multi-screen main menu, a Q. menu, a Film Mode menu and numerous other tweaks, so the camera takes a lot of getting used to before you begin to remember how to get at everything you want.

The only other real problem in our tests was that autofocus proved quite hit and miss. Considering its high asking price, the GH1 ultimately feels more like a clever gadget than a proper camera.

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Tech Specs

Product TypeMirrorless Camera with Lens
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Green CompliantYes
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Effective Camera Resolution12.1 Megapixel
USBYes
HDMIYes
Wide AngleNo
PictBridgeYes
Product FamilyLumix G
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedSecure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card
Image StabilizationOptical
ColourRed
Optical Zoom10x
Brand NamePanasonic
FeaturesFace Detection, External Flash Shoe, Aperture Priority, Manual White Balance, Continuous Shooting Mode, Live View
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsQuickTime Motion JPEG
Viewfinder TypeElectronic
Weight (Approximate)385 g
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityREACH
Image Sensor Size4/3" (17.30 mm x 13 mm)
Maximum Image Resolution4000 x 3000
Display Screen TypeLCD
Height89.6 mm
Width124 mm
Depth45.2 mm
Product SeriesG
Focal Length14 mm to 140 mm (Lens 1)
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW
External FlashOptional
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerPanasonic
Product ModelDMC-GH1
Product NameLumix DMC-GH1 Mirrorless Camera
Product LineLumix
Exposure Control
  • Program AE
  • Aperture Priority AE
  • Shutter Priority AE
  • Manual
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberDMC-GH1KEB9-R
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.panasonic.co.uk
Marketing Information

The DMC-GH1 is not just a high performance still picture camera. Amazingly it can record Full-HD movies at 1080/25p or smooth HD movies at 720/50p in AVCHD with a continuous AF function. It also features a stereo microphone, featuring Dolby Digital Stereo Creator to record high quality audio. Just press the 'one touch' Motion Picture button, and shooting begins. In the unique Creative Movie mode, the shutter speed and aperture can be adjusted. When the DMC-GH1 is connected to a Panasonic VIERA via an optional mini HDMI cable, the TV's remote control unit can be used to enjoy playing back with a greater convenience.

Package Contents
  • Lumix DMC-GH1 Mirrorless Camera
  • 14-140mm f/4-5.8 Zoom Lens
  • Battery Charger
  • AC Adapter
  • Battery Pack
  • Body Cap
  • AV Cable
  • USB Connection Cable
  • AC Cable
  • DC Cable
  • Shoulder Strap
  • CD-ROM
Limited Warranty1 Year