As the second entry to the company's G-series, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 debuted at PMA in March and we held our collective breath for its UK release. This video-snapping shooter looks and acts like a dSLR, even though technically it isn't: it has dSLR-like design, controls and interchangeable lenses, but with the optical viewfinder and certain elements of the mechanism removed it's much smaller and lighter.
Available in June, it has 'impressive' written all over it. But with an astounding £1,300 price tag, is it enough of a stunner to empty out your savings?
The design is near-identical to its Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 sibling, but the GH1, with its 358g body and 124 by 90 by 45mm dimensions, is lighter and more compact than most entry-level consumer dSLRs. It's made of sturdy plastic with some metal on the inside and on the mounts, with a nice-feeling rubberised coating. It also has a large, comfortable grip and offers a considerable number of direct-access button and dial shooting controls.
There's an onscreen Quick Menu for accessing settings from a central location. The main navigation control is a jog dial that lies under your forefinger on the grip; depending upon what mode you're in, you either press and scroll or simply scroll with it. While we found this awkward on the G1, we didn't find it troublesome with the GH1.
If you don't want to use the full onscreen display, you can also set the camera to display the settings around the edges of the screen and cycle around them that way. You can also set the camera so that the EVF display mimics the menu display, though you can't display settings on the LCD while viewing the scene through the EVF.
For video, you can set encoder type -- AVCHD or Motion JPEG MOV files -- plus quality, metering, four levels of Intelligent Exposure, and four levels of wind filtering. While AVCHD is a more efficient encoder than Motion JPEG and you can record up to the capacity of the card, the AVCHD MTS files need to be transcoded before you can post them online or send them around to friends.
There's a dedicated button for movie capture, so you don't have to go into a specific video mode, but if you want to be able to set shutter speed and aperture or use exposure compensation, you will need to use the Creative Movie mode. The one disappointment here is that you can't drop the shutter speed below 1/30 seconds. That's fine for playing with depth of field, but not for slow shutter speed effects.
The camera body is compatible with all Micro Four Thirds lenses, as well as Four Thirds lenses via an adaptor. Unlike most video dSLRs, the GH1's HD lenses support continuous autofocus during movie capture and are designed to focus more quietly than standard lenses.