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Panasonic GH1 DSLR 1080p24 HD 12MP 17.3x13mm sensor

Peter J DeCrescenzo

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UPDATE 6/10/2010: Vitaliy Kiselev's (AKA "Tester13") "PTool" firmware modification utility software for Panasonic Lumix Micro Four-Thirds cameras (AKA "the GH1 firmware hack") essentially transforms the DMC-GH1 into a whole new camera, image-wise. The improvement is _HUGE_. Plus, the hack adds useful new capabilities in addition to "merely" increasing the recording data-rate. Refer to post #53 for more info:






Panasonic's new Lumix DMC-GH1 Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens digital camera will record 1080p24 HD and 720p60 HD video in the AVCHD format @ up to 17 megabits/sec VBR (and also Motion JPEG at 720p30), and of course digital stills, too. The GH1 has a 12MP 17.3x13mm sensor (about four times the area of a 2/3" video cam's sensors), full manual and auto exposure & focus controls (using the included kit zoom lens), an unusually high-res 1.44MP electronic viewfinder and a fully-articulated LCD screen, and 2-ch. audio w. ext. input.



The GH1 began being sold in Japan on April 24, 2009. The cam sold in Japan has on-screen menus in the Japanese language only. Panasonic US has announced the GH1 will be available in the US by "early June" with a suggested list price of $1,499.95 US including a 14-140mm optically stabilized zoom lens. Panasonic Europe announced the GH1 will also be available there in "June".


Here are some external links:






Frame grab from a reduced/compressed sample video on Panasonic's Japanese website:




There are many other sample videos on Panasonic's websites. However, please note that most of these videos have been heavily compressed for web viewing and may not accurately represent the best quality video this cam is capable of recording. Videos on YouTube are generally even more heavily compressed & degraded compared to most of the video samples seen on Panasonic's websites.


The GH1 records HD video in the AVCHD or MJPEG formats onto relatively inexpensive SDHC memory cards. Here's a link to a table of recording time limits depending on which of the cam's many digital still & motion video modes are in use:



AVCHD is supported by a wide variety of modern video editing software -- such as iMovie, Final Cut, Premiere and many others -- running on appropriately-configured computers. Refer to the software developers' websites for information concerning recommended minimum system configurations. In general I'd recommend working with the software's most-current updated version.


The GH1 has a HDMI HD video output port. Early users of the GH1 report that it's HDMI port does _not_ appear to support "live" HD video out when the cam is in preview or record mode. Instead, the GH1's HDMI port appears to be strictly a playback-only feature. Playback quality on HDMI-equipped monitors is reported to be very impressive.


The GH1 also has a composite SD video output. Live SD video can be output from the cam both during preview and playback. However, the GH1 does _not_ appear to be able to output live composite SD video when the camera is in record mode.


Obviously the GH1's lack of any live video output during recording rules out directly-connected external monitoring or outputting to an external recording device while the cam itself is in record mode.


However, considering the GH1's relatively low price, its ability to both record relatively high quality HD video and take very nice quality stills, the relatively large size of its image sensor, its ability to use interchangeable lenses, it's hi-res viewfinder & LCD, and the cam's small size & weight, the GH1 seems promising for use in certain video production applications. Of course, the usual caveats apply. YMMV!


Notes concerning the GH1's audio capabilities:


The GH1 has a small built-in speaker for audio playback, but does not have a headphone jack. Audio can also be monitored during playback from a SDHC card if the GH1 is connected to an external monitor or amp, but not when the GH1 is in recording mode. Panasonic includes a special "USB-to-RCA" cable to get line level audio playback out of the camera, and to transfer data from a SDHC card in the camera to a computer.


The GH1's built-in stereo mic is reported to deliver fairly good sound quality, with minimal mechanical sound picked-up from the cam's auto-focus, motion-compensating lens. It appears the audio levels are adjusted automatically by the camera, and early users report that this auto audio-gain feature can't be switched off to allow manual audio level control. The built-in mic will likely be best-suited for ambient sound recording and scratch/reference audio.


The GH1 has a small 4-pin jack for connecting an external stereo mic or other 2-ch. audio source. Panasonic offers an option stereo mic for use with the GH1. It's possible a new BeachTek XLR interface may address issues caused by audio auto-gain, as it reportedly does when used with Canon's 5DM2 HD video-capable DSLR, but I don't know if it's been tested for use with a GH1:



Other external audio gear might be used with the GH1, such as the Sound Devices MixPre field mixer, but in general they don't have the special AGC-Defeat feature offered by the specific model from BeachTek referenced above. However, like the BeachTek, most external audio interfaces/mixers enable connection of external audio sources via XLR connectors & a degree of manual audio level control:


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whats the iso settings on this camera?

can it reach an iso of 1600?


Hi Dan: According to the specs listed on Panasonic's website (refer to the panasonic.net link above), the GH1 will feature "ISO Sensitivity: Auto / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200 / Intelligent ISO".


Of course, we'll have to wait until the camera begins shipping to see what the final production version of the cam is actually capable of, including its noise characteristics at various gain settings.

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Lenses & lens mount adapters for use with the GH1:


Following are links to some relatively inexpensive lens mount adapters for Leica-M, C-mount, PL-mount and other lenses which apparently work (in manual or semi-auto mode) with the current-model G1 cam, and which allegedly should also work with the GH1:









Concerning PL mounts, see also:



Here's a link to a related article describing using a nice, fast Leica manual lens via an inexpensive adapter on the G1 (the previous, non-video version of the camera similar to the GH1):


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There are various reduced & compressed GH1 motion "HD" video clips viewable on Panasonic's Japanese web site:



(Click around within the Flash-based presentation to get to the video clips. Unfortunately I can't provide a direct link, regrets.)


The clips exhibit fewer compression motion artifacts than I expected, although by viewing these Flash videos it's impossible to know if the cam can look any _better_ than this.


In the following frame grab from one of Panasonic's sample online Flash video clips I was pleased to see minimal compression-related motion artifacts (none?) when the model quickly moves her right hand (perhaps it was shot @ 60p?):



The scene at the beach with the flock of sea birds exhibits darkening in the corners which I assume is a lens artifact, not a post-production effect. Relatively speaking, given that almost everything in this scene is moving, the visible motion artifacts aren't god-awful, but this particular clip isn't fabulous. Without having access to the original data, it's impossible to know how much of the motion artifacts visible in this clip result from the Flash video compression done for web viewing:



Note: The GH1 frame grabs I've uploaded to this thread are JPEG @ 100% to minimize JPEG compression artifacts.


The usual caveats apply: These images were allegedly recorded by a pre-release piece of gear. YMMV!


- Peter


P.S.: It occurred to me after writing the above that Panasonic might have recorded these video clips using the GH1's 720p60 AVCHD or MJPEG video mode instead of its 1080p24 AVCHD video mode. Both can record @ 17 megabits/sec. (Refer again to Panasonic's chart below). I wonder which camera recording mode they used for the video seen in their Flash presentations, and how these recording modes compare when played on a 1920x1080 HD monitor (compression artifacts vs. scaling artifacts, etc.)?


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Panasonic Germany has announced GH1 a suggested list price ("Unverbindliche Preisempfehlung: 1.550,00) & release date ("lieferbar ab: 01.06.2009") on their website. I don't read German, so here's a Google translation/mangling to English:



International pricing can vary widely and may not be as simple as an exchange rate conversion into your local currency.

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As noted in the 1st post above, the GH1's HDMI port does _not_ support HD video out (for external monitoring or recording) when the cam is in its preview or record mode. The GH1 HDMI port is strictly a playback-only feature.


Meanwhile, Nikon's announced their new D5000 DSLR ($800 US for the camera body only, without a lens) featuring 720p24 HD video recording capability.


I called Nikon tech support this morning and they stated the D5000's HDMI jack is "live" full-time and can output HD video (with or without the cam's menus overlayed) during HD video preview, record & playback, but I haven't verified this myself. For general info about the D5000 refer to Nikon's website:



Recent reports indicate that when the D5000 is in record mode it outputs video from it HDMI port which is not HD, but instead is a resolution similar to VGA. Refer to Nikon for more information.


I've posted additional info regarding the Nikon D5000 (including some GH1 vs. D5000 comments) in another thread here on Cinematography.com at:



As always, YMMV!

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Some good news: To the best of my knowledge Panasonic has just recently added new information concerning battery life for the GH1 on this page:



Here's a screen shot of what it now says:




This language seems to indicate that the GH1 can record in its 1280 x 720 17-megabits/sec. AVCHD "SH" mode for up to 120 continuous minutes on a single battery charge "... When using the LCD. Available recording time will be reduced when the camera is switched ON/OFF, recording is stopped/started, or zoom operations are used frequently. ..."


If the above is true then there's reason to hope the GH1 can record in its full 1920 x 1080 17-megabits/sec. AVCHD "FHD" mode for many minutes -- perhaps much longer than the Nikon D5000's mere 5 min.


Maybe. :-)


However we still don't know if the GH1 will suffer from worsening image S/N characteristics during a "long" recording session (as has been reported to be the case with the Canon 5DM2 does). We also don't have clear confirmation of the GH1's maximum video clip length/file size when recording. The language on Panasonic's website is open to interpretation on this point; refer to the footnotes located at the very end of the GH1 SD memory card capacity doc:



EDIT: Reports from early user indicate very long full-HD video record times -- at least 30-minute-long individual clips -- are possible with the GH1. It appears the Japanese version can record for much longer than 30-min. continuously, whereas the UK version is limited to 30-min. This info is subject to further verification.

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Of course all the sample shots are in bright daylight. If they weren't you'd probably see what I disturbingly find true of all Panasonic cameras, noisiest bunch ever.


I hear you, Walter.


For what it's worth, the Digital Camera Info website performed image noise tests on Panasonic's current-model G1 digital stills camera (which does not shoot video):



According to Digital Camera Info, the current model G1 delivers relatively good S/N results in low light, but poorer results in bright light.


Panasonic has made a point of stating the new GH1 model will have improved noise performance compared to the previous G1 model. Panasonic also says the new GH1 will contain a new sensor and new electronics. As a result it seems likely the new GH1's noise performance will at least be _different_ than the G1. :-)


However, whether or not the new GH1 will deliver above-average video S/N performance in actual practice remains to seen.


I look forward to Digital Camera Info's in-depth review of the new GH1's features, especially its video capabilities. They seem to put a lot of care into their reviews.

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Thanks Peter for posting the news and spec links on Lumix HD and the Nikon 5000 cameras. Good job!


We shall see what the movie images actually look like, as the samples posted on the D90's web page look nothing like the ones off the camera, which is a Jello cam as it gets . . .


Tiny cameras with big sensors, big cameras with tiny sensors (HDX300). I find this pretty frustrating. <_<

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DP Hunter Richards acquired a GH1 with its standard zoom lens here in Portland (direct from Japan) on April 28th.


Results of dynamic range tests he performed on this GH1, using a Sekonic meter and software, appear in a post later in this thread, below.


This Japan-sourced GH1 has Japanese-only on-screen menus & documentation, which presents a bit of a challenge when testing & using the camera. But the cam appears to be relatively easy to use. The language barrier hasn't prevented Hunter from getting some nice results (see below):


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I'd like to know how much dynamic range the sensor has, so an over/under test with the greyscale would be appreciated. Also, I'd like to know how high you can push the ISO before getting unacceptable noise in available light night exterior situations.

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Hi Satsuki: Thanks for your suggestions. See Hunter Richards' DR test results below:





[EDIT 5/25/09:] The user manual for the GH1 is now available for download from Panasonic in 9 languages, including English:


Enter "DMCGH1K" for the model number:



Panasonic has posted user documentation (in English) for "basic" GH1 settings on their global website:



I believe the same docs (in Japanese) are available on their Japanese website:



Here's Panasonic's list of docs & files for their digital still cams, updated as they are posted to their global site:



(A direct link to the Japanese-language user manual appears in the post below.)


Oh, and for what it's worth:


Barry Green posted a brief but interesting report after he and Adam Wilt saw a GH1 demo at NAB earlier this week:



Apparently he & Adam were very impressed by the GH1 sample video. Of course, the usual caveats apply -- they haven't formally tested it yet -- but things sound promising indeed.

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The Japanese-language version of the GH1 user manual is available here:




It's 75MB ... and downloads via a very s-l-o-w connection ... and it's all in glorious Japanese! :lol:

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Now that the Panasonic DMC-GH1 camera has begun being sold in Japan we're starting to see early, very compressed "customer" videos posted online on YouTube, Vimeo and elsewhere.


The frame grab below is from a video allegedly shot by someone in Japan using a brand-new production model Panasonic GH1 probably using the standard "kit" zoom lens, and with the video compressed for YouTube. My frame grab is a JPEG @ 100% compression (to minimize JPEG compression artifacts). Don't forget to press YouTube's "HD" button to watch the video:



I have no idea what camera settings were used, such as ISO/gain, original video resolution, frame rate, shutter speed, picture profile, gamma, etc.


This video above seems to have been shot under less-than-ideal ambient low-light conditions (my guess is ceiling-mounted flo lights), but this is actually a good stress test for a cam.


I see little or no chromatic aberrations (color fringing) out towards the edge of the frame, very little noise, and no vignetting/darkening in the corners. Instead I see fairly pleasant-looking HD video (possibly shot in 720p60 mode) which was probably shot by an inexperienced videographer using a new cam for the first time.


This is a very promising beginning. Remember, this was allegedly shot with an small, interchangeable lens camera which has a 12MP 17.3x13mm sensor (twice the size of a 2/3" video cam) and records onto inexpensive SDHC memory cards -- yet which costs only ~$1,500 including its kit zoom lens.


If this is about the worst GH1 production-model video can look (well, I've seen worse, but you know what I mean), I can't wait to see GH1 video shot by an experienced videographer who has figured out how to get the most out of this cam!


We'll know soon enough whether or not the GH1 can have a role in professional video productions when appropriate. Stay tuned.


Below are additional links to very compressed GH1 videos popping up on YouTube apparently created by early customers in Japan. Some were shot using non-Panasonic lenses mounted on the GH1 via adapters.


(Remember to press YouTube's "HD" button if available.)












... but I haven't seen the GH1's "Reverie" yet ... rolleyes.gif

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At least one GH1 is now in the Los Angeles area of CA. It was purchased retail in Japan and hand delivered to the US. Its US owner, named Kholi, who now frequently posts about it on DVXUser.com:



Japan-sourced GH1 cams have on-screen menus and documentation in the Japanese language only. They don't allow switching the GUI to English. Kholi can't read Japanese, but despite the challenge he seems to be making progress investigating the cam.


It's still early days, but apparently -- unfortunately -- the GH1 does not support live HDMI video out. As best Kholi can gather from his GH1's Japanese GUI & docs, the GH1's HDMI port appears to be a playback-only feature. In any event, his connecting the cam to a HDMI monitor only yields video playback from the cam's SDHC cards, not live video through the lens. He also confirms that the GH1's composite video output can be live for both preview and playback, but the composite output signal turns off during recording.


(Aside: I tend to think the reason for this is "political" [so the cam doesn't compete with Panasonic's more expensive video cams], but for all I know it could be for valid technical reasons [e.g.: available power, heat management, etc.]).


Kholi's initial impressions of the GH1's video capabilities seem positive, but refer to the link above for his reports.


Meanwhile, there are reports of at least 2 other GH1 cams in the US: One of them is another Japan-sourced unit (with Japanese GUI & docs) delivered to Hunter Richards in Portland, Oregon. Hunter also confirms the same results as Kholi concerning the GH1's HDMI & composite video out features or lack thereof.


A 3rd GH1 is being tested by Philip Bloom, and is reported to be a "production" unit sourced directly from Panasonic Europe and with its GUI in English (the GH1 won't be available for sale in Europe until "June"):


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Hunter Richards' GH1 Dynamic Range Results (in video mode) and full-res frames grabbed from motion video here:



Here's a link to motion video from an early test he performed, showing some of his first GH1 720p60 AVCHD footage transcoded to ProRes HQ in Final Cut and slowed-down to 720p24:



Hunter's comments & caveats concerning this motion video test are discussed in a thread here:



Interesting results, but remember, these are early days. Details concerning post workflow are being evaluated, and working with a camera with a Japanese GUI presents challenges for those who don't read the language. One assumes the GH1 cams which Panasonic will sell in the US in "June" will have an English GUI & docs. YMMV!

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UK DP Philip Bloom has posted some interesting "random" GH1 footage he shot using a 50mm f1.4 Nikon DSLR prime lens, compressed for distribution via Vimeo "HD". Refer to his website for more info & to see the video:


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Thanks, Satsuki. It's been fun researching the GH1.


Some new Hawaiian sunset footage from Philip Bloom, shot using his UK version GH1 with the stock zoom lens, recorded in 720p50 mode, graded and slowed down to 25p in post:



Refer to the link for his comments about the footage.

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Skew artifacts:


The GH1 'MOS sensor (& the cam's internal processing) appears to exhibit less skew ("jello") artifacts compared to many other 'MOS-based cams. GH1 recordings may exhibit skew during swish camera moves, or when vertical objects move quickly in frame. But the artifact is not as bad as exists in some more expensive cams.


Hunter Richards has posted footage demonstrating how the GH1's 'MOS skew ("jello") artifacts are affected by the record format (1080p24 vs. 720p60). He also discusses this test on DVXUser.com:




Flash-band artifacts:


Early reports indicate the GH1's 'MOS sensor & processor are susceptible to recording "flash-band" artifacts (bright horizontal bands resulting from electronic flash, strobe light, etc.), as is the case with most other 'MOS-based cams. At this point there's no way to know if Panasonic could or would issue a firmware fix for this, or if the GH1's internal circuitry can support this type of work-around such as the HPX-300 apparently can.


'MOS vs. CCD image sensors:


CCD-based cams generally don't have skew. Some CCD-based cams in the GH1's price range record smear artifacts (vertical streaks emerging from pinpoint light sources.) 'MOS-based cams, including the GH1, generally exhibit little or no smear.



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I missing something? The spec.:


*Full-HD (1920 x 1080) movies are output by the image sensor at 24p (NTSC)/25p (PAL), and recorded at 60i (NTSC)/50i (PAL). HD (1280 x 720) movies are output and recorded by the image sensor at 60p (NTSC)/50p (PAL).


Source http://www.panasonic.net/avc/lumix/p...lease/gh1.html


So the GH1 capture 1080 progresive image and record on a interlaced stream. The big isues is if the interlaced stream it realy a PSF type of coding to a more compact progresive pakage of data. I hope that the camera it not making some sort of ¨p¨ to ¨i¨ conversion. I´m afraid that the real MTF it´s not make more than 720 linies. Can somebody confirm that? My HDX900 camera with the 720 CCD seams sharper.


Regarding the band with. Gh1 always record 50/60fps at 17Mb in HQ. The 24/25fps it´s a puldown like in HVX200? If so, it´s more logicaly to record at 720p that to record at 1080 with less bandwith per frame?


Why the only whay to record native fps it´s in MJPEG at 720p 30fps ?

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Hi Gabriel: I don't have access to a GH1 myself (currently, very few people do), but I believe some of your questions might be addressed in this recent post by a GH1 owner in the USA:


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Here's another YouTube video, this one allegedly shot using a GH1 fitted with a tilt-lens. Fun!


This video almost looks like an animation or an xcu video of a very accurate miniature architectural model of an entire city, until the final scenes where the quantity of vehicles and their motion all but rule it out -- unless this video is a very skillful & elaborate hoax. :-)


FYI: When searching for GH1 videos on YouTube, Vimeo, etc., try using search phrases such as "gh1 panasonic" or "gh1 lumix". Searches on "gh1" typically yield hundreds of videos concerning Guitar Hero instead of the GH1 camera. ;-)

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