Test video shot with a Japanese GH1 in 1080p 24p Full HD. The purpose of this video was to test the low light limits of the GH1 and it's kit lens which is rated F4-F5.6
How does it stack up?
As you can see the camera holds up very well, noise - even at ISO 800 is almost completely absent.
The video characteristics are SLR like. Video on the GH1 uses the same 4/3rds size sensor that the GH1 uses for it's 12 megapixel stills, which are on par with slightly larger APS-C size sensors. That is to say - smooth gradients, good dynamic range, good colour and silky smooth detail free of noise.
In fact the video performance of this camera is on par with Canon's top end 5D Mark II, at half the cost with some considerable advantages especially when it comes to auto mode and handling (live view and AF, etc)!
In 1080i (24p in a 60i wrapper) the camera suffers less from image skew ('jello') on fast horizontal movement than the current competitors, 5D Mark II included and is hands down better than the cheaper Canon 500D and Nikon D5000. 720p mode on the GH1 lacks this phenomena almost totally.
The GH1's electronic AF is fantastic in low light, and very quick especially at high frame rates. The screen is articulated which makes for good usability.
What the GH1 does for the money is extraordinary, and with a faster lens designed for the Canon FD or EFS mount, Leica M mount (and countless others) is capable of low light performance on par with professional cameras used in Hollywood.
I plan to add my Canon EFS 10-22mm F3.5 wide lens and also one day a fast F1.x lens (if I can afford it). The possibilities are endless, although AF (and electronic aperture control, continuous iris, etc.) is restricted to purpose built Panasonic GH1 Micro 4/3rd lenses.
The camera has a 2x crop factor against a full frame 35mm size sensor. This means that against the EFS mount 1.6x crop factor the EFS 10-22mm wide lens will be 1.4x less wide - approx. 20mm instead of the GH1's kit lens 28mm (35mm equiv.) - a good balance I think, not too wide - but wide enough to look even more cinematic.
However the kit lens is no lightweight inclusion. Huge 10x zoom range, OIS, well built and the continuous iris never shows stepping, changes in brightness are handled incredibly smoothly especially when compared to a normal high end camcorder.
To summarise: Interchangeable lens on a relatively large sensor with a video optimised kit lens (complete silent, full time AF) for 128,000 yen - £900 = incredible bargain.
High end consumer handycams are dead.
The GH1 does however have quite a buggy codec implementation of AVCHD - underexpose and avoid whip pans to avoid image break-up until Panasonic come up with an update of some kind.
Petition at dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?t=173291
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