Panasonic GH1 Field Notes: Day 1

By Sol in Lab

Yes, I’m nearly 2.5 years late to party, but I received my Panasonic GH1 in the mail last night and used it all day today.  I love it.

These are field notes as I test the camera.  I will write a full review with conclusions after a fair bit of testing.  I thought it may be interesting to share my notes as I evaluate the camera though.

I recently bought an FD-Micro 4/3 adapter and a few FD lenses for my (still backordered) GH2 on order with Panasonic, so I was looking forward to testing them out.  I slapped on a Canon 50mm 1.4 and floated to heaven.

It’s an awesome lens and the camera fits perfectly with it.  It’s a beautiful pairing.

I really need to get some ND filters for this lens.  It’s so fast!  I could stop it down, but then I’d lose the shallow DOF (depth of field) that the 50mm is so good at.


Seems well made.  Body is coated in rubber.  Hopefully it won’t be a dust magnet.  There is some dust stuck to it by the end of the day, but not too much.

The body is so light.  Even my 28mm 2.8 “new” FD lens (which is more plastic than metal) makes the camera feel front heavy.  With the battery, the camera weighs about 2x as much as the 28mm lens + adapter.  The 50mm 1.4 + adapter weighs almost exactly the same as the GH1 body itself.  For some reason the lens feels way heavier though.

Form Factor

It’s so small, even compared to the entry-level (and thus smaller) Canon T2i.  The small size is both a blessing and a curse.

The GH1 feels very balanced when mounted on the Barska camera grip.  It would get tiring holding the T2i with the grip for extended periods of time.  The GH1 on the other hand feels quite nice.

As far as holding the camera as one normally would, I have one word: cramped.  The right-side grip too small for my hands to comfortably wrap around.  I feel almost like I’m “pinching” it rather than holding it.  The rear control pad is rather tiny as well, with little buttons.  They are tactile enough to differentiate between though, and that’s what is important.  After the first 15 minutes, my hand felt tired holding the camera, but then I used it for the rest of the day without too much issue.  I guess I just got used to it or I enjoyed using the camera too much.


This camera was made for manual lenses.  It’s awesome with the FD lenses.

Specifically, the GH1’s viewfinder is a revelation after using DSLRs like the Canon T2i.  Unlike cameras that are basically legacy technology retrofitted with digital sensors, Panasonic’s M43 system eschews the mirror, prism, and all of the other trappings of “traditional” SLR cameras, and instead gives us an amazing viewfinder that we can use while shooting video.  Amazing concept isn’t it.  Sure, you could buy another attachment to clip onto your LCD and approximate a viewfinder, but the built in viewfinder is amazing.  I barely used the LCD today.  So far, I much prefer the viewfinder for composing.

A note on vintage lenses:  Oh IS (image stabilization), where art thou?

I never realized how effective the IS on even the 18-55mm kit lens that comes with the Canon T2i was until I slapped a manual FD lens from 1976 on the GH1.  I cut my teeth on a SLR-esque 110 film camera and was proud of the fact that I could get sharp shots at shutter speeds as low as 1/15 at times.  I’ve been spoiled by IS and the jitters of the FD lenses revealed that to me.  I have yet to look at the video, partially because I’m scared to do so.  The micro-jitters from the lack of IS actually made me feel motion sickness at times throughout the day, so I’m expecting the video to look quite shaky.  I know I need to practice though, so that’s what I’m going to focus on.

I’ve only started looking through the pics I shot today, but nonetheless, my first day with the GH1 was a joy.