Issues with the Panasonic GH-1

Written by Gary on August 22nd, 2009

The Micro Four Thirds Panasonic GH-1 is a brilliant camera, and the ONLY digital camera with interchangeable lenses that does full AF during HD video.

BUT for all its unprecedented versatility, it is not a perfect camera.

I have upgraded mine to the latest firmware (v1.1) and it seems buggy:

  • despite having the menu setting “Shoot w/o lens” set to ON all the time, I keep getting “check lens” errors some of which are transient, and sometimes I need to power off the camera to “reboot” it.
  • these messages may appear even when the 14-140mm HD lens is in place and even occur during image playback in addition to when EOS adapter is used, and always when a legacy AF-confirm adapter is used in conjunction with a Four Thirds adapter.
  • if “Shoot w/o lens” set to ON- such lens messages should never occur UNLESS the camera is aware a compatible lens IS attached and there really is a lens error.
  • in addition, the EVF occasionally inexplicably just blacks out (not just turned off as occurs when you take your eye away), which can be very annoying at critical moments.
  • I can understand the algorithms are extremely complex in this camera, and perhaps this firmware did not undergo full testing – I am sure these little bugs will be remedied soon.
  • the Canon black dot type bug – images of very bright objects (eg. bright stars and planets such as Jupiter) have areas of symmetric black on either side – not a problem for most people but annoying for adtrophotographers
  • horizontal banding which becomes evident in the shadow areas at ISO 800 and increases as you increase ISO to 3200 – this issue has also been a problem with most Olympus cameras and also even the Canon 5DMII as well as many others

Some areas where the firmware could be improved:

  • ability to assign 2x digital zoom to the function button for rapid switching for videos
  • menu option so that digital zoom setting ONLY applies during video and not during still shooting – digital zoom is useless for stills but very useful for video which is only 1-2mp anyway.
  • live histogram is dysfunctional – whilst its shape represents the contrast range of the image contents, it does not appear to shift left or right during under or over exposure, and its only utility to assist in exposure estimation is that it goes white instead of yellow when the camera deems exposure is spot on – but then you know this from the exposure scale anyway!
  • add ability to turn off auto gain control for sound level during video, and even better provide a method of adjusting sound level.
  • add the usual video functionality of zebra and focus pulling to make manual focus and exposure easier during videos.
  • add manual adjustment of flash output in manual flash mode (only seems to allow +/- 2EV compensation but why should this be available during manual flash?)
  • allow it to control remote TTL flashes such as Olympus FL-36R and Olympus FL-50R flashes.
  • option for silent mode which just uses the electronic shutter instead of the noisy mechanical shutter – and perhaps then also allow high flash sync (instead of 1/160th sec) as with the Canon G11.
  • 1080i AVCHD video codec needs improving – any camera panning or subject motion such as the moving bow of a cellist in an orchestra will result in very distracting image distortions as the codec breaks – although not evident on camera screen in playback, it is very distracting played back at full screen using the K-Lite codec pack on Win Vista. This presumably could be improved by including B frames into the codec – please? Until then, I will be sticking with 720p AVCHD or Motion Jpeg modes.

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Harold says:

    I have owned two Panasonic GH1s in the last month and 1/2–one that I returned to the retailer (Crutchfield, which was very good about the exchange) and the replacement. Both of them have had flawed lens mounts on the body and/or on the lens itself. That is, the lenes rotate about 1/32″. This lens play results in a clicking sound when you zoom either all the way out to the 14 mm end of the range or all the way in to the 140mm end of the range.
    I have seen at least 5 other complaints about the loose lens mount on line.
    I am waiting to hear from Panasonic about the problem.
    a) Can you give me some more insight into the problem and whether it could result in a light leak, harm the focus or some other aspect of picture taking?
    b) Has this been a widespread problem?

  2. admin says:

    Hi Harold, my GH-1 does not seem to have that lens mount issue and I am not sure how common it is, nor whether it may cause a light leak or not.

    If I was buying a GH-1 I would check it first for 2 issues and refuse it if either were present:
    1. loose lens mount – ie. excessive lens play as you indicate.

    2. camera strap lugs that rotate – a sign that they may soon fall out resulting in camera drop to ground.