Panasonic GH-1 vs Olympus E-P1

Written by Gary on July 21st, 2009

I am at a disadvantage here as I only own the Panasonic GH-1 but not the Olympus E-P1, so I only offer this post to provide some completeness to this series on Micro Four Thirds and as such the information is derived from other sources.

see this blog on for one such comparison.

Essentially, it would seem still image quality is similar given they both use the same sensor although different processing engines.

Advantages of the Panasonic GH-1:

  • best video experience with its EVF, faster AF, dedicated 10x zoom HD lens, option of 1080i HD video as well as 720p, external microphone socket, dedicated movie start/stop button, 2x digital zoom, film mode button, image stabilisation during video capture, wind cut option, option of AVHCD vs motion jpeg capture, full manual control, face recognition AF during HD video
  • electronic viewfinder gives more dSLR-like experience with potentially steadier camera and improved usability in bright sunlight, not to mention the very nice automatic manual focus assist feature
  • dial based controls make life easier
  • articulating LCD – brilliant for self-portraits, low or high camera positions, and OK for waist level use
  • excellent 10x IS kit lens combined with 2x digital zoom in video mode essentially provides 20x 28-546mm coverage in 35mm terms, in a relatively small package
  • hand grip is nice
  • lens optical corrections automatically applied in-camera for MFT lenses or optionally in RAW processing software – this is particularly important to manage the compromises made to make MFT lenses smaller and lighter than FT lenses which tends to result in distortions and CA
  • faster contrast detect AF

Advantages of the Olympus E-P1:

  • more compact and pocketable and thus you are even more likely to take it with you and have it out ready to use for those unexpected opportunities which you would otherwise miss
  • small retracting kit lens and even smaller 17mm pancake lens – perhaps better suited for more discrete candid photography
  • built-in image stabiliser – works on EVERY lens but unfortunately not during video capture
  • creative art filters may be even more useful than the GH-1’s film modes, particularly when used in movie mode when post-processing is not the ideal solution.
  • more affordable
  • multiple exposure mode
  • timed BULB exposures
  • contrast detect AF whilst slower seems to be more compatible with Four Thirds lenses

I believe the two cameras are complementary and many people will opt for both (and an Olympus E620 or E30 with ZD 50-200mm lens for those special shallow depth of field nice bokeh shots such as portraits, when size and weight is not so important), and of course, the lenses are interchangeable between the two cameras and they both share the same flash system along with the Four Thirds system.

These are THE MOST ADAPTABLE cameras and can be adapted to use almost ANY lens ever made including Leica M, Leica R, Canon FD, Canon EF (at wide open aperture only), Nikon F, Pentax K, Minolta, Olympus Pen, Olympus OM, Carl Zeiss Contax, Hasselblad, Pentax 6×7, Four Thirds, etc.

Perhaps, someone will make a Canon EOS to MFT adapter with full aperture control such as has been made for Redrock video cameras – see here – should be possible. – one of my favorite photo websites, has just posted a review of the GH-1 and named it the current ComboCam King – the 1st ComboCam that “get’s it”.

Unfortunately, according to the Panasonic Japanese website, it appears the GH-1 is on back-order and new models may not be available until Sept 2009 🙁


5 Comments so far ↓

  1. puddle says:

    the ep1’s focus is frustratingly slow. like mid range point and shoot slow. almos unusable in low light
    its 17mm is pretty underwhelming. in fact the 14-45 is pretty underwhelming
    art filters are super slow esp pin hole and will slow down video capture and just composing shots

  2. admin says:

    The Olympus E-P1 is probably best when used with manual focus lenses as the slower AF is not an issue while you get built-in image stabiliser and nice Olympus colours straight from camera.

    If you want fast AF then I would go for the GH-1 or wait for the newer bodies.

    The MFT lenses to be compact have a trade off in some aspects of image quality and perhaps Olympus may have been smarter to incorporate Panasonic’s better in-camera optical corrections to compensate.

  3. Brian says:

    Hey, I’m planning to buy myself a new camera (that can also shoot video) this Christmas but I’m stuck on whether to get the Panasonic GH1 or the Olympus PEN EP2? Do you have any suggestions? In terms of video shooting, both cameras seem to be on par with AF and manual tracking. The EP2 can only shoot in 720p but has included art filters and HDMI output. The EP2 does not have a built in flash. Has the focusing gotten faster on the EP2?

  4. admin says:

    Hi Brian, there are some BIG differences between the GH-1 and EP2.

    GH-1 has MUCH faster AF for still and is the ONLY camera that will give continuous AF with videos (but only when using the 14-140mm lens).

    The GH-1 has higher def video at 1080 not just 720, although you must use AVCHD format to get this.

    The GH-1 has the flip out LCD which is very handy, and an over-sized sensor allowing uncropped 16:9 format images.

    The GH-1 will only AF with contrast detect enabled Four Thirds lenses, and all MFT lenses.

    The EP2 has built-in image stabilisation and will AF (albeit slower) with most Four Thirds lenses.

    Having said all that, I often use the GH-1 video at 720p motion jpeg as it is easy to give to others, so if you are doing that and continuous AF during video is not important, then the EP2 may be a good choice as it will make all your legacy manual focus lenses image stabilised, and you have those fun art filters.

    They are thus quite different cameras and you need to decide which features are more important to you – or.. buy both 🙂

    I do like the 20mm f/1.7 lens though even though I personally have not bought it so make sure you budget for it.

  5. admin says:

    GH-1 has a built in flash although I rarely use it.