With the introduction of both Photoshop CS5 and the speed and processing power of the new i7 iMac I decided to take out the GH1 to shoot some multi-image panoramic stiches with the Panasonic GH1 plus 20mm f1.7 pancake lenses and Leica 90mm Summarit-M f2.5 lenses. The images were mostly shot in 16/9 panoramic mode on the GH1 to take advantage of the widest image size possible. They were then combined in PTGui panoramic stitching software and edited in CS5.
While the images looked good, many of the problems that I identify with this camera (and micro four thirds in general) surfaced again.
Firstly, I still find it very fiddly to use. I have small hands but find it very uncomfortable both to hold and use. I much prefer the shape of the GF1 or EP1/2 though these are still difficult to operate.
Secondly, the dynamic range is a constant problem. Tackling one of the most difficult photographic challenges, a bluebell wood with patches of sunlight, I was unable to prevent the burning out of highlights unless I underexposed dramatically.
Thirdly - despite the story that the GH1 has a weak AA filter I still find the images to have a certain softness and lack of definition. Its very marginal and many would be perfectly satisfied with the results.
Fourthly - taking out the Leica Summari-M 90mm f2.5 lens - proved to me once again that using such lenses doesn't offer any advantage over the Panasonic native lenses. The 20mm f1.7 performed really well as usual.
Why all these criticisms when previously I was extremely enthusiastic for this system? The answer is that there is now an alternative. I much prefer the Samsung NX10, both for handling and image quality. The GH1 and all of the other m4/3 cameras are excellent and I thoroughly recommend them. Handling is a personal preference, the results are every bit the equal of comparable DSLR's and you don't have to use legacy or alternative manual lenses. So for the most part m4/3 and the GH1 in particular (being the best m4/3 camera so far) are excellent. Throw in the sensational full HD GH1 video and you have a remarkable camera.
However for still photography use only I really rate the NX10. Its a delight to use, with some excellent lenses and the APS-C sensor plus larger file size helps both with the dynamic range and image quality. I also suspect that the AA filter is weaker than that on the Panasonic sensor. There's definitely more luminance noise, but the results are more pleasing to my eyes.
I've also just about had it with focusing manual lenses on these things. Yesterday with the 90mm was very difficult. With the magnification assist on, the image was waving around wildly in the viewfinder and with all the button pressing it was neither easy or pleasurable. I will leave manual focusing for the Leica or when using a tripod.
For reasonably priced high quality HD video the GH1 is very difficult to beat. The articulated screen is so useful and the ability to use fast MF lenses becomes an advantage in that context. So that's where it will earn its living for me.
Words - D
Images - D & A