My experience with the GH1, which I've used for a few months now, has turned out a bit differently from what I expected, so I thought I should share my views with other members of this forum.
I will start on a positive note (nice, isn't it ) :
- Colours are mostly deep and rich, straight out of the camera. A joy to use on cloudy days.
- Video is excellent, and I've had some great fun with that.
- For being such a compact camera, ergonomics are very good. Most of what I need is easy to find, and everything is visible in the viewfinder.
- I can use whatever lens I want, which, together with video, is one of the most important reasons why I bought this camera.
- High ISO is much better than expected.
But there are things that don't work so well, at least for me:
- The biggest ergonomic flaw is the enlargement of details for manual focusing with legacy lenses. To reach the buttons needed for that, I need to change the angle of my right hand, leaving most of the weight on the left hand that holds the focusing ring, before changing back to "shooting position". This is time-consuming and requires some awkward hand-gymnastics.
Making it possible to re-configure the "AF/AE-Lock" button for this, using the last used framing, seems to me to be so obvious that I can't find any good reason whatsoever why it hasn't been done. Should be a very simple firmware update.
- It's easy to push the video button by mistake, and if I don't look through the viewfinder or at the LCD, there's nothing telling me that there's a video being recorded. I've had a couple of not so interesting shoots of the ground below me because of this.
- The DR isn't great, but what is worse is that there's often a distinct colour shift around the blown highlights, mostly towards cyan (but sometimes towards other colours, see examples below). For some reason, I have problems getting rid of the unwanted colour during pp, and although this is not a previously unheard of problem, the Nikon D80, which has similar DR. doesn't have this problem. An interesting aspect is that, on my computers, the colour shift is much more visible on a Mac than on a PC, and on the (low quality) Pc that I'm writing this, it's hardly visible at all.
- Image quality with legacy lenses is much more variable than on the E-1 that I used to have. I assume this is due to the pixel pitch, which would be natural. Unfortunately, this problem doesn't necessarily disappear by reducing the image size in pp (unless reducing to web-size or smaller). Two bad pixels don't add up to one good. This doesn't seem to be a problem when shooting video though.
- Although the EVF is kind of OK, it's nowhere near a good OVF. Precise manual focusing at large apertures without enlarging simply isn't possible, partly except for video.
- Build quality is only so so, and not as good as a similarly priced Nikon (D80/90), at least not in my experience. I've had mine in for "re-assembly" once already. It must be admitted that I don't treat my cameras with silk gloves, but apart from the E-1 that died in a motorbike accident, this is the first one that has actually stopped working as a result of physical damage.
- The battery door latch needs to be shut physically. Who on earth thought that was a good idea? I could understand it if it was some kind of water-proof closing mechanism that needed a tight fit, but it clearly isn't.
It's a great video camera and an ok walk-around photographic tool. For legacy lenses, I will have to have a look at Canon 5D or 5DII, or even buy an E-1 again. It's simply a somewhat disappointing camera for photography, compared to a D90 or an EOS 550D.
It will be interesting to see if Fuji launches an m4/3 camera. That will probably take care of the DR and colours, but my experience is that the Fuji sensors (at least the Super CCD) are even more demanding on the lenses. We'll see.
Below are two samples of blown highlights that have made me question the cameras usability as an all-round travel-cam for me. The first one, the black Buddha, is over-exposed, but not by more than one stop. The cyan colour-shift, also in areas that are not totally blown, should be easy to see.
The second one is more extreme. I don't expect to get a clean image with a 500mm straight into the sun, but the green colour shift (that for some reason I don't see on my PC but is extremely visible on the Mac) around the top half of the sun is difficult to deal with.
GH1 with OM Zuiko 50mm f/2.0 Macro
GH1 with OM Zuiko Reflex 500mm f/8.0