Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 Review

 
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Panasonic GH1 Performance


Timing and Performance

The Panasonic GH1's shutter response is a bit slower than average for consumer SLRs, but just a smidge faster focusing than the G1. The G1 beats it slightly in continuous-mode speed.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

1.8 seconds

Time it takes to turn on and capture a shot.

Shutdown

2.5 seconds

How long it takes camera to turn off before you can remove the memory card.

Buffer clearing time
2 seconds after 20 large/fine JPEGs*
Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card.
9 seconds after 5 RAW files*
14 seconds after 3 RAW+JPEG files*
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/sec 8GB SDHC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Startup and shut-down times are slower than those for many SLRs. Oddly, also slower than the Panasonic G1.


Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

0.7 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to play

1.3 seconds

Time to display a large/fine file immediately after capture.

Display
recorded image

0.4 second

Time to display a large/fine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching is reasonably fast, except for Record to Play, which is slower than average.


Shutter Response (Lag Time)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Wide Angle
0.336 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. Very slightly faster than the G1. (All AF timing done with Panasonic 14-140mm kit lens. This measurement done at 14mm.)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Telephoto
0.321 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (This measurement done at 140mm.)

Full Autofocus,
Multi-area AF mode,
Wide Angle
0.320 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (This measurement done at 14mm.)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Wide Angle,
Flash enabled
0.661 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting, auto flash enabled. Very slightly slower than the G1. (This measurement done at 14mm.)

Prefocused

0.084 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button. Very slightly slower than the G1.

Continuous AF
0.508 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects. Noticeably slower than the G1.
Manual Focus
0.118 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".

The Panasonic GH1 showed full-autofocus shutter lag (with the subject at a fixed distance) that ranged from 0.321 at full telephoto to 0.336 second at wide angle, a bit faster than the G1. Interestingly, multi-area AF was slightly faster at 0.320 second at wide angle, which is unusual, as this mode is often slower than single-area AF. Competing consumer-level SLRs are up to twice as fast as the GH1 in this regard, but like the G1, the GH1 really felt more responsive than the numbers would seem to indicate when we were shooting with it. The lag was a bit slower in continuous mode AF, at about 0.508 second, with very little variation. When manually focused, the GH1's lag time drops to only 0.118 second, competitive with consumer SLRs, but again a bit slower than the G1. Likewise, its prefocused lag time of 0.084 is competitive, besting some SLRs in its general price range. Using the LCD monitor instead of the EVF had little impact on shutter lag numbers.


Cycle Time (shot to shot)

Single Shot mode
Large/Fine JPEG

0.66 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 2 seconds to clear*. Noticeably faster than the G1.

Single Shot mode
RAW

0.66 second

Time per shot, averaged over 5 shots, 9 seconds to clear*.

Single Shot mode
RAW + LF JPEG
0.69 second

Time per shot, averaged over 3 shots, 14 seconds to clear*.

Early shutter
penalty?

No

Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous High
Large Fine JPEG
(With kit lens)

0.40 second (2.50 frames per second);
12 frames total;
2 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 12 shots, then slows to an average of about 1.35s or 0.74 fps. Slower than the G1, and slower than Panasonic's rated speed of 3 frames/second.

Continuous High
Large Normal JPEG
(With kit lens,
**See note below)

0.35 second (2.85 frames per second);
No apparent limit to buffer capacity (50+ shots of noise target without slowing);
1.7 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 40 shots. Still slightly slower than the G1, and slightly slower than Panasonic's rated speed of 3 frames/second, but within ~5% of the spec.

Continuous High
Large Fine JPEG
(With 7-14mm lens)

0.33 second (3.02 frames per second);
12 frames total;
2 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 12 shots. The 7-14mm Panasonic lens for some reason let the camera reach its maximum speed, while the kit lens did not.

Continuous High
RAW

0.40 second (2.50 frames per second);
4 frames total;
6 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 4 frames, then slows to an average of about 1.85s or 0.54 fps.

Continuous High
RAW + LF JPEG

0.42 second (2.38 frames per second);
4 frames total;
12 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 4 frames, then slows to 2.70s or 0.37 fps.

Flash Recycling

2.3 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/sec 8GB SDHC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Single-shot cycle times are better than the Panasonic G1, at about 0.66 second (versus the G1's 0.85 second).

Continuous modes, however, were slower, and also somewhat variable in our testing, at least with the kit lens. In most of our tests, we clocked the GH1 at only 2.5 frames per second in Fine JPEG or RAW mode, and 2.38 frames per second in RAW + JPEG. In Normal-compression JPEG mode, the speed increased to 2.85 frames/second, coming within 5% of the official spec of 3 frames/second. Using a different lens (the Panasonic 7-14mm zoom), the GH1 reached a speed of 3.02 frames/second.

**We found the GH1's continuous-mode test results with the kit lens very puzzling, in that we measured speeds of either 2.5 fps or 2.85 fps under identical conditions. Most of the time, the camera shot at a rate of 2.5 fps, regardless of any settings for file size, compression, focus priority, etc. (Basically, any parameters we could think of to change.) A couple of times, though, we noticed the camera shooting more rapidly. When we measured its performance those times (which also happened to be with it set to normal vs fine JPEG quality), we clocked it at 2.85 fps. The camera seemed to arbitrarily revert to 2.5 fps, and we could find no combination of settings that would return it to the 2.85 fps performance level. (And yes, we did think of resetting all its record-mode and custom-menu settings, via the menu option that did that.) Dropping the battery for a period of time and then immediately shooting in Large/Normal JPEG mode seemed to reliably get us back to 2.85 fps, but over the course of normal usage, we always ended up back at 2.5 fps. Very strangely, when we switched to using the Panasonic 7-14mm zoom lens on the GH1, the camera easily attained frame rates of just over 3 fps, even with Large/Fine JPEGs. The bottom line is that, at least as of this writing, and with firmware versions 1.0 in both the camera and lens, the GH1 won't quite make it to its maximum frame rate of 3 fps.

The G1 managed 3.1 frames per second in our tests, so the GH1 is just slightly slower than its predecessor. Buffer depths also seem smaller at 12 frames for Large/Fine JPEGs, and 4 frames for RAW and RAW + JPEG. The G1 was able to record L/F JPEGs until the media was full using the same card as we used to test the GH1. The G1 managed 5 RAW or RAW+JPEG file before slowing down, 1 more than the GH1.

The flash recycled quickly at 2.3 seconds on average, but again not as fast as the G1 (1.4 seconds), and it also varied a lot, ranging from 1.8 to 3.53 seconds in our test.


Download Speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

7,975 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Download speeds were fast, quick enough that you probably won't feel the need for a separate card reader, even with large memory cards. (Note that this test was performed with a SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/sec SD card: Slower cards would likely show slower transfer times.)


Bottom line, the Panasonic GH1 is a fairly responsive camera, well-suited to handling typical family shots, though not a good choice for really fast action. It's not quite as quick as the G1 in some respects while faster in others, but the GH1 is slower than most SLRs in almost every category.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Good battery life, but below average compared to an SLR using an optical viewfinder.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
Still Capture,
(CIPA standard - Using EVF)
320
Still Capture,
(CIPA standard - Using LCD)
300
Movie Recording (AVCHD SH)
Using LCD
120 minutes
Playback Time
Using LCD
260 minutes

The Panasonic GH1 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and charger. The rated 320 shots per charge is a bit below the capacity of typical SLRs, likely a consequence of the power drain for the electronic display. (When using the optical viewfinder on an SLR, there's very little power consumption except when the shutter fires or when you're in playback mode. The CIPA numbers for the Panasonic GH1 are in line with SLRs operating in Live View mode.) We do recommend getting a second battery for your GH1 if you plan any extended outings.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on a fully-charged rechargeable battery), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage
The Panasonic GH1 accepts SD/SDHC memory cards, and does not ship with a card.

Image Capacity with
1GB Memory Card
Fine Normal RAW RAW
+
L/F JPG
4,000 x 3,000
Images
(Avg Size)
148
6.9 MB
293
3.5 MB
69
14.8 MB
47
21.7 MB
Approx.
Comp.
5:1
10:1
1.2:1
-
2,816 x 2,112
Images
(Avg Size)
265
3.9 MB
518
2.0 MB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
5:1
9:1
-
-
2,048 x 1,536
Images
(Avg Size)
622
1.6 MB
1197
855 KB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
6:1
11:1
-
-

We strongly recommend buying a large capacity SD/SDHC memory card at least a 2GB card, preferably a 4 or 8GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings, or when shooting RAW or video files. -- If you're going to shoot much video, you'll definitely want a large, fast card; look for a card with "class 6" speed or better. (Check the shopping link above, cards are really cheap these days, so no reason to skimp.)

 

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