Pogue Says Panasonic's Pseudo-SLR GH1 Makes a Great HD Camcorder

Illustration for article titled Pogue Says Panasonics Pseudo-SLR GH1 Makes a Great HD Camcorder

Hopefully things are cloudiest before they clear up: Nobody buys real camcorders anymore, entry-level DSLRs are all about HD video, and NYT's David Pogue picks Panasonic's Lumix GH1 as the current 1080p shooting champ.

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He's probably right. The two cameras I am evaluating at this very moment—Canon's $900 Rebel T1i and Nikon's $850 D5000—are damn fine still cameras with particularly attractive prices, that draw from the competitive legacy of their two makers, and are compatible with hundreds of lenses in each company's respective armory. But for shooting video, they're not exactly easy. Or even good.

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Pogue's point is this: The "micro four thirds" standard is pimpin' for this particular task. It has the larger sensor and the full controls of an SLR while allowing for quality 1080p video with active autofocus. The two cameras I'm reviewing can't refocus without a lot of trouble during video shoots. The GH1 even comes—mind you, at its sky-high $1500 price—with an amazing lens for camcorder work. And it bears stating that if you're going to buy a still camera that you'll use as much for video, then Panasonic is probably gonna do you a solid, since it's a leader among the handful of pro video camera makers. (Alton Brown once told me he swears by 'em.)

But where does this leave camera shoppers? The problem I have with Pogue's piece is that I still don't know what to buy. And it makes me even more concerned for my own recommendation on the Nikon and Canon. I've placed a lot of weight on that video capability, as a reason to upgrade, but in light of the potential video quality demonstrated by the GH1, wouldn't it be worth buying a clearance DSLR and a frill-free Flip camcorder and wait until this while mess gets sorted out, and video quality the likes of which Pogue rhapsodizes is available in SLR cameras we actually want to own?

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Tune in tomorrow for my final thoughts on this subject, and my verdict in the Nikon vs. Canon entry-level DSLR battlemodo. [NYT]

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DISCUSSION

I'd stray away from Nikon and Canon. Your estimation of hundreds of lens capabilities is, well, to be honest, wrong. Nikon and Canon have very specifically made it so that they aren't backward compatible with the entire family of lenses. The only one to take that crown is Sony. The Maxxum Mount, as it should be called, is compatible with every auto focus lens from the first one Minolta produced with the first autofocus SLR in 1985.

Now, in regards to the Panasonic, I've been shooting with a Panasonic SLR for years now, and I couldn't be happier. The build quality is fantastic, the lens quality is on par or better than Nikon or Canon, and the AS doesn't bump the price of a lens up a few thousand. (I have the full 4/3 mount, which not only allows me to have Leica made glass, but Olympus' top of the line Zuiko, and a whole host of other lenses in manual focus, made by the likes of Voightlander, Zeiss, and vintage Leica).

Pogue is right to stray off the Nikon/Canon beaten path. Although Minolta has had more innovations over the years, in the 1980's, when AF became king, both Nikon and Canon had better marketing, and made themselves a household name, bumping Minolta out of the game.