Would you like a little camera with your mount?

The Panasonic GH1 is finally available for order on Amazon and B&H Photo (although with a wait time of 1–2 months, I’d call that pre-order). This little camera is getting the attention it deserves as the first biggish-sensor, interchangeable lens stills camera that takes video seriously.

A big part of that seriousness is the lens. Designed from the ground up as a true hybrid still/motion lens, the kit zoom on the GH1 has an impressive range, optical stabilization, smooth autofocus, stepless aperture, and near-silent operation.

Sadly, the trade-off is that the GH1’s kit lens is slow as molasses, with a maximum aperture of f/4.0 at the wide and and a pinhole f/5.8 at the long end. If the GH1’s 4/3 sensor is the key to shallow depth-of-field, the kit zoom is a big wad of stale gum shoved in the keyhole.

Sure, there are some faster lenses for the GH1. Like this 24mm f/1.4 from Panasonic. For a mere $1100 you can have a fast prime that eliminates many of the above advantages of the GH1’s video mode.

Yes, more and cheaper Micro Four Thirds lenses are on the way, and one hopes that many will offer the video features now exclusive to the MolassoFlex 14–140mm. But in the meantime, folks are going crazy creating adaptors for the GH1.

And with good reason. The flange depth (what?) of the MFT format is very adaptor-friendly. Perhaps this is no better illustrated than by this beast:

This is a prototype PL-mount adaptor created by Illya Friedman of Hot Rod Cameras. I played with this at NAB (on a G1), and what struck me about it is that the mount is so much more heavy and substantial than the G1 body that you actually must wield the camera by the mount! And in fact the actual production model will have mounting points for a plate and rods. Add a PL-mount lens to the mix, even a small one, and you’ve got a rig where the camera body is a negligible part of the form factor.

Personally, I think there’s some real usefulness in a camera that can switch between full pain-in-the-ass cinema mode with big-money glass and follow-focus rigs, to stealth run-and-gun mode with truly useful autofocus and yet full manual control over iris and shutter.

The GH1 may not be perfect, but it is by far the most interesting camera on the market right now from the perspective of this DV Rebel.

If you want to learn more about the Hot Rod PL adapter, contact Illya at illyafriedman@gmail.com.

If you order the GH1 from Amazonor from B&H using these links, then beer is on me.