If you have a Panasonic GH1 manufactured prior to July 2010, you can hack the firmware and shoot at astoundingly high bitrates. However, anyone who has a GH1 manufactured more recently is stuck with the stock firmware, as Panasonic locked it down recently -- presumably so the forthcoming pro Micro 4/3-based AF100 won't be cannibalized by a much cheaper, hacked still camera in the bitrate department. Now Panasonic has announced the sequel to the GH1, the aptly-named GH2, and the question worth asking is: will an unhacked GH2 will be better than a hacked GH1?
The stock bitrate has been increased to 24Mbps from the GH1's standard 17Mbps setting, and DPReview seems to think the camera is a significant upgrade for movie shooters:
Like the GH1, the GH2 is distinguished from its G-series contemporaries by its video shooting capabilities. The GH2 is a far more serious video shooting tool than the G2, and indeed the majority of its competitors - both mirrorless and DSLR. The GH2 offers a similar video specification to the GH1 but with one important difference - the sensor no longer doubles-up its sensor output in order to create its highest-speed video (the GH1 sensor could capture at 24 or 25 fps, which was then put out as 60i or 50i footage). Instead, the latest sensor can capture progressive (whole frames) at 60 or 50 fps. Its output is still limited to 60i or 50i because there are no common ways to distribute 60p or 50p footage, but this should certainly improve the output quality. The GH2 also has the ability to save footage at a different frame rate from the one captured - allowing slow-motion or high-speed effects.
Of course, as filmmakers we're primarily interested in shooting at 24p, but the GH2's 60p mode will yield much better slow-motion footage (shoot at 60p, slow down to 24fps). The question is whether anyone will hack the GH2's firmware; otherwise, filmmakers looking to get the most bang for their buck (and those not shy about hacking their GH1) could view the GH2 as a downgrade. On the other hand, there are some interesting new features that, depending on your needs, could prove to be valuable -- for example, autofocus that refreshes 60 times a second might actually be viable for casual use. The higher ISO setting of 12,800 is likely unusable in video mode, but the simultaneous HDMI output should be a boon for monitoring.
Here's a video on the features of the new camera from Panasonic UK:
While searching for more info on the GH2, I came across this hilarious press release, which I can only assume was machine-translated:
The cinema-like 24p movie with the bit rate of max. 24 Mbps provides overwhelming image quality with richly expressive afterimage. Furthermore, together with the Cinema mode, which is newly added as an option of popular Film mode, 24p movie enables the movie to have a characteristic superior gradation shown in movie. The new Variable Movie mode makes it possible to record motion images in variable frame rate for creating a fast/slow-feed movie to look it unusual.
In that case, I'm in. Coming soon to a theater near you: richly expressive afterimages that look unusual.