Panasonic GH1 vs Sony A850
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 and the Sony Alpha A850 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in March 2009 and August 2009. The GH1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the A850 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (GH1) and a full frame (A850) sensor. The Panasonic has a resolution of 12 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24.4 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 and the Sony Alpha A850? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Panasonic GH1 and the Sony A850. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The GH1 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the A850 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A850 is considerably larger (64 percent) than the Panasonic GH1. Moreover, the A850 is substantially heavier (132 percent) than the GH1. It is noteworthy in this context that the A850 is splash and dust-proof, while the GH1 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Panasonic GH1||124 mm||90 mm||45 mm||385 g||300||n||Mar 2009||899|
|2.||Sony A850||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Aug 2009||1,999|
|3.||Olympus E-P1||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||n||Jun 2009||799|
|4.||Olympus E-P2||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||n||Nov 2009||799|
|5.||Panasonic LX100||115 mm||66 mm||55 mm||393 g||300||n||Sep 2014||899|
|6.||Panasonic G6||122 mm||85 mm||71 mm||390 g||340||n||Apr 2013||599|
|7.||Panasonic G10||124 mm||84 mm||74 mm||388 g||380||n||Mar 2010||499|
|8.||Panasonic G2||124 mm||84 mm||74 mm||428 g||360||n||Mar 2010||599|
|9.||Panasonic GF2||113 mm||68 mm||33 mm||310 g||300||n||Nov 2010||549|
|10.||Panasonic GH2||124 mm||90 mm||76 mm||442 g||330||n||Sep 2010||899|
|11.||Panasonic GF1||119 mm||71 mm||36 mm||385 g||380||n||Sep 2009||749|
|12.||Panasonic G1||124 mm||84 mm||45 mm||360 g||410||n||Sep 2008||599|
|13.||Sony A99 II||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|14.||Sony A7 II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999|
|15.||Sony A99||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799|
|16.||Sony A77||143 mm||104 mm||81 mm||732 g||470||Y||Aug 2011||1,399|
|17.||Sony A900||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Sep 2008||2,999|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The GH1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 55 percent) than the A850, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Panasonic GH1 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony A850 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A850 is 283 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.0. The sensor in the GH1 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the A850 offers a 3:2 aspect.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 24.4MP, the A850 offers a higher resolution than the GH1 (12MP), but the A850 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 4.33μm for the GH1) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the A850 is a somewhat more recent model (by 5 months) than the GH1, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Sony A850 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A850 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.2 x 20.2 inches or 76.8 x 51.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.2 x 16.1 inches or 61.4 x 41 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.2 x 13.4 inches or 51.2 x 34.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Panasonic GH1 are 20 x 15 inches or 50.8 x 38.1 cm for good quality, 16 x 12 inches or 40.6 x 30.5 cm for very good quality, and 13.3 x 10 inches or 33.9 x 25.4 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 100-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A850 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the A850 offers substantially better image quality than the GH1 (overall score 15 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.2 bits higher color depth, 0.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.9 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Panasonic GH1||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||1080/24p||21.6||11.6||772||64|
|2.||Sony A850||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.8||12.2||1415||79|
|3.||Olympus E-P1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.4||536||55|
|4.||Olympus E-P2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.4||505||56|
|5.||Panasonic LX100||Four Thirds||12.7||4112||3088||4K/30p||22.3||12.5||553||67|
|6.||Panasonic G6||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||21.3||11.5||639||61|
|7.||Panasonic G10||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||720/30p||21.2||10.1||411||52|
|8.||Panasonic G2||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||720/30p||21.2||10.3||493||53|
|9.||Panasonic GF2||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||1080/60i||21.2||10.3||506||54|
|10.||Panasonic GH2||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60i||21.2||11.3||655||60|
|11.||Panasonic GF1||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||720/30p||21.2||10.3||513||54|
|12.||Panasonic G1||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||none||21.1||10.3||463||53|
|13.||Sony A99 II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
|14.||Sony A7 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|15.||Sony A99||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||14.0||1555||89|
|17.||Sony A900||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.7||12.3||1431||79|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The GH1 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the A850 does not. The highest resolution format that the GH1 can use is 1080/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the GH1 has an electronic viewfinder (1440k dots), while the A850 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinder in the GH1 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the A850 (98%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the A850 has a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.70x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Panasonic GH1, the Sony A850, and comparable cameras.
|13.||Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0||1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The GH1 has one, while the A850 does not. While the built-in flash of the GH1 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The GH1 has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the A850 does not have a selfie-screen.
The GH1 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the A850 uses Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A850 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the GH1 only has one slot.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 and Sony Alpha A850 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|13.||Sony A99 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|14.||Sony A7 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Sony A850 (unlike the GH1) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the GH1 and the A850 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The GH1 was replaced by the Panasonic GH2, while the A850 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Panasonic and Sony websites.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Panasonic GH1 or the Sony A850 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Reasons to prefer the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1:
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/24p movies.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 98%).
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- More compact: Is smaller (124x90mm vs 156x117mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 510g or 57 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (55 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in March 2009).
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A850:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24.4 vs 12MP), which boosts linear resolution by 45%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (15 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.2 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.6 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.9 stops ISO advantage).
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.70x).
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 460k dots).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (880 versus 300) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (5 months) more recently.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A850 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 11 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Panasonic GH1 and the Sony A850 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the GH1 and the A850 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Panasonic GH1||..||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||899|
|2.||Sony A850||3/5||..||75/100||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||1,999|
|3.||Olympus E-P1||..||+||66/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2009||799|
|4.||Olympus E-P2||3/5||+||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Nov 2009||799|
|5.||Panasonic LX100||5/5||+ +||85/100||5/5||5/5||Sep 2014||899|
|6.||Panasonic G6||4/5||+ +||..||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2013||599|
|7.||Panasonic G10||3/5||..||70/100||4/5||4/5||Mar 2010||499|
|8.||Panasonic G2||..||..||72/100||4/5||4.5/5||Mar 2010||599|
|9.||Panasonic GF2||3/5||82/100||70/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Nov 2010||549|
|10.||Panasonic GH2||5/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2010||899|
|11.||Panasonic GF1||..||85/100||69/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2009||749|
|12.||Panasonic G1||..||+ +||70/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2008||599|
|13.||Sony A99 II||..||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|14.||Sony A7 II||5/5||+||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999|
|15.||Sony A99||5/5||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799|
|16.||Sony A77||5/5||91/100||81/100||..||5/5||Aug 2011||1,399|
|17.||Sony A900||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2008||2,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Panasonic GH1 vs Sony A850
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Panasonic GH1||Sony A850|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Micro Four Thirds lenses||Sony A mount lenses|
|Launch Date||March 2009||August 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 899||USD 1,999|
|Sensor Specs||Panasonic GH1||Sony A850|
|Sensor Format||Four Thirds Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||17.3 x 13.0 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||224.9 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||21.6 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12 Megapixels||24.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4000 x 3000 pixels||6048 x 4032 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.33 μm||5.94 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.34 MP/cm2||2.83 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/24p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||Venus HD||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||64||79|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.6||23.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.6||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||772||1415|
|Screen Specs||Panasonic GH1||Sony A850|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||98%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||1440k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||460k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Swivel screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Panasonic GH1||Sony A850|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDHC cards||CF or MS cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Panasonic GH1||Sony A850|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Panasonic GH1||Sony A850|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||300 shots per charge||880 shots per charge|
124 x 90 x 45 mm
(4.9 x 3.5 x 1.8 in)
156 x 117 x 82 mm
(6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||385 g (13.6 oz)||895 g (31.6 oz)|
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