The Quest: Choosing Canon 60D or Panasonic GH2

I am on a quest. I recently sold off my Pentax gear. After years of using a great kit, I dumped it to buy a mid level DSLR capable of shooting full manual video. I am convinced that Pentax will never consider HDSLR video anything more than a hobby. But what to buy as a replacement? I’m undecided. I’m pretty much just thinking out loud here.

I am looking at a $1000 or less. I seem to have settled on either the Canon 60D or the Panasonic GH2. I am looking for full manual video control and good still image capture. of course, any interchangeable lens camera is going to look better than my Point & Shoot. I’m also not too concerned about workflow, because both have to have their native files converted for work in Final Cut.

So I’ve been reading up on the two. This review from EOSHD gives the contest firmly to the GH2. There are tons of “hacks” you can do on the GH2 to get all sorts of video effects and colors. The GH2 is generally thought of as an amazing video camera. Here is a video from EOSHD comparing it against the $10,000 Red Scarlett. The under $800 body doesn’t fair too badly.

I am still leaning toward Canon because Canon makes a lot better lenses than the 4/3s stuff. And adapters don’t translate the auto functions. So you lose all the auto focus advantage on the GH2, and the GH2s smaller sensor means longer DOF, which means harder to control DOF in our shooting situations. And I don’t think I’m going to be hacking my camera. If I had to pick right now, I’d get a Canon 60D with the 50mm f1.8 “nifty fifty” lens to start.

But the GH2 is so flexible with video. Both stock and with all of the hacks out there. And you can use almost any lens you want. The smaller mirrorless body allows you to adapt a lot of different kinds of lenses. (Pentax K, M42, Canon EF and FD, Nikon, and more.) Canon can convert some lenses too. At work we have an M42 to EOS adapter.

Part of me just wants to be different. I shot Pentax for a long time. I began to enjoy the fact that I was using a system that was not like the rest of the Canikon people. I really liked shooting something with a lens that cost under $50 that made people say, wow that’s a nice picture. But I am not sure I have the time or motivation to test the hacks and get drawn into the techno world of the GH2 community. I see a lot of test videos, and people geeking out about what you can do, more than great video projects that happen to use a GH2. Maybe the same can be said for the Canon bodies.

Being different is fun. But, if I had found a cheap Nikon way back when I got my first DSLR, I would have gotten that system. I was just looking for a DSLR under $300, and I found a Pentax *ist DS with kit lens for $295 (a great deal back then). The rest was just bonus. I’d still recommend Pentax to anyone looking to shoot on a budget that is willing to use manual controls. I never spent more than $230 on any lens in my Pentax kit. Not because all Pentax lenses are that cheap, but because you can find cheaper alternatives to the high dollar ones if you are willing to shoot manual.

So, back to this dilemma. Not sure what is on the horizon for either manufacturer. I am probably waiting a couple of months before I take the plunge, and maybe something will come out before then. Meanwhile I’m reading reviews and watching video. Weighing the options.

[Edit: I made my decision]