The Panasonic LUMIX GH1 30 minutes EU recording issue and firmware petition

  2060841573_07644e5ed5I have recently learnt that the 29.59 minute max recording time on the Panasonic Lumix GH1 is not due to hardware limitations, it’s purely down to European Union tax law.

In 2007 a ruling was announced that any digital camera that records 30 minutes or more of video is classified by the EU as a camcorder and is therefore subject to 4.9% import duty (assuming the camera was made outside of the EU which they generally are!) So that is the reason why the EU version of the GH1 has the 29.59 minutes max per clip and the rest of the world doesn’t get this limit. 

Would you pay 4.9% (about 60 euros) more in the EU to get the max recording time and have it classified as a camcorder? I for one would.

This is not Panasonic’s fault really. They are at the mercy of the European Union and don’t get me wrong, I love Europe,  I am European through and through being dual nationality French and English, I just think some of their laws…well, suck! Panny need to know that the people buying the GH1 are buying it as a camcorder first and foremost and want full functionality like the rest of the world has and have no problem with it being classified as a camcorder!

Please make your thoughts known below and maybe if enough of us say what we want, something can be done. As much as I want to, I am not trying to change EU law, that won’t happen,  I just want to see if there are enough people who want the full functions of this camera. 4.9% is a fair bit but still cheaper than import duties from getting one from Hong Kong (although it’s cheaper there). You then get into warranty issues though….I am sure Panasonic EU don’t want people importing the cameras from all over the world as this WILL happen.

Film makers are a rabid bunch and will do whatever they can to get the best!

Don’t think of it as 4.9% more, as all camcorders in EU have this in their prices, even the Canon HV20, 30 etc…It’s actually pretty odd that there is no duty on digital cameras when there is on everything else! Also 4.9% is only around 60 Euros! Not much when you think about the huge improvement. 

We shouldn’t be penalised for being European! Not when those former colonists across the pond are chuckling at us when they get to 30 minutes and their little GH1s are still going… Think of all those wedding videographers using this camera as a locked off wide shot at the ceremony or speeches. Or trying to do a long timelapse. The function is there, it’s just blocked!! So please vote, and if you are not European can you show your support for us?

Also, on a slightly different note, and this is more for the whole world, not just the EU. A petition has been started to ask for much needed improvements in the firmware of the camera. Please do sign it by clicking here. [poll id=”7″] panasonic_lumix_gh1_digital_camera


      1. Nice post, but the petition is rather more about a separate issue, one that I myself helped highlight on the DVXUser forum.

        The EU law really does suck, but I’d rather Panasonic fixed the AVCHD full HD break-down issues beyond anything else.

        Panning or fast handheld reality style work with my GH1 is impossible in AVCHD mode (especially 1080i 24p) due to this bug.

        1. true, but i didn’t want to create a separate blog just on this on the same day as it would make me look like a whinger. I will continue to highlight the petition in further blogs.

    1. I don’t think it’d work – it has never worked with the video-wise very similar (but, of course, it’s just a P&S) Pana ZS3 suffering from the same problem.

  1. LOL, three people have voted no!
    I rarely record for more than a few minutes at a time, unless it’s talking heads or gigs ( or a talking heads gig ). But this is just the kind of ridiculous bureaucracy that the European Parliament has now become well known for.

    1. that won’t work as they will then be breaking EU rules by turning it into a “camcorder” post import and be cheating the tax man out of that money. They would also be fined!

  2. I’m french and I’m concerned with that issue too.

    I also asked in many forums, to people who could hear me, for a software modification that would fix this limitation.
    It could be done by a few software hackers by reverse engineering like comparing asian (Hong-Kong) and european firmwares (the same way it was done for DVin activation on first generation DV camcorders).

    Some Panasonic, software engineers could also help to do so by giving some clues on where to look at in the firmware.
    But that is a little bit not legal 😉

    So another idea came to my little brain while reading your blog Philip !

    As everybody knows, the GH1 retail price is $1499 in the US.
    In Europe, the same product but with recording time limitation (because of a 4.9% tax) is sold 1500€.
    Exchange rate : 1.4US$ for 1 €.
    So European prices should be 1071€ excluding VAT and around 1285€ including 20% VAT.

    I think that for the price difference (215€) between Europe and the rest of the world, Panasonic could make a little gift to their european customers and pay for the extra 4.9% tax and ddeliver an unlimited recording time camera !!!

    4.9% means an amount of about 63€ if calculated on retail price which might not be true. Could someone check on whick amount, the 4.9% are calculated ?)

    The price difference between Europe and the rest of the world (Japan, Hong-kong, US …) is only justified by marketing strategy not by real cost issues.

    Philip, as you often get in touch with Panasonic’s marketing staff, could you please talk to them about that possibility.
    This would make a lot of customers happy and erase one of the few drawbacks of the GH1 while remaining legal !

    Please excuse me for my poor school english.

    Best regards.

    1. Don’t forget that Panasonic themselves seem reluctant to fully market the thing as a camcorder replacement, to protect their prosumer camcorder division…actually not just in marketing, in crap like the as far as I can tell arbitrarily low bitrate on the codec. So actually paying more money so the thing can be legally a Camcorder doesn’t seem like their modus operandi. Just sayin’.

  3. I thought it curious you phrased your poll as you did, treating the EU tax as an immutable law of nature and Panny as the party to be petitioned. Maybe it’s just the tax-hating Yank in me, but I would have asked: Should the unelected pinheads responsible for such an idiotic tax be flayed alive, yes or no? Sure, Panny is more likely to budge, but why not protest a tax that targets shooters?

      1. Ah! As it happens, I’m available next week for a march on Brussels. I stand ready with flaming torch and pitchfork awaiting further orders.

  4. Hello Philip,

    i was thinking to buy this camera because the GH1 have some good features. And your great work with the GH1 have convinced me. I thought this would be a joke with the 30 Minutes limitation.

    Yesterday I bought a Photomagazine and there was a GH1 advertisement with the main message, that you can make films with this camera. They didn´t present the GH1 like a normal Photocamera. I think the main reason to buy this camera is to make films not to shoot Photos. If I want only to shoot Photos I would buy a other camera for this money (or the cheaper G1). I often need to film longer than 30 Minutes and when panasonic would react to fix this it would be great.

    I also think about to wait, perhapes an other producer would creat a camera like the GH1 without this limitation, or maybe this is a chance that it would be better to buy the Canon 5D Mark II. Does the 5D Mark II have the same limitation? The price is over 1000 Euros more and perhaptes it would be better to wait and save the money???? It is interesting to watch what will happen the next weeks with the GH1.

    Best regards

      1. And now I tried it at 640×480, and sure enough. it stopped at 29:59. So I guess that shows that the 5DII has the same limitation as the GH1.

  5. Whilst the limit is annoying and the tax rule behind it is idiotic, is it really such a limitation?

    Presumably you can just stop and start the shot to reset the counter?

    Surely it’s better to split up your footage into shorter takes then one endless shot?

      1. No question it would be better without, and you’re right – as a setup and forget B-camera long recording time is useful.

        For timelapses, does it have any kind of intervalometer stills mode?

  6. What about cellphones, web-camera, (h… even toasters may soon capture video) ?

    Anyway, many of these high-end phones records video. The quality stinks, but this EU rule is probably not related to the quality/resolution of the video.

    I have never heard about a 30min limitation in phones ?

    Well, maybe its all included what do I know. Just a thought.

    1. it also needs to be of a certain resolution before it is classified as a video camera by the EU. Also mobile phones, laptops etc already have duty paid on them for being what they are. The weird thing is digital cameras have NO duty on them which is odd, hence this silly situation has arisen.

  7. While the UK price for the GH1 is higher than the US price, comparing specs from the Panavision UK site shows that the UK version does PAL recording in addition to, not instead of, all the NTSC functionality. While I agree the 30-minute limit is silly, you do get more options (including color) with the GH1 in the UK so there is some justification for the higher price.

      1. My apologies for any incorrect information. Someone needs to tell Panasonic! Under “Motion Image” on the official Panasonic UK website it lists the following:

        Motion Jpeg [4:3] QVGA : 320 x 240, 30fps / VGA : 640 x 480, 30fps / Motion Jpeg [16:9] WVGA : 848 x 480, 30fps / Motion Jpeg [HD] 1280 x 720, 30fps / AVCHD NTSC [Full HD] 1920 x 1080, 60i (sensor output is 24fps)(FHD: 17Mbps) / AVCHD NTSC [HD] 1280 x 720, 60p (SH: 17Mbps, H: 13Mbps, L: 9Mbps) / AVCHD PAL [Full HD] 1920 x 1080, 50i (sensor output is 25fps)(FHD: 17Mbps) / AVCHD PAL [HD] 1280 x 720, 50p (SH: 17Mbps, H: 13Mbps, L: 9Mbps)


  8. I live in Hong Kong, and I just checked the retail price for the GH1 here, and considering the exchange rate, it only costs me €1,180 to buy this camera. And no, we don’t need to pay any tax on this stuff in Hong Kong.

    Makes me want to buy it more now. Hopefully it will not have that recording time limitation you guys over there are stuck with.

  9. Can the US version PAl and NTSC framerates?
    The price is second if i can film in 25/50 without this timelimitaion! So i would import the Cam from US with tax and more.
    Honkongversion without this limitation 29:59 seconds?


    1. the 5d? or 500d? Yes limits are in place. In full hd the 5d cannot record more than 12 minutes anyway due to hardware, in VGA mode it’s 29.59. D90 can also only record short clips

  10. Dear Philip,

    Thanks for the informations. Actually, I live in Switzerland and even here the GH1 will be delivered with the 30 minute limitation… We are making progress towards the EU 😉


  11. Don’t mind to pay another £50 for the camera…but I think these laws are mainly to protect the national distributors in Europe (talk about free movements of goods!!!)…but I do remember though for about 4-5 years ago when americans increased the tax rate for imported European steel to protect their own domestic market the EU answered with increasing the tax rate for american cars and motorbikes in Europe. The first company hit by this was Harley Davidson for many obvious reasons but what they managed to do, by lobbying, to have exception…..we can lobby as film makers….long shoot!!! I rather pay £50

  12. so now i hear that only 2 GB or max 15 minutes can record in one file !?!? Nothing with 30 minutes in Full Hd and 17 MB/s

    No HDMI-Out during preview!

    Can the US version film in PAL 25/50?
    Hongkongversion without this limitation?

      1. is this one file or some with max 2GB?
        30 minutes must be around 3,8GB and i read that each File can hae maximum 2GB – is that right?

        How long take it to start a new scene after the 30 minutes are gone?

        to klick a short still and record again set the 30 mintes timeer to zero? so i would lost only a frew frames.

        But perhaps i is better to by the GH1 in Hongkong ( without garantie

  13. No need to gripe…. I reckon give it three weeks and a firmware hack will restore this camera to its full functionality, without paying any extra.

  14. Well, it’s 2010 and we are still caught between the Scilla an Charibdes of either AVCHD 1280X720 @60fps with no time limit and AVCHD 1280X720 @50fps with 20 minutes ONLY
    I bought the GH1 from bhphotovideo because I need to film opera rehearsalas with scenes/acts often running longer then 30mins. I have found a nice MovieConverter Studio ( can easily handle MTS files for my MacBook Pro which does the conversion to an iMovieHD format for further editing. So it’s all good, the only problem being the final delivery medium – I have to convert to PAL, a process that significantly reduces the quality.

  15. I have the option of purchasing a USA model, and at the near £300 saving, I am wondering whether the NTSC framerates are relevant enough with HD digital editing to view them as a problem. Having an NTSC tape deck was a different issue, but surely there is little difference when it comes to outputting an NTSC Sequence to a PAL export, or am I mistaken?

    I know you, Phil, thought that the NTSC camera you originally tested was good, but would this cause issues in a workflow for PAL video production?

    1. More Panasonic Cameras have the same problem, like the tz7, the tz10 and many others.

      Some people have tried to bypass the limitation by installing Us firmware updates in Eu models.

      It didnt work.

      It seems like some region settings are hiden somewhere deep in the camera.

  16. Theres now a firmware hack for the GH1:
    – increases in video recording time >30mins,
    -increases in HD video quality,
    -Japanese to English firmware and more!!!

    See here:

    for the hack (and to donate – please do, too because the hacker doesn’t have a camera body on hand, he is relying on users to upload the changes so he continue to make improvements) go here:


  17. As we’re talking import tax here, there is nothing legally stopping you from taking an SLR and giving it longer recording time once it’s already been imported. It would then be merely a case of doing this in a way which won’t damage the camera.

    I imagine the only film makers who would prefer to shoot with a lens would be nature film makers – anybody else shooting over 30 minutes would probably be shooting specifically for something like a live conference, which means a Canon HF S10 or similar camera will suffice.

    For everybody else, the camera ‘as is’ should suffice – but correct me if I’m wrong!

  18. I just discovered this maddening limit while recording myself doing a synthesizer demo. The demo lasted about 1 hour, and I didn’t get going until 20 minutes in, so the camera missed all the juicy bits.

    And what’s this about 29:59 limit? My limit is even less, at 20:25. I recorded at WVGA.

    I’ll be checking out that hack linked above…will report back.

  19. hello, (I’m the author of MCS)

    “So it’s all good, the only problem being the final delivery medium – I have to convert to PAL, a process that significantly reduces the quality.”

    some notices: Pana usually does not record at 50 or 60p with its camera (it onlys wraps 25p in 50i and 30p in 60i). It’s only a wrapper, it does not change anything about its contents 😉

    So there is no “standard conversion”, just a decoding and a conformation to apple’s needs (conversion to an editing format, aka AIC, and not keep the broadcasting one you obtained with the camera)


  20. The limit of 29 minutes and 59 seconds in Europe will also apply to the new Panasonic GH2 🙁

    I asked the European Commisioner Algirdas Šemeta to equalize the classification for digital still and video camera’s because those product categories merged into one. In his reply he states ‘that the classification of goods is based upon the application of the internationally agreed rules of the Harmonised System and cannot be determined by political or economic considerations’. There seems to be no understanding for the problem. It’s time to start an awareness campaign for the European Commission and delegates to get this changed!

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