11.09.2017

So, what's the rationale for owning so many Panasonic cameras at once? You can't use more than one at a time, right?


As you might have noticed I've added a bunch of Panasonic gear to the inventory all at once. We've got a couple of GH5s, a G85 and the FZ2500 here at the studio. My friends, VSL readers and any number of interested parties asks, from time to time, why the heck I want to have so many similar cameras banging around in my equipment bag. And to someone outside my particular business it does look just a bit irrational. On the other hand I think that the best scenario in the world for me would be to own three identical GH5s and nothing else. I may yet talk myself into divesting the G85 and the FZ to make this happen; but it all begs the question: "Why?" Why the duplication? Surely modern cameras aren't plagued with so many flaws that one must have many redundant back-up cameras to make it through a shooting assignment. So what's the reason --- if there is one...

This might be a good explanation since it's based on "real world" experience...

About a week ago I had a meeting with a friend who is also a video producer. He asked if I would be interested in working as a second camera operator on a two day video assignment that's coming up. I wasn't booked on the two days in question, and I really like working with the guy, so I said yes.

Then we got down to discussing the particulars of the job. He's usually a Sony FS7 shooter but has been interested in using, and maybe acquiring, some Panasonic gear. He asked me to bid on providing the lighting and a camera package, in addition to my day rate for shooting. We discussed the camera needs and decided that we'd like to use three cameras and we'd like them to all be from the same color family so editing would be consistent and efficient.

There are several important interview shots that will need operators on "A" and "B" cameras (one on the interviewer, one on the interviewee) as well as a wide camera to catch an overall point of view which would be a useful establishing shot. That means several of our important scenes will be three camera set-ups. The beauty of using the same cameras for all is total consistency in tonality and look. We'd white balance all three cameras to the same target and carefully meter each one which would save us time in editing. 

While the big interviews would be made with the cameras on tripods we would both be shooting b-roll over the two days in locations separate from each other. We'll use the same basic camera settings and use the same white balancing targets even though the stuff we are shooting is at locations miles apart from each other. 

Since we both abhor the idea of being on a paid, professional shoot without back up cameras we'll each work with GH5s as our primary cameras and then use the FZ2500 and the G85 as back-up cameras.  That's a total of three cameras with a back-up in reserve for the big interview set-ups and two cameras with two back-ups for the location. Four cameras. That's every camera I currently have in inventory. 

What does this get us? Multiple cameras means we get our interviews, in three separate shots/angles in one long take instead of having to shoot in the old fashion, single camera mode in which we would have to shoot all the material from one angle and then reset and shoot the whole scene over again from a second angle. An incredible timesaver for everyone involved. 

Having the back-up cameras means never having to say you are sorry if a primary shooting camera gets destroyed or stops working.  Three of the cameras take the same lenses while the fourth camera has its own permanent lens. Since all the cameras are from the same company the color science between cameras is very much the same and (blessedly) the menus are all designed to be similar and recognizable to a user of any other camera in the system. 

Since we are being paid for the rental of the cameras they are making money for the business while I am making money for the business. 

This is not an isolated case. We have used multiple cameras on our video and video+still shoots for the Theatre, for our Healthcare clients and for several of our tech clients. In each case we were able to get better coverage more quickly and to cover non-scripted interviews in a linear series of takes. This is so important when working with non-professional talent who get flustered when they are called on to repeat something they've said in exactly the same way.... 

We use multiple cameras for other reasons as well. Often, when we're set up and waiting for an executive to arrive and participate in an interview an art director, hellbent on making use of our temporary "downtime" will ask us to leave the main set-up and "get a quick photograph of XXXXX."  If we've got a camera on a tripod locked down and fine tuned for a video shot the last thing I want to do is unplug the digital video recorder/monitor, unplug the microphones, pull the camera out of its cage and off the tripod and then switch all the settings to work as a still camera. It's far better to have a back up camera set up for still work, in addition to your primary video shooting camera. If the executive/subject is delayed you can satisfy your client's imaging needs by pulling the extra camera out of the bag and having it be ready to shoot still photos in an instant. 

When you are informed that your subject is headed down the hall toward your primary set-up you can toss the "still" camera back in the bag and get back to your preset, locked down "video" camera and be ready to shoot just as soon as you've said, "Hello." 

Given that traditional video cameras with the capabilities of the newest Panasonics cost tens of thousands of dollars only a few years ago the redundant approach gains you much and costs you next to nothing (or nothing) when it comes to image quality and usability. Five thousand dollars for three 4K video cameras; two of which are capable of shooting at 60p and in ridiculously information-rich All-I files. That's less than the cost of a high end video tripod...

We'll use the cameras mentioned here for many projects and we'll sell them when there's an obvious step up. If the current prices of the Panasonic GH4 (used) are any measure we won't end up losing much money at all in the transaction. It's almost like getting to use a bag full of cameras for an extended period of time for somewhere around $2,000. So much potential and capability for such a small investment....

Finally, we might want two identical bodies even if we never, ever touch the video button. We'd set up one body with something like the Olympus 17mm f1.2 Pro lens and a second camera with an Olympus 45mm f1.2 Pro and have the perfect combination for reportage at client shows and events. Shoot with on the dangle it on its strap and grab the other. Just like we did in the film days. 






Photo courtesy of ODL Design.


15 comments:

Eric Rose said...

Which Atomos are you using? I was down at The Camerastore this morning picking up a Pana/Leica 8-18 zoom and chatted with Jordan and Chris about getting one of these little babies. An Atomos that is. Jordan recommended the Ninja Inferno for both the G85 and GH5.

Mike Rosiak said...

I wish I had your business rationale for my collection of Lumices:

LX7 - easily portable, great for family events, better with viewfinder affixed;
LX100 - a "serious" P&S, M43 sensor, terrific lens, decent video, travel
GX7 - when I want to fool around with old adapted lenses
GH2 - when I pretend I'm serious about video
GF1 - with LightPixel IR conversion ... for "art"

And, I bought my wife a G85, which she bonded with instantly. More so than the Nikon D100 I bought her for her 50th birthday, hoping it would replace her old Nikon F2 (but didn't), or the GF1 (now the aforementioned IR camera).

Michael Matthews said...

Say, here’s another opportunity for revenue. If you do decide to upgrade that FZ2500 (as suggested in an earlier post) rent it to me for a week so I can see for myself what a 1-inch sensor camera with 4K capability can do. I can’t bring myself to order things from B&H with the intent to return them. It strikes me as unseemly, popular though the practice may be.

EdPledger said...

Keeping abreast of your camera menagerie is piquing the interests and raised eyebrows of several of your followers, myself included. Apparently all the Sonys are hasta la vista? Your inclination seems to favor GH5 #3 rather than a G9, which you recently mentioned, and given your video work, that seems the best idea. I am looking forward to my first Panny, but I do almost no video...so the G9 has my eye for now. BTW I should have read your post regarding use of the Oly lenses on the Panny bodies from just a few days back, in which you stated that the focus was very accurate, not your expression, albeit a bit slowish in dimmer surroundings. That’s all good. We enjoy the equipment details and applications. Best regards and thanks for your candid cogitations...

Fred said...

It's always interesting to read about real world situations as apposed to the needs of the "professionals" that live in their parents' basement. Based on what the two of you need to do on the shoot that you talked about it is a good thing that you still have both the G85 and the FZ and didn't trade them in on another GH5. Or you would have to rent another camera for this shoot.
My only question about consolidating your cameras to three GH5's would be that in your G85 post you talked about the comfort of using the G85 in situations where you would be concerned about using a much more expensive camera. I think that keeping your G85 has value for both commercial as well as personal use.
And I like the photos illustrating the post, including Abraham's.

MO said...

Cost vs output its all that matters! Great picture of you by the way. Great candid. When we are the ones carrying the camera not many Good shoots off us!

Cheers

ODL Designs said...

Hey Kirk,
I think you made a good choice in consolidating to one system. After running the Sony FF A-mount with the m43rds cameras I found myself both duplicating focal lengths and forgetting where settings lived on each camera. At the time, the EM5 pretty much closed most of the IQ gap to the A900 and I switched.

Now I regularly shoot between the EM5.2 and the EM1.2, and will probably bring an EM10.3 as a 4K B-roll set-up (unless an EM5.3 is announced). While the panasonics do call to me, I am so comfortable with the handling, menus and colour response from Olympus it has become an extension to me for my image making.

So, the first snowfall has arrived in the GTA today Kirk, you should crack out those termal cloves and warm jacked and come for a meeting with your Ottobock client here :)

omphoto said...

I noticed you said you use the All-I profile for your video shoot. Is there a reason to use that versus v-log that is available for the GH5?

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Omphoto, The ALL-I codec and V-Log are two different things. The ALL-I codec refers to the way the files are written. Instead of writing one master frame and then having subsequent frames only record things that have changed from the master frame (which can cause some motion artifacts and is more complex for computers to process), the All-I method records each frame a fully complete frame. It takes up more space on camera but is much easier on the computer side and has fewer artifacts = higher quality.

V-Log is akin to a "look." One can select All-I and use V-log and one can use V-Log with L-GOP. V-Log compresses highlights and shadow information in order to get more perceived dynamic range. It falls into the "color" camp.

I don't like to use V-Log at all if I can help it. It really requires someone who is very competent at doing color grading in post. It's also much harder to evaluate while you are shooting. My preference is to use one of the lower contrast profile settings like "natural" and work harder to get the file just right while I'm shooting it. We call it "shooting for final look." V-Log is buzzy right now but it's not the panacea most people wish for.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi ODL Designs, It's funny to hear that the Panasonics call to you since the OMD EM-1.2 is now on my radar as a still photography adjunct to the system. I need to shoot with one to decide if the color is better and the stabilization would be a benefit for the kind of work I like to do....

I'd love to head back up to the great north and meet with the Ottobockers. I also know a great assistant director (you) that I'd hire in a heartbeat!

Thanks!!!

Kirk Tuck said...

MO, I am so thankful to ODL Designs for working with me in Toronto earlier this year and providing me with some amazingly great behind the scenes shots of me working. It's a rare treat for me.

If you need a powerhouse ad agency in the Toronto area you should see Abraham. Top notch designer, great photographer and videographer. A triple threat; or treat.

omphoto said...

Thanks for the feedback Kirk. I'll be working with a full time professional editor, so he's comfortable with the grading part. But I hear what you're saying. If I was the one editing, with only minimal skills, I would be going for the look I wanted at the beginning. I think it will be a challenge to get an idea about judging results while I'm working but fortunately I have enough lead time to do test footage and have the editor make comment before the real work begins. The project is a big budget(not a Ken Burns big budget) documentary. We're trying to get the maximum quality out of the camera so it will look good on a big screen.
Truly appreciate your shared wisdom in these matters.

MO said...

Yeah great to see you getting something great back from This site again. Nice ODL. Keep hitting your keyboard and the swimmingpool lanes Kirk ;)

David said...

When it comes to video, I have always thought a 3 to 4 camera minimum. I noticed this from films and tv. And bring it up when people complain about short video record times. Just watch anything, and see how many seconds you can count until a camera angle has changed. I will be shocked in you get to 10.
I have a feeling you will like the G9 better than the Em1. You just have to wait til January.
All the best,
David

Anonymous said...

Valuable insight into the pro world and, in some ways, the most interesting bit is the stuff about the v-log in the real world of fast turnaround commercial work.