I was already booked to photograph the technical rehearsal of Zach Theatre's rock-and-roll version of "A Christmas Carol" when I got a panicky call from one of the technical crew. Several principal actors would be subbing out their roles for several days in the first few weeks of the show. Sudden schedule conflicts!!! There were several actors who could fill the roles but they haven't been in all the rehearsals and might be hazy on choreography. Could I set up a central video camera to record the whole show from beginning to end so the fill-ins could watch the video over and over again to see the blocking they needed to know?
I added a Panasonic FZ2500 to the kit, along with a stout tripod, and headed to the theater to set up.
In MP4 at HD the camera can shoot fairly small files. They are about 20 mb/s which means that a 128 GB memory card will give nearly six hours of run time. I set the exposure based on a middle of the road lighting cue, white balanced the camera and then turned the rear screen in to shut off the review and gain me some battery life. We rolled the camera for the entire 2 hours of the technical performance on one battery!!!!!!
With the camera manually focused on the middle of the stage the depth of field was adequate to cover most of the stage from front to back. The camera delivered great files for the intended purpose. Exposure wasn't alway optimum but as a reference for the actors it was exactly what they needed. They can clearly see the blocking and gestures and their relationships to other actors on the stage. Easy to accommodate and a big help to my Zach family.
At the end of the performance we downloaded the SD card directly to one of the production team's laptops and it ran in Windows Media Player without issue. For $1,000, or thereabouts every pro practicing a hybrid video+photo model should have one of these Swiss Army Knife cameras.
I wanted to bring the discussion of doing a profitable business with a team of small sensor cameras out of the studios of full time YouTubers and breathless DP Reviewers and just tell you my experiences over the last ten days...Here's a partial laundry list of the kinds of work we've been producing, mostly with the GH5 cameras and a collection of Olympus Pro and Panasonic/Leica and Panasonic lenses:
Technical and dress rehearsals for two theater productions. One gala for charity (event photography with camera flash) at the new, enormous JW Marriott hotel. One awards dinner (event photography with camera flash at the Four Seasons Hotel. A good reason to keep a couple of suits pressed and at the ready... A full day's shooting of high tech products followed by several days of clipping path creation. Two full days of video production; interiors and exteriors, for a high tech global client, in service of several local charities. One location video interview for a law firm's website, about a dozen headshots spread out over the ten days, and a marketing shoot to generate vertical banners for point of purchase.
So, how has shooting the "tiny" sensor of the GH5 hampered my career? Not in the least. In fact, the camera's output seems no different to my clients than the files we generated from our previous Sony cameras and the Nikons before them.
The stellar performer is, without a doubt, the Olympus Pro series 12-100mm f4.0 lens. At its widest focal length, and even wide open, its imaging performance is breathtaking. In fact, in conjunction with a good flash, it's the only lens I need to take with me to shoot any sort of social event. The focus with the GH5 has been nuts on and the final files, if anything, are too sharp and detailed. Easily fixed by reducing sharpness in the imaging parameters by a negative two clicks. It's the first m4:3rds system that, in conjunction with TTL flash, nails exposure and color 95% of the time. Count me highly satisfied in using the system for social events, galas, parties, receptions and more.
In carefully controlled situations such as our product shoot I am even more satisfied. We were shooting a lot of products on a glossy white mannequin with a bright white background and the camera+lens never faltered or flared. I used the 40-150mm Olympus Pro lens a great deal and was thankful for the extra depth of field the system provided. I shot nearly everything at f8.0 which gave me the equivalent depth of field of a full frame camera at f16 but with none of the lens diffraction. Being able to toss a gray target into the scene and use the waveform monitor to set exposure was so much fun. You can see a graphical representation of the whites blowing out or coming under control and you can see the relationship between the middle tones as the highlights and shadows. It's a great way to present a camera user with information.
This is my bare, go to combination; a wide ranging, constant aperture zoom with high sharpness mated to a camera body that goes effortlessly from being a great still photography camera to a camera you could easily make a feature film with in seconds.
At one point we did a photo shoot for a theatre production to create images of characters for the "Tuna Christmas" play. We shot most of them from head to toe. I finally saw the way the images were used last night when I was working on a new production. A large number of images were combined to create a large postcard mailer and, of course, in postcard size they all looked quite good. But as I walked toward the entry to the theater I noticed some three foot by six foot banners which also used three of the images and they were just technically perfect.
How can this be from a camera with a "tiny" sensor? My take is that technique and good photo practices, along with great lenses, can get most cameras exactly where you need them to be. There is a debate raging amongst two popular YouTubers right now about whether one should shoot Raw or Jpeg. Most of the discussion revolves around the need to shoot raw in order to correct things. Things like exposure, color balance and sharpness. But what if you just took the time to correct these things as you shot your work? You wouldn't have to shift the data in the files at all. You wouldn't have to throw away file information to correct for your sloppy technique. Right?
So, for stuff that will be used large (and almost everything else I shoot for clients) I take the time to use the right lighting (in this case electronic flash), to use the cameras at their native (optimum) ISO; which for the Panasonic GH5s is ISO 200, to get the exposure exactly right (maybe it's worth hooking up an Atomos Ninja Flame and using the waveform and vector scope tools to precisely nail optimum exposure (and parameter settings !!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and to always, always, always create a careful custom white balance. We ended up with files that could be blown up to almost life-size (for humans) with no fuss and without the expense of a massive and ungainly full frame camera. We feel so heroic....
What we found out when pounding lots of video through the GH5s... We found out that even in 4K the image stabilization worked well. Even with non-Panasonic lenses. We found that when trying to shoot for "final look" (how we want the video files to look on your monitor), instead of blindly following the herd to shoot everything as V-Log, we were able to generate files with more than enough dynamic range and very pleasing color (and more importantly, contrast) that could be imported into an editing system and used without the need for extensive color grading and color matching. While the sensors in the Sony cameras, like the A7Rii and A7Sii (both of which my sometimes video partner still owns...), have more native dynamic range they are limited to 8 bit files while the GH5s are highly usable in the 10 bit mode --- which also generates files with.....more dynamic range. I'd say it's not even a wash it's advantage to the GH5.
Aiming for "final look" demands that we get our tonality, color and exposure more or less perfect since there will be less opportunity (requirement) for these things to be done in post. And anything that's done in post constitutes throwing away lots of data.... So the idea is to up your technique and testing in order to make sure that not just white balance, contrast, sharpness and saturation are set to the best effect but also that you make use of the highlight/shadow controls and the luminance controls to create files that look great right out of the cameras. It's a bit more work and more intentional than shooting Log but I think it can be a great benefit to people who are not full time color graders with years of color grading from V-Log experiences.
We also learned that high bit rates that are generated by lots of detail and motion in your video really separate the field when it comes to memory card specifications. The GH5 is a camera that benefits from (and can use!) the fastest memory cards (UHS-II) you can throw at it. We had some issues on our full days of shooting with multiple GH5s with the cameras stopping the recording to wait and write to the buffer with slower cards. We are now in the process of replacing our primary working memory cards with V60, and especially V90 SD cards. I shot with a V90 card for the still photography at the technical rehearsal last night and even shooting some of the scenes very quickly in Raw+Fine Jpeg the camera never stalled or hit the buffer. Fast cards = high performance.
Smashing success with one new tool.... I'm thrilled that I picked up the DMW-XLR1 audio adapter for the GH5. We used Rodelink radio transmitters and receivers with a range of lavaliere and handheld cardioid microphones and in each case the sound was as noise free as we have ever been able to get while offering a clear and simple interface with which to control audio levels. I now consider this accessory to be a mandatory part of my GH5 video kit. The review from my director (who was shooting first camera and using the DMW-XLR1) was a direct comparison with the Sony unit. He found the Panasonic to be a better design with a lower profile and better handling. Two big thumbs up.
I'm happy with it because I have several conference presentations to record as well as a live musical stage show, and I'll be able to pull a line-in from the productions' sound boards directly through the DMW-XLR1's XLR connectors and line-in setting.
We are currently evaluating footage from this weekend that was shot in 4K, 10 bit, 4:2:2 and it's looking pretty fantastic. But beyond the codec tech specs one of the things that endears us to the m4:3rds shooting methodology is just how much easier it is to shoot handheld and to get nice, steady results. One lens I used while shooting in full sun (with an ND filter on the front) was the 12-60mm kit lens from Panasonic (not the Leica version...) and the integration of the dual I.S. system (camera+lens) was amazing. Half the time I was handholding the camera and lens and it seemed as though it was mounted on a tripod! Anecdotally, I have heard that shooting video with the Olympus EM-1.2 is equally satisfying. It's almost like have the camera mounted on a gimbal but without the extra cost and bulk...
At this juncture I have to say that the m4:3 cameras have exceeded my expectations by a significant (to me) margin. I look forward to bringing in a few of the high speed prime lenses from the Olympus Pro series as I consider their Pro series to be the best lenses I have ever shot with so far (Sorry Leica Summilux 75mm f1.4...).
The new DMW-XLR1 eliminates the need for this cage and outboard audio interface from Saramonic while providing super performance for my microphones. A handling win for sure.
I've got this lens on my camera this week in order to shoot more architecture and city scape work.
I'm anxious to push it to its limits to see where (if) the optical performance breaks down.
Great stabilization means you are ready to shoot in lower light than you may have thought possible.
As long as there is no subject motion....
Yes, the Olympus 40-150mm Pro lens delivers great results when mated with the GH5.
Time out for a swim at Deep Eddy Pool with Emmett and Julie.
A reminder that people who review cameras for a living rarely spend the time to do a really deep dive and use the camera you might be interested in non-stop for weeks and months at a time.
Rarely do their livelihoods depend on the accuracy of their opinions.
Time to take more YouTubers with a grain of salt ---
A judicious use of the highlight/shadow control goes a long way toward making sure highlights don't burn out and shadows don't block up.
Great lenses are the first priority followed by great sound.
I'm a fan of the DMW-XLR1