Canon 60D versus Panasonic GH2 – Full Review – Part 2

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Further reading:
Photography side of the GH2 (vs 60D), Part 1 at DigitalRev
Part 1 here
First impressions here

I shot this footage with the GH2 at the weekend which will give you an idea of what proper resolved 1080p looks like on a DSLR for the first time. I’ve used affordable Contax Zeiss 85mm F1.4, Olympus 9-18mm for the really wide shots, and Contax Zeiss 50mm F1.7. Nothing that fancy but great lenses.

The shot of the headlights flickering through trees in the distances were pin pricks of light to my own eyes. With the 85mm Zeiss, I threw the shot out of focus and enabled crop mode. That traffic is 2 miles away from the camera. Simply amazing. It was twilight, I had very little available light and I had to stop down the lens to enable the Zeiss’s unique ‘ninja stars’. I de-noised the shot with Neat Video because noise is magnified somewhat as well in crop mode. Neat Video and Magic Bullet Denoiser do an amazing – unbelievable – job and I am reviewing both at the moment on a music video project in Berlin. Which is best?

As always be sure to download the video to judge quality properly, and if you can avoid it *please* don’t play back on a laptop screen, do it justice on the TV. Also the embedded video above looks smudged to hell and in no way does it reveal the GH2’s strongest aspect, resolution.

The Vimeo embed is only 820px wide yet the blanket of mud on our Vimeo clips right now is intolerable. I don’t want to put my portfolio on YouTube with the trolls. So let’s hope Vimeo can sort this issue soon.

For part 2 I’ll summarise what makes the GH2 and 60D different, for better or worse. I’ll touch on key points, all from a video perspective not stills. I am reviewing the GH2 from a stills perspective for DigitalRev and you can read that in a few days time.

IMAGE QUALITY

Canon 60D – 7/10

The good
The sensor is great, dynamic range a smidgen better than the GH2, viewing footage on a proper display smooths over the image processing deficiencies of the camera and allows that great sensor to shine a bit more. Don’t pixel peep 60D shots too closely on your laptop, you’ll be disappointed. On a good display where you sit back and the colours really ‘pop’, you’ll love it and it’s capable of some great looking video.

The bad
The 60D is noisier than the GH2 at ISO 3200 and above which is really surprising because in RAW stills mode it’s less noisy than the GH2 at ISO 3200 and especially ISO 6400 which shows that the raw sensor data is better. It’s just that the GH2 does a much better job of reducing noise with sophisticated D3S-style noise reduction, whilst leaving detail intact. Aliasing (electronic looking jagged edges) is worse on the 60D, so watch out for guitar strings and high contrast lines. The HDMI output is not as good as the 7D since it lacks the dual-core processor version of DIGIC 4, to save costs. That’s fairly reflected in the price but the GH2 has a 3 core processor and uncompressed HDMI out for the same money. Go figure!

The ugly
Certain scenes can die completely, thank you Mr Moire. This really needs sorting, it is a big deal for me because it distracts me when I’m setting up a shot. My mind should be 100% on the shot not on rainbow avoidance techniques. 2 years and counting now…

A fine camera but dated image processing chip really stunts video performance.

Panasonic GH2 – 9/10

The good
A lovely step forward for DSLR video image processing. Much improved sensor over GH1 despite increase in megapixel count to 18MP ‘for marketing reasons’. Resolution is simply amazing, makes still frame video grabs look like the 60D’s stills… okay I’m exaggerating but the difference to past DSLRs is stark. Contrast and colour also much improved over the GH1 and it doesn’t lose so much saturation at high ISOs any more. Uncompressed 4:2:2 via HDMI for 100Mbit Prores with suitable external recorder and 1:1 crop mode is killer feature, huge resolving power.

Thankfully the major bug bear of the GH1, even the hacked version – banding and fixed pattern noise, is fixed. It also has a cleaner image than Canon DSLRs in video mode with no detectable moire in normal shooting (maybe a little on test chart) and much less aliasing. It’s 720p mode is much nicer.

The bad
Now the sensor runs at 60p in 1080p but thanks to a silly outdated AVCHD spec, it’s reduced to 60i with half the fields thrown away in AVCHD. But there is the potential for a hack to enable native 1080/60p recording which would be fantastic for slow mo. Currently you can only undercrank to 80% using the in-built feature which is a strange number and virtually useless, I’d rather do it in post.

The ugly
No 25p standard for PAL broadcast regions – bit of a silly one that. Let’s wait until we see the final EU production model for a final conclusion though.

NOTES ON IMAGE QUALITY VERUS 5D MARK II and GH1

Image quality is subjective. Some have valid reasons for liking the 5D Mark II and it’s full frame sensor. Some will love the 60D’s image. But Canon are now significantly behind Panasonic in terms of the overall video performance.

The Panasonic GH2 resolves significantly more detail with less noise than even the 5D Mark II at ISO 3200.

It’s sensor is 3 years newer than the 5D Mark II’s which accounts somewhat for the M43 sized sensor being able to catch up with full frame beast, coupled with poor image processor in video mode on the 5D Mark II. In terms of stills mode with RAW photos, 5D Mark II’s sensor stretches it’s full frame muscles and moves way ahead of the GH2 as you’d expect, and it gives you an insight into how important video processing chips are.

Compared to the hacked GH1, 44Mbit is no match for 24mbit on a proper AVCHD encoder. The hacked GH1 looks pale and low contrast in comparison, it doesn’t handle wide highly detailed shots as well, nor does it live up to claims of being better than the GH2 on fast motion / whip pans. It’s also less saturated, especially at ISO 1600 and it has more banding. Some more so than others.

I have not noticed a single hint of mud on the GH2 since I got it and all the nit pickers uploading still shots from the GH2 with big arrows pointing at mud have not helped me notice it either. If it is there, then it’s something only idiots notice!

The GH2 *is* better than the hacked GH1 in every way. Period.

HANDLING

Canon 60D – 6/10

The good
(I’ll touch on build quality in a different section). The 60D handles better for video than any other Canon DSLR but sadly that it’s saying much. Big improvements come in the way of a lovely screen on a hinge. Simple feature but a must have for video if you want to save your back and set up shots like a human being not a hunch back creature from the black lagoon.

The sensible handling feels good in your hands, and the screen is better than the GH2’s. Also I love the Q menu not least of all because I cannot see a dedicated white balance button *anywhere*!!

The bad (long section coming up!)
Unfortunately, though it is a 2010 DSLR, the 60D is designed like a film SLR from 30 years ago, very conservative and traditional. No way it is a true video / stills hybrid like the GH2. Canon need to get on with the convergence with aplomb if they are not to be left behind.

I have a few usability issues with this camera. I cannot exit manual focus assist with shutter half-press like GH2. I find that a huge annoyance. Picture the scene – I have a shot carefully framed and focused and I cannot start the damn recording without adjusting my hands. What the duck!?

It often takes a repositioning of my hand on the lens AND the body plus TWO button presses to get back out of focus assist. Did anyone notice that at Canon? Someone should have been sacked for letting this slip, it’s crazy.

I am not a fan of the new locking mode dial either, has Canon’s ergonomic’s team recently been taken over by Sony’s? It’s a little patronising to suggest we’re always knocking our mode dials accidentally like babies.

It requires two fingers in awkward positions plus two turns to get from video mode to M stills mode. And people are cuing up to pay $120 for this feature on their 5D Mark II? I’d rather take 0.5 seconds to check the mode dial or not carelessly nudge it in the first place, or at least have a way to turn off the locking mechanism. It smacks of a cheap fix to a problem that only ever existed in the minds of idiots.

Battery life in video mode & live view drains quicker on the 60D than the GH2 despite it having a bigger capacity cell. That’s because the older DIGIC 4 is not as energy efficient as newer chips, and the lovely screen is a bit of an energy hog. Not a bad trade off for that high res screen but DIGIC 5 is overdue on this front as well.

Panasonic GH2 – 9/10

The good
This is a hybrid with emphasis on video just as much as stills so it’s no surprise how much video-related functionality has gone into it’s design, especially when coupled with the video optimised 14-140mm kit lens. We don’t need a mirror, so I’ll take a smaller and lighter body thank you. It’s a speedy camera too. Menu navigation, focus assist, AF is twice as fast as the GH1 (and available in video mode). I like the Q menu and although it only has one control dial compared to the two on the 60D, pressing it inward to swap between shutter and aperture control is no big deal, really. The Built in EVF is decent if a bit low contrast (better than GH1 however) and touch screen is a nicety if not essential, iPhone style sweep in playback mode… I didn’t find myself using it much at first but I’m enjoying it more and more. It isn’t as sensitive as the iPhone though.

The bad
A few irks – I’d prefer the control dial to go back on the front of the grip, it’s a bit thumb crippling. Though the screen is better than GH1’s, it is the same res. Not a patch on the 60D’s screen really.

BUILD QUALITY

Canon 60D – 8/10

The good
The 60D’s build is better than GH2, no doubt. It feels more robust than GH2, because it is. And it feels less like a plastic toy than the 550D, because it is – sort of. Hooray for modern composites. However it is not in Nikon’s league build wise and feels cheaper to hold and cheaper to look at than the D7000. Because it IS cheaper. It’s reflected in the price, so I’ll let it off.

The bad
Gone is the waterproofing like on the 7D but it looks pretty waterproof, I am sure it can take a bit of drizzle. It’s not a magnesium alloy body like 50D which seems a step back, and it is. Canon want hardcore 50D owners to buy a 7D for more money!

Panasonic GH2 – 7/10

The good
Not as good as the Canon 60D but most of that is down to it feeling VERY light and a LOT smaller, which is in itself an advantage. So it’s not bad. Nice improvement over the GH1. Good looking. Good finish…

The bad
But I have some major concerns. The lens mount needs reinforcing, it simply isn’t good enough. I’ve never broken my GH1 but it bulges with heavy lenses and this is no exception, so it doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence like the 60D, 7D or 5D Mark II.

The ugly
Look Panasonic I would prefer to see less plastic and more alloy. The new faux leather grip is slippery. What is wrong with proper leather or suede? Do manufacturers realise how much this would set apart their product in a world of slimily oily plastic? I’d pay more.

If I can afford to have a $200 mass produced jacket made of lots and lots of nice leather, then I damn well want it on my $1000 camera body. Would you wear a bin bag in the winter? Then why put up with faux leather shit on your camera?

STREET CRED

Canon 60D – 9/10

The good
Canon’s huge lead in the DSLR video race to date shows how much street cred has to do with it, even though it shouldn’t matter. The Lumix GH1 was a great camera, and virtually ignored. The 60D is a beefy looking body not too dissimilar to 5D Mark II and 7D and it has a Canon badge. Job done.

Canon DSLRs get very positive coverage online and are well used by celebrity cinematographers although GH2 gaining traction. Canon is a top notch brand.

The bad
But these things are very common, everyone has a Canon DSLR these days! The 60D also looks strange with smaller lenses. Small appendage on fat body syndrome. I prefer the looks of the GH2 which are more futuristic.

Panasonic GH2 – 7/10

The good
The GH2 is the more attractive camera (at least to my eye), much less traditional but well designed. I also like the silver version. Very space age.

The bad
However the Lumix brand speaks ‘consumer’ or ‘tourist’. They need to step it up for a semi-pro GH3 and appeal to filmmakers more. Make the G3 for tourists and the GH3 for serious enthusiasts and filmmakers.

Also stop shooting major ad campaigns on a Canon.

LENSES / ADAPTABILITY

Canon 60D – 5/10

The good (sort of)
5/10 a bit harsh? It would actually be even lower if not for quality of Canon’s own lens range. Of course you get full control of aperture and AF when used with Canon EF, EFS and L series, Sigma, Tokina, etc. and a larger sensor for 1.6x crop and shallower DOF than the GH2 at the same aperture.

The bad
But the major achilles heel is the mirror box, video guys don’t need it. There is no PL cinema lens support out of the box, whole thing needs surgery to have that. There is no LOMO cine lens adaptability or chance of a Leica rangefinder lens which makes me sad. No Canon FD glass without corrective optics, boo hoo and no c-mount lenses either. Gone, along with them: the unique look of radial bokeh and ultra fast apertures like F0.95. A major loss and all for an optical viewfinder I have no need for.

Now you can see most clearly, that this site comes from a video perspective! The 60D doesn’t.

Panasonic GH2 – 9/10

The good
9/10 a bit high? Well in my view this would be 10/10 if more fast wides were available. All year and the last one, I’ve been shouting about several significant advantages over Canon in terms of adaptability of mount due to mirrorless design. The 2x crop sensor might be smaller but that and the 1:1 crop mode are a HUGE advantage for fast aperture telephoto and macro shooting.

I got to grips with the growing range of small Micro 4/3rds lenses at Photokina. The 8mm Fisheye and 100-300mm HD OIS really are of the highest order and well worth the high prices. 14mm F2.5 is good too and currently the fastest wide lens on Micro 4/3rds is the Olympus 14-35mm F2, but that’s pricey.

With 14-140mm the GH2’s video mode has auto advantages coming out of it’s ears. Continuous smooth silent iris, AF tracking in video mode, face detection, silent OIS, internal focus, the list goes on…

The bad
There is as yet no aperture or AF control on Canon lenses but adapter is in pipeline (apparently) and yes that 2x crop may bother some – those who expect a lens to look the same as on a full frame camera will be initially confused. Those who need fast wides or for their 85’s to be portrait lenses in tight spaces will be permanently put off.

For me it is an advantage if worked the right way with the right set of optics, and full frame is overrated. Think of the amazing glass you can’t use on a 35mm photographic sensor like a Kern Switar 26mm F1.1 or Voigtlander 25mm F0.95.

RECORDING FORMAT

Canon 60D – 6/10

The good
The bitrate is reasonably high and the image is robust when the camera is moved around violently.

The bad
In respect to recording format overall, 60D is a duffer. HDMI drops to standard definition when record button is hit, making it unsuitable for capturing high bitrate 422 on external recorder. Huge file sizes are produced on the card with a 12 minute cut off. The noise reduction is poor and does the sensor an injustice. It reminds me of how the GH1’s MJPEG mode looked versus smooth AVCHD.

Panasonic GH2 – 9/10

The good
AVCHD is a good codec despite Panasonic doing their best to tarnish it with the original AVCHD and it’s awful ‘mud’ bug. Then when the hack solved the problem, effectivly fixing a defective product for no cost, Panasonic blocked it and started selling the defective product again.

Not a good way to make friends of your customers.

The GH2 is so much better. It can output 1080p live via uncompressed HDMI to 100Mbit Prores or similar with help of external recording device. Freaks even have the choice of interlaced footage over native 24p. There is a 2 hour clip recording length for long tracking shots.

Like on the GH1’s 720p mode, variable slow shutter frame rates are present, but now in glorious 1080p down to 1/2. An under / over crank mode is available too which to be honest is not that great. I’d rather do slow mo with Twixtor or with a simple 50% decrease in frame rate in 720/60p mode.

The bad
Strangely a super fast 60p sensor gifted to Panasonic by time travellers to next year’s camera market has been masked by interlaced mode and 24p. Interlaced mode takes the 60p sensor output and throws half the fields away. Great!

Conclusion – 60D or GH2 if you only can afford one?

No camera is perfect but improvement is relative. I suppose I’m being harsh on the 60D, which is a great camera. I’m viewing it light of Canon’s progress since the 5D Mark II and the Panasonic GH2.

Viewed in this light it is less flattering than Lindsey Lohan in prison.

Canon have had over 2 years to fix moire and aliasing with an optical low pass filter and image processing tweak. DIGIC 4 went dual-core but video quality remained the same. Why did Canon choose to ignore us?

It lacks all the exciting features of the GH2’s video mode like AF tracking, high resolution, mirrorless lens mount and 1:1 crop mode. That’s being generous, I could list a lot more that the Canon lacks.

Image quality has been Canon’s saving grace up to now and they still rule on, erm, stills.

But this is a video DSLR site and I am struggling to think of a single newsworthy event from Canon since I started it.

2011 better be a good year.

So what do I recommend?

For the vast majority, the Panasonic GH2 is better for video. If you have a burning desire to use only Canon lenses and you have a huge collection, or you need to take a lot of stills – the 60D is the better choice.

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About Author

British filmmaker and editor of EOSHD, Andrew works in Berlin on his own self funded filmmaking and video projects.

1 Comment

  1. reimaginecinema on

    Hey, I know this is old, but I thought I’d offer my own views and opinions. This comparison is part of what convinced me to buy a GH2 along with my 60d and I’m very happy with the GH2. Here are some of my opinions on differences (and these are what suits my needs best, not what works for everyone)

    points toward 60d
    at this point I like the build and handling of the 60d quite a bit better, it’s tougher, isn’t so front heavy with nice lenses, and sits on a tripod, slider, and steadicam better. Some may prefer a smaller camera, but quite frankly the 60d is close to two pounds and very manageable. I’m also not as scared I’m going to break it. 60d’s screen is a lot better.
    I would also disagree on lens adaptability, at least for my needs. http://www.photozone.de/all-tests
    I think the selection here says a lot…close to 200 fantastic lenses, many fairly affordable, sharp, and zooms with 2.8 constant and 1.4 primes. You can also adapt lenses.
    GH2’s 4/3 selection seems scarce, hardly any fast primes. You can adapt about anything to it, but you lose all autofocus AND aperture control. For this reason although image quality on the GH2 is better, the 60d is still going to get as much use as the GH2, adapting is a decent solution but in any situation where time is key or image quality isn’t crucial I’ll still be using a 60d. Fast wide primes also have a better selection.

    Alright, now on to what I like about the GH2 for my purposes.
    It solved moire to my eyes! Big news; something less to worry about. Rolling shutter also seems to be at a real nice level…sure if you pan it really fast you get blur and skew, but it’s good enough if you shoot right in all purposes, practically a non issue. Aliasing is much improved too. Also, the image quality does seem better. It’s all subjective, but I think it is superior, especially with the hack. I’m sick of people chasing after the “film look” (it’s too sharp!). I think shoot what looks best for your feel visual style! To me the gh2 seems best. Also, A) the sensor is not that much smaller than APS-C and B) you can almost always get all the shallowness you’d ever want out of the GH2, with and F1.4 you can pretty easily get focus to be about an inch. In fact, I really like being able to throw on a tokina 11-16mm and shoot with a wide depth of field at F4…can’t really do that on a full frame which can be a pain keeping focus. Low light is close…slight edge to the GH2 but to my eye it’s not very extreme at all, 60D seems to do really well on my camera too.

    Conclusions: GH2 does seem to be ahead of the game at this point, but there are things I like about the Canon. For this reason I’ll be using them pretty equally (and some shoots shooting with both). But, I will be using the GH2 on my most professional projects because of the moire, rolling shutter, and super sharp and rich image. Canon held the image quality lead for two years, and now it looks like canon will have it for a year. However, I don’t think I’m ready to put all my eggs in canon’s basket…I’m a little frustrated at canon but excited to see what they’ll come out with next. But, if you’re someone shooting with a Canon, I wouldn’t too quickly rush out to buy a GH2 to replace your canon. I have been looking to do 2 canon shooting and have found a lot of professional work, enabling me to do this, but if you have a t2i and enjoy it then be happy and stick with it. We like to over emphasize differences in cameras, and quite frankly any DSLR with 1080p and full manual controls will fit many many peoples’ needs great. Concentrate on the story and what you have to say…but still props to Panasonic, overall great camera…definitely a high pick for anyone looking at a DSLR for video.

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