Tokyo test footage – attempting a Ridley Scott with the hacked GH2 and Olympus 12mm F2

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I decided to give my GH2 a tough challenge a few days ago – replicate the look of Blade Runner in the rain, in the side streets of Tokyo. The GH2 isn’t a weather proof camera but on this occasion I felt it may as well have been, it really did get that wet. At one point I had condensation inside my Voigtlander Nokton 25mm F0.95! The weather had been fine for the whole week I was in Japan and then it all went south with a vengeance which was perfect. Tokyo looks incredibly cinematic in the rain.

The neon lights reflecting in wet streets, clouds skudding low past skyscrapers illuminated in dark green, orange and reds.

I love shooting in a film noir style with a futuristic edge – much like the look of Blade Runner which I consider one of the best looking and most mesmerising films ever made. Plus – that was shot in anamorphic. This footage isn’t anamorphic but incredibly the Olympus 12mm F2 does work with the LA7200, there’s no vigentting. Wow.

This was a real surprise because it is the first lens I’ve ever used that has gone so wide with the LA7200. The maximum I could get before was 14mm, and believe me those extra 2mm make a huge difference on Micro Four Thirds when it comes to the look of wide angle shots. Can’t wait to try it out.

I much prefer the 24mm equivalent look to 28mm, it is far more cinematic and the GH2 badly needed fast wides. Now we have them. The purpose of this footage was to show what the Olympus 12mm F2 looks like. The only other lens I used on this shoot was the Voigtlander Nokton 25mm F0.95 and I feel these two lenses are indispensable.

GH2 and Olympus 12mm F2

Above shot taken with the Fuji X100

The Olympus 12mm is an F2 lens not quite as fast as the SLR Magic 12mm F1.6, although I often stop that down to F2 to get flare down to an acceptable level and increase contrast. I can use the Olympus wide open and it is sharp and very flare resistant. I like both lenses but the Olympus is a MUCH more expensive. However as you’d expect it has better image quality, with hardly any distortion and it’s very sharp wide open. AF is of the next-gen video optimised variety, it is extremely stable in video mode and never hunts randomly in the middle of a shot.

Amazingly I actually left it on for most of the shoot! I never use AF, always manual, but in this case it was just so rock-solid that it got out of the way and did the job for me. It is also extremely fast and silent. Focussing is all internal, nothing moves. This is what Canon need to work on with their future lenses.

The manual focus ring pulls back to activate manual focus on the Olympus 12mm, it is however distinctly ‘fly-by-wire’ and doesn’t smoothly rack focus. This is somewhat a shame, maybe a firmware update will improve this?

With the low light capabilities of DSLRs you really can play far more with the natural light already gifted to you in big cities, and it can be extraordinarily cinematic. I am happier going to extreme ISOs with the GH2 now since the hack, because the noise is far more attractive and less detail gets smudged by compression. ISO 3200 is no problem, ISO 6400 at a push, ISO 12,800 in black and white can be magical.

There are new hack settings every day but I prefer to stick with 44Mbit AVCHD as detailed in my GH2 book (which also goes into the AVCHD Intra and MJPEG anamorphic settings) because I feel the gains after 44Mbit are marginal and at the expense of reliability. Not once did the GH2 crash at 44Mbit and since Vitaliy has been researching the inner workings of AVCHD and fixing bugs like the first two frames being corrupt and playback in-camera not working, I am sure image quality has gone up from the first release of PTools at the same bitrate. It is now spectacular and like a mini-EPIC.

I have other wide angle lenses to compare the Olympus. They are:

Tokina 11-16mm F2.8 (Canon mount). The advantages of this are of course the zoom, and the fact that it covers APS-C so you can go even wider on cameras like the NEX 5N.

Samyang 14mm F2.8 (Canon mount). Cheap and it covers full frame making it the widest of all when used on the 5D Mark II. However distortion is on the wild side it is almost like a fisheye lens.

SLR Magic 12mm F1.6 (Micro Four Thirds mount). This is affordable and has a gloriously crazy lens flare especially wide open, and is actually quite sharp when stopped down just a tad. I love the lens and it has a very solid build but the Olympus is much lighter, smaller, has AF, less distortion and a sharper image especially in the corners – as you’d expect for the hefty price tag.

Stay tuned for a head-to-head review of all these lenses and the Olympus 12mm F2.

Audio notes

The background ambience on this video was recorded with a Tascam DR-05 which like all the lenses here I have bought myself and am experimenting with. I am pretty impressed so far. The sound of the rain and the umbrella passing the camera are all from the Tascam. The things I like – it is light weight, though not particularly small it feels nice to use. The menus are snappy and the buttons are large and well laid out. The stereo microphone is in an X/Y layout and it is not as directional as a shotgun mic, it’s more for ambient stereo audio. It also has a tripod mount on the bottom and you can put it on the hot shoe of the camera via a ball-socket adapter.

Full review will of course follow for this with more audio samples.

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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.

64 Comments

  1. Andrew, your work and this blog is always strongly inspiring. You were responsible for my at last deciding to step into video, AND to choose GH2 over Canon AND getting a craze for Anamorphic.
    Thanks a lot!

  2. Nice – those shots do indeed evoke Blade Runner. I was thinking about getting the SLR Magic wide with an anamorphic adapter, I’d wonder what that would look like for anamorphic shooting as opposed to the Olympus.

  3. wow looks good, but maybe you should sell some shiny umbrellas first to capture that true Blade Runner look ;)

  4. Generally 12mm is too wide for any of the anamorphic adapters. That the 12mm Olympus and LA7200 just about go together is pure luck! The SLR Magic vignettes with it.

  5. Are you not into the low GOP hacks? I much prefer the look of them myself. Im waiting to snap up a GH2 for when it finally gets 25p, shame the silver one is not in the UK it looks so much better!

  6. wow. There it is. Ever since I’ve been following your blog & reading your books, I always imagined Blade Runner like footage coming out of the GH2 (I agree with your opinion of the film by the way), and here it is. This looks amazing! Even though it’s not anamorphic, the image is still extremely atmospheric and cinematic. The low angles, great compositions, the beautifully saturated colors, love it. (though part of me would be dying to see this kind of footage filmed with anamorphic wide-screen and lens-flares).

    The sound of the city & rain also come through very nice. That scene where the umbrella ‘blows’ past sounds both loud and crispy clear with no audible distortion. Very Impressive!

    So. GH2 plus a good set of lenses, a city that’s alive at night… just need a good script and some good actors to make a great neo-noir picture!

  7. Asia is so cine, even today but it still takes skill and vision well done Andrew, parts of india have the same qualities (Minus the rain) but tend to feel more journalistic which i also love. rain also as an element brings about a rich cinema quality with strong colour/contrast puts you right in the mood giving a solid context of mystery or a revealing just as detective Somerset meets Mills out on the street for the first time in the pouring rain gives off an uneasiness at the same time revealing a mystery or an unfolding begining.(1995 Se7en) Certain blade runner scenes remind me of Man Hunter by my second biggest influence my first shared by Fincher and Bergman.

  8. Hey . . . how does the LA7200 play with zoom lenses? (something from its wide end of 17mm to say, 35?) I’ve been frustrated with primes (which I do love using), because getting a good set together that is both fast and maintains similar contrast and color is proving difficult. If I could splurge once on a good fast zoom in that range, along with a compatible anamorphic, that would solve a lot of that trouble, correct?

  9. +1 for the GOP1 settings. Once you suck it up and get the good Sandisk cards, there’s no going back. Simply the best for any controlled situation.

  10. So, I just had this awesome idea. Maybe it is borderline crazy, but it would be so awesome. All the GH2 owners across the world need to shoot a feature. All we need to do is create a character that can be played by various actors (either something simple, like they wear a mask, or more complex like Dr. Who). Then we come up with a script that involves all these insanely cool locations all over the world, and we each shoot part of it! That way, no single one of us has to shoot a whole feature, we have an unnervingly large, global scope (which itself adds a cinematic feel), and in the end, we get something far greater than all these 5-10 minute slice-of-life shorts.

  11. Extremely well done, Andrew. I love when the woman walks right in front of the camera and her umbrella makes that loud noise – wonderful. Love the colors, rain, music and framing of your shots too.

    I’m considering selling off my 14mm Lumix pancake and putting the money towards a 12mm Olympus. I don’t see why I would need both other than the fact that the Lumix is more compact. What are your thoughts on that?

  12. Did you actually record the sound on the DR-05 and synch it after or just use it for the mics? I’ve had mixed results with audio on the GH2. Line level from my preamp overdrives the input signal, but most battery powered mics work pretty well. Nice footage. Tokyo is a science fiction reality.

  13. by the way, there are Oly 12mm lenses available from Korean dealers on ebay for $750. Thats about €560 which isn’t *that* bad. Has anyone order these?

  14. Thanks Andrew. Looks superb. Well done. I am very impressed with the 12mm. It might have to join my arsenal. You did create that “Blade Runner” look. Showed to a some one and there jaw dropped and said no way that was shot with a GH2.

  15. It looks beautiful. Can’t wait for the comparison of all these lenses. Which hack were you using here, the 176 mbit AVC-intra? And if so, what cards are you using with that? Huge fan of “Blade Runner.” I’m going to watch it again today. But come on, you needed to throw in a little voice-over there, (even though the vo is not Ridley-Scott sanctioned, but the purists will always remember Harrisson Ford’s noir-esque vo). BTW, I live close to some of the locations where it was shot and when I was watching it, after I moved to LA, I realized that one of the scenes, where Harrisson Ford is called back in action and meets the police chief for the first time, was shot in LA’s Union Station, which is an absolutely gorgeous building, where I’ve shot stills many times for work and where you can at times see four or five local shooter shooting simultaneously.

  16. Im soo impressed with the GH2.
    How did it hold up in the rain? Did you have it out in the pooring rain or did you use something to cover it?

  17. I suggested something similar over at PV, got laughed out of the room. Wrong attitude. wrong people. I’m all in B3Guy, need 20 or 30 more people even more, the location stat alone would get attention.

  18. One thing which puzzles me, is – has no-one figured out a simple / effective / quick and leightweight tarp solution for keeping the camera and lens in the dry? Even with gustling winds, it should be possible if the design is right.

  19. i have also a new hacked GH2 and trying to shoot in low light… but i always have the famous stripe in lower third of the image.
    Did you had any such problem ?
    What is the solution to this problem ?
    I tried several patches and original firmware but all the same!

  20. Really evocative film, well done. I like the very very subtle use of camera movement on just a few of the shots. It looks like it was all shot on a tripod (mostly locked down), possibly with just a slider shot on the opening scene… I wonder if you could share any info on the tripod/slider equipment you might have hauled around the streets of Tokyo for this please?

  21. Well, regardless of how it may have been taken before (just unlucky timing perhaps), I dropped this same idea there on the “INTRA Demo” thread, and a half hour later a group of others already had a separate thread for my idea, and it had progressed a good page or so. Don’t give PV any hard feelings, just come on over and join in. There’s clearly a decent group of people interested in the idea.

  22. I also once had this idea but I think filmmaking needs to be a truly collaborate effort, not a cutting together of footage and ideas. The people need to be in the same room as each other. Emails, phone calls – they don’t cut it. Likewise it is pretty hard to have an idea that supports the seamless cutting between so many locations and different styles. It would be pretty uneven stylistically.

  23. When you used the continuous autofocus (AFC) with the Olympus 12mm and GH2, what setting did you put it on? Face detection or 23-arera focusing? Which setting works best with AFC? I have a Panasonic Leica 25mm 1.4 and when I leave it on AFC there is a lot of focus breathing? How can I minimize this?

  24. So lets talk continuity…my thoughts are because of its unconventional execution and nature we are looking at a unprecedented feat..we are already against the norm…Micro four thirds, crop factor, hacks fighting to be reckoned whats not to write about if anything having not met the crew…is in my book outrageous something i’d want to be apart of…in regards to PV and the community no hard feelings here they are decent a good bunch and the president he’s a funny guy in a serious way haha, Guys….the definition of collaborating coming together shouldn’t hinder what is clearly a great idea….also i’d prefer Skype or ichat….as the main form of comms and email of course.

  25. your too right i agree. The idea i put forward was a feature length doco about the GH1 and 2 an UPRISE of un-for seen almost alien technology i say alien because full frame has a nice comfy grip on what is deemed pro or acceptable despite it’s flaws, ahh we are a different mind set of people with an unconventional approach to this evolving medium, ah it’s really about the gear and people um and where thats going, the change i guess, i don’t know i can’t form an idea alone.

  26. I showed an excerpt from a short doco to a seasoned producer 5D lover of course, a couple weeks back all GH1 FD ssc primes, tiffen filters, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing, because micro four thirds on PAPER doesn’t cut it. Wrong it cuts through steel. Thanks to V and the whole community. He asked about the gh2 i said well it’s double the beast.

  27. That ramen bar at 1.12… dude where is that, that was my fave part, I love finding places like that, there’s a few cafe’s like that in Berlin. Always love eating ramen in neon soaked rain thanks to BR, the streets of Manila are like this too :-)

  28. It is bad at the long end of a zoom, and zooms vignette more easily at the wide end. I did however get it to go along very nicely with the Canon 10-22mm which has a different optical design and internally zooming parts which seem to help. From 14mm to 22mm it was good to go.

  29. Collaboration on ideas is fine like that, but not so much when it comes to sharing resources across borders. You send me some actors for instance… it doesn’t work. You end up being boxed into separate non-collaborative efforts and splicing them together afterwards, even though the overall script and idea has been a collaborative effort.

  30. This is certainly great stuff. I was super close to buying that exact lens a few days ago. I do have a concern though. While I love my GH2 I’m certain that within 12months Canon will produce models that fix most of their existing video problems (digic 5 seems capable).

    This makes me worry about buying expensive m43 lenses since we’ll likely all be moving to APS-c or FF in a year or so. Can you strap such a small lens onto a larger camera? I don’t imagine it works in that direction even if canon makes a mirror-less model. I really like m43, but I can’t imagine they can squeeze much more performance out of that format. So I worry about investing money for lenses that might not transfer to another format easily.

    Do you think this concern is unwarranted? Obviously your desire for wides has made you take the plunge, but will those elsne still be useful 3-4 years from now like your collection of older ebay lenses.

    I’m hoping I’m totally wrong, as the 12mm is a wonderful lens.

  31. i shoot with histogram on and trying to have an equally balanced picture.
    Can you try to shoot something in very low light, 24p 1/50 or 1/60 with iso 6400 and up ?
    I have a very strange horizontal band in lower third.
    I tried 2 cameras and have the same problem.

  32. ahh are you shooting a horror? thriller? street? or interior? to be frank not only are you underexposed but your iso ahh you really want to stay away from high iso settings anything passed 640 without a fast lens (f2 – 0.95) can be troublesome. Unless you have a very fast lens, expose correct and suitable iso your going to have trouble with almost any camera. Try shutter 1/25 with a tripod. tripod is a must.

  33. Why not keep the GH2? I mean, be honest you won’t get much for it in 12 months. And while something from Canon at that point might be better for some situations, I’ll bet my bottom dollar Canon’s cameras are NOT going to give you the same aesthetic as the GH2 (an aesthetic you may still have use for from time to time). Lenses for m4/3 will not go onto FF, not on APS-C either. The mount is farther forward on both of those. so the lenses would need to recess into the camera body, first of all. (that’s why the GH2 is so awesome. it has the opposite . . . the lens must be farther in front of the camera . . . hence room for adaptors to pretty much any lens. The only lens mount that recesses on the GH2 is c-mount, and even that is only by a few mm.)

  34. I plan to keep the GH2. The trick is that everyone goes ‘Get a cheap body and spend the rest of your money on lenses’ that makes sense only if you get lenses that you can hang onto for a long time. I have no problem buying an m43 lens or two, but knowing that I can’t swap to another system means I should be more diligent about buying more universal lenses. Spending $800 to compensate for a 2x crop seems silly. Of course I still really like the lens and might just get it anyway and be happy for a year or two with it, as long as I don’t do that too much. (for instance I should probably return my new 25mm 1.4 Lumix/leica lens and i get the 12mm instead since it’s more useful for cinema — the 25 is really nice, but it’s a lower priority to a wider lens)

  35. stop trying to shoot full frame lol micro four thirds is not trying to be full fame. full frame isn’t as flexible as m4/3 and are for different applications. keep the 25mm, get the 12mm and a 45mm. thats it. Anything else is just extra glass. i use soviet glass for day, modern faster glass for night, M4/3 can use almost any lens, if i cared about X2 crop factor i would buy full frame. we are a different breed, be happy :)

  36. A beautiful piece. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have Vangelis as the soundtrack. His music made Blade Runner what it was as much as anything else. So, wanting to see the effect of the music (or lack of), I muted the soundtrack on your piece and was pleased to discover that your cinematography still held up. The music just brings it all together.

    Well done.

  37. Hi Andrew,
    Love that video!

    If you were strapped for cash and could get only ONE lens in this range, which one would you get?
    Noktor 12mm F1.6 OR Olympus 12mm F2
    I’m asking because your review of the upcoming Noktor 12mm was also very good. So which one of the 2 would you choose?
    (As I understand it, you wouldn’t get the Panasonic 14mm F2.5)

    Also would you advise any good old (from 1970s-80s) cheap eBay alternatives in this ultra-wide range?

    Thanks

  38. LOL andrew. I give up man. Maybe it’s time for me to you invite over and shoot my next film for me. you are damn good at shooting spaces. Time to put someone in frame. But then again, dealing with talents and actors, argghhh….

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