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GH2 noise levels are killing me. Could it be defective?


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I've had my GH2 since the summer, and I'm thinking about whether i'll stick with it in January and invest in the new 12-35 X lens (supposedly coming out then), or throw it over for something else, namely something with a better lens system and faster native ISO.

The noise in video mode on the GH2, in my experience, is such that shooting with the 14-140 lens is garbage in anything but full daylight (or with artificial lighting), since in my results the highest usable ISO on the camera is about 640 and to flexibly run-and-gun with that lens you need to work at around f 5.6.

Anyway I've found some workarounds to the weird color response of the camera (over-multiplication of yellow), but the ISO thing is a bitch. Every time I think I like this camera I shoot something interior with it and I hate it again. Wondering if there's someone in Berlin who would like to do a test with me side by side to verify? I'd gladly share my AE technique to correct the color distortions but I have this terrible feeling that my camera is somehow eff'd and I'd like to prove it one way or another.

Anyway I also can't stop thinking that the Canon APS-C cameras, despite shortcomings vis a vis the GH2, have the EF-S 17-55 2.8 IS which is awesome and has (as yet) no equivalent in micro 4/3, and there are many more of course. Keeps me up at night. Not really. But almost.
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The answer sir is a faster lens. The 14-140mm is just too slow for low light.

Also installing the hack helps because it gives noise a finer film-like grain.

I recommend a lens of F2 or faster, then your problem will have all but gone unless you shoot at ISO 3200 and under expose.

Try over exposing just slightly... often ISO 1600 can look cleaner over exposed than a dark and dim underexposure at lower ISOs like 640. CMOS sensors have a signal to noise ratio and on the GH2 it helps to boost the signal to hide the background  noise of the sensor.
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Yes, well indeed.

This is the thing that keeps giving me a sinking feeling. I like the images that the GH2 can produce when they're well exposed -- and corrected afterward, to compensate for the bizarre color response -- but the problem is the glass: what really I want is a FAST zoom with a good documentary range (something like 28-85 equiv.), and there just isn't one. The 12-35mm is still only rumored, and it's going to cost at least 1200 euros and still only be a 2.8.

Canon's EF-S 17-55 2.8 has a more useful range (slightly longer) and costs at least 30% less on the street. And the 60D and 600D have higher native ISO according to DxoMark (even if only slightly), and the cinestyle profile would seem to reduce noise by raising the gamma before compression. So maybe we get moiré and aliasing and less sharp images, but the color is more balanced, better exposed/less noisy , the feature set is better (considering the Magic Lantern hack), and the available glass that *works* with the camera natively is unparallelled. The idea that I have to carry a bag of primes and shoot under f 2.0 in order to get good images out of GH2 is a bit ludicrous.

That being said, of course you can adapt all kinds of interesting glass on the GH2 and get really nice and detailed images out of it. But at every point in that process there are little caveats and compensations you have to make to keep it all under control and get the best out of it. Including onerous post-processing.

On the other hand what you buy as glass for the 600D will also work for whatever replaces it next year, and will also work on the C300 and any other EOS-Cinema products which could be rented if need be.

Ah well, I've got my eye on Magic Lantern over the holidays.... we'll see what the lay of the land is in January.
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I still think the best value zoom lens for video is the Tokina 28-70 f2.6-2.8. If any of you guys have never heard/used it I really recommend giving it a go. Apart from range and aperture, other good factors include manual aperture ring (nikon mount only), near parfocal, non-rotating or extending front element (good for matte boxes). And although the prices are inflated due to DSLR video trend, it's still good value ($300-$400).
It's been my fastest zoom and workhorse lens.
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  • 11 months later...

may i dig up this thread again? i bought a GH2 a couple of month ago and just shot my first project with it. it was just some video coverage, which is why i shot with the 14-140 most of the time. with a iso of 1250 almost the entire image had terrible noise. i was a little underexposed, but the noise level was just ridiculous! it cant just be a problem with the 14-140mm, can it? i mean its not very fast, but if i expose correctly and use 640 iso i should be fine right? because in reality its really not. im using nostalgic most of the time. can that be the problem?


im going to do some tests in the next days. if you guys have any ideas or thoughts to share i would highly apprectiate it. :)

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Yeah, these Panasonic cameras are a mixed bag in my opinion. They produce the best image of any DSLR but there are trade offs. High ISO is one of them. My GH1 is really, really really bad in low light. To the point where I don't even bring it with me if I know we are going to be in a dimly lit space. On the other hand, I'm very happy with the performance of the camera in just about every other situation. And even still, there are situations where it will produce almost no noise at all in low light. I haven't been able to pin it down quite yet but it seems like as long as there is at least one part of the image that is exposed with some bright light, the rest of the frame will be less noisy. But, if the entire frame is dim and under exposed, then it will be a noise fest. For me, this shows up as FPN noise. for the GH2, it's just simple random noise and much easer to filter out in post. So at least you're definitely better off then me. :-)

A few months ago I shot my friends birthday party. We were in a dimly lit restaurant for the first part of the night then we went outside to the fire-pit. The fire-pit footage was lit only by the light of the fire. It was a bright light though. Most of the footage with fairly noise free and looked beautiful. But the restaurant footage was almost unusable. Well, I used it because it was just a little video I did for a friend and she still thought it was great. But, it's not something I would stick on my reel because of the noise.
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At least with the hack you can shoot ISO 2500 or 5000.  I almost always shoot those levels with my 14-140mm indoors, mostly at F5.6.  Then I use fast color corrector in CS5.5 and neat video.  Works a charm, footage will be grainy but usuable.  I just used the Flowmotion 2.0.2 and it works very nicely.  High bitrate, and I always shoot 1080P 24P, works well.  It isn't perfect by any means, and you should use a fast zoom if possible.  But the only ones available with AF is Panasonic's 12-35 F2.8, 35-100 F2.8 or Olympus's 12-35 F2, 35-100 F2 (which are both in the $3K range!!).  All of these zooms are fantastic.  But if you can't afford it, get a cheap nifty fifty (Nikon or Canon 50mm F1.8) on ebay.  One thing to remember is to not underexpose for high ISOs.  Yes the noise is bad, but you can't recover well in post.  If anything, exposing correctly is even more important for high ISOs.  I know you do run-n-gun, but that's the trade-off with any DSLR. Otherwise you might as well get a Canon C300 which are awesome for run-n-gun and documentaries in low-light.

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i did a few tests on my own. Smooth did much better than Nostalgic. i also tested Vibrant but that was even more awful than nostagic (at least on 1250). it seems to me that whatever nostagic offers more in dynamic range compared to smooth is so full of noise that id rather not see it. i like the colors in smooth much better anyway :)


i can also confirm that the top level ISOs are better than the middle row ones, BUT ONLY if you preselect the middle ones first. if you switch directly from 320 to 640 the noise is much worse than coming from 800 to 640. so no surprises here as well.


i can also confirm that iso 640 is better than 320 but 640 seems also to be alot worse than 160, which is no surprise to me, but is different than QuickHitRecords test results.


plus a lot of the noise seems to come from the low bitrate since it doent look that much grainy but more like artefacts.


i now wanna get into hacking the GH2. i found this website which seems to explain it pretty well: 



however i just dont know which hack to use. i want it as stamble as possible and i dont want anything much higher than 50MBit. can somebody recommend a good hack and provide a link?


thank you

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@ pietz


Best hack for high bitrate is the Flow Motion 2.02.  Very stable with no problems so far.  But understand you need fast SD cards preferably 64GB.  And lots of storage too.  Understand that although you can get the best image, it is at a cost.  And you can worry about noise, but it will always be there.  If you had less noise, then you'll have less detail too.  I believe QuickHitRecord is correct in his findings.  Try the hack and then follow his advice.  But if you have record errors, it will more than likely be your SD card.  So you get the best detail, best picture and best bitrate with the hack, but you also need to have the best SD cards too.

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