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Andrew Reid

The importance of firmware updates and why Panasonic are too late with V-LOG for the GH4

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Opinion piece, by Andrew Reid

In only a few months, 57 new features have been added to the Samsung NX1. Meanwhile Panasonic have been more keen than many to evolve their products, adding a 4K Photo mode to the GH4 and 24p for 4:3 shooting, a nod to anamorphic filmmakers. But it isn't enough. No anamorphic de-squeeze for instance and now the time it has taken for V-LOG to reach us has been too long.

Firmware is a new battleground and manufacturers must play the game better.

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

I agree with you, and I hope samsung goes on, by adding many (most? All?) the very useful features we suggested in the other thread here (and that you probably passed onto samsung).

 

In video, cropped 4k (like nx500 has) would be a VERY nice alternative option, selectable on the fly during video like a sort of digital zoom. This would also reduce jello (at the expense of course of thin dof).

 

But there are many others, like slog and more.

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Samsung's speed of firmware updates is quite remarkable and how much they listen to feedback - because, well, the NX1 is their first attempt to crack into the mirrorless world.  

I also think Panasonic is a little behind the times.  They led the whole indie filmmaking scene with the DVX100 and then the HVX200, and from there, it was downhill.

They released the AF100 which has horrible noisy shadows and a weird magneta color shift and a micro 4/3rd sensor when Canon released the Canon 5d mark II that soon changed everything.

Now they have the Varicam 35mm camera which is probably about six years late to the party and then the DVX200 which without a removable lens seems pretty weird - and it's just - well kind of sad I guess.

I would have never guessed back in 2003 when I started that Panasonic would soon lose out to Canon.

It's nice to see Sony doing better with their A7S and soon the A7R II if it catches on.  Sony needs to bounce back - and maybe they are doing just that.

And Samsung has been innovating a lot - so it's nice to see the NX1's capabilities and soon what's next up their sleeve.

I'm excited for the A7S mark II.

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I'm still quite happy with the images coming out of the GH4 with or without V-log.  The metabones XL adapter just added that much more capability to the camera if I should decide to slap on some bigger glass.  I might actually be more impressed with Panny if they release a V-log update a few months before the GH5 is announced, that would buck the trend of holding back advanced features for a next-gen product.  I can honestly say that I don't feel limited by technology for the first time in a long time.

The new Sony tech is very good from the standpoint of hybrid imaging, but not earthshaking for a lot of filmmakers.  4K/60P would be more useful for me than any of the features announced in the A7R II and I doubt they'll be delivering that in a future firmware update.

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I can't totally agree on this and weight on the final part sounds a bit bitter.

I do agree that Panasonic took a bit too long and that this delay may cost them but I think it's a bit unfair to call out Panasonic like that almost like they were Canon itself.

There is a reason why Samsung is doing this. First because they can, Panasonic does not have the same firepower and resources as either Sony or Samsung, Panasonic is much more like Fuji. Secondly because Samsung is the one racing from behind, the one that had no credit in the market so if they were any serious about video, they HAD to show that to the world, so the firmware guerrilla is a big part of that and a way to sustain interest from people.

I don't think Panasonic would had been able to offer V-long off the bat, I doubt they had resources or engineers for that, at the time they were already proving the first of its kind, they were the one pushing bounderies. Sony wasn't even able to provide internal 4K in time with the A7s, that's why they pushed the S-log. Sure, after that Panasonic should had start thinking more serious about providing V-log since it was clear that it was a matter of time before 4K was coming to Sony cameras.

Panasonic still provided the FZ1000, the LX100 and now the G7, which seems to be an excellent budget choice, all great cameras for the price and feats and only now Sony is catching up on that front. So, from my POV, this is back and forth and Panasonic is a bit late but just that.

Panasonic won't come up with a new GH camear every year like Sony is doing with the A7 family. The A7s still doesn't offer internal 4K and it will never do that, and as I said, Panasonic doesn't have that same power to push new products like that.

But Panasonic better wake up though. With Sony being able to provice internal 4K, S-log2, IBIS, etc. Sony basically took away most of Panasonic's upside. Panasonic still has the better lens ecosystem but with adapted lens with electronic connectors working as they are with the A7RII, anyone that have Canon glass can easily jump into Sony, just selling their Canon body. So Panasonic better come up with a new sensor, better sensitivity, faster readouts - possibly better slowmo -, IBIS, 4K/slowmo, etc. Panasonic still have a swivel screen, no overheating issue, better battery and some other things but that's barely enough now. Maybe not just a GH camera but an AF as well.

I would like Sony to make the rumored A9. They could use their new tech for faster readouts and improved low light. There are 2 alternatives. One would be something like a bigger brother of the A7s with that insane low light capabilities and DR, another, which I think might be interesting as well, would be to make a sensor with more pixels, which would allow them to have lots of PDAF - to work well with electronic adapters - but one that could do 1:1 pixel crop in Super35/APS-C mode in 4K. I think they would need a 24MP sensor, this way you have the option for FF or Super35, in Super35, you would get less rolling shutter and differently from the A7s or A7RII, a true 4K image output. You could even use Metabones to get more light and FF look. Plus, 24MP would be enough for photographers as well. With a bigger body Sony will be able to put a better shutter for faster burst, without the miniaturization limitation that the A7 family faces, it would have better battery life, zero overheating issues and a swivel screen as well.

I'm not sure Sony is ready to make the A9, but I think a camera like that would be pretty nice and it would make sense as well, it wouldn't be cheap though but I doubt Canon would be able to respond to that with a possible 5D MKIV or even upcoming EOS-C cameras.

Anyway, this is all about competition and this is great for consumers. What more can we expect from the A7s II, the GH5 and what's the next step for Samsung?

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It's all good enough for me at this point.  

I came up in the days where if you didn't have pro gear it really showed.  You had to buy-in to get great IQ.  That was high 5 (into 6) figures, easy, now it's in the low 4's.  The fact that's there's two less zeros between these cams with pretty much indistinguishable IQ to all but the most discriminating viewer...well, I'm cool with that.

You whippersnappers and your expectations!  Why, when I was young I had to film uphill in the snow!  Both ways.

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Samsung's speed of firmware updates is quite remarkable and how much they listen to feedback - because, well, the NX1 is their first attempt to crack into the mirrorless world.  

I also think Panasonic is a little behind the times.  They led the whole indie filmmaking scene with the DVX100 and then the HVX200, and from there, it was downhill.

They released the AF100 which has horrible noisy shadows and a weird magneta color shift and a micro 4/3rd sensor when Canon released the Canon 5d mark II that soon changed everything.

Now they have the Varicam 35mm camera which is probably about six years late to the party and then the DVX200 which without a removable lens seems pretty weird - and it's just - well kind of sad I guess.

I would have never guessed back in 2003 when I started that Panasonic would soon lose out to Canon.

It's nice to see Sony doing better with their A7S and soon the A7R II if it catches on.  Sony needs to bounce back - and maybe they are doing just that.

And Samsung has been innovating a lot - so it's nice to see the NX1's capabilities and soon what's next up their sleeve.

I'm excited for the A7S mark II.

While I agree that V-log on the GH4 should be released Asap, since it is already late I kind of disagree on releasing lots of firmware updates.

I feel that Samsung should have done more to make the H.265 format more editing software compatible. That is doing its bit for greater sync. The biggest complaint of users was inability to use the codec either completely, or fast enough, and that workflow was seriously hindered.

Right now the GH Series only lacks in-body stabilisation and higher ISO. The higher ISO is partially dealt with by faster lenses, that with the new metabones adaptor go all the way up to f.0.8. That's 2/3rd of a stop more light that an f2.8 lens. While I am sure the next in the GH series may consider in-body stabilization, new pistol gimbals have mostly dealth with that too. 

One can add these, considering the Enormous Price difference betwern Panasonic and its Sony competitors.

 

About the Varicam, well it records in 3 different formats, simultaneously, and has some very interesting in-camera grading options apart from a host of other great features.

The good thing about Panasonic from GH2 onwards, is that they seriously listen to user feedback. Only if they would hurry up with the V-log now. 

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The A7RII isnt even out yet, and for some reason this makes the GH4 (which is now over a year old and a third of the price) insignificant? Do brand new camera releases suddenly mean the previous awesome camera (GH4) isn't awesome enough to film with? 

I haven't bought a GH4, A7S, NX1, FZ100, LX100, G7.. (or any other 4k mirrorless). Still using my GH3 as the small camera. It does fine, still makes money. Doesnt have V Log or 4k and is just as good as when I bought it 2 and a half years ago. All on cheapo FD lenses. 

Firmware is a simple equation. Either crippled for product segmentation or promising the world (whilst delivering poorly in other key areas such as battery life!). Let's just buy ALL the cameras and we can have all the firmware we want! 

I do agree firmware is very important though. Poor firmware affects my creativity. The slow, sluggy speed of the FS7 menus means I have less time to work on the shot. The Monitor LUT dissapears. WHY!? The 1DC (official cinema DSLR champion) doesn't have peaking. And this camera launched for $634,000,345 as a Cinema EOS whatever thingy. 

"Modern" firmware is the way forward. Samsung has ideas and Blackmagic really seem to be onto a really simple, inutitive, elegant system. Sexy. 

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Absolutely Agree. The NX1 I have now is a different camera than the one I started with, thanks to firmware updates. Very impressive, I hope they keep it up. My short list of wants on future firmware updates: (1) H.264 option (2) Even higher bitrate H.265 option (3) Clean up audio hiss/improve quality when using an external mic input into NX1. This is a problem, even when using a good preamp. So far I am only happy with audio fed into an external recorder, which of course requires a sync in post. 

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Andrew its good to have you back ! 

As an early adopter of both the GH4 and NX1, I agree with everything written in your article. I only disagree on the part that Sony will crush Panasonic, as the price range of the A7R II is in a different league. Almost the league where you could get a Blackmagic URSA...

I agree that most GH4 users are tired of waiting for the V-LOG, as the GH5 should be announced in the next few months. Maybe the market is also moving too fast. From both hardware and software perspectives. 

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Why did you buy an FS7 at all then? Just stick with the previous best thing?

I don't own the FS7, it's pretty much the rental A-cam of choice and gets quite a bit of use. If it didn't do slow motion we wouldn't bother with it. (Major request in my kind of work is 100fps +). 

I've only shot in 4k twice on the FS7 and every other time in "bog standard" XAVC-L in 1080p. Because of storage space and slow motion. It's a system which works very well. Not shooting in pristine 4k doesn't stop the flow :) 

I haven't replaced the GH3 because internal 4k isn't very useful to me if I'm filming mostly at 1080p 50fps. Because 4k and other stuff exists doesn't make my GH3 any less of a tool for making an income. Nobody cares what camera I use, they just trust I know what I'm doing. :) 

I have interest in the A7RII because I get unwanted micro jitters when operating handheld on the GH3 (with shoulder rig). Curious about the 5 axis. But again, I'll be "stuck" with 1080p at 50fps. 4k will be just a nice little extra. May be worth it, just need to try first! Probs best spending the money on a future camera though! 

 

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I'm more interested now in higher bit rates + compression, not so much 4k for personal use / smaller projects.

 

I've been editing a project I did a while ago on Blackmagic Cinema Camera and I am reminded oh how well that when you have a RAW or even les compressed codec such as ProRes it simply is much better than any other compressed camera. Samsung,Panasonic,Sony should give us a RAW option for users that need the extra data or at the very least a good compressed codec such as ProRes.

 

Blackmagic Ursa Mini is going to revolutionize the industry in this aspect...........

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

Spot on. Firmware updates should revolutionize the camera industry. Magic Lantern proved it's possible to transform cameras with codes of firmware. 

 

Proofs are all out there 

 

1- Magic Lantern adding 130 features Canon never wanted to add, including much higher video quality Canon doesn't want to add and it's disables with firmware, even the 50D had a video mode competely disables with a line of code ML enabled, Canon never did or had intention to do. 

 

2- GH2 being able to provide much much better internal codecs yet didn't do it while another outer firmware did it easily, 

 

 

 

3- Clean HDMI out is a firmware line that can be enabled on ANY camera from any manufacturer but they don't do it. 

 

4- Sony disabled 4K on the Sony F5 while it was completely capable of shooting 4K with a simple code line. 

 

5- The products that make us pay to buy firmware updates to enable features

 

*Convergent Design Odyessy 7Q: with a 1000$ firmware code enables raw recording from FS700/C500/Cion etc otherwise it's ''disables

 

*Arri Amira: with 2000-3000$ firmware codes enable 2K instead of HD, enables ProRes 444 instead of ProRes LT, enables Log C, enables enables UHD recording, enables 200fps instead of 100fps.

 

*Sony joined them with the F5 4K paid upgrade after the hack for 1000$. With the firmware enabling of the FS700 4K through the HDSDI output 800$.

 

6- Samsung adding MANY features through firmware, new Log gamma mode, timecode,  more pixels used for 1080p, and many many more

7- Panasonic being able to add an anamorphic mode which reads a different area of the sensor, being able to add V-Log with the GH4 

8-Sony being able to add an entirely new codec (XAVC-S) to AVCHD cameras to the RX10, A6000, 

9- Canon being able to get clean HDMI output from the 5DIII and have the screen stay on while recording to the card and the same time + timecode triggering, and being able to add 24p via firmware to the 5D mk II, 

 

With all these examples, we have 100% proof that companies can transform their cameras by firmware updates, they can pretty much DO everything anyone is asking for, Cameras are now computers and don't rely on mechanical hardware to do everything, Canon cameras now run Linux operating system :)

I bet this, if Canon wanted to take a 4K window from the 50D sensor and record it at a 100mbps bitrate codec tomrrow they will be 100% able to do it. 

 

My message to camera manufacturers, these examples 100% proof you can give us everything we need with a free download, so not going that route will give you company a bad name and make it seem like yoh don't want to deliver the best product to them, just sell next models. Like what we now think of Canon as we now by ML they are intentionally disabling all these features to sell future camera, and Sony F5 disabling 4K for future pay, a very bad reputation to stick to your name. When building your camera design the software that takes 100% full potential of the hardware capability, otherwise you'll get press fire as we saw with MANY manufacturers. 

 

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