Welcome to Part 1, Video 1 – Low light and the GH1’s film modes
I’ve been conducting a shootout between the Panasonic GH1 and 5D Mark II, using everything I know about setting up the cameras and everything I have learned from others such as Philip Bloom. In the Zacuto shootout, Bloom said he couldn’t quite set up the GH1 as he wanted, and it’s clear the 5D Mark II has a less contrasty look with slightly more latitude (but not as much as 35mm film!)
I was determined to find the ‘perfect’ match-all situations film mode on the GH1 before starting the shootout.
Why is this important? Well for video, the picture is baked in when you shoot, like white balance in a JPEG. There is only so much you can do in post afterwards, and grading will only get you so far. This isn’t like dealing with photographic RAW files so the picture profile on your camera does matter for HDSLR video – a lot.
The difference in exposure is over 1 stop between the brightest film mode (Nostalgic) and the darkest (Dynamic). Noise and banding is handled dramatically differently as well.
I’d like to find a great balance between a contrasty, colourful image, and one with smooth tones and detail in shadows, as well as protecting the bright parts of the image (highlights) from overexposure. I wanted a cinematic, filmic look. And I tried to get the 5D and GH1 as close to each other as mutually possible in terms of how their image looked. And above all I just wanted it to look good!
The first video of Part 1 is all about the GH1 film modes. The 2nd video of Part 1 I’ll post tomorrow will show a head to head split screen 1:1 of the GH1 and 5D footage, featuring all kinds of low light scenes from around a neighbourhood in Taipei City. It looks like a suburban blade runner! For now though we’ll just settle for the blue Mini!!
This video above shows you the differences between the film mode profiles on the Panasonic GH1. In addition to the presets you can adjust each of them by sliding controls back and forth for contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction – just like on the 5D Mark II. But where the 5D Mark II has 7 steps of adjustment, the GH1 only has 5 notches on the slider.
In the end it comes down to which looks nicest, and opinions can differ. But I found I liked Bloom’s preference the best. Although when you really want to boost exposure and shadow detail Nostalgic is the best. However it makes noise and banding more noticeable at ISO 1600 so it’s best only to use at lower ISOs where you’d like a slight ‘boost’ to the image brightness.
What’s Bloom’s preference? He used film mode Smooth, contrast -2, sharpness -2, saturation standard and NR standard on the Great Zacuto Shootout. I find this gives you good brightness, good strong colour and a nice clean image.
In the Zacuto Shootout, the bathtub scene saw a very contrasty GH1 image. I have found the same – even with contrast at a minimum the GH1 is more contrasty than the 5D Mark II with contrast set to +7! I think this is down to the 5D’s high dynamic range sensor giving more latitude, but when the image is compressed in video mode on both cameras, the 5D’s sensor advantage is lost. The difference in RAW stills mode is huge, but in video mode it doesn’t matter so much. Latitude is levelled.