For a long time, I’ve been wanting to take the leap from shooting still images, to dabbling with moving images. First came the measly Nikon D90 and the mighty Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Then came the Nikon D5000. I got excited! Then came reality. They all suffered from various problems. Wobbly jello effect because of the rolling shutter, no manual controls, wrong frame rates, no autofocus, poor sound options, etc.
The D90 rolling shutter in action. Result? The Jello Effect
Why didn’t I just buy a video camera?
Video cameras create the look of video. I’m after the so-called cinematic look. We all know how home-video looks like home-video and nothing at all like the latest blockbuster. The reasons are many. Framerate, depth-of-field, color, tonal range, focal range, lens choice and more. With plugins like Magic Bullet one can get close, but I still felt the starting point would be too much of a comprimise, not worth the trouble. Shooting video simply didn’t turn me on, creatively speaking.
In June Panasonic will deliver the panacea: The Panasonic DMC-GH1. Worth pointing out, is the fact that Panasonic knows what they are doing when it comes to moving images. They are a trusted brand in broadcast and movie-making environments, and respected for creating such fine product lines as the DVX for example.
Enter The Dragon: Panasonic DMC-GH1
What makes the Panasonic DMC-GH1 so great is the exact opposite of what made the competition so half-hearted and disappointing:
- The framerate is 24p. The perfect framerate for the brain perceives it as narration (“let me tell you a story”) instead of the more realistic video look of 30fps interlaced (“this is what happened”).
- Continuous Auto Focus. Track your subject easily. And with a silent motor even!
- Good sound. Built-in stereo mic of good quality. Even an option for an external mic of apparantly great quality.
- Adjustable manual controls. Bravo Panasonic! You want manual controls for many reasons. Read below.
Why manual controls matter in motion
Notice how some digital camera videos (always recorded on full auto) seem stroboscopic in the movements? The video seems hard and “digital”? That’s because the shutter speed was too fast relative to the framerate. The sun was shining, so the camera chose a fast framerate for you. Say what? In order for the video to look smooth at for example 24fps, the ideal shutter speed is twice the framerate, therefore around 1/50. A shutter angle of 180 degrees, technicaly speaking. Shorter will look stroboscopic, longer will look weird, like those music videos from night clubs where it looks like the cameraman was drunk.
The above video is a great example. Starting out with 1/500 going toÂ 1/60 and then 1/25. See how 1/500 looks stuttered.
It seems like this is a DSLR that gets it right this time. This camera is a milestone.
I crave a Panasonic GH1 like Gator craves crack in the brilliant Spike Lee movie, Jungle Fever:
Click some of my ads, or I’ll do such a dance for you;-)
Meanwhile, have a look at some nice image and video samples on DPreview. Or check the GH1 test video by Retroleum on Flickr. And be sure to check out Philip Bloom’s amazing slow motion results with the GH1. As a last resort, go visit the DMC-GH1 page on Panasonic.com.