Monday, March 28, 2011

Documentary Shooting with the Panasonic GH2

by Jared Flesher

Notes on Video readers might be interested in my experiences shooting with a Panasonic GH2. I’ve been using it for about a month now shooting the trailer for my new documentary Sourlands, with the GH2 and the stock 14-42mm lens. I know there’s already been a lot written about the camera, but here are my two cents based on the experience so far. [Jared's previous documentary, the Farmer and the Horse, was shot on a Canon Vixia HD camcorder.-Ed]

For a $1,000 camera, I couldn’t be happier. The image quality of the Panasonic GH2 is superb.

I spent a lot of time when I first got the Panasonic GH2 tinkering with the different scene settings – Cinema, Smooth and Nostalgic, trying to figure out which one looks the best and most film-like. I’ve come to settle on Cinema mode, usually with the exposure stepped up one click.

A knock against Cinema mode has been that it tends to underexpose scenes. But Nostalgic ended up being too yellow for me (you can see some scenes in the trailer that are probably a tad too yellow) and the colors in Smooth tend to look a little washed out.

I don’t like the ETC (Extra Teleconversion) crop mode, which gives your lenses twice the zoom without losing resolution. In my tests, I’ve found that everything looks noisier in the crop mode; even well-lit shots.

The stock 14-42mm lens is excellent for the price. It operates silently and focuses fast enough and accurately enough for my needs. I don’t use the continuous auto-focus function with video (it hunts too much) but I do use auto-focus mid-scene to reset focus when my subjects move. It works great and is easier than manual focusing.

One big limitation of this camera is that it doesn’t have a headphone jack for audio monitoring. For some people that’s a deal breaker. For me, I’m not happy about it, but I can live with it. I plug my Sennheiser ME66 shotgun mic into a BeachTek XLR adapter, the BeachTek into a 3.5mm to 2.5mm right angle adapter, and the right angle adapter into the camera.

I use the on-screen meters and the knobs on the BeachTek to set the right levels. The results sound good. One thing I’ve discovered about shooting a one-man documentary is that you don’t want to be wearing headphones all the time anyway. They seem to isolate you from your interviewees.

Jared's funding the documentary Sourlands through Kickstarter, and is already half way to the $5,000 goal. You can check out the trailer he's put together, and support the project, here: Sourlands: A Story of Land, Energy and a Life More Local

See Also:
NotesOnVideo: Filmmaker Jared Flesher - Sourlands
NotesOnVideoInterview: Filmmaker Jared Flesher
The Farmer and the Horse


Kim HyunHwa said...

i like ur review . .a lot, thanks for sharing., what do u say about the image quality if gh2 compare wit canon 60d ? i usual rent with lens 100mm-is L series and 16-35 L., but i'm in consider to buy gh2., tq for ur opinion - zhediek

Michael Murie said...

I don't know if Jared has used any Canon DSLR's; I know he was using a Canon VIXIA camcorder for his previous project.

I've heard good things about the GH2 picture quality; particularly it doesn't suffer from the moire problems the Canon's can exhibit. Con's; the Micro four thirds lens choice isn't that great; but you can stick Nikon's on there with an adapter. Also, some people prefer the Canon color to Panasonic's but there are ways to tweak that.

The eoshd site has gone into the GH2 quite a bit:

If I owned Canon lenses, I'm not sure I'd abandon Canon right now just because Panasonic jumped ahead.

But if you're not invested in either platform, the GH2 is certainly worth considering.

masterPilot Ah! said...

"but I do use auto-focus mid-scene to reset focus when my subjects move" what exactly u mean here? u mean u use "AFS" mode? or did u mean u use the touch screen for focusing ?