Friday, December 30, 2011

Panasonic DMC-FZ150 -- a GH2 "mini-me"?

My wife wanted something lightweight to replace her old 6MP Nikon D50, and she wanted to start recording video of our 5 year old son, so I got her a Panasonic FZ150 superzoom.

She has been an avid SLR/DSLR photographer for years, but never swaps lenses and uses full auto mode close to 100% of the time.  The FZ150 seems to be perfect for her needs.  The problem is, I just tried it out, and I'm shooting better pictures with it than with my fancy GHs and telephoto lenses - with a lot higher percentage of usable shots.

A few examples:

FZ150 and GH2 - taken with GH1/Nikon lens

FZ150 and GH2 - taken with GH1/Nikon lens

FZ150 and GH2 - taken with GH1/Nikon lens

Taken with GH2/Tamron lens at 300mm (ETC)

Taken with GH2/Tamron lens at 300mm (ETC)

GH cameras - taken with FZ150

GH cameras - taken with FZ150

GH cameras - taken with FZ150

Taken with FZ150

Taken with FZ150

Taken with FZ150

The light was better for the FZ150 shots, but the real story is how easy they were to take, and that every shot was in focus and perfectly exposed.  Too bad my wife is taking it on a trip in a few days. I'd like to take it out for a few more "tests" ;-)

Well worth it for $430 at Amazon as of 12/30/11.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mr. Bloom shoots side-by-side of hacked GH2 & $20K+ camcorders

Part one of the resulting video is here (resolution test):

He is still working on part two (a low light test).

Not to give anything away, but the GH2 with the Driftwood hack really runs with the big dogs.

I have not hacked either my GH1 or my GH2 (to be honest, I have been a little afraid of bricking them).  But the GH2 hack has now been around long enough, and there are enough stable versions, that I don't think even I can screw it up. I'll let you know how it goes :-)

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sony NEX-VG20 and Panasonic DMC-GH2: Side-by-side Comparison

Finally!  Here is the hands-on with the VG20 that I've promised for two weeks.  Bottom line:  The GH2 is a great camera, but I liked the VG20 - a lot.  Yes, it lacks manual color, contrast and sharpness adjustments, but it has  a built-in headphone jack and full manual audio control, it is better than the unhacked GH2 in low light and the factory-set color profile is just fine.

The GH2 does handle moire better -- but just barely. You will see moire from both cameras on the venetian blinds in the final shots -- the VG20 has it on both blinds, the GH2 has it on one.

The only thing that keeps me from buying the Sony right now is the price. The body-only price twice as high as a GH2 with a kit lens (and higher than the A77 or the NEX7).  I think I'll wait until the price comes down (unless the GH3 turns out to be better ;-)).

I apologize for the focus and audio challenges, but I hope you find the comparison useful nevertheless

If you like the video, and it helps you decide to buy the VG20 and/or the GH2, please support this blog and future hands-on reviews by buying your camera(s), lenses and accessories through these links: AdoramaAmazonCrutchfieldOneCall, and Unique Photo .  Thanks!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Beaten to the punch! Canadian retailer posts first English language VG20 hands-on *w sample footage*!

The Camera Store in Calgary, Alberta, Canada beat me to it!

I don't really mind - they're great folks, I bought my GH2 from them last year, when I couldn't find one here in the States.

Chris from The Camera Store seems to have reached the same conclusion that I did about the camera - it produces great audio and video - but is missing a few basic manual image controls and options.

I will post my long-promised VG20 video samples soon, I promise!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sony NEX-VG20 and Panasonic GH2 as still cameras

Comparison of out-of-camera JPEG stills - shot with kit zoom lenses in full auto:

Sony NEX-VG20 shot with Panasonic DMC-GH2, 25mm, f4.7, 1/25th sec, ISO 800

Panasonic DMC-GH2 shot with Sony NEX-VG20, 51mm, f7.1,1/50th sec, ISO 3200

Sony NEX-VG20, 200mm, f6.3, 1/320th sec, ISO 2000

Panasonic DMC-GH2, 140mm, f5.8, 1/80th sec, ISO 400

Sony NEX-VG20, 46mm, f9, 1/250th sec, ISO 100

Panasonic DMC-GH2, 32mm, f7.1, 1/200th sec, ISO 160

As a still camera, the VG20 compares quite well with the GH2 in JPEG image quality and responsiveness - turn it on, switch to still mode, and you're ready to shoot.  With its 16 megapixel sensor (same as the NEX-5N), the VG20 produces decent high resolution stills with impressive low light sensitivity and dynamic range.  But, as with video, changes to most settings require a drill down into the touch screen menu.  And, without a built-in flash, the VG20 is only marginally useful as an indoor camera out of the box (especially with the slow kit lens).  Yes, it has an Alpha hot shoe, cold shoe and external flash sync, but for $1600, Sony should have included a flash (this is not unreasonable, built-in flash is included with other, less expensive, Handycams).

That said, if you want high quality JPEG and RAW stills from an interchangeable lens camcorder, the VG20 is the only game in town (sadly, I did not have the software or the time to compare the two cameras' RAW capabilities).

Please check back over the next few days as I update this comparison and add video.  In the meantime, if you found this side-by-side valuable and it helped you decide that you want either the GH2 or the VG20 (or both!), please support this blog and future hands-on reviews by buying them through these links from AdoramaAmazonCrutchfieldOneCall, and Unique Photo.  Thanks!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

GH2 and VG20 compared - first English language hands-on w VG20!

One month after the ship date of the Sony NEX-VG20, there are no (to the best of my knowledge) English-language full reviews, or even hands-on previews, of the camera. Contrast this with the roll-out of its predecessor, the NEX-VG10. Between Sony's announcement of the VG10 on July 13th, 2010 and its September 10th, 2010 US ship date; Luminous Landscape published a hands-on field report, Digital Camera Review published a first look review and Canadian retailer, The Camera Store, posted a hands-on review video with sample footage.

These early reviews were posted because Sony put the camera into the hands of well-known English-language sites. Something they are not doing this time around.

It is difficult to explain why Sony did not do this with the VG20 (Lack of confidence in the product? A strategic decision to emphasize NEX-5N/NEX-7/A65/A77? Sensor/parts shortages due to earthquake/tsunami/flooding in Asia?).

Whatever the reason, potential VG20 buyers in North America, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the rest of the Anglophone world have little to go on when trying to decide whether to buy this $1600 (body-only) camera.  Frustrating.

That is why I decided to go out and rent the camera for 3 days from at my own expense. Working around my regular job, I shot a few side by side comparison shots with the VG20 and the Panasonic DMC-GH2 (widely acknowledged as the best video camera in the DSLR/DSLM form factor [with M standing for mirrorless]), which I will post here soon.

But until I can post the full hands-on comparison -- here is a quick preview of what I found:


I come from a film background, so for me, the camcorder form-factor makes a difference in the ability to hold the camera steady without a rig. For some reason, I have less trouble with the two-point stability of the camcorder (right palm on the handgrip facing upward and viewfinder pressed against my eye) - than the three point stability of the DSLM form factor (left hand cradling the lens, right hand on a vertical grip, viewfinder pressed against my eye). This is very subjective, and may not make a difference for most people.

The lack of external controls on the VG20 was problematic, however.  After learning the knobs and switches on the GH2,  I can now change ISO/White Balance/Shutter Speed/Aperture and other settings without taking my eye away from the viewfinder.  Not possible with the menu-centric controls on the VG20.

Image Quality

The VG20 image seems softer to me. To my eye, the GH2 -- even without the hack -- beats the VG20 on image quality. On the other hand, the VG20 seems to have better high ISO/dB performance than the GH2.

Control of Audio and Video

Both cameras allow manual adjustment of picture and sound, with some important differences.

Both cameras have full manual control of aperture, shutter speed and white balance, but the GH2 has multiple picture profiles and the ability to adjust color and sharpness, which the VG20 does not. The 2.6x Extended Tele Converter function on the GH2 is also an advantage for the Panasonic.

But the VG20 has some advantages too. The headphone jack and high quality in-camera audio with manual gain control significantly reduce the need for dual system sound. With the GH2, if I want decent sound, dual system is a must, with all of the challenges that poses during shooting and in post.

Other Differences

There are other subtle advantages for the Sony beyond the principal advantage of the camcorder form-factor. With the VG20, for example, it is not necessary to go into the menu to switch settings in order to use non-Sony lenses. Contrast this with the GH2, where you have to drill down in the menu and switch a setting every time you change from a Panasonic m4/3 system lens to a Canon or Nikon (or other) manual lens.

Please check back over the next few days as I update this comparison and add stills and video.  In the meantime, if you found this comparison valuable and you've already decided that you want the GH2 or the VG20, please support this blog and future hands-on reviews by buying them through these links from AdoramaAmazonCrutchfieldOneCall, and Unique Photo.  Thanks!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Slashcam Reviews Sony NEX-VG20 (in German) - GH2 still the champ!

First hands-on VG20 review that I have been able to find, after trolling Japanese and German sites for weeks, has been this one at Slashcam Deutschland.

If I understand Google Translate correctly, it sounds like they liked the ergonomics, but were disappointed with compression artifacts (moire) and the lack of picture profiles.

Here is the moire and picture profile critique from the review (Google translation is a little rough, but I think you'll get the gist):
"One [negative] is the scaling artifacts by the sensor. Since a picture is used with a converter optimized for photo pixel count, it must scale down the image of the camera now about 16 megapixels to 2 megapixels. And that will Sony not very good. So it is like its predecessor [the VG10] significant aliasing artifacts. The Canon EOS models while struggling with similar problems, but with the GH2 Panasonic shows that it is also cleaner. And that for about half the price of a VG20.
Moreover, we still bother to virtually complete lack of control for adjusting the image characteristics. The open secret of why, for example, the rather fuzzy Canon EOS 5D for many users the ne plus ultra of the indie film, is simply that one can create custom gamma curves here and can exchange data via the network. Because only this one you can create a dynamic that is similar to a film camera and you can later use by a professional color grading in post. 
Most filmmakers use this one "flat" look, the one with a VG20 simply can not reach. While the VG10 nevertheless still offered pre-Picture Profiles are now no longer even those present in the VG20. Only one Cinegamma tone curve is fitted, but the expression does not particularly flat. 
We strongly suspect that Sony is well aware that just such features for a DSLR camera users interesting. Finally, the Japanese also sell flat image profiles such as the S-log update for the professional camera F3 for a lot of money. It is therefore likely to be a pure marketing decision to make no additional gamma curves for the VG20. However, Sony should not be surprised if many buyers avoid the VG20 for precisely this reason." 
They also complained about the lack of XLR inputs and ND filter (but we knew that).

I am still interested in the camera for its headphone jack, manual audio level control and 60p -- but it looks like the GH2 is still the no-moire video image quality champ below $2000. Heck, it's the no-moire video image quality champ below $1000!

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Best interchangeable lens hybrid under $2000: Sony NEX-VG20?

I had high hopes for the A77, and I love just about everything about it as a still cam -- but, as a motion picture cam it is a *fail* due to the lack of manual audio control.

The GH2 is still the champ in the DSLR/DLST/DSLM form-factor. At least Panasonic gives shooters *some* control over audio levels.

But seemingly lost in all of the A77 hoopla is the very impressive VG20. With new 24 and 60fps progressive frame rates, manual audio control, headphone jack and ability to shoot 16MP stills in RAW, it addresses most, if not all, of the shortcomings of the VG10 -- and appears to be the new still/video hybrid camera to beat based on specs alone.

If the new Sony image processor solves the VG10's moire problems, then this could become the camera of choice for those of us who want pro-level control over our stills, moving images and sound in an all-in-one camera.

There doesn't appear to be any moire in this Sony promo video, but I will wait until I see high quality Vimeo downloads before I make a final judgement.

Looks like I might be changing horses from Panasonic to Sony this Christmas!

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Sony A77 or Panasonic GH3?

Neither of these cameras have been announced or released yet, but thanks to the Internet rumor-mill, we believe that both cameras are likely to incorporate the new higher bitrate AVCHD 2.0 codec, 1080/60p and improved EVFs. And, according to, the A77 will have a metal weather-sealed body, while, according to, the GH3 will shoot 3D video.

It looks like GH1/GH2 shooters are going to have a tough decision to make when it comes time to upgrade - especially if, as has been suggested, the body-only price point for the A77 is around $1000 (and Sony is able to overcome their moire, overheating and shot duration limit challenges).

In the meantime, GH2 shooters will keep shooting moire-free video, while waiting to see what these new cameras can do. Exciting times to be a motion picture maker!

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Switronix Adapter for the GH2!

Good news for GH2 shooters. Switronix issued a press release yesterday announcing an adapter that connects their high capacity Pro X Li-ion battery to the Panasonic DCC-8. This should provide a real solution for folks who want to use the camera in remote locations.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

RED Delivers Epic Convergence

I don't usually repost interviews, but there are several profound insights on the imminent convergence of stills and video in this interview with DSLR pioneer Vincent Laforet at

Laforet is now shooting with a RED Epic-M, and is able to pull high quality stills from 5K 96fps or 200fps streams.  In the interview, he tells this awesome story:

"For example this morning I was about to leave my home to go to work. I had my Epic with me and my daughter got into her ballerina dress for the first time. And I had a choice between my Leica M9 or the Epic, two very different tools, to very different ways of shooting, and two very different results obviously. One’s noticeably heavier. But with the Epic, I get 5k resolution stills. I’m shooting it at 96 frames a second, at a 200th of a second. And I’m able to get incredibly sharp 14 MP stills from the camera.
I’m most likely not going to print poster images of my daughter- as much as I love her. But I will definitely print 8×10, 11x14s with a 14 megapixel camera, which is what the 5k can do. And it’s going to allow me to pick one of 96 frames every single second. And I also have the benefit of having a video clip to go along with it. Slow motion video that is @6 times the resolution of 1080p content as a result. So why would I choose the Leica other than the form factor, obviously? And the fact that it’s a still image and slightly higher resolution.
You’d choose it for price.
We’re talking about the future here. Not what things cost today. My iphone shoots better pictures than my $20,000 Canon D2000 shot 10 years ago."
In a decade or less, we will be in a world where a 5K camera costs $5K. In that world, there will be a lot more people creating big-screen quality motion pictures -- and pulling high quality still images out of them -- putting a lot of ACs, camera assistants and still-only photographers out of work.

People have been predicting this since Laforet shot Reverie a little less than two years ago -- but the 5DMkII (and even my beloved GH2) were just harbingers of this revolution.  The Epic represents the main force.

Take a look at what revolutionaries Laforet and Bloom are doing with the Epic and tiny crews:

EPIC #308 from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo

Great Wooden Boats: RED EPIC from Philip Bloom on Vimeo

Welcome to the next chapter of the hybrid camera revolution. More power to the people!

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Last of the $399 GH1s at Adorama -- Get 'em while they're hot!

Introduced in 2009, the trailblazing Panasonic GH1 camera was the first hybrid DSLR form-factor camera with full manual control of video, 1080/24p, an articulating LCD, an external mic jack and the ability to easily mount a wide range of native, non-native and legacy lenses. With the incredible progress made in the past 2 years, it's easy to forget how revolutionary this camera was. And with the "GH13" and "GH17" hacks, all versions of this camera are now able to record at bitrates up to 100mbps -- producing images of unbelievable resolution and clarity.

Now, the 'venerable' GH1 is out of production -- and almost out of stock. A few weeks ago, they were available for $399 from Samy's (directly and through Amazon), at B&H and at Adorama.

But today, Samy's and B&H are sold out, and Adorama has the last of the GH1s at the $399 price point. If you're an aspiring filmmaker on a budget, if you need a micro 4/3 camera to back up your GH2, or if you're a DSLR or camcorder shooter who wants to see what the fuss is all about, you can't go wrong at this price. I got one a few weeks ago to back up my GH2, and couldn't be happier.

Please get your $399 GH1 here to support this site. If you want one with the hard-to-find Panasonic 20mm/f1.7 for just $300 more, you can order it here. Thanks!

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Panasonic GH2 body only for $899.99 at Unique Photo

EDIT- as of 6/17/11 - NO LONGER IN STOCK

If you already have micro 4/3 lenses (or non-micro 4/3 lenses with adapters), here is the hard-to-find Panasonic GH2 body-only from Unique Photo in New Jersey.

I have done business with these folks -- their prices are great, they don't try to upsell you after the sale, if they say that it's in stock it actually is in stock and they have a physical store where you can actually walk in, handle real merchandise and talk to a real person.  Recommended.

Available in black or in silver.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Get your new GH2 from Canada for $1450 plus shipping!

Mostly Digital in Canada has them in stock as of this writing. I wish I was getting a commission from these guys, but I don't!

I'm sure that their stock is limited -- so if they run out, or you don't want to risk importing your camera from north of the border without a U.S. warranty, you can get one from Amazon for $1497 (free shipping!)

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I'm starting to come around on the Nikon D5100

Even though there seems to be a lot of angst over whether or not the D5100 has full manual control in video mode, this 1080i video from David at soundimageplus is pretty impressive (on a computer monitor, at least).

Very sharp, even with the kit lens, and fabulous color saturation.  I looked for moire in the ripples of the stream and could not find it.

And the new Ashton Kucher D5100 commercial (shot with the D5100 itself) is pretty cool too:

I'm still not enthused about the 20 minute shot time limit or the viewfinder that goes away in video mode due to the old-fashioned SLR mirror - so I'll stick with the GH2. But for those who don't mind these challenges, or who have already made a significant investment in Nikon glass, the D5100 seems to produce very nice video images at a reasonable price.  You can pick one up for $799 (body-only) at AmazonNikon D5100 16.2MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3-inch Vari-Angle LCD Monitor (Body Only).
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Sony NEX-FS100 -- Panasonic AF100 Killer?

We're getting our first look at the "entry-level" large sensor interchangeable lens camcorder from Sony, the NEX-FS100 -- and it looks good. It seems to have almost everything that DSLR form-factor hybrid shooters have been asking for in a camcorder -- big 35mm sensor, interchangeable lenses, in-camera undercranking and overcranking, uncompressed 4:2:2 HDMI out, dual XLR inputs, headphone out. And, according to early reports, the U.S. list price ($5850) will be competitive with the AF-100 ($4995). But, we are also told, it lacks a couple of basics that the AF100 does have -- a built-in ND filter and HD-SDI out (why, Sony, why?). It will be interesting to see side-by-side comparisons of the two cameras when the FS100 hits the street. For now, I'll rent the AF100 if I need the camcorder form-factor, and use the lenses from my GH2!

Update: According to this hands-on review from Nigel Cooper of DV User (UK), the Panasonic AF101 beats the new Sony FS100 for ergonomics and build quality -- while the FS100 edges the Panasonic slightly in image quality. We will have to see what other reviewers and shooters say as more people gain experience with the camera.

In the meantime, enjoy these promo videos from Sony:

And here are a few early links with more info:

Product page from Sony (US)

Product page from Sony (UK)

Blog posting from (NZ)

In the meantime, if you're disappointed by the new Sony and you need HD-SDI and a built-in ND filter, you can get the AF100 for $4795 here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Video *not* shot with new Sony Super 35mm NXCAM

According to this blog post over at cinescopophilia, this is a video performance by the artist who will be featured in the first Sony "FS-100" Super 35 demo video. Shot with Canon DSLRs, not the FS-100 itself, but it's a nice song:

The post also features Den Lennie's BTS pics from the upcoming NXCAM Super 35 demo video and a few tantalizing glimpses of the new camera.

From the looks of the BTS pics taken during the low-light parts of the shoot here and here (lit with a 150W Dedolight), I agree with Philip Johnston over at HD Warrior, who said recently of the F3 (same sensor):

"You could produce a drama in street lighting and tell the Gaffer to take a night off"

If, after seeing these pics, you want your own Dedolight to go with the big sensor on your soon-to-be-purchased Sony FS-100 Super 35 NXCAM, you can find one for $372.50 at Adorama.

Sorry Panasonic, but Sony had me at the word "35mm".

I thought that the next step up from my GH2 would be the AF100. Looks like I might have been wrong, my next step up may very well be a Sony. Time to start looking for a Micro 4/3 to E Mount adapter?

Gratitude and a Prayer for Japan

A blog like this owes its existence to the Japanese innovators, engineers, marketers and countless others who create the technology that we enjoy so much. I am personally grateful to the Japanese people for the hard work and indomitable spirit that both rebuilt their country after 1945 and brought us the high-quality products that have enriched all our lives. Our cars are better either because we're driving a Japanese car or because our American (or German or Korean) car manufacturer had to compete with Toyota and Nissan. Our hybrid still/video cameras may have been made in China, but they were designed in Japan.

So I pray for healing and safety for the survivors of the recent earthquake -- and I pray that the spirit and courage that the Japanese people showed in the last part of the 20th century lives on in the 21st.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

JayCut - Free Video Editor for Google Chrome OS

I know I'm a minority within a minority, but sometimes I miss Windows MovieMaker -- a free, no-frills non-linear editor (NLE) for when all I want to do is trim and splice a few clips, add a few dissolves and a soundtrack and publish to YouTube.

It's not because I haven't tried a real NLE. I bought Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10 for the old Windows machine, but I am not that excited about learning it -- and find myself transcoding the .mts files from my GH2 to .wmv so I can use MovieMaker.

Okay, so why the title of this post? It's because Google gave me a free Google Cr-48 Chrome OS laptop a couple of months ago as part of a pilot program. This isn't a computer blog, so I won't bore you with the details, but a few thousand folks are test driving Google's new OS to see how it fares in the real world. So far, so good -- but I couldn't find a video editing app for it -- until now.

After running across this tutorial from NixiePixel on the free kdenlive video editor for Linux, I discovered that there were several free and relatively simple NLEs for Linux -- but only one for Chrome -- something called JayCut. Just signed up for it tonight and uploaded an .mp4 video that I had downloaded, but could not play on the Cr-48 -- and, wonder of wonders, it played back just fine in the preview window! It's late, so I didn't drag it into the timeline or try to add another clip. Perhaps tomorrow. But if I can get this to work, it will mean one more thing that I can do for free in Google Chrome OS -- and one more step towards doorstop status for the old Windows dinosaur.

UPDATE 3/8/11: Sadly, I could not get JayCut to read .mts files from the Panasonic GH2. Back to Windows (for file conversions, at least).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

No-solder external battery solution for GH-2

One of the few downsides of the otherwise amazing Panasonic GH2 hybrid camera is the limited life of the factory battery. At 1200mAh, it stores less energy than the battery in the camera it replaces, the GH1. To make matters worse, Panasonic decided not to include an AC power adapter with the GH2 -- an accessory that was standard with the GH1. And spare batteries have been hard to get, since battery production is just now starting to catch up with demand.

As a result, some GH2 users have complained of being a little power-starved, especially those traveling in remote places or pros who use the camera for day-long event shooting.

It's not surprising, then, that people have started to come up with their own solutions (like Phil Hover's GH2 Custom Battery Solution). Phil, of Soar Productions, has put together a battery pack with about 50Ah of storage (!) for the GH2 using a lithium polymer battery pack from the RC vehicle world. This thing stores so much energy that the limit on video shot time becomes the size of your SD card!

Sadly for those (like me) who are not very handy with a soldering iron, Phil's idea requires a soldered connection between the battery pack and the DC Power Plug and Cable that connects to the GH2's DMW-DCC8 DC Coupler ($14.95 from Adorama). So I needed another solution.

Fortunately, my personal solution was already in my laptop bag. I've been using an old lithium-ion Duracell Powersource Mobile 100 for a couple of years to power laptops and cell phones on the road. Why not use it to provide mobile AC power to the GH2 through the DCC8? At 4Ah, it wasn't going to provide the marathon power of the li-poly, but it was the equivalent of 3+ of the GH2's battery packs -- plenty for a day long shoot and much more than I need. So, following Phil's example, I bought a third party Universal AC/DC Adapter for Digital Cameras ($25 from Amazon), switched it to the 8.4V setting, and plugged it into the DCC8:

Then I replaced the GH2's battery with the DCC8:

...and then plugged it into the little Duracell. It worked! No soldering required!

Since the Duracell is now out of production, if I were doing this from scratch, I'd get the Black & Decker 20W watt Power-to-Go AC Power Supply ($45 from Amazon).

So, for a total of about $90, you can have the equivalent of 3 GH2 batteries -- and shoot all day without battery changes. Not bad.

Or, if you happen to have one of the old Black & Decker VPX power tools, you can convert its battery output from DC to AC for about $16 with a VPX inverter. If you don't have VPX power tools, the standalone battery pack and charger are only about $50. So, you can buy the external equivalent of a GH2 battery for $66 -- and it's available now (as long as supplies last - the VPX has been discontinued).

This really makes GH2 power a non-issue. And with external batteries, you can swap out packs without taking the camera off the tripod. More power to the people!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Using the Zoom H1 recorder as an external mic for the GH2

24 bit, 96kHz sound was once the sole province of professional sound recordists. Today, anyone with $99 and a Zoom H1 recorder can record high quality sound for motion pictures or broadcast. These new recorders are also small -- small enough to consider using them as "dual-purposed" recorder/microphones for the new high-def hybrid still/video cameras.

Several people have asked me questions about this -- how to set the Zoom's mic input levels, for example, so I've put together a little how-to to show how my setup works. I hope you find it useful.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Welcome to the Revolution

Until now, it cost many thousands of dollars to get "film like" quality on the screen. When I was in film school 30+ years ago, "budget" indie narratives and docs were shot on 16mm cameras that cost $1000s (which was real money in the '70s). Renting a 35mm Arri BL or Panaflex was out of the question for the ordinary person. Clean sound? Forget it, unless you could afford a Nagra and a good sound person. Lights? Lenses? The story was the same. Unless you wanted to go into the film or TV businesses (and most likely starve), there was no way to tell motion picture stories to large numbers of people without mortgaging your house. I'm not going to go into the whole boring history of how it happened, but many people are now realizing that today, they can put high definition, shallow depth of field images and clean 24-bit sound out to millions of people for less than one month's rent.

So -- millions of people can now tell their stories with high-def video. So what? Some will say that this just means increasing the resolution of the hours of unwatchable garbage already on the screen.

But, many others believe that it also the dawn of a revolutionary new era in which millions of new voices with something worthwhile to say are empowered to tell stories that the world would otherwise not have heard.

I choose to believe the latter -- and the purpose of this blog is to share ideas on how new technology can help to make that revolution happen.

With apologies to Gil-Scott Heron -- this revolution will be televised.