Sunday, June 29, 2014

Can't wait for the Panasonic GH4 to arrive tomorrow - plus a couple of GH4 reviews you may have missed

The gang is back in town

So I logged onto the UPS site yesterday and asked them to hold my GH4 for pickup tomorrow instead of sending it out on the truck for delivery. I'll jet over to the UPS facility at lunchtime and pick it up - because I can't wait until after work to get my hands on it.

Yes, I am that anxious to get my hands on this camera again, after turning in my rental a few weeks ago. In the meantime, I've had to satisfy myself with reading reviews. Here are a couple of fresh perspectives from outside the ranks of the usual suspects in the video blogging community (you know who you are ;)).

The first, from photography blogger "Michael the Maven" is an interesting take on the GH4's performance as a still camera:

As regular readers know, the purpose of this blog is to report on (and advocate) a still/video camera 'singularity' - a notional, and perhaps unachievable, future where the highest quality still and video capabilities co-exist in the same camera. The GH4 comes pretty close, but it is becoming clear that its still autofocus speed just isn't there yet when it comes to shooting sports or fast action - even with Panasonic Depth from Defocus technology. This is the second source I have seen this from - it tracks with what the guys The Camera Store saw in their D4s/mirrorless shootout.

This isn't a deal-breaker for me (it wasn't for Michael either - he bought a GH4 after he did the review), but it is certainly something to be aware of.

The second review is from Australian video blogger Grant Cook from "Film Learnin" (sort of a one-man Down Under IndyMogul):

I really like Grant's examples of 1080p pan & scan plus image stabilization from images shot at 4K. I also appreciated hearing his perspective on autofocus for "one-man-band" shooters. I remember trying to shoot video blog-style with my T2i before I switched to Panasonic - it was very very difficult without face tracking autofocus or a forward-facing LCD.

After tomorrow, I'll be out shooting with my GH4 - so no more surfing the web, looking desperately for reviews.  Hopefully, I can finish that (very late) GH4 review I started with that rented camera a month ago!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What features do you want to see in the Panasonic GH5?

Philip Johnston, the HD Warrior from Scotland, is now shooting with the GH4 (two of them, actually) in the course of writing his review.  Philip has just set up a great separate blog called "GH4 Crew" that is focused exclusively on the GH4.

There's lots of good stuff here and on HD Warrior - to include behind the scenes coverage of a photo shoot he did recently at a local event.

As much as he likes the camera, in his latest post, Philip makes a in interesting list of the features he'd like to see in the GH5:
  • The thumbwheel at the back of the GH4 controls the speed in manual mode, I would like Panasonic to update the Firmware (FW) to allow me to lock this at 1/50th preventing me moving this to another speed accidentally as has happened.
  • Could we also have the ability to switch on the LCD display rather than the present mode where it switches off at about seven minutes.
  • Can we also have the ability to buy an upgrade FW package that gets rid of the 30m record time.
  • A menu mode to allow us to view 4K as 1080 via the SDI connectors the same as you offer with the HDMI output.
  • Can you make sure that the GH5 has 2 SDXC slots please.
I agree with Philip  on a few of these, but my list is a little different from his.  What I really want in the GH5 (in this order):
  • Built-in ND filter
  • The ability to set the screen blanking time on the LCD (same as his #2)
  • Internal 10-bit 4:2:2 4K
  • 2 SDXC slots (same as his #5)
  • 4K/60p
  • 1080/120p
  • Hole on the bottom of the camera to match the anti-twist pin on standard quick release plate
What's your list?  Please answer in the comment section or back on Reddit.

Look forward to seeing your list!

Friday, June 27, 2014

First Sony A7s Reviews Rolling Out - Better than the GH4?

Even though my GH4 will be arriving soon, I am still interested in how well the Sony A7s performs. I was impressed by what I was able to see of this camera at NAB - but it's a challenge to know what a camera can really do without reports from the field (or, preferably, shooting with it yourself) - so I will probably rent one and compare it to the GH4 at some point.

But until we can get our hands on it, we'll have to settle for early reviews like this one from The Camera Store in Calgary:

I always enjoy Chris' reviews. Lots of energy - and he knows his way around a camera menu. But he's not a video guy, and, in my view, he misses a couple of significant issues in his short comments on the A7s versus the GH4.

He mentions the obvious stuff, of course - the A7s' unmatched high ISO capability and apparent DR advantage over the GH4 at 1080p - and he counterbalances this by mentioning the A7s' 1080/60p maximum frame rate, lack of internal 4K and lack of 4K 10-bit output - but, in my view, he glosses over a couple of significant differences between the cameras that many shooters care about.

First - both the EU and the non-EU versions of the A7s stop recording after 30 minutes. Followers of this blog and my forum comments know that I consider this to be a significant limitation. Many non-EU Canon, Nikon and Sony users buy these cameras expecting to be able to record religious services, wedding ceremonies, plays, lectures and other events - and are surprised when their cameras shut down after 12 to 30 minutes. This is not a deal breaker for most narrative and documentary shooters, but for people who want to get rid of their camcorders and carry just one camera (this is the Hybrid Camera Revolution, after all), this is a big deal.

The second major issue is that this is not a "world camera". Unlike the GH4, the A7s is region-locked, and does not allow switching between NTSC (60Hz) and PAL (50Hz) frame rates. Frustrating for shooters who travel extensively or who have clients or viewers in other regions.

And, of course, the GH4 is $800 less than the A7s (although, I wouldn't be surprised if the price gap narrows over the next few months).

All of that said, the proof will be in the pudding. Shooters are starting to produce some incredible 4K work with the GH4 (please see the "GH4K" group I moderate over on Vimeo). We'll see what the future holds for the A7s - it's still a tremendous camera.

As Philip Bloom just tweeted,
As usual, if anything here has helped you to make a buying decision, please click on the links above or the display ads below and in the margins. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these blog posts coming. And, for the latest hybrid camera news, views, tips and tricks, please follow HCR on Blogger on YouTube, on Google+ and now, on Twitter! Thanks so much for your support.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Scored a used Panasonic GH4 for less than $1500 - keep your eye on the used departments at your favorite online stores!

I've been trying to find a used GH4 body in stock for the past few weeks - and a couple have gotten away from me - but this morning, Providence smiled on me and I was able to pick up a used body for $1499.95 from B&H!

In addition to B&H, I kept my eye on Amazon Warehouse Deals, the Adorama Used Store and eBay.

Even though my camera is on the way, I'll keep looking for used GH4 deals for you guys and will post them here and on Reddit - so please follow the blog and keep checking Reddit Best Video Deals.

Now to start the familiar vigil - sitting by the door until the delivery driver comes!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

OFFICIAL: Blackmagic Design Releases Camera Utility 1.8!

After yesterday's false start, Blackmagic Design has posted the official version 1.8 of the Blackmagic Camera Utility here for US users and here for UK users.  Here's what's new:

Blackmagic Production Camera 4K
  • Updated user interface
  • Losslessly compressed RAW DNG recording support
  • Addresses an issue where pixel artefacts are seen in edges with strong highlights while shooting in 1080 mode
  • Adds autofocus support for compatible EF lenses
Blackmagic Cinema Camera
  • Updated user interface
  • Adds autofocus support for compatible EF lenses Improved debayering when shooting to ProRes or DNxHD
  • Improved focus peaking display
  • Improved ISO handling when shooting at ISO 1600
  • Improved general audio performance
  • Iris setting is retained when switching between camera recording and clip playback
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
  • Updated user interface
  • Improved performance when recording using internal microphones
  • Improved instances where a grid-like pattern may occur in some flare highlights
  • General improvements in autofocus with active MFT lenses
  • Adds supports for stabilization in MFT lenses without physical O.I.S switches
  • Improved support for Sigma MFT lenses
  • Improved support for Lumix 12-42mm PZ lens
  • Improved support for Olympus 60mm f/2.8 MFT lens
  • Iris setting is retained when switching between camera recording and clip playback
Blackmagic Studio Camera
  • Improved phantom power compatibility
  • Addresses an issue with interlaced video being output as progressive video
Get the full run down in this video from Blackmagic Design CEO Grant Petty.

The big news, of course, is that the Blackmagic "4K" Production Camera now records to Cinema DNG RAW. The improvements for the other cameras in the line are nice, but not as significant. It would have been a real win for Blackmagic if they had been able to fix the BMCC's black dot problem, for example.

If you want to shoot UHD and want 12-bit color depth and the flexibility and gradeability of RAW in post, the Blackmagic Design 4K Production Camera ($2995 with free Sony UWPV1 Lavalier Microphone, Bodypack Transmitter & Portable RX Wireless System at Adorama) is pretty much the only game in town below $10,000. If anything here has helped you to make a purchase decision, please support our sponsors by clicking on the links or pictures above or the display ads below and in the margins. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these posts coming. Thanks so much for your support!

Off to update my BMPCC to see how well these updates work!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

GH4 Leads Major Bloggers to Leave Canon DSLRs - A Trickle or Beginning of a Flood?

Image courtesy

A few years ago, when one of the most outspoken Canon EOS bloggers on the web, Andrew Reid of, switched to the Panasonic GH2 and starting writing about the lack of innovation in Canon video DSLRs, he was a bit of a voice in the wilderness.

In the early part of this decade, most of the bloggers I followed, emm at; Dave Dugdale at; Caleb Pike at; DJ at and others were all shooting video pretty much exclusively with Canon DSLRs (I really respect all of these guys, so please visit their blogs and support them).

As long time readers of this blog and my forum postings will know, I tried a Canon video DSLR for a few months in early 2010, but quickly became frustrated with its limitations - no viewfinder in video mode, no autofocus in video mode, limited recording time and lack of a swiveling LCD. My GH2 fixed all of those problems for me back then (plus problems I didn't know I had, such as moire and aliasing) and I have been a mirrorless shooter ever since, upgrading to the GH3 in 2012 and to the GH4 this year.

That is why what is happening now is so interesting to me personally (and I admit it, a little satisfying). In the wake of the GH4's release, several of the bloggers on the list above, all of whom have been identified very closely with Canon DSLRs, are now very publicly expressing their displeasure with Canon's lack of innovation over the past 5 years and failure to add even the most basic video features, such as 1080/60p and focus peaking, to their DSLRs below the $10,000 Canon 1D C. Heck, they won't even give shooters a headphone jack below the price of the $3000+ Canon 5D Mark III.

Here is why Dave Dugdale and Caleb Pike are leaving Canon, in their own words:

At the high end, DSLR shooters who can afford it have already moved away from DSLRs entirely, and up to large sensor, interchangeable lens large sensor camcorders from Canon Cinema EOS, Blackmagic and Sony. So many, in fact, that many mainstream professional shooters and blogs have declared the DSLR revolution to be "over".

But there are still many serious shooters who have resisted the move away from Canon DSLRs because of the size & cost of high end camcorders - or because, like me, they want to carry a single hybrid camera for stills and video. Among these shooters were Dave Dugdale and Caleb Pike - but now, because of Canon's failure to innovate, these serious Canon DSLR shooters are moving on.

This is very bad news for Canon, in my view.  Many mature industries over the past few decades have taken their market position for granted, failed to innovate, kept prices higher than the market was wiling to pay - and been overtaken by smaller, more nimble competitors (see the US auto and micro-computer industries circa 1974).

The mass market often follows key thought-leaders who drive what the media and then consumers start to believe about products.  If the "Canon" brand and the words "lack of innovation" start to become linked in the minds of a critical number of consumers, this great company could very well suffer the fate of many leading companies that have gone before it.

If anything on this page has helped you to make a buying decision, please click on the links and images above and below, and please support our sponsors by clicking on the banners in the margins.  It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help keep these posts coming.  Thanks so much!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

New 4K Panasonic FZ1000 - Sony RX10 Killer?

Last night, Panasonic announced the first UHD ("4K") camera below $1000 - the $897.99 Panasonic DMC-FZ1000 (available for pre-order at Amazon and Adorama). This camera has a list of great video features in addition to UHD - such as a 1" sensor, focus peaking and zebras, 5-axis stabilization and cine gammas. Here's a nicely shot UHD video from Panasonic (please watch at your monitor's highest resolution):

Aimed squarely at Sony's $1298 DSC-RX10, this camera has a very similar 1" 20MP sensor - but it tries to 'improve' on the RX10's terrific 8.3X constant aperture f2.8 lens by doubling the zoom range.  It's not much of an improvement, however, because the longer zoom range is offset by the loss of constant aperture (the new lens' aperture is a not very impressive f2.8-4.0).

It also fails to match the RX10 in other ways that matter to video shooters - it has no metal weather-sealed body, no ND filter, and no headphone jack.

In addition, when recording UHD, the US model is limited to 30fps and 30 minutes of recording time (25fps for the PAL model).  No 24fps.

Given the lack of serious video features, the addition of focus peaking, 5-axis stabilization, cine gammas, UHD "4K" and the 1" sensor may not be sufficient to compensate for this camera's shortcomings.

Bottom line - Reports of the RX10's demise are greatly exaggerated. At $897.99, the FZ1000 may sell well, but I don't recommend it for serious video shooters. If you want a compact superzoom with serious video chops, I recommend saving up an extra $400 for the RX10 - it's a great 1080p video camera with a headphone jack and a metal body that can stand up to a little weather.

If you want the flexibility and creativity of interchangeable lenses, you can get an all-metal GH3 body with a headphone jack for about $100 more than the FZ.

And for shooters who really want to upgrade to 4K - I recommend saving up for a camera that records to real 4K and 24fps - and without a 30 minute limit - the GH4.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to Record 4K with the Sony A7s - Without Waiting for the Atomos Shogun!

A lot of the excitement surrounding the introduction of the $2498 full frame video-centric "4K" Sony A7s at NAB a few months ago was a little muted when we discovered that the camera could only record 4K externally. But, we were told, the new $1995 Atomos Shogun 4K HDMI recorder was coming soon - and for just $4500, we would have an awesome 4K low light machine.

Well, filmmaker Yoshihiro Enatsu was unwilling to wait. He lashed up a $280 Blackmagic Design 4K HDMI-6G SDI converter and an $1895 Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Studio Pro, and created this incredible 4K video:

The setup is a lot bulkier than a Shogun, but the results speak for themselves. If you need 4K full frame right now, can get AC power into the field - and you don't want to spend the money for a $3495 Aja Ki Pro Quad - this looks like a workable solution.

If anything here has helped you to make a purchase decision, please click on the links above or the display ad below - it won't cost you anything extra, and it will help keep the information in these posts coming. Thanks for your support!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Zacuto Control Grip - ENG Camera Killer?

I hung around the Zacuto both at NAB for a couple days to see the new Control Grip and Z-Motor, but, according to the NAB entry on the Zacuto News & Events page, the grip "didn't make it due to some last minute tweaks for Zacuto's high quality standards".

The Zacuto crew were very nice and very apologetic (shout out to Megan Lally, EVP for Sales & Marketing for the free t-shirt), but I wasn't able to see the grip. But enough about me.

The Control Grip and Z Motor did make it down to CineGear last week - and here's another great video from Nate Weber of, this time with Steve Weiss of Zacuto, pitching the new products:

After seeing this, it seems to me that broadcasters will be a lot less likely buy a traditional $12,000 ENG camera like the Panasonic AG-HPX600 (pictured above, with the big red "X" through it - subtle, eh?).

With a $5500 Dual Pixel Autofocus Canon C100, a $799 Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 for low light plus a $2699 Canon 28-300mm f3.5-5.6L or a $2499 Canon 70-200mm f2.8L for telephoto, stations will still have about $3000 left to buy a rig, control grip and z-motor - while staying under the price of the ENG camera.

At the end of the day, this means cinema quality Super 35 images for local TV broadcast, with the ease of use of ENG.

As this 2012 piece from suggests, 3CCD ENG camera sales have been declining for some time due to the advent of CMOS DSLRs, prosumer camcorders and relatively inexpensive large sensor cinema cameras such as the Canon C100/300.  But the last bastion of the old guard has been the fast autofocusing shoulder mounted ENG camera.  After watching this video, it seems to me that traditional ENG camera sales are destined to drop even faster.

The Zacuto Control Grip and Z-Motor haven't been released yet, but when they are, they'll be available at the Zacuto stores on Adorama and Amazon.

 If anything here has helped you to make a buying decision, please click on the links above or the display ads in the sidebar and below.  It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep the information in these posts coming.  Thanks for your support!

Record 10-bit 4:2:2 ProRes with a $295 Atomos Ninja Star Recorder and $160 Atomos CFast 1.0 Card!

When Atomos announced their new 1080p ProRes recorder, the $295 Ninja Star, at NAB 2014, it was seriously overshadowed by all the hype surrounding their new 4K HDMI recorder, the $1995 Shogun. But, over the last few months, excitement has built over the Star - principally because of its price point.

But the catch has been Atomos' choice of the Star's recording medium - CFast cards, the 2.0 versions of which have been priced in the thousands of dollars. But Atomos has just fixed that with the announcement of an Atomos-branded CFast 1.0 card.

Here's the announcement from Jeromy Young (CEO and founder of Atomos) to Nate Weber over at - shot last week at CineGear 2014 in LA (I wanted to drive down, but the CEO here is cutting back on my expenses :)):

This is really exciting news. Until now, the least expensive "field" recorder has been the bulkier $327 Blackmagic Hyperdeck Shuttle. I put "field" recorder in quotes because powering the Hyerdeck requires an AC outlet or generator.

The Ninja Star, on the other hand, will be just $295 and battery powered - with HDMI pass-through; an audio level monitoring display, a time remaining indicator and large, readable controls.  With a $159 64GB CFast 1.0 card, you'll be able to record 10-bit 4:2:2 Pro Res to a CF card for a total of $455!  For those who don't need the monitor built into the $695 Atomos Ninja 2, that's a big deal.

The other exciting news in the video is Atomos' custom micro HDMI to micro HDMI cable. With this cable, Panasonic GH4 shooters will be able to record 1080p 10-bit 4:2:2 ProRes straight to a tiny external recorder without the additional hassle and weight of a micro HDMI to HDMI adapter.  This will be ideal for aerial or run and gun shooters, who need a compact and lightweight solution.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

BBC Shoots Amazing Aerial Footage of Brazil with the Venerable GH2!

I lived in the UK for 5 years, and was always impressed by the BBC's willingness to explore new technologies for news gathering.  Here is some great BBC multicopter footage of Rio and back country Brazil shot with a classic Panasonic GH2:

And here is an interview with the pilot:

If you want one if these great ¨old"cameras, you can still pick up a used body starting at about $540 in the US and about £400 in the UK.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Flycam Flyboy III Stabilizer - Less Than $60!

Here's a great how-to video from the CineCity in India on balancing the new Flycam Flyboy III lightweight stabilizer. The camera seen in the example is the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera - which seems to be the perfect target camera for a lightweight stabilizer. What makes it even better is that the compact Flyboy III is less than $60 from the CineCity on eBay!

This looks like it's easy enough to balance that I'll actually use it. There are only 9 left as of this post - I'm ordering mine now, so there will only be 8 left for you guys :)

If you prefer not to order from eBay, get one from the CineCity through Amazon for a few dollars more.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sony Builds Anticipation for A7s with "Detailed Hands On" Video!

In the video below, Sony builds anticipation for the world's first full-frame camera with UHD ("4K") output. This camera records internally at up to 1080/60p and 720/120p compressed to 50mbps - a relatively low bit rate by modern standards. What really sets it apart, however, is the ability to record video at up to ISO 409600 (!). With this kind of light-gathering capability and external UHD recording, this camera should be the low-light/high resolution king. Here's the video:

I went to NAB very excited to see this camera - especially since I wasn't able to be there until Day 2 of the show. I watched the big Sony press event online on Day 1 and couldn't wait to get over to the Sony booth and get my hands on the camera. When I arrived, I was fortunate enough to get a chance to handle it and talk to a couple of Sony reps who had flown in from Japan. The high ISO sensitivity is real - and it produced great output on the show floor - but we'll have to see what the footage looks like once it's in the hands of shooters who don't work for Sony.

For those who need extreme low light sensitivity and the full-frame "look", but don't mind buying or renting an external recorder for UHD and don't need: 4096x2160 4K; 1080p slow motion; or 1080p bit rates beyond 50mbps, this may be the camera you've been waiting for. If it is, you can pre-order it for $2498 at Amazon or Adorama.

On the other hand, if you don't make movies in the dark, want to record 4K internally, and want 1080/96p slow motion and 1080p bit rates at up to 200mbps, you might be better off saving yoursefl $800 and ordering a $1698 Panasonic GH4.

And you'll probably have your camera sooner.