All posts by interceptor121

Panasonic GH5M2 and S series Demystifying Movie recording settings 2022 Update

 

In 2018 I wrote the original article as I had acquired the GH5 and I was faced with a ton of non-sense on which format to use when I was shooting video. With the S series software stack Panasonic has made some changes to the options available and I thought it was about time to refresh the original article. As Before I will focus my analysis on 4K video and ignore other formats. This time I will be looking at the NTSC standard of 29.97 and 59.94 frames per second. This is simply because today majority of content produced by Panasonic consumer digital cameras is consumed online and all computer screen work at 60 Hz refresh rate so shooting anything different than 30 or 60 will result in choppy video. This presents some challenges if you are in a PAL zone and are shooting under artificial lights however for the purpose of this article I want to just ignore this issue, obviously you could shoot 24 fps and hope in a 24 – 30 conversion which is scatty of course. For simplicity I will refer to 30 and 60 fps and not exact values.

Today we have 5 settings for UHD 

  1. 200 Mbps 420 10 Bits Long GOP 60 fps
  2. 150 Mbps 420 8 Bits Long GOP 60 fps
  3. 100 Mbps 420 8 Bits Long GOP 30 fps
  4. 150 Mbps 422 10 Bits Long GOP 30 fps
  5. 400 Mbps 422 10 Bits All-Intra 30 fps.

The last option is only available on the GH5 series and on the S1H. The first option is only available on the S series and the GH5M2. 

Long GOP vs All Intra

The difference between Long GOP and All Intra is that in the Long GOP what is encoded is a group of pictures (GOP) and not separate individual pictures.

Within a Group of Pictures there are different type of frames:

  • I (Intra coded) frames containing a full picture
  • P (Predictive coded) frames containing  motion interpolated picture based on a prediction from previous frames
  • B (bi-predictive coded) frames containing a prediction from previous or future frames

It is important to note that frames are not stored sequentially in a GOP and therefore the GOP needs to be decoded and the frames reordered to be played, this requires processing power.

The reason why H264/HEVC is very efficient is that within a group of picture there is only one full frame and the rest are predictions clearly if the prediction algorithm is accurate the level of perceived quality of long GOP is very high and similar to All-Intra clips.

This is the reason why comparing All Intra and Long Gop using static scenes or scenes with repetitive movement that can be predicted very accurately by the codec is a fundamental error.

So which format should you choose?

In order to understand the workings we need to dig deeper into the structure of the GOP but before doing so let’s evaluate the All-Intra codec.

AVC All-Intra explanation

This codec records at 400 Mbps so with 30 fps this means circa 13.4 Mbits per frame or  1.67 MB per frame and there is no motion interpolation so each frame is independent from the others. The implementation of All-Intra of the GH5 does not make use of CABAC entropy but only CAVLC coding is used, this makes the resulting files easier to read and to edit. The idea of All intra is that you don’t require powerful hardware to edit without conversion in an intermediate codec. However based on my experience this is not entirely through and you need a decent GPU to play it back and edit real time without issues.

If you consider a Jpeg image of your 3840×2160 frame on the GH5 you see that it stores around 4.8 MB per image because there is no chroma sub-sampling so if you wanted to have exactly the same result you would need to use ProRes 4444 to get a comparable quality (this not even taking into account that Jpeg are 8 bits images).

Video uses chroma sub-sampling so only part of the frame contain colours at a given time. Apple in their ProRes white paper declare that both ProRes 422 and 422 HQ are adequate to process 10 bit colour depth and 422 sub-sampling however they show some quality differences and different headroom for editing. If you count 50% for 4.2:0 sub-sampling and 67% for 422 you get around 2.34 MB and 3.5 MB frame sizes that correspond to ProRes 422 and ProRes 422 HQ individual frame sizes.

it would appear that All Intra 400 Mbps would fall short of Apple recommended bit-rate for 422 10 bit colour however practical tests show that AVC All intra at 400 Mbps is perceptually identical to ProRes 422 HQ and uses much less space. We also did some SNR measures time ago with the friend Paal Rasmussen and we did not find significant improvements shooting ProRes 422 HQ vs All-I on card.

Long GOP Codecs

Coming back to the other recording quality option we still need to evaluate how the various long GOP codecs compare relative to each other.

In order to fully understand a codec we need to decompose the GOP into the individual frames and evaluate the information recorded. If you look on Wikipedia it will tell you that P frames are approximately half the size of an I frame and B frame are 25%. I have analysed the Panasonic GH5M2 clips using ffprobe a component of ffmpeg that tells you what is exactly in each frame to see if this explains some of the people claims that there is no difference between the settings.

Link to Panasonic on the H264 implementation is here: documentation

There is unfortunately no documentation of the HEVC implementation that I have found to date.

200 Mbps 420 10 Bits Long GOP 60 fps Analysis

An analysis with ffprobe shows a GOP structure with N=30 and M=1 where N is the length in frames of the group of pictures and M is the distance between I or P frames.

This codec does not have B frames but only P frames.

Analysing a set of I frames of a fixed subject at 60 fps resulted in a frame size of 1.16MB for the I frames. This value is quite low however we need to understand that HEVC is much more efficient than H264. 

I shot this test video time ago comparing the recording of this codec with a Ninja V in ProRes 422 HQ. As you can see no major differences however I have not pushed the grading in the clip.

The speed ramps in this video use this codec

 

150 Mbps 420 8 Bits Long GOP 60p Analysis

An analysis with ffprobe shows a GOP structure with N=30 and M=3 where N is the length in frames of the group of pictures and M is the distance between I or P frames.

So each Group of Pictures is made like this

IBBPBBPBBPBBPBBPBBPBBPBBPBBPBB before it repeats again.

Analysing a set of I frames of a fixed subject at 30 fps resulted in a frame size of 1.26MB for the I frames.

One very important aspect of the 150 Mbps codec is that as the GOP is double the length of the single frame rate 100 Mbps codec there are the same number of key frames per second and therefore it is NOT true that this codec is better at predicting motion however the additional frames result in better slow motion performance than what is done in software in majority of cases.

100 Mbps 420 8 Bits Long Gop 30 fps Analysis

An analysis with ffprobe shows a GOP structure with N=15 and M=3 where N is the length in frames of the group of pictures and M is the distance between I or P frames.

So each Group of Picture is made like this

IBBPBBPBBPBBPBBP before it repeats again.

Analysing a set of I frames of a fixed subject at 30 fps resulted in a frame size of 1.49MB for the I frames which is the highest if we exclude All I.

150Mbps 422 10 Bits Long Gop 30 fps

An analysis with ffprobe shows a GOP structure with N=15 and M=1 which means this codec does not use B frames but just I and P frames so the GOP structure is as follows:

IPPPPPPPPPPPPPP before it repeats again.

Analysing a set of I frames of a fixed subject at 30 fps resulted in a frame size of 1.25MB for the I frames.

H264 Codec Ranking for Static Image Quality UHD

So in terms of absolute image quality and not taking into account other factors the Panasonic GH5M2 and S series Movie recording settings ranked by codec quality are as follows:

  1. 400 Mbps 422 10 Bit All intra 30 fps (1.67 MB per frame)
  2. 100 Mbps 420 8 Bit Long Gop 30 fps (1.49 MB per frame)
  3. 150 Mbps 420 8 Bit Long Gop 60 fps (1.26 MB per frame)
  4. 150 Mbps 422 10 Bit Long Gop 30 fps (1.25 MB per frame)

The 100 Mbps  and 400 Mbps codec are marginally different with the 150 Mbps long GOP really far away.

Note that as the technology is different I cannot directly compare the new 200 Mbps codec however based on visual impression and ability to grade I would recommend this over the 150 Mbps 420 8 bits

Conclusion

If you have a camera that has the 400 Mbps All Intra this remains the best format  to use. V90 cards have dropped in price and are now available up to 256 GB. Unfortunately this option is only available on the GH5 series and on the S1H.

If you have a camera that does not have the All-I you can of course purchase an external recorder that in some cases will allow you to shoot RAW however this is not necessarily going to give better image quality and will definitely extend your processing time.

My revised advice, if your camera does not have the ALL I and you don’t have an external recorded, is as follows:

  1. Use the 100 Mbps Long Gop codec it is very efficient in the compression and the perceived quality is very good. You need to get the exposure and white balance right in camera as the clips may not withstand extensive corrections. There is a risk with footage with a lot of motion of some errors in motion interpolation that can generate artefacts but this based on experience is not very high. 
  2. Use the new 200 Mbps HEVC for double frame rate it is not hard to process as HEVC 10 bits has hardware acceleration on all platforms.

Generally there appears to be no benefit using the internal 422 10 Bit codec nor the 420 8 bit double frame rate due to the limitations of the GOP structure, in addition the lack of hardware acceleration for H264 10 bits means you will need to convert the files for editing and they do not open with standard programs or load on phones or tablets. The same is true for All Intra but at least you can edit it ok.

To conclude this is a summary table with all key information

Screenshot 2022-01-24 at 18.01.50

Additional Considerations

A certain number of GH5 users have upgraded to the S5, I was one of them until I sold the camera after 1 month of using and after buying a Ninja V. If you are a Panasonic S1/S5 user you need not only to contend with recording time limits but also with lack of codecs on the camera to fully use the potential that it has. You need to add an external recorder to really see the benefits because in real life situations you are not shooting a step chart so the dynamic range is destroyed by compression quality and errors and SNR drops. It would be interesting to test how does the GH5M2 400 Mbps compare with one of the S cameras using the 150 Mbps 10 bit codec but this is not something I did. I would only warn everyone going down that path that you may get less than what you think and you may require additional hardware to get there. Take also into account that S series only shoot 50/60 fps in APSC/Super35 mode and that in full frame mode there is a substantial amount of rolling shutter that makes pans and tilt practically not possible.

Panasonic GH5S Review – Conclusion

I hope you found the tests useful and I guess the key question is:

Is the GH5S still worth it in 2022?

I have prepared a comparison table with the GH5 and GH5M2 using data available and for noise my subjective measurements supported by the video evidence.

As you can see from the table the GH5S still has some unique features:

  • RAW support (ProRes RAW and BRAW)
  • VLOG performance
  • High ISO performance straight out of camera
  • Slightly lighter and better battery life

So if any of the above are essential to you there is still a case for the GH5S.

However the GH5M2 with Neat Video will cost you $1,699+$129=$1,828, for sure you will have to work without Vlog and RAW but you will have many other benefits and you will not need a recorder to shoot 50/60 fps bringing the overall cost down significantly.

Panasonic GH5S long overdue review – Part III Low light Field Test

For part 3 of my test I ran the GH5S side by side with GH5M2 with the same settings used for daylight. The GH5S used VLOG which is the best photo style for it while the GH5M2 used CineD2, again the best photo style for it. Bear in mind if you had run this comparison with both cameras on VLOG the GH5S would have trashed the GH5M2 at high ISO because the implementation of VLOG in the GH5M2 is simply not performing.

The two cameras were set in multi metering with focus at hyperfocal distance. I tried to match the field of view using the 10-25mm on the GH5M2, make no mistake the PL 15/1.7 I used on the GH5S is an amazing and very sharp lens. Both cameras were set to auto white balance and I put the GH5M2 in auto ISO because it shows on screen the value it is using while the GH5S was set in complete manual. Whenever the GH5S was displaying a negative value on the meter I would increase ISO 1/3 Ev. The GH5M2 was left to deal with it in auto as I had previously confirmed the meters were aligned, or at least this is what I thought until this test.

GH5S left and GH5M2 right

I started all the way from ISO 200 and waited until night fall.

If you want to watch the video and form your own view here is the link. You will need a Tv with zoom function to be able to see the fine details.

My expectation was that the cameras would perform almost the same until ISO 1600 at that point the dual gain of the GH5S should produce better results. I will spare the analysis at lower ISO values as it does not really say much.

Analysis

As explained in the video you need to focus on three part of the image. The top part and any residual tone of the sky tells you if the camera is loosing DR. The tables at the bottom are a sign of loss of detail due to noise but also of possible temporal noise reduction. Temporal noise is a flickering resulting from noise scattered differently in the frames. When the image retains detail but has this flicker it is said to have temporal noise. If the clip looks stable but lacking a bit of edge details it is a sign of potential temporal noise reduction in camera.

Due to the lower pixel count temporal noise reduction in the GH5S would perform better than in a higher pixel count camera.

ISO 1250

Here the GH5S is in low gain and my expectation was performance to be very similar. At this ISO value the GH5S retained good detail however showed more noise in each part of the frame.

GH5M2 Moving Detail
Same detail on the GH5S note the added chroma noise

The noise levels appear identical in the static parts of the frame.

GH5M2 static detail

All in all at ISO 1250 the situation appears very similar the GH5S has a bit more noise but still have detail compared to the GH5M2.

ISO 2000

The light dropped suddenly so I did not manage to record the ISO 1600 step on both camera at the same time as I was distracted by external factors (had to order at the bar).

GH5M2 detail at ISO 2000
GH5S ISO 2000

Although the noise appear similar I would say the GH5S retained more detail at ISO 2000, consider the observation is far away and on the edges of the frame so it is a difficult scenario.

GH5MS static detail
GH5S static detail

Looking at the static part gives a different picture with the GH5M2 having an edge and the GH5S smudging details.

ISO 2500

I was expecting the GH5S to be a clear winner at its second native ISO.

GH5M2 detail birds moving
GH5S detail

The part of the frame with motion did not show a much better detail for the GH5S while the static part looked cleaner.

GH5M2 static detail
GH5S static detail

This behaviour makes me think that the GH5S has a stronger temporal noise reduction filter. When it does not detect motion it goes down hard resulting in a very clean image. When it does detect movement it becomes more cautious especially if the moving parts use only a small area. This would explain the mixed behaviour in the ISO 2500 situation.

Overall I was expecting much better performance and a clear difference between the two.

ISO 3200

My expectation was that as the ISO was going up the gap between the two cameras would have increased however at ISO 3200 I was surprised to see the GH5M2 made a recovery and the quality is almost identical.

GH5M2 ISO 3200 motion detail
GH5S motion detail

In addition I can see the GH5S noise reduction starting to eliminate some details when it can’t quite work out what to do. Look at the table tops near the two walkers in the frame.

GH5M2 Static detail
GH5S static detail

ISO 3200/4000

At this point I was presented an additional surprise the two camera started to have a gap in the metering so for a good few minutes the GH5M2 stayed on ISO 3200 while the GH5S was reaching out for more gain.

Ultimately this resulted in identical image quality in the parts with motion with the GH5S retaining some fine details better but the GH5M2 producing at the end a comparable result.

GH5M2 ISO 3200 Motion Detail
GH5S ISO 4000 Motion Detail

I won’t bore you with the static parts as they look identical.

ISO 4000/5000

The GH5M2 reached ISO 4000 however the GH5S had already moved to 5000. The consequence is that the image quality was the same.

GH5M2 ISO 4000 Motion Detail
GH5S ISO 5000 Motion Detail

Again the static parts were the same.

ISO 5000

Eventually both cameras were at ISO 5000 and here I could see a lead of the GH5S in the motion details but no benefit in the static details in terms of sharpness. However when you actually play the footage you can see the flickering of the temporal noise on the GH5M2.

GH5M2 ISO 5000 Motion Detail
GH5S ISO 5000 Motion Detail

The static details retain the same definition and resolution.

GH5M2 ISO 5000 Static detail
GH5S ISO 5000 Static detail

At this point is very clear to me that what is giving an edge up to now to the GH5S is the superior performance of noise reduction in camera as the actual dynamic range did not seem to be an element. If at all the sky becomes washed out sooner in the GH5S.

ISO 6400

From this point onwards the GH5S takes the lead however I would not say that the resulting image quality was very high. I would frankly avoid this ISO level but in desperate cases can certainly be used.

GH5M2 ISO 6400 Motion Detail
GH5S ISO 6400 Motion Detail

Perhaps more interestingly the GH5M2 although more noisy seems to preserver more details of the static part.

GH5M2 ISO 6400 static detail
GH5S ISO 6400 static detail

Noise Reduction

It became apparent during this test and you will see it clearly in the video that the GH5S has a very effective in camera noise reduction (even with NR=-5 this is still on) potentially because it does not have many pixels and can be quite aggressive with it. I tried using Neat Video with the GH5S however there was loss of detail, with the GH5M2 I could apply a temporal filter to the ISO 5000 you can see the results in the video and see what you think.

Light Levels

I was surprised to see the camera meter reading differently considering the matched set up. I also could see that the light level had to fall considerably so that the GH5S would have a benefit. In substance until both cameras were at ISO 5000 (I was using f/1.7 lenses) it did not look like the higher sensitivity of the GH5S was sufficient on its own to give a performance edge.

Higher ISO

I continued the test all the way to ISO 25600 for the GH5S the results were not exciting although you could say the camera does a decent job at showing some information. In general it seemed the camera was running out of dynamic range and also of image quality.

GH5S ISO 10000 static detail
GH5S ISO 10000
GH5M2 ISO 12800

At this point (ISO 12800) I would say that the benefit of the GH5S was now a full stop. In addition it can go to 25600.

GH5S ISO 25600

Low Light Sensitivity

I was expecting to see a material difference between the GH5S and the GH5M2 from ISO 1600 or at latest ISO 2500 with this gap growing at higher values. What I have seen instead is a bizarre progression where the GH5M2 would catch up and almost match the GH5S until ISO 4000 with a clear benefit only when the exposure was 5000 for both. It looks like in line with the aptina Dr Pix paper benefits only arrive near 0.01 lux*sec becoming higher later.

So we need 50% of ambient light * exposure time / aperture stop to be 0.01.

If we think about it f/2 1/60 this means aperture in stop is 2 which means a factor of 4. So working the inverse in order to get 0.01 lux*sec we would have 2*60*4*0.01=4.8 Lux.

If we consider an f/1/7 lens than this becomes 3.4 Lux and finally with an f/1.4 lens this would be 2.4 Lux.

In reality most f/1.4 or f/1.7 lenses really are just f/1.8 or f/2 so a value of 4 Lux for ambient light is reasonable. And this is the point where the benefit would start getting better as it goes darker. This is also consistent with my test the real performance difference started really to manifest a lot at ISO 5000 and became higher later.

We also have to consider thought that certain part of the image like the deep shadows will show a benefit sooner even if the ambient light is broadly sufficient. So it is not as clear cut as it would appear and the test confirmed such behaviours.

Conclusion

Perhaps the biggest surprise was how effective a traditional front illuminated sensor can be and how small was the gap with the GH5M2.

A key difference between my tests and others you can find on the net is that nobody actually runs tests with two cameras side by side and we have seen that at high ISO values the cameras did not meter exactly the same but what matters is the image quality at that point in time so the test still stands.

One thing has to be said though and this is that as of today if you want a micro four thirds camera style device (not a box or a cinema camera with no weather sealing) that works in low light with VLOG you are left with only one choice and that is the GH5S.

In the next part a wrap and some considerations about use cases and current competition for the GH5S.

Panasonic GH5S long overdue review – Part II Daylight Field Test

The second part of the test consisted in running the GH5S in parallel to the GH5M2 using CineD2. If you wonder why I did not use VLOG on the GH5M2 is because as discussed in a previous article VLOG on the GH5/GH5M2 is just a picture profile and does not really do anything other than deteriorate the noise in the shadows. So I used CineD2 as I wanted the maximum performance out of the GH5M2. The GH5S instead performs better in VLOG for reasons explained in the VLOG article as well.

So with the two cameras on tripods I went out for a walk and took several shots with similar exposure settings. Instead of using ISO 400 I used 200 on the GH5M2 which means the lens was one stop brighter on the GH5M2.

GH5S left and GH5M2 right

The practical tests confirmed what I was expecting based on the light box tests:

  1. The GH5S has a tendency to oversaturated reds and move blue to cyan so deep blues in the sky are almost never available. This was not so much of an issue during this test as the sky was overcast however you can see the clouds do not really have any blue tones.
  2. Auto white balance during the day performed consistently to the GH5M2 generating most times the same reading or at most a 200K difference. On this basis I do not understand why users speak about a magenta cast in some shots.
  3. The GH5S had better battery performance of the GH5M2 and I think this has to do with the LCD which is now much dimmer than the new camera as you can see in the picture.
  4. I did not see any more dynamic range in the GH5S. I would say a tad less than the GH5M2 on CineD2 at base ISO. This is visible in the second scene where I spot metered on the subject. Both camera had almost no tones left in the sky although they did not clip with the GH5M2 having perhaps an edge there.
Uncorrected out of camera waveform for the GH5S exposed to the right in VLOG
Uncorrected out of camera waveform for the GH5M2 exposed to the right in CineD2

Looking at the waveform after ETTR with the cameras showing near clipping you can see that the highlights are practically the same however VLOG has lower midtones and less darks.

This is the full video on youtube so you can make your own calls. The footage has been stretched to maximise DR ad hoc in the first scene and hues have been corrected for daylight. No other grading has been performed. In the second scene both cameras were maxed out and no further stretching has been done as it was not improving the scene.

The potential benefit of the GH5S over other models

The following table extrapolates the GH5S dynamic range considering a shift of 3dB in gain (ISO 400 -> 200 shifted)

ISO SettingGH5M2GH5SGH5Delta GH5M2 MaxDelta GH5 Max
4009.089.298.530.210.76
5038.719.048.220.330.82
6368.488.687.840.20.84
8008.178.397.530.220.86
10068.028.087.250.060.83
12737.657.766.950.110.81
16007.337.876.610.541.26
20116.907.636.300.731.33
25466.667.275.960.611.31
32006.286.995.650.711.34
40225.986.695.320.711.37
50915.646.374.970.731.4
64005.306.064.600.761.46
80455.015.714.310.71.4
101834.685.403.940.721.46
128004.335.043.590.711.45
16090
4.76

GH5M2

GH5
20366
4.39Avg0.5031251.16875
25600
4.07Min0.060.76



Max0.761.46
PDR table with gain shit

Please note this is an extrapolation I have not take measures however assuming VLOG impacts all cameras equally once gain is taken into account what you see there is that the GH5S has a potential benefit between 0.76 and 1.46 Ev over the original GH5 which is consistent with user experiences and website tests.

When you look at the GH5M2 the potential benefit drops to 0.5 and under 1600 is almost zero becoming 2/3 Ev when the GH5S is in high gain. This is also consistent to various tests on websites like dpreview and CineD.

The table does not consider however that CineD2 on the GH5M2 does accomplish more than VLOG in virtue of less noise and also does not consider the fact that some of the DR will be lost in the underexposure happening behind the scenes.

Part 2 Wrap Up

It is not difficult to see that the GH5S has good performance in daylight conditions however it does not really have any edge worth investing in it for this use case. So if you are not always at high ISO levels (>>1600) you may be getting better value from the GH5M2 that costs less takes photos and has IBIS. To be perfectly honest due to the way VLOG works I did not see major benefit even when I tested the S5 because the extra DR in the highlight was not really useful.

When we look at the GH5 instead the GH5S does remain superior but this is due to weakness of the GH5 itself. It really is quite clear that the software stack of the GH5 is really dated and the camera fairly noisy.

In the next article I will analyse two side by side shots of the GH5S and GH5M2 in low light.

Panasonic GH5S long overdue review – Part I Light Box Analysis

Since its announcement exactly 4 years ago the GH5S has been an enigmatic and successful camera for Panasonic. Today 4 January 2022 it still retails at £1,899 and it has upheld price more than the original GH5.

You would wonder who would want to get a 10 megapixel camera without stabilisation and the answer is many people that are solely focussed on video. The camera has built a reputation for low light performance and dynamic range and has been praised for its ‘color science if there is such a thing.

So after using the GH5M2 for six months I decided to rent a unit from Wex Photo and run a side by side comparison for myself.

When I say side by side I do not mean just in theory I mean in practical with the cameras close to each other and shooting the same scene.

For my tests I used a light box and a set of grey, white and color checkers and the same identical lens Panasonic 30mm macro. And for the outdoor scenes I set the GH5s with a Panasonic Leica 15mm 1.7 and the GH5M2 with a 10-25mm. As the GH5S has a multi-aspect sensor I needed to zoom the lens to less than 14mm to get the same field of view.

Before getting into the actual tests it is time to debunk a few myths about the GH5s.

Less Pixels = Less Rolling Shutter not more Dynamic Range

Camera readout is limited mostly by the speed of the Analog to Digital conversion. So having less pixels helps readout and reduces rolling shutter. This is the reason why all camcorder and dedicated cinema cameras have the minimum amount of pixels required and nothing extra.

This is true for the GH5S, the reputable website CineD as well as dpreview show a benefit of a couple of milliseconds for the GH5S over other cameras with a 20 megapixels micro four third sensor. This may be important when doing panning shots or using the camera on a dashboard or gimbal.

On the bigger pixels helping dynamic range there are a number of sources that explain why this is not the case but more importantly the the GH5S sensor has actually a quad bayer structure with cells of 4.6 microns made of 4 pixels each. So in reality the GH5S sensor has 43.64 megapixels arranged in 10.91 million cells that give 10.91 megapixels in 4:3 aspect ratio 9.07 megapixels in the 17:9 wide format. So not only bigger pixels are no help to dynamic range but the GH5S sensor actually has more pixels.

The sensor in the GH5S does not have higher dynamic range than other MFT cameras

Photonstophotos managed by Bill Claff is the only site that has measures of almost all camera models. While engineering dynamic range is purely determined by the difference between saturation signal and lowest readable signal, photographic dynamic range is what we see and is generally determined from setting a defined SNR for the image scaled to 12″ size long or 8 megapixels. This is roughly the 4K video resolution so it is a good starting point.

From this graph we can see that the G9, although based on the same sensor of the original GH5, outperforms the latter and the GH5s when it comes to dynamic range.

I am always cautious with measures taken by others so I did a full test and asked Bill to check the difference.

While in some cases there was an improvement of 0.18 Ev this would not be sufficient to push this sensor above the G9.

So the Panasonic GH5S sensor does NOT have more dynamic range of other Panasonic cameras with more pixels on the same format although it does quite well and at high ISO outperforms the GH5 at RAW level.

The multi aspect sensor has a bigger size in video but this does not improve dynamic range significantly

Due to the multi aspect ratio it is true that the sensor does not loose from a crop when changing aspect however we need to understand more what the potential benefit is.

A higher megapixel sensor with pixel of 3.3 microns will use its whole width and a cropped part of the height. If we look at 5184×2916 pixels surface this measures (5184×3.3)x(2916×3.3)=164.62 square millimeters. The GH5S with a cell size of 4.6 microns will have a surface of (3840×4.6)x(2160×4.6)=175.5 square millimeters.

Considering that dynamic range is proportional to the square root of the surface the improvement would be SQRT(175.5/164.62)=1.032 which in Stops is 0.046. So the larger area does not really do anything in 16:9 aspect ration.

In 17:9 the situation is a bit different and this benefit is 0.14 Ev still nothing so large to have a very significant impact.

During my tests I found the change of horizontal field of view which is what really matters confusing so personally I like to have a standard sensor with crop considering the benefits of multi-aspect are really limited.

The sensor of the GH5S has higher sensitivity

One of the features that the GH5S has is the so called Dual Native ISO. This is a marketing term for the Aptina DR-PIX technology which has been implemented by Sony for some time.

A white paper is here as you can read the technology enables sensors to increase sensitivity at the expense of dynamic range. The potential improvement is up to 5 dB however this is only true for very low light levels. To give an idea at deep twilight there is around 1 lux so with an exposure time of 1/50 of a second we have 0.02 lux*s this is not in the core range for this technology so more is required.

Back illuminated sensor give the additional sensitivity required as explained on Sony semiconductors page.

Now the combination of dual gain and back illumination means that the GH5S can do better at low light levels but also can tolerate very high levels of ISO. So the GH5S has additional high ISO capability for around two stops which means you can almost shoot in the dark. The key question is when does this matter when you have a fast lens.

Looking at an exposure waterfall calculator we can see that with an f/1.4 lens at 1/60 and ISO 3200 we can still cover twilight which is when public illumination is switched on.

In general terms all being equal the GH5S would have around 2/3 stops benefits in low light or in deep shadows compared to other cameras with MFT sensor.

This is quite interesting to test and quite simple using a color checker and a noise reduction software like neat video.

Here the first two samples are grey and black patches in VLOG at ISO 1600 using the Low Gain setting.

Middle Grey ISO 1600 Gain Low
Black Patch ISO 1600 Low Gain

We can see that while the noise level on the middle grey is contained the black patch jumps to 4.4.

If we take the same reading manually selecting the High Gain range we can see how the situation changes.

ISO 1600 High Gain Middle Grey

On the middle grey we are in a very similar situation. However when we look now at the black patch we can see that the level of noise has dropped significantly.

Black Patch ISO 1600 High Gain

So we can see that switching the camera from low to high gain at the same ISO has a significant benefit on darks in terms of noise.

VLOG to the rescue

With what we have said so far there has not been enough to substantiate why the GH5S would have more video dynamic range than the GH5 but VLOG comes to the rescue.

When Panasonic introduced the Varicam 35 in 2014 they were presented with the issue of having too much dynamic range.

Panasonic already have their CineLike Gamma that was able to manage 12 stops of dynamic range however this was no longer sufficient.

So the Varicam35 was provided with RAW output and with AVC Intra recording on their expensive expressp2 cards. VLOG provided an opportunity to compress the camera dynamic range in a 10 bit container that could then be recorded on card.

Panasonic made a first attempt to deliver VLOG to their Lumix with the GH4 however at 8 bit depth it did not work well. The GH5 is the first camera to have a 10 bit implementation however due to the smaller sensor it was limited to a smaller range called VLOG L which covers 12 stops of dynamic range.

A report by EBU indicates that the GH5S has more dynamic range in both CinelikeD and HLG modes compared to VLOG. Those are not scientific but are a suggestion that perhaps for a sensor with a maximum dynamic range around 12 stops VLOG is not the most efficient option. HLG presents challenges due to the color space and gamut differences however CineLike D does not require anything specific to process. Users have complained about the color accuracy of CinelikeD and generally Panasonic has been sponsoring VLOG and so have many websites under the assumption that this was the best way to preserve the full dynamic range.

While this may be true for larger sensors it would appear that this is not definitely true for the smaller MFT format.

In addition the implementation of VLOG among different camera is not the same as I already wrote here.

So in summary it is true that if you want to use VLOG the GH5S is a better option with a benefit that can be around 1 stop at high ISO over the best performing MFT camera at time of writing the GH5M2.

If you want to see the behaviour of the GH5S using a color checker you can appreciate the low level of noise at high ISO.

Color Accuracy and White Balance

I used a vectorscope to evaluate how the GH5S reproduces hues in VLOG. All tests done with factory settings and official Panasonic VLOG

You can see that the skin tone marker is exactly on target however red is more saturated than other colors and cyan is desaturated

The blue use is also shifted towards cyan.

This means that the GH5S can potentially produce a red cast and not give deep blue skies.

The weather was rubbish during my tests however from this example you can see how the red is definitely overboard by looking at the hat of the runner that comes on the scene.

This is something to watch out and a hue correction in post is required in most cases to bring things to normal.

Note that this issue with VLOG and the oversaturated red is also present in the GH5M2 that has very much the same color science or lack of thereof and will produce reddish tones on your skin that need to be corrected.

Take into account that hue correction is not resolved by setting a custom white balance.

For the hardcore pixel peepers I have shot a whole sequence of xrite color checker at all ISO steps

Exposure Meter

On a positive note the GH5S in VLOG meters correctly unlike the other GH5 siblings that are 1 stop overexposed.

You can see on the waveform monitor that setting the target at zero gives middle grey exactly on 50% on multi metering. On spot it will go at 45% which is what is expected.

Part 1 Wrap Up

From a series of quite simple tests done in a light box my expectation is that the GH5S will do ok but not sensationally in bright scenes and will do better in low light low dynamic range scenes.

In the next article I will analyse two side by side shots of the GH5S and GH5M2 in daylight.

Deer Photography Workshops in Woburn

Join me photographing the annual Red Deer rut in the stunning grounds of Woburn Deer Park, near Milton Keynes, home to the largest deer population in the United Kingdom and featuring a variety of deer species. Workshops start in October, the peak mating season for the red deer the most iconic British species, and continue until February.

Mowement
The call

Who will benefit from this workshop

The workshop is tailored to beginner and intermediate wildlife photographers and will focus on photography techniques, exposure and fieldcraft required to get your perfect deer shot with the least possible effort. In addition to red deer other very photogenic deer species are on the grounds and will make fabulous portraits for prints or desktop wallpaper or social media. The session will also cover preparation and post processing to ensure you get your images to the best possible quality.

P1001104_DxO
Sika Deer

Logistics

The workshops starts with a preparatory video call where we will discuss how to get the shots prior to the actual shooting session. This will also account for expected weather conditions so you can make the most of the session.

The day begins around 7 in the morning and last for circa 2-3 hours of field work, you can then continue exploring the grounds on your own at your leisure. There will be a moderate level of walking in possibly uneven/muddy terrain around 10,000 steps in total.

Two days after the workshop we will look at your 3 favourite images from the session and how to post process them for best results.

Sunrise on Ice
The grounds offer incredible landscape photography opportunity

Equipment

You will need a lens with focal length between 200-500mm (35mm equivalent) ideally with a teleconverter if you want to get close up portraits plus any other lens for landscape shots (50-100mm equivalent is recommended) possibly with wide aperture if you are interested in sunrise photography (winter months only). You will also need wellington or waterproof walking boots, warm clothing and windproof jackets, in the winter months hats and gloves are also recommended. Only green, camo or dark colour clothing is allowed.

For post processing I will perform demonstrations using adobe suite products and DxO Photolab what you will see will be applicable to any software.

PANA3909_Stag_BW_Portrait

Participants and prices

The number of participants is limited to 3 per session and the price is £100 per person for the preparation call, the shooting and the post processing. Sessions are allocated on a first come first serve basis.

For 2021 I am offering a promotional price of £50 for all members of Chiltern Camera Clubs association. Please include details of your camera club membership in the booking. I am also offering 50% to instagram followers using a discount code that you can find on my posts. Only a limited number is available.

Workshops will be carried out in any weather conditions except the most extreme. In case of rescheduling you will be informed 48 hours prior and new dates will be arranged. Book early to avoid disappointment.

Dates & Booking

Session occur on weekends excluding bank holidays. Special session may be arranged on request mid-week by prior appointment.

Book your session here (you will be directed to the appointy website)

Code of Conduct

All activities are conducted in rigid observance of the British Deer Society code of conduct for photographers. You can familiarise yourself with it watching their informative video.

Workshops are conducted from public footpaths and you are required to underwrite a release form before the preparation call.

Back in the water Sorrento Peninsula 2021

Although COVID-19 vaccinations are starting to make a difference and travel is resuming is fair to say that we are still far from where we were in 2019 and it may take some time to get back there.

This means our diving travel destinations have been changing and there is much more local diving than before. Big countries like the US have a lot of diving and Caribbean destination on their doorstep those travellers have still quite a lot to choose in comparison to others.

For Europeans, in the geographical sense, there are options for short haul travel. Those do not compare to your macro trip to South East Asia or pelagic trips to South America or Maldives or similar, however you can get some pretty good shots.

In 2020 I had my first experience in Massa Lubrense and this year I was back there.

I wrote about it last year if you are looking for more details on the logistics so in this post I will focus on photography.

Getting back into RIB diving

After 1 year of forced stop from boat diving getting back into a RIB diving with 15 liters steel tanks was a bit of a shock, certainly better than shore diving but yet not exactly streamlines especially as I decided to get a semi-dry suit. Due to stock shortages in UK I was only able to fit into a Scubapro Nova Scotia 7.5mm that has a lot of buoyancy. The suit was definitely toasty but required a lot of weight to go down as it was brand new. Temperatures range from 26 degrees at the surface to 17 at depth in certain sites so after a chilling experience last year this time I was definitely ok.

I did 2 sets of 3 days diving clocking a total of 16 dives. The dives were all close to 60 minutes (time to get back on the RIB by procedure) and depth of 33 meters. I have to say I avoid decompression dives but really this destination does require you to dive deeper than what you expect in tropical destinations.

Camera Equipment

I had the new Panasonic GH5 Mark II that fits in the housing of the Mark I and two Sea and Sea YS-D2 strobes. I took only two lenses the Canon 8-15mm fisheye with metabones smart adapter and the new (for me) Panasonic 45mm 2.8 macro.

The zoom fisheye rig looked exactly like the one in the site menu.

Wide Angle

The visibility can be an issue on the Italian coast however you can mitigate the issue with good technique and photoshop. Interestingly water is always clearer at depth where of course you lack light so strobe power is important to get a good shot.

Banco di Santa Croce is the best spot to meet large grouper and has many sea fans and also macro life, eagle rays and other things to be found.

Grouper resting between red gorgonians
Two groupers chasing

I find also very interesting the schooling fish even if this is usually not well behaved Barracuda who never spin around or a variety of sea bream

Barracudas at Scoglio Penna
Saraghi (breams) at Scoglio Penna

For me the most interesting wide angle though are the cave shots at Scoglio dell’Isca and Punta Campanella

Halloween: multiple entrances to the Isca
Zoom on the lower entrances
Schooling cardinal fish at Punta Campanella

Sunburst opportunities are abundant and due to the depth relatively easy scorpionfish or small sea fans are ideal.

Sunseeker

The performance of the Canon 8-15mm on micro four thirds is just legendary!

Close Up and Macro

Afternoon dives at Puolo but also dives in Santa Croce or Mitigliano offer lots of close up opportunities.

It was the time of testing the Panasonic 45mm 2.8 on land I had the impression it gave better rendering of the Olympus 60mm and I definitely prefer it underwater.

Male Anthias in breeding coloration
Blenny with shrimp on his head standing on a cuttlefish!
Golden Blenny
Mating nudibranches

It is not just macro a long lens gets interesting closeup of large groupers

Tompot Blenny Head On

Wrap Up

Diving in Italy delivered again. I am seriously thinking a group trip would be worth it next year based on the itinerary I sketched last year.

Dates for 2022 would be 4-11 September outside of school holidays the diving is really calm as most Italian divers are back to work and the conditions are usually superb. If you are interested leave a comment and I will come back to you with costs and planned itinerary.

Panasonic GH5 Cage Rigs

If you have a GH5 (Mark I, II or S) you are probably not just doing underwater video but also taking scenes on land. In fact perhaps you are reading this blog and you do not even use your camera underwater.

Either way you know by now that shooting video just with your camera handheld is not a terribly good idea and the tools required are different from photography where once you have a tripod a remote shutter and a bunch of filters are practically set.

Video requires quite a bit of hardware. I have gone through this process and even tried to adapt some of my underwater hardware but it was really bulky and at the end you are better off with proper gear so I use Smallrig.

Smallrig is a Chinese company that makes tons of various bits for your camera for a variety of situations. The first item you need is a cage and they have just released a new updated version for the GH5 cameras.

Clicking the image above will take you to Amazon UK where you can check details of the item.

The cage is the starting point and you can put your camera strap the weight of 190 grams does not add terribly to the camera and in any case if you have a GH5 you are used to carry some more weight. The cage lives permanently on my GH5 unless I put it in the underwater housing.

I am now going to go through a series of set up that I use with some other components as well but first some words of warning.

Smallrig suggests to use a Nato handle on the left hand side however this blocks the HDMI side port from opening. In addition the arri locating pins are too high and if you use a side handle in arri format it will hang and not be level with the cage.

I wrote Smallrig to tell them and they accepted the feedback the reality is that they do not test designs with camera they run 3D simulations and they do not go and open all the ports, plugs etc. So the only handles that actually work with this cage and do not impede any functionality are in this article.

Monopod/Tripod Rig for Wildlife shooting

The basic rig for monopod and handheld work (this means you hold the camera steady and you do not move) has a top handle and a side handle plus a small microphone and if required an LCD shade.

Cage plus top and side handle microphone and LCD shader
Front view of the Handheld set up

I have gone through a series of handles for this cage and I have settled for the following items:

We are looking at £180 for all this hardware this stuff is not cheap however I just can’t emphasize how more ergonomic and effective this is compared to holding the camera directly.

I have this rig used it for my deer film project.

The Deer Watcher was shot with this rig on a monopod

Handheld Rig

There are situations where setting up a gimbal is too much and you want to take simple footage handheld just using the camera IBIS. This works very well with a standard zoom lens like the Panasonic DG Leica 12-60mm or the Lumix 12-60mm.

In those situations is better to have two handles and the set up needs to be as light as possible.

Handheld Rig for walking shots

You will notice that the handles are smaller and they are also lighter. If you walk with your camera you are typically using the LCD and with two handles you are able to be much more steady if you were just gripping the camera.

Handheld Rig rear view

You can also use the EVF instead of the LCD if you prefer to have three points of contact with the camera.

You will need two Mini Side Handles 2916.

Follow Focus Video Rig

In those situation where you are in a studio or controlled environment you can use manual focus for pulling and usually you also have a monitor to have precise exposure. I tend to use this on a fluid video head and sturdy tripod for indoor shots.

Focus Pulling Rig

Here I am shooting the mighty PanaLeica 10-25mm and I have my trusted Swit CM-55c field monitor.

Focus pulling rear view

I have an atomos ninja however since the GH5M2 has 60 fps in camera at 10 bits I only use it in bright outdoor scenes and the SWIT is just better in terms of tools and lighter.

Side view

With the new linear focus option for manual focus you can have a complete 360 degree turn of the wheel for manual focus if you so wish or shorter runs if preferred. I use 300 degrees.

You will need the Mini Follow Focus 3010 and then as monitor support you can go for a Universal Magic Arm with Small Ballhead – 2157 if your monitor is light. If you have a recorder you will need a Swivel and Tilt Monitor Adjustable Mount with Cold Shoe Mount – 2905 or if you prefer a similar item with Nato or screw mount. I find the cold shoe more versatile.

Wrap Up

It can be a bit daunting to search for the right items that do the job when you want to use your cage I hope this article will help you making the right choices and save time without having to do the trial error and return process I have done in the last year!

Travelling light – Part II on the field

Disclaimer: there are many USB power banks on sale however most of them do not declare the maximum output current and therefore you cannot be sure that it will work in all situations I describe. The equipment I use does work and is proven by my daily experience, the suggestions are not prescriptive but if you choose your own parts you do do at your own risk

It has been some time since my post on chargers and recharge facilities. During the pandemic I have done a considerable amount of land based photography including wildlife, landscape and astrophotography so I have had the opportunity to develop the concept of portability further on the field. So I wanted to share my experience with you all as some of the findings are beneficial in every day situation.

Charging your camera battery

Today some cameras can charge the battery in camera using USB. In almost all cases the camera needs to be turned off to allow charging, as a complete recharge of your battery can take a few hours I never use this method. I always rely on spare batteries typically 3 and a dual battery charger that can be powered using USB. I use Newmova they are cheap and cheerful for both my Panasonic and Olympus cameras.

Newmowa Dual USB Charger for Olympus BLH-1 and OM-D EM1 Mark II, OM-D E-M1X Camera £9.99

Newmowa Dual USB Charger for Panasonic DMW-BLF19 and Panasonic DMC-GH3,DMC-GH4 DMC-GH5, DC-GH5S(DMW-BLF19 Dual USB Charger) £9.99

With 3 batteries you can have two in the charger if needed and one in the camera which means uninterrupted shooting for a long period of time depending on your use.

Battery Grips

I also use battery grips in particular for my Olympus camera. Battery grip provide the most benefit when you are not wanting to interrupt shooting while swapping batteries. I usually set the camera to use the grip battery first and the camera as back up which means you can then insert another battery in the grip and keep shooting. I do not recommend using a battery grip as a sole source of power as at the end you can can go through 2 batteries relatively fast if you use quick burst shooting. The other dis-benefit of the grip is the one battery is always locked inside the camera so you need to increase your total battery stock to 4 if you use a dual charger. The grip is very useful to shoot verticals and provide weather sealing but overall is not my favourite option and I only use it for specific session on my Olympus camera because I only have 2 batteries.

There are some working 3rd party battery grip like this one that function AS LONG AS YOU USE ORIGINAL OEM BATTERIES.

Neewer Battery Grip Compatible with Panasonic Lumix G9 Camera Replacement for DMW-BGG9 with Shutter Release Focus Point Control Joystick £59.99

I have not seen versions for Olympus camera and the original battery grip is expensive. I got mine second hand for a good price.

Again if you only have two batteries or you want to rotate 4 batteries a battery grip is a good option if you don’t mind the extra weight.

Power Banks

I use a relatively simple USB power bank as I do not have PD capable cameras. This power bank has a decent capacity but more importantly it can output 4.5A using two outlets.

RAVPower Portable Chargers 16750 16750mAh External Battery Pack 4.5A Dual USB Output £24.99 

This power bank has also a light included very useful for your night photography. You can also use it to charge your phone but with two outlets means you can power two dual USB chargers and effectively charge 4 batteries twice until it runs out (typical battery less than 2000 mAh).

This power bank can also be used as constant power supply for cameras that take a dummy battery and do not support powering through USB.

DMW-DCC12 USB Power Cable kit DMW-DCC12 DC Coupler Dmw-Blf19 Dummy Battery (BLF-19 Battery Replacement) Compatible with PANASONIC DMC-GH3 DMC-GH4 DMC-GH3K DMC-GH4K DC-GH5 GH9 and more Digital Cameras £22.99

Using the power bank with this fake battery kit means I can run my GH5 in video for days (8.72x batteries equivalent charge).

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOUR POWER BANK OUTPUTS MORE THAN 3A OTHERWISE IF YOU USE MECHANICAL SHUTTER THE CAMERA MAY GO IN SHUTTER VIBRATION AND SUFFER PERMANENT DAMAGE

Some well know power bank from respectable brands like anker and even rawpower themselves only outputs 3A current total so when the mechanical shutter is used and the camera draws more current you run into issue. This also happens when you set a custom white balance and the camera triggers the mechanical shutter. So if you have such power bank you are limited and hence I do not recommend them.

If you also use flash you can use the same chargers I already linked in the previous article

Prices have dropped to £7.99 for the micro USB and £9.99 for the dual USB C and micro USB input. Note that despite the misleading description the two chargers are identical except one has micro USB and the other also USB-C. The USB-C version is slightly bigger (70x90x23 mm USB version vs 97x114x34mm USB C). The USB C version has a stronger output for AAA batteries that I do not use and it does not charge faster standard AA so don’t be mislead.

EBL 40Min Smart Fast USB Battery Charger for AA AAA Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries
EBL 2-hour Super fast AA AAA Rechargeable Battery Charger with Battery Intelligent Auto-detection Tech for 1-4 NiMH Rechargeable Batteries

Dew Heaters

Another useful accessory if you do astrophotography in humid or cold environment is a lens warmer. There are two versions I recommend the one with the temperature regulator as the strip gets to 50 C and this can increase dark current noise in your shots.

COOWOO Lens Heater Warmer Dew Heater with Temperature Regulator Strip for Ice Fog Universal Camera Telescopic Bottle Heating (Black)

Amazon.com links for my American followers

EBL 40Min Smart Fast USB Battery Charger for AA AAA Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries

DMW-DCC12 USB Power Cable kit DMW-DCC12 DC Coupler Dmw-Blf19 Dummy Battery (BLF-19 Battery Replacement) Compatible with PANASONIC DMC-GH3 DMC-GH4 DMC-GH3K DMC-GH4K DC-GH5 GH9 and more Digital Cameras

Neewer Battery Grip for Panasonic G9

RavPower 16750 mAh 4.5A dual USB power bank

NewMowa Olympus dual charger

NewMowa Panasonic dual USB charger

COOWOO Lens Heater Warmer Dew Heater with Temperature Regulator Strip for Ice Fog Universal Camera Telescopic Bottle Heating (Black)