Panasonic GH2

I’ve been shooting with the GH2 for just over 3 months now. It is a solid DSLR camera that is suitable for projects ranging from video blogs to documentary films to features. In this post, which I will update regularly, I share my discoveries, techniques and mistakes with the goal to help current and potential GH2 owners as much as I can.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Which GH2 to Purchase?

There are three main configurations:

  • Body only ($900)
  • Body plus the 14-42mm lens (about $900 – yes the same price as the body only – bizarre)
  • Body plus the 14-140mm lens. (about $1200)

I recommend door #3. The 14-140mm was the only lens I took on my trip to India. I prefer to become familiar with one lens before I move on to others. I was trying to keep my budget down, so I considered buying the 14-40mm package. Glad I didn’t! I guarantee that you will appreciate the extra focal length and the weight difference is negligible. When you use the Extra Tele Video Mode you will be even happier – more on this later.

For a zoom the 140mm is quite a fast lens. It is also nice and quiet. If you are shooting audio, you won’t hear this lens. At least I didn’t. Also, when you consider the cost of the lens and the body separately this is also the best deal by far cost wise. The 14-140 lens is $650 all by itself. Perhaps Panasonic is realizing this, because I noticed that B&H hasn’t had the 14-140mm package in stock for weeks. It is currently available on Amazon though, but if you are considering buying the camera with the long zoom you might want to move quickly.

If You Only Buy One Accessory – Buy This

The GH2 is known for its stellar video, but you need to use the correct settings. Ideally you want to keep the shutter speed at twice the frame rate. So if you are shooting at 1080 24P you would shoot at a shutter rate of 50 (the closest to 48 available). Because of this you will depend on the aperture to control the lighting – there is no built in neutral density filter.

Without an ND filter, in bright settings you end up with small apertures and lose the rich depth of field that the GH2 can achieve. That is, unless you have a fader filter. A neutral density fader filter is a variable filter mounted on a ring. You can manually rotate the ring to achieve the desired ND. It’s very quick and easy to do on the fly. Much better than fooling around with individual filters – what a nightmare. I bought Light Craft’s 62mm filter for $120 but found it here for only $86.00. It’s well worth the cost.

Focusing with the GH2

There are three focus modes:

  • Manual Focus – just like it sounds
  • Auto-Focus Continuous – the camera continually focuses – good for moving subjects. Can display some ‘hunting’ when there is inadequate lighting. This mode uses the battery up a little more quickly.
  • Auto-Focus Single – Press the shutter release button to focus

Because the GH2 uses a smaller micro 4/3rds sensor it focuses more quickly and with greater ease than a camera like the Canon 5D. But it still needs more care and attention paid to it than a handicam. Remember, that a DLSR is capable of a beautiful depth-of-field but that can also be a double edged sword.

For example I recorded a close-up of an interview subject in bright sunlight. There was a beautiful separation between him and the background. But when I looked at the footage later his neck was in perfect focus, but his nose was slightly out of focus. That’s how sensitive this camera can be. The reason this happened is because MF assist was turned off. Use this feature. It zooms into the image and allows you to check the focus with precision.

It’s also possible to use the Auto-Focus Single mode to good effect. This is best in a wider shot though. I found that it’s not always reliable with a very shallow depth of field.

More to follow on Friday.

 

 

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