Do Documentaries Matter Anymore?

Simon Kilmurry, Executive Director of the International Documentary Association, asks whether documentaries movies are relevant nowadays in his guest column at The Hollywood Reporter, Why Documentaries Matter Now More Than Ever.

Mr Kilmurry answers in the affirmative:

Documentary film is essential to a healthy and democratic society — that is why it is feared by autocrats.

The Great Documentary Photographer Tish Murtha Needs to Be Recognized, Exhibited and Published

This morning a mention on social media reminded me of the late, great but undervalued, almost forgotten, documentary photographer Tish Murtha.

Tish Murtha’s daughter Ella Murtha has inherited her mother’s estate and is now working on ensuring the legacy of one of the great British documentary photographers is not forgotten but is commemorated with exhibitions and the publication of her core body of work, Youth Unemployment.

Tish Murtha studied at the School of Documentary Photography in Newport, Wales, that was founded by Magnum photographer David Hurn. The School is now part of the University of South Wales.

Links:

Fujifilm’s GFX 50S: New Ways of Seeing and Shooting, More Affordable Big Sensor High IQ

Fujifilm’s GFX 50S medium format digital camera is more revolutionary than the most commonly shared images of it suggest. That is the first thought I had when I began exploring then downloading the product shots at Fujifilm UK’s image bank and I think it is only going to really sink in when more photographers than just the few manage to try one out. 

fujifilm_gfx_50s_image01_1920px

The press images hinting at the GFX 50S being more than meets the eye prompted me to download them all and publish them here, below. Specifications lists like the one further down the page are well and good, but seeing is where we will understand the real nature of this camera and its accessories.

The most obvious way of looking at the GFX 50S is as a larger version of the Fujifilm X-T2, but with a medium format sensor instead of an APS-C one. And in a way, that is correct. The GFX 50S has the external form factor of a DSLR except for the fact that we know the GFX 50S – with S, we assume, standing for SLR-like –is most certainly a mirrorless camera with all that implies about its lack of mirror slap and its ability to use an electronic or a mechanical shutter.

But then dig a little deeper.

The Camera

That pentaprism-like electronic viewfinder (EVF) unit is removable and yet, without it, the GFX 50S remains perfectly functional but as something more resembling a small view camera. Instead of a ground glass, it has a high resolution rear LCD screen.

So does the X-Pro and X-T2, like a slew of other excellent contemporary mirrorless and, for that matter, DSLR, cameras, all providing a live view that is perfectly adequate for using to compose, focus and create your photographs.

Contemporary mirrorless devices push digital cameras beyond the limitations of analog cameras in ways that mean I for one can never go back.

Fujifilm’s X-Pro2, for example, might be considered three cameras in one, in analog terms. In one way it is a small view camera not unlike the 120 roll film  Linhof Technika 70, one of two Linhof Technika cameras with which I learned professional photography, the other being a Linhof Super Technika 4″x5″ sheet film camera with optional roll film magazines and a case full of accessories.

Although purchasing my own Linhof was beyond reach, the lessons learned on those two amazing cameras have stayed with me for life. They intimately shaped my portrait photography style.

Even when I used other view cameras, usually field cameras, for my work as a magazine portrait photographer, I often did so with a Linhof variable format 120 roll film magazine for more shots, faster operating speed and the choice of shooting square, rectangular or panoramic aspect ratios.

While I often find myself using the monitor of my X-Pro2 and other digital cameras as if a small view camera’s ground glass, there is no substitute for the real thing. It is all about the experience on both sides of the camera.

For me, a contemplative experience of care and precision. For my subject, an experience of respect, sometimes awe, and oftentimes an hypnotic fascination with this remarkable high precision machine into whose eye I was asking them to gaze, unflinchingly.

Then consider the images of the tilting EVF along with the images of the tilting monitor, both so reminiscent of the town lens reflex cameras that provided me with lessons in another way of seeing and photographing.

The Lenses

Although I learned that on an art school Mamiyaflex C330 TLR with interchangeable lenses, I chose Rolleiflex T and Rolleiflex 2.8G cameras for my professional use, for urban documentary and portraiture. All three left me with an appreciation of square format, 1:1 aspect ratio, for those times when I wanted to draw my viewers’ attention in so clearly it was like an arrow into the centre of a bullseye.

All my cameras were secondhand until I discovered 120 roll film rangefinder cameras and 120 roll film DSLRs. I won’t bore you with a list save to say that it was with the rangefinder cameras where I most felt at home due to having discovered Leica M-Series rangefinder cameras as a teenaged press photographer way out in the sticks working it all out for myself.

The Heritage

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Rangefinder cameras have a special place in my heart to this day for their immersive window into the world, their sense of deep space and spatial relationships across the frame as well as forward and backwards.

After the demands of commercial work caused me to invest in 120 roll film DSLRs, while conceiving the magazine I later went on to cofound, I discovered Fujifilm’s GX680 Professional series, a remarkable creation combining the best of view cameras with the best of DSLRs, but one which regrettably, I never got to try out.

Another range of Fujifilm analog cameras that I was luckier with were its 120 rangefinder cameras that now live on in my hands in ghostly form as the X-Pro2.

When the late, great photojournalist-turned-landscape photographer Michael Reichmann favourably compared the Canon EOS D30 DSLR’s sensor to Fujifilm Provia 100F film, it was clear that digital photography had attained the ability to match the look of analog.

Fujifilm’s X-Pro 2, X-T2 and the coming X100F with their 24 MP sensors  produce image quality far above that of 35mm film, rivalling if not surpassing that of low ISO 120 format film. We have so much to be grateful for.

There is just one thing I am a little peeved about, though, and that is that we have lost the wide variety of cameras we had during the analog era.

We now have remarkable image quality to the degree that images made on medium format DSLRs can surpass the resolution of 8″x10″ sheet film as Mr Reichmann demonstrated in another of his famous reviews.

But what all this testing, side-by-side comparisons, digital up against analog and so on fail to do is consider the experience of the cameras and lenses in question, on both sides of the sensor, and what that contributes to the images we make with them.

Image quality is crucial of course, and I say that as someone who commissioned photographs for 48-sheet posters during my advertising agency days and who now is contemplating a possible return to the art gallery wall.

For me most of all the experience of the photographer and the subject is what reigns supreme and always will.

The Specifications

Recommended Reading:

Recommended Viewing:

More GFX Challenges videos were released to go with the January 2017 announcement of the Fujifilm GFX 50S.

Image Credits:

Header image by Carmel D. Morris.

Take Back Your Movies from the Gatekeepers with LumaForge’s Free 5-Part ‘Off the Grid’ Workflow Training

Independent moviemaking has been undergoing a sure and steady process of rebirth since Canon accidentally kicked off the DSLR video revolution with the EOS 5D Mark II hybrid stills/video camera in 2008.

Indie filmmaking’s evolution since then has followed a rocky path, with hardware, software and workflows evolving at different paces.

Workflows have lagged behind hardware and software, but now, it is poised to catch up with Final Cut Pro X workflow experts LumaForge releasing their five-part training series Off the Grid via movie industry website fcp.com.

Part one, Off The Grid: A Modern FCPX-RED-Resolve Narrative Workflow – Part 1- Introduction and On-Set Editorial, signals that the series is based on a We Make Movies TV pilot named Off the Grid, shot with RED digital cinema cameras and using Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve in the post-production to release process along with a number of third-party desktop and mobile applications.

The authors of the Off the Grid training, Australian-in-LA editor, colorist and producer Sam Mestman and Patrick Southern, Chief Workflow Engineer at LumaForge, describe the training series thus:

This 5 part series should be looked at as a cheat sheet on how to make a movie, pilot, or doc without limits in the modern age.

My hope then is that Off the Grid will be as instructive for self-funded one-person-crew independent moviemakers working with affordable but high quality small cameras like the coming Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5 as those with bigger budgets and multiple crew-members using larger camera systems like those made by RED.

As my own broadcast and film festival moviemaking experiences have indicated, modern moviemaking at all levels is subject to the whims of a gauntlet of gatekeepers anyone of whom can sink your project without a trace.

Even if you manage to fund and shoot all your footage and record all your audio, then take it to rough or final cut by yourself, you are still dependent on funders, broadcasters and post-production houses to get your movie to a broadcastable or projectable stage.

As Mestman and Southern so aptly state:

Filmmaking is the only artistic medium where most artists can’t afford to make their art the way they want to. My aim is to remove that hurdle along with all others so the only limitation in making a movie is one’s own creativity.

A terrific statement from at least one member of We Make Movies, a community-funded production company with the inspirational mottos “Dedicated to making the movie industry not suck.” and  “The DIY film collective that’s got your back.”

The Off the Grid Training:

Image Credits:

Header photoillustration aka featured image created for this website in Photoshop by Carmel D. Morris.

Why the Panasonic Lumix GH5 is the Video Camera I Have Always Wanted

I once dreamed of a feature film and broadcast-quality Super 16 video camera system that anyone could afford and that was small, lightweight, rugged, self-stabilized and could easily be carried everywhere. 

Left of frame: Small camera in action in 2001, A Space Odyssey. This is a stills photographer character but the same type of camera prop was used by videographer characters in Battlestar Galactica. Still frame from the movie.

At the time, I was trying to work within the prevailing documentary production framework dominated by state and federal funding and broadcasting organizations aka gatekeepers.

The gatekeeper system demanded you go cap in hand to a series of these organizations with your one-page treatment, hoping for pre-production funding in order to get started. Then you were forced to run the same gauntlet over and over again at each subsequent stage of the process.

Eventually, if you were lucky enough to get to the point of hiring a crew and renting hardware at enormous expense, as demanded by the funding gatekeepers, you could apply photons to sensor and begin shooting.

If, that is, said gatekeepers did not snatch your project out of your hands because some bureaucrat along the way decided you were not worthy enough to make your own movie.

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I would rather take a Panasonic Lumix GH5 to one of these events than lug around a broadcast camera. Photograph by Karin Gottschalk.

We decided to shortcut that gauntlet-running process a little with one project where we took my initial pre-production grant and gave it to the famous though erratic documentary director to whom I was forced to hand over the whole movie.

He shot a fair percentage of the final footage then edited some into a short preview used in running the rest of the gauntlet. It helped by proving the brilliance of the documentary’s story idea and the engaging though challenging lead character.

Some lessons from that era

Never agree to hand your project over to anyone, no matter what guarantees they make and conditions they agree to. Kill or at least postpone your project if you are told that handing it over is the condition of obtaining crucial funding.

Never create a project containing a secondary story thread in which your nation’s Prime Minister takes so much interest they feel compelled to demand your first-time director commission from a national public broadcaster be rescinded immediately.

His reason? That the leader of another country and his dad might possibly be embarrassed by reminders of their own past transgressions if certain scenes were to be included in the final cut. It all went downhill from then onwards.

The famous if erratic documentary director/cinematographer, I discovered too late, had his own agenda and made a very different movie to what I had envisaged.

His was a hero-worshipping puff piece and mine was about the broader, deeper human rights issues surrounding the lead character. The movie made a small splash on the festival circuit then sank without a trace.

So, the lessons?

Always shoot your first footage and edit your own preview by whatever means possible, even if you have no money whatsoever.

Never hand your project over to anyone, ever. Did I already say that?

The affordable moviemaking hardware and software we have now did not exist then otherwise I would have followed my own advice and done everything myself.

In the process I would have proven I could do it and could have brushed off the loss of my first director’s commission from a three-letter acronym national public broadcaster by bypassing all state and national funders and broadcasters to go straight to foreign funders and broadcasters with an advanced preview.

If the camera system I had long been dreaming of had existed then I might have remained in charge of my own project from go to whoah.

Here at last, here at last

That camera is finally here, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5 with its revised lenses, the Lumix G X Vario 12–35mm f/2.8 II Aspheric Power OIS zoom and Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 II Power OIS zoom.

I would add the Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4.0 Aspheric zoom though the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro is tempting due to its faster maximum aperture, repeatable clutch manual focus and reportedly excellent optical correction. Neither wide zoom has optical image stabilization (OIS) unfortunately, particularly handy on the longer end of their focal length scales.

I would add two or three fast prime lenses to that core three-zoom kit, one moderately long, another moderately wide and possibly one in-between.

There are a few options with moderately long primes, including the Lumix G 42.5mm f/1.7 Aspheric Power OIS lens, its Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Aspheric Power OIS stablemate or the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8.

Same again with moderately wide primes including the Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 Aspheric, Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 Aspheric or Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8.

Then for fast standard primes we have the choice between the Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 Aspheric, the Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 or Sigma’s 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary.

Let’s not forget Cosina’s excellent if pricey Voigtlaender Nokton f/0.95 manual-focus prime lenses in their 10.5mm, 17.5mm, 25mm and 42.5mm incarnations as well as cinema primes like those from Veydra or Samyang‘s Xeen range.

I have yet to try out current cameras with 5-axis Dual IS 2 like the Lumix DMC-G80/85 or DMC-GX80/85 to know how much stability non-OIS lenses gain by it but knowing the GH5 will have IBIS is a relief.

Right now I am packing for a video location shoot in a dimly-lit location where I can only use the GH4 handheld. I am taking a Rotolight Neo to use if supplementary lighting is permitted but plan on applying CoreMelt Lock & Load to my footage for stabilization, sacrificing some of the 4K frame. With the GH5, I will no longer need to do that.

The coming of the GH5 looks set to change everything for the better.

Recommended Videos:

Martin Wallgren – Lumix GH5 High ISO Grading Test

BBC – The World Around Us – The Camera That Changed the World

Image Credits:

Header photoillustration aka featured image created for this website in Photoshop by Carmel D. Morris. Product photographs kindly supplied by Panasonic.

Panasonic Lumix GH5 is the Feature-Rich Winner in the Small, Portable, Affordable, Reliable 4K Video Camera Stakes

Panasonic announced its Lumix GH5 DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) MFT (Micro Four Thirds) ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera) Super 16 camera as the latest iteration of its hybrid stills and video flagship at CES 2017 earlier today. 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5 with new Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric OIS zoom lens, 24-120mm in 35mm equivalent. This lens is the first of a new range of Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit zooms. There are two kit configurations for the GH5, one with this lens and one with the renewed aka updated version of the Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II Aspheric Power OIS zoom lens. I suspect that videographers will choose the latter kit and photographers may tend to choose the former.

Panasonic’s press release states that the GH5 brings “unprecedented picture quality in the history of Lumix cameras” and reading through the various related press releases I suspect they are correct in that assertion.

The GH5 contains a range of innovations that professional stills photographers and videographers have been requesting for some time, such as internal 10-bit 4:2:2 recording, 5-axis Dual IS (image stabilizer) for stills and 4K video recording that combines 2-axis OIS (optical image stabilizer) with 5-axis BIS (body image stabilizer) and plenty more speed, usability and image quality improvements.

Panasonic also announced major updates of two Lumix GX Vario lenses, updates for two Lumix G Vario lenses and the launch of the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric Power OIS lens, first in a soon-to-expand lineup of Panasonic Leica zooms that will include an 8-18mm wide-angle and 50-200mm telephoto.

The Camera and Its Accessories

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5

Director/Cinematographer Paul Leeming has shot several feature films on the Panasonic Lumix GH4, and has declared the GH5 the new hybrid video camera winner based on these specifications:

  • 10bit 4:2:2 DCI 4K recorded internally.
  • 8bit 4:2:0 DCI 4K at 48fps, UHD at 60fps recorded internally.
  • Rolling shutter skew of less than 13ms.
  • Long battery life.
  • Flip out monitor that rotates 180 degrees in two axes.
  • Touchscreen for ease of settings changes and touch to focus.
  • Ergonomic user interface.
  • Waveform and vector scopes.
  • Dual SD card slots.
  • Unlimited recording time.
  • Worldwide frequency settings – NTSC, PAL, DCI.
  • Full size HDMI port with simultaneous internal recording and external output.
  • No overheating.

The only downside, in his opinion? The GH5’s Micro Four Thirds sensor as opposed to a 35mm aka full-frame low-light sensor.

Specifications
  • Anti-aliasing filter – none.
  • Audio, built-in – 3 internal microphones, one pair for stereo and third for cancelling of any possible operational noise.
  • Autofocus – 225 focus areas, DFD (depth from defocus), faster than the GH4.
  • Connectivity, wired – USB-C 3.1, HDMI with full-size port.
  • Connectivity, wireless – 802.11ac Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth.
  • Crop factor, video – none.
  • Framerate, 4K UHD maximum – 50/60p.
  • Framerate, 1080p FHD maximum – 180p.
  • Function control and selectionjoystick [YES!!!… Ed.], 15 customizable buttons, easier-to-use menu system, redesigned rear control dial.
  • Media – compatible with UHS-I/UHS-II Speed Class 3 SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards, hot-swappable.
  • Monitor – fully-articulated 3.2-inch touchscreen.
  • Optical low-pass filter – none.
  • Photo styles for video – Cinelike D, Cinelike V, Like709 (Rec.709-like, when Creative Video Mode is selected), V-LogL with View Assist displaying up to 4  LUTs stored on SD card (when upgrade software key DMW-SFU1 is purchased) for monitoring.
  • Rack focus mode – pre-configured Focus Transition tool, with up to 3 predefined focus points, selectable rack speed in 5 steps.
  • Recording quality – 10-bit 4:2:2 in 4K records over 1 billion colours for subtle, cinematic gradation and broadcast camera quality.
  • Recording time – no limits.
  • Resistance to weather – freeze-proof, splash-proof, dust-proof.
  • Resistance to overheating – resists overheating even when shooting unlimited 4K video.
  • SD card slots – dual UHS-II U3 compatible.
  • Scopes – waveform, vector.
  • Sensor – 20.30 Megapixels camera-effective, 21.77 Megapixels in total.
  • Settings backup and sharing – backup to phone or SD card for sharing with other GH5s.
  • Special photo modes – Post Focus, Focus Stacking.
  • Stabilization – operates via image sensor shift in 5 axes, resulting in 5 stops compensation even at telephoto focal lengths, eliminating need for tripods, monopods, gimbals or other stabilizers; Dual IS and DUAL IS 2 compatible.
  • Video cropping – none.
  • Video-based photo modes – 6K Photo at 18 Megapixels 30 fps, 4K Photo at 8 Megapixels 60fps.
  • Video, 4K – 3840×2160 UHD at up to 59.94p, 4096×2160 DCI at 24p, 150 Mbps 4:2:0 8-bit at time of shipping with further options later in 2017. See press release below.
  • Viewfinder – 3.6 million-dot OLED, 0.76x best in class.
  • Worldwide frequency settings – NTSC 59.94Hz, PAL 50.00Hz, DCI 24.oo Hz.
Stabilization-compliant lenses, 5-Axis Dual IS 2
  • Lumix G X Vario 12–35mm f/2.8 II Aspheric Power OIS zoom (H-HSA12035)
  • Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12–60mm f/2.8–4.0 Power OIS zoom (H-ES12060)
  • Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspheric Power OIS zoom (H-FS12060)
  • Lumix G Vario 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspheric Power OIS zoom (H-FS14140)
  • Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 II Power OIS zoom (H-HSA35100)
  • Lumix G Vario 45-150mm f/4.0-5.6 Power OIS zoom (H-FSA45150)
  • Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 II Power OIS zoom (H-FSA100300)
  • Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-300mm f/4.0-6.3 Aspheric Power OIS zoom (H-RS100400), compliant in February with firmware update.
Firmware release schedule
  • V-Log colour profile for 12-stop dynamic range – available at launch for $149.00/$US100.00.
  • 10-bit 4:2:2 – April.
  • 6K 24p anamorphic video mode, 4:3 – Summer 2017.
  • FHD 4:2:2 10bit ALL-Intra, 200 Mbps – Summer 2017.
  • 4K 4:2:2 10bit ALL-Intra, 400 Mbps – Summer 2017.
Press release
Australian Pricing and Availability

The DC-GH5 will be available in Australia in April 2017 from photographic specialists and consumer electronics retailers. The accessory battery grip and XLR microphone adaptor will also be available from April.

  • DC-GH5GN-K Body only: RRP $AU2999.00.
  • DC-GH5LEICA Leica kit with 12-60mm f2.8-4.0 lens (H-ES12060E): RRP $3999.00.
  • DC-GH5PRO Pro kit with 12-35mm f2.8 lens (H-HSA12035E): RRP $AU3999.00.”
US Pricing and Availability

The Lumix GH5 will be available (body only) in late March for $US1999.99.

Battery Grip DMW-BGGH5

I have this battery grip’s predecessor for the GH4 and find it invaluable when shooting video and stills.

For handheld video, the battery grip adds weight, better balance and increased stability to what is a very lightweight camera. When shooting video or stills tripod- or monopod-mounted, more battery power. For photography in vertical or portrait orientation the battery grip’s buttons ensure better grip and operability when holding the camera.

There is just one improvement I want to see in both battery grips, the ability to switch its functionality off altogether so that I don’t accidentally change my settings when shooting in horizontal or landscape orientation. That surely could be a menu function if this version of the battery grip does not have a lock switch like the one on Fujifilm’s Vertical Power Boost Grip VPB-XT2.

Details

“The Battery Grip is weather sealed, enables a second battery to be used and replicates the main camera controls for portrait shooting convenience, including the joystick” according to the GH5 press release. The GH5’s “tentative” product brochure, on the other hand, indicates that the DMW-BGGH5 battery grip contains two batteries.

Loaded with two batteries and attached to the camera this grip delivers significantly longer shooting time.

A total of three batteries makes sense when using the DMW-XLR1 audio adapter, below, with XLR microphones drawing 48-volt phantom power or for intense, high-bitrate, high frames-per-second UHD video shoots over a long day.

Australian Pricing and Availability

DMW-BGGH5E Accessory Battery Grip: RRP $399.00.

XLR Microphone Adaptor DMW-XLR1

The DMW-XLR1 microphone adapter contains a subset of the functions in Panasonic’s now discontinued YAGH interface unit which was priced well outside the reach of most self-funded low-budget independent moviemakers.

Documentary moviemaker Sol March of Suggestion of Motion published an insightful article about the YAGH, Should You Buy The YAGH for the Panasonic GH4? where he wrote about its twin roles as an XLR audio input and for 10-bit 4K 4:2:2 3G-SDI output to external monitors and recorders such as the then soon-to-be-released Atomos Shogun monitor/recorder.

Although SDI remains in use at the higher end of video production and for devices such as Atomos’ Shogun Inferno, independent moviemakers now have the option of using more affordable HDMI-based monitor-recorders if they wish.

As Mr March writes, there are other ways of handling audio including preamps, field mixers, audio recorders. For example, I use the Tascam DR-70D 4-channel field recorder that can be hotshoe-mounted or, to reduce top-heaviness, screwed into the tripod-mounting screw hole of your camera or camera cage.

With the GH5 recording 10-bit 4:2:2 video internally, the need for external video recorders is reduced. The DMW-XLR1 will certainly have its uses though for those relying on XLR microphones.

Camera cage makers Seercam tell me they are working on a cage for the GH5 that will account for the DMW-XLR1. I am looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

Press Release

When paired with the DMW-XLR1, the DC-GH5 gains two professional grade XLR inputs, enabling videographers to use their broadcast-level microphones. The adaptor is powered by the DC-GH5 battery and audio is transferred cable-free to the video file on the SD Card. This interface unit also supports 48 volt phantom power (which provides power to condenser microphones) and includes independent pads, low cut filters and gain control on each channel. The XLR1 also has a hot shoe mount on top to conveniently mount a microphone, wireless microphone receiver or a video light.

Australian Pricing and Availability

DMW-XLR1E XLR Microphone Adaptor: RRP $AU499.00.

The Lenses, New and Updated

panasonic-12-60-lens-2_1920px

When I was first researching the Micro Four Thirds camera system with an eye to investing in a GH3, the first Lumix camera I had come across in a local camera store, photographers, moviemakers and even some sales assistants warned me there were too few MFT lenses of the requisite quality available to make it a worthwhile investment.

Even then that was not the case, as the display case of MFT lenses of all sorts, sizes and prices that Olympus showed off at Luna Park mini camera export amply proved.

That assertion of not enough lenses is even harder to make nowadays. All one needs do is go to the lenses page at the Micro Four Thirds organization and see for yourself, or simply gaze upon the image above and count the number of Panasonic-only lenses depicted.

Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12–60mm f/2.8–4.0 Power OIS zoom lens (H-ES12060)

Specifications
  • A 24-120mm (35mm camera equivalent) F2.8 to F4.0 wide to telephoto zoom lens with a rugged design for high picture quality and performance.
  • First lens in the LEICA DG VARIO-ELMARIT F2.8-4.0 ultra wide-angle to super telephoto Series which will expand with an 8-18mm (16-36mm, 35mm camera equivalent) wide zoom lens and 50-200mm (100-400mm, 35mm camera equivalent) telephoto zoom lens, presently under development.
  • Featuring a 9-blade diaphragm for an attractively smooth effect in out-of-focus areas when shooting at larger aperture settings.
  • Versatile usage ranging from portraits and landscapes to street photography.
  • Achieves handheld shooting without using a flash thanks to the F2.8 to F4.0 variable maximum aperture and 5-axis Dual I.S.2 even in low-lit situations, including indoors.
  • Also works with Dual IS on the Lumix GX8, 5-axis Dual IS on the Lumix GX85/GX80, and 5-axis Dual IS2 on the Lumix G85/G80.
  • Splash/dust-proof and freeze-proof down to -10°C with a rugged design for heavy field use.
  • Supports high-quality video recording.
  • The lens system comprises 14 elements in 12 groups including 4 aspherical lenses and 2 UED (Ultra Extra-Low Dispersion) lenses that effectively suppress spherical distortion or chromatic aberration to achieve stunning picture quality.
  • Panasonic’s black box technology Nano Surface Coating is applied to minimize ghosts and flaring.
  • Maximum 240-fps sensor drive for high-speed, high-performance AF.
Australian Pricing and Availability

The Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12–60MM f/2.8–4.0 Power OIS Zoom Lens (H-ES12060) will be available in Australia in March, priced at $AU1199.00. I will add US pricing here when I have it.

Lumix G X Vario 12–35mm f/2.8 II Aspheric Power OIS zoom lens (H-HSA12035)

Specifications
  • A 24-70mm (35mm camera equivalent) full-range F2.8 fast standard zoom lens with a rugged design for high picture quality and performance.
  • Successor to the H-HS12035.
  • Versatile usage ranging from portraits and landscape to street photography.
  • Achieves handheld shooting without using a flash thanks to the F2.8 high-speed aperture and 5-axis Dual I.S.2 [in the GH5… Ed.] even in low-lit situations, including indoors.
  • Splash/dust-proof and freeze-proof down to -10°C with a rugged design for heavy field use.
  • Supports high-quality video recording.
  • The lens system comprises 14 elements in 9 groups including 4 aspherical lenses with 5 aspherical surfaces, 1 UHR (Ultra High Refractive Index) lens and 1 UED (Ultra Extra-Low Dispersion) lens.
  • Panasonic’s black box technology Nano Surface Coating is applied to minimize ghosts and flaring.
  • Maximum 240-fps sensor drive for high-speed, high-performance AF.
  • Available in black for $AU1199.00/$US999.99 in March.

Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 II Power OIS zoom lens (H-HSA35100)

Specifications
  • A 70-200mm (35mm camera equivalent) full-range F2.8 fast standard zoom lens with a rugged design for high picture quality and performance.
  • Successor to the H-HS35100.
  • Allows high-speed shutter release, and provides beautiful defocus effect in portrait or close-up shots.
  • Achieves handheld shooting without using a flash thanks to the F2.8 wide aperture and 5-axis Dual I.S.2 [in the GH5… Ed.] even in low-lit situations including indoors.
  • Splash/dust-proof and freeze-proof down to -10°C with a rugged design for heavy field use.
  • Supports high quality video recording.
  • The lens system comprises 18 elements in 13 groups including 1 UED (Ultra Extra-Low Dispersion) lens and 2 ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) lenses.
  • Panasonic’s black box technology Nano Surface Coating is applied to minimize ghosts and flaring.
  • Maximum 240-fps sensor drive for high-speed, high-performance AF.
  • No front lens rotation/ length extension in zooming.
  • Available in black for $AU1399.00/$US1099.99 in March.

Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 II Power OIS zoom lens (H-FSA45200)

Specifications
  • A 90-400mm (35mm camera equivalent) telephoto zoom lens with a rugged design and 5-axis Dual I.S.2. for active field use.
  • Successor to the H-FS045200.
  • Achieves handheld telephoto shooting with POWER O.I.S. and 5-axis Dual I.S.2 [in the GH5… Ed.].
  • Maximum 240-fps sensor drive for high-speed, high-performance AF.
  • Rugged, splash/dust-proof design for heavy field use.
  • Supports high-quality video recording.
  • The lens system comprises 16 elements in 13 groups including 3 ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) lenses.
  • Multi coating to minimize ghosts and flaring.
  • Available in black for $AU599.00/$US449.99 in February.

Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 II Power OIS zoom lens (H-FSA100300)

Specifications
  • A 200-600mm (35mm camera equivalent) telephoto zoom lens with a rugged design and 5-axis Dual I.S.2 [in the GH5… Ed.] for active field use.
  • Successor to the H-FS100300.
  • Achieves handheld telephoto shooting with POWER O.I.S. and 5-axis Dual I.S.2 [in the GH5… Ed.].
  • Maximum 240-fps sensor drive for high-speed, high-performance AF.
  • Rugged, splash/dust-proof design for heavy field use.
  • Supports high-quality video recording.
  • The lens system comprises 17 elements in 12 groups including 1 ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) lens.
  • Multi coating to minimize ghosts and flaring.
  • Available in black for $AU899.00/$US649.99 in February.

Further Thoughts on the GH5 and Its Lenses

Mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (ILC) systems continue to make strides in the photographic and video production worlds and especially amongst those of us with a foot in both.

While 2016 was a banner year for larger mirrorless cameras, especially for Fujifilm with the release of its X-Pro and X-T2 Super 35 APS-C cameras and the news that its GFX 50S medium format system would be appearing in early 2017, that same time frame sees Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 MFT camera making its appearance with yet more professional video production level features of the sort that established the GH4 as the Super 16 go-to camera for independent documentary filmmakers and more.

As director/cinematographer Paul Leeming wrote in his letter to Fujifilm, published on this site as How to Make the X-T2 a Credible Filmmaking Camera, A Letter to Fujifilm from Paul Leeming, the GH4 is:

… the most well-designed consumer-facing mirrorless camera I’ve used and tested in depth (and the GH5 looks to best it in some significant ways in early 2017). It has ergonomic controls, a good monitor and lots of other features which make it easy to use on film sets. It really should be the minimum to aspire to in terms of all of the above,…

And now the GH5 will be making good on Mr Leeming’s hopes, or so it appears from the list of specifications that Panasonic released today. How it all works out in practice is another thing again, especially in how Panasonic’s new and revamped zoom lenses work in conjunction with the GH5, and the GH4 which will no doubt be around for some time yet as a second or B-camera to the GH5’s A-camera.

I look forward to future hands-on experience with the lenses announced today, especially the 12-60mm, the 12-35mmm and the 35-100mm zooms. Independent documentary moviemaking is reliant on zoom lenses, supported by fast primes for poor light conditions, and these updated zoom lenses are good news.

When I bought my GH4, I opted for a standard zoom lens by a Micro Four Thirds coalition partner of Panasonic’s in the form of the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro for several good reasons over Panasonic’s Lumix GX Vario 12–35mm f/2.8 Asph. Power OIS.

It was a difficult choice, as subsequent camera and lens firmware revisions made joining Lumix lenses up with Lumix cameras increasingly attractive. But the Olympus lens’ repeatable manual clutch focus, solid build and longer focal length range extending to 40mm, a more useful portrait focal length than Panasonic’s 35mm, won me over.

At the time it was one lens to do as much as possible, on a very tight budget, and the results I got from the 12-40mm f/2.8 had the edge over those from the 12-35mm f/2.8, especially when shooting stills.

Besides which, a number of respected documentary filmmakers chose the same Olympus zoom over its Panasonic rival, including one from whom I learned a great deal about how to get the best out of the GH4, Sol March at Suggestion of Motion.

Now, all going well on the developing financial front, it is time to consider an integrated set of zoom lenses specially for documentary moviemaking and there are two video-capable Super 16 MFT cameras in our production kit that need better optical equipping.

The question now is which to choose from, Panasonic’s Lumix zoom lenses or their developing Panasonic Leica zoom lens lineup. As the press release above states:

The LEICA DG VARIO-ELMARIT F2.8-4.0 Series lineup will expand with additional lenses. An 8-18mm (16-36mm, 35mm camera equivalent) wide zoom lens and 50-200mm (100-400mm, 35mm camera equivalent) telephoto zoom lens are presently under development.

This implies that all Leica DG Vario-Elmarit series lenses will have an variable aperture range of f/2.8 to f/4.0. Both the more video-focussed Lumix GX Vario series lenses have a maximum aperture of f/2.8 consistent throughout their focal length ranges.

I have a variable aperture zoom lens that I use for stills and video, and its variable aperture can be a nuisance, especially in fast-developing documentary situations under poor available lighting. For this reason the two Lumix GX Vario lenses are currently more attractive than their in-development Leica DG Vario-Elmarit sisters.

Although the only Leica DG lens I have used so far is the Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Aspheric Power OIS prime lens. It is a positively beautiful lens in terms of its colour rendering, bokeh and ease-of-use and I am especially enamoured of its aperture ring.

I have not had the pleasure of using other Panasonic Leica lenses, primes or zooms, but I suspect that the legendary Leica colour rendering is common to all of them. Panasonic’s Lumix primes and zooms have their own colour rendering and other characteristics.

The big question for me, given the increasing importance of colour correction and colour looks grading, is whether mixing and matching footage shot with Panasonic Leica lenses with Panasonic Lumix lenses will work or will it entail painstaking shot matching work in the colour grading suite?

Will those colour rendering differences be even more pronounced when shot on the GH5 with its higher quality 10-bit 4:2:2 colour? Should we equip ourselves only with Panasonic Leica or only Panasonic Lumix lenses to avoid this possibility? Will Paul Leeming’s Leeming LUT One and shooting settings customized for almost every camera under the sun iron out any possible differences?

Only firsthand practical experience of the GH5 and lenses from both Panasonic lens ranges can provide enough proof for these sorts of choices. I would like to see a GH5 and lenses from both lens ranges placed in the hands of a colour rendering expert like Paul Leeming for a definitive enough answer for the rest of us to make some evidence-based decisions.

Another consideration is focal lengths. For me the perfect documentary lens kit contains a fast wide zoom with consistent maximum aperture, a fast standard zoom with consistent maximum aperture, a fast medium telephoto zoom with consistent maximum aperture, an optional long zoom that does not have to have consistent maximum aperture, and one or two ultra-fast prime lenses for available darkness.

A core kit of three zoom lenses supplemented by primes, and other specialist lenses if needed. Even with just matched three zoom lenses you can cover most situations that arise and the other lenses are the icing on the cake.

What I’d Like to See in the GH5

One thing lacking from the GH4 and other Lumix cameras used for video, selectable or custom movie aspect ratios in the viewfinder and monitor, like this:

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What I’d Like to See in the Lenses

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Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Aspheric Power OIS prime lens shows how mechanical aperture control can be done. Switchable on/off clickless/clicking would be even better.
  • Aperture/iris control ring with 1/3 stops, selectable for click-less or clicking.
m25mmf12_stand_mf_rotated_1920px
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro lens and its M.Zuiko Pro zoom and prime lens sisters show how manual clutch focus can be done. Draw the focusing ring back to focus manually, push it forwards to restore automatic aperture control by the camera. The M.Zuiko Pro series focusses from close-up to infinity with a quarter turn, perfect for focus-pulling with or without focus-pulling devices.
  • Manual clutch focus with quarter throw from close to infinity.

Recommended Reading

Recommended Videos

Image Credits

Header photoillustration aka featured image created for this website by Carmel Morris in Photoshop from product photographs kindly supplied by Panasonic Australia and Panasonic USA and their public relations consultants, with other images from Panasonic Germany.

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  • Camera, Kits, Battery Grip and V-Log L
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  • Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 8-18mm Lens KitB&H
  • Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 12-35mm Lens Kit – B&H
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  • Panasonic V-Log L Function Activation Code for DMC-GH4, DC-GH5, and DMC-FZ2500B&H

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  • Really Right Stuff L-Plate Set for Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Camera Body  – B&H

Camera Cages

  • Movcam Cage for Panasonic GH5B&H
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About: What is a Photo Essay?

This project, Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success, is intended to tell those stories via photo essays and short documentary movies.

While in the pre-production phase, though, I discovered that many potential story subjects are unfamiliar with the photo essay or photo story concept. I didn’t find much about photo essays online, or at least in one place, so have compiled my own About page defining the photo essay form of photography, with plenty of useful links.