The rumour sites have been running hot with the possibility of a low-light version of the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, giving rise to thoughts on what benefits such a camera might offer to documentary moviemakers and photographers working mostly in available light, or often, available darkness.
A Micro Four Thirds answer to the Sony Alpha a7S low-light video camera series would be very useful for the sorts of immersive, fly-on-the-wall photo essays and short documentary movies on the cards for the ‘Untitled’ project’s Stories department.
Although I appreciated the Sony a7S series’ larger 35mm format sensor when I reviewed the Sony a7S, I much prefer Panasonic’s hardware design and engineering, its menu system and colour science, and Olympus’ manual clutch focussing M.Zuiko Pro f/2.8 zoom and f/1.2 prime lenses.
Most of all, I prefer the affordability and portability of Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses, even if, as some users complain, some M43 flagship cameras can be a little on the large side.
Sample stills from another low-light, low-resolution high-ISO camera, the Sony Alpha a7S
Images minimally edited with DxO PhotoLab.
Otherwise, though, I obtained some impressive available light results from the Sony a7S’ 12 megapixel, 35mm format sensor, especially when shooting stills in the gritty mixed-source lighting and grotty interiors of Sydney’s ageing inner-city underground railway stations.
Video on the a7S proved more challenging as its S-Log2 logarithmic profile was poorly understood at the time and little well-qualified advice was available on how to get the best out of it via camera settings and postproduction.
Further, the a7S’ S-Log2 base ISO is 1600, demanding the use of strong neutral density filters in a good set of fixed density NDs or a strong variable ND, which I did not have at the time.
The need for speed induces a need for density
Only now are strong, top-quality variable NDs like those from Aurora-Aperture and SLR Magic becoming available to satisfy the needs of documentary moviemakers for whom constant swapping from within big sets of fixed NDs is not an option.
If the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S proves real and follows Sony’s example in having a high base ISO, then you may wish to consider some of the more recent ND filter solutions that I have written about:
- Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success – Formatt Hitech Releases Firecrest Ultra, the Ultimate Colour-Neutral IR-Cutting Neutral Density Filters for Stills and Video?
- Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success – News Shooter: SLR Magic Circular Fixed ND Filters Review – COMMENTARY
Consider a possible high base ISO GH5S in combination with the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro f/1.2 17mm, 25mm and 45mm prime lenses used wide open or close to it in bright light as well as darkness and the need for a good set of matched variable and fixed ND filters becomes even more urgent.
Low-light stills and low-res sensors
Getting back to stills photography, for some years glossy magazines have commissioned cover portrait photographs to be shot with high ISO RED cameras for the sake of behind-the-scenes videos, raw digital stills and top-quality raw video.
At the start of the digital era, before the camera makers’s megapixels contest began, we were often reminded that 6 megapixels was enough for magazine covers and double page spreads.
The 10.71 megapixels sensor being suggested as Panasonic’s choice for the for the Lumix GH5S should be more than enough for most digital and four-colour press publication, while the Lumix G9 may well be suited for big exhibition prints given its 80 megapixels high resolution mode.
Things are looking good for affordable, portable, high-quality digital documentary moviemaking and stills photography thanks to creative innovations like these.
A GH5S video features wishlist
I asked cinematographer/director Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT One for a the features he would like to see in a possible GH5S:
If they make a low light DCI 4K sensor variant I’d be very happy just with that alone. The main thing I’d like to see is more dynamic range than the GH5, and more frame-rate in 10bit 4K 48p internal would be lovely if they can’t do 60p. With UHS-II cards the write limitations are pretty much gone so then it comes down to the internal processor and what it has as a limit.
If Panasonic hits any or all of the following things I’d upgrade:
- DCI 4K at 10 bit 4:2:2 48p internal or greater,
- 2 stops better noise performance,
- 2 stops better dynamic range (kind of linked to the noise performance) though to be honest even 1 stop better DR would be great.
Since writing this article, the usually very reliable Micro Four Thirds rumours website 4/3 Rumors has reported that Panasonic’s Lumix GH5S public announcement event scheduled for the 15th December has now been made into a two-day closed event only for selected members of the press under NDA, with the public announcement most likely to be at CES on the 8th January US time, 9th January Sydney time.
Images of the Panasonic Lumix GH5S, first published by 4/3 Rumors and Nokishita
I have added relevant 4/3 Rumors rumours to the Links below.
So far though, other than the GH5S’ base ISO which is sure to be higher than the GH5’s 200 and 400 ISO for video, the rumoured specifications for the GH5S include:
- DCI C4K (60p, 150Mbps, 4:2:2 10 bit Long GOP)
- Slow motion: 240fps (FHD)
- Sensor: 12 Megapixel 4/3 LiveMOS sensor with up to 100.000 ISO
- Effective pixels: 10,280,000 pixels
- Total number of pixels: 11,930,000
- Lowest frame rate: 12 fps
- ISO: 160-51,200
- Extended ISO: 80-102,400
- Mechanical shutter: 1/8,000
- Electronic shutter: 1/16,000
- Flash sync: 1/250
- Light metering system: 1728-zone multi-pattern sensing system
- LCD screen: 3.2″, 1,620,000 dots, touchscreen
- Viewfinder: OLED, 3,680,000 dots with diopter adjustment (-4 to +3)
- Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
- Bluetooth: 4.2
- Battery charger: Panasonic DMW-BTC13
- Battery: Pansonic DMW-BLF19PP
- Two memory card slots
- 4K photos
- HDMI Type A / USB 3.1
- Dimensions: 138,5×98.1×87.4
- Operating temperature: -10°C to 40°C (14°F to 104°F)
- Dust-proof and splash-proof body
- 4/3 Rumors – Micro Four Thirds format rumours website with a great track record of accurate reporting before the fact.
- 4/3 Rumors – (FT3) Possible GH5s specs: 10 effective Megapixels and 102,400 ISO? – a long list of possible specifications.
- 4/3 Rumors – (FT4) Correction on the GH5s announcement date. Probably public release on January 8? – it appears that a small number of selected journalists will be invited to a two-day press event without a public announcement at the end of that event, with the public announcement delayed until 8th January US time at CES in Las Vegas.
- 4/3 Rumors – (FT5) First images of the new Panasonic GH5s leaked!
- 4/3 Rumors – (FT5) Panasonic GH5s records “C4K” and 240 fps slow motion movies! – C4K (60p, 150Mbps, 4:2:2 10 bit Long GOP), 240fps FHD slow motion, 12 megapixel sensor up to 100,000 ISO, public announcement 8th January US time.
- 4/3 Rumors – Panasonic CES 2018 event at 10:00 am PT on January 8, 2018 – public announcement of the Panasonic Lumix GH5S?
- EOSHD – Is a new super-charged Panasonic GH5S on the way already with 4K 120fps HDR?
- Fstoppers – Is Panasonic Going to Announce a Low Light Version of the GH5 Camera on December 15?
- Max Yuryev – Panasonic’s $2500 GH5S lowlight MONSTER (I don’t have one yet) GH5 S – “Talking about the upcoming GH5-S!”
- Neumannfilms – The Super Secret Project – is Neumann Films shooting an example short movie for the GH5S product announcement?
Image concept, rip and hack by Carmel D. Morris.
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