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GH2 versus Arri Alexa and F3 (real world testing)
  • Recently directed a two week block of a nature doc where the gh2 was side by side with an F3 and then an Alexa. Overall, everyone was impressed with how well the gh2 stood up -- so much so I take back what I said about the F3 on another forum. I now believe the hacked gh2 may look better than any camera under $20K, even if those cameras are fitted with external recorders.

    In no particular order, here’s some observations for those who are interested:

    Sony F3 with RED 17-50mm zoom outputting nanoflash at psf 140mbps I frame
    Arrix Alexa with a variety of canon bayonet mount lenses shooting to prores HQ 422
    GH2 with kae 3GOP hack with 14, 25 mm (panasonic) and 50mm (FD) primes
    All shooting was done at 23.98 with black frost 1/8th and schiender tru polas

    GH2 versus F3

    We started off shooting the F3 at 100 mbps long GOP and almost barfed when we reviewed the results in the hotel room that night -- the high bit rate did not take away from the very “video” look, and the sensor had no ability whatsoever to handle blowouts -- the sun had disgusting fringy bands around it (although to be fair, this could have been the lens). Switching to I frame improved the “film” though the gh2 still somehow had better cadence -- our DoP, who is much more experienced than me, commented that he always thought panasonic’s cadence at 24 frames was better than other manufacturers and some of that knowledge could have gone into the gh2.

    Much like how the gh2 trumps the canon SLRS in terms of aliasing and moire, it maintained a slight edge over the f3 with nano in these categories as well -- we were shooting a lot in forested areas at the aliased fringing on foliage was less noticeable with the gh2 than with the f3.
    Colour Rendition. Although we did not have much time to play with custom colour profiles on the f3, the general impression was that the f3 handled reds better and the gh2 handled greens better. Overall, the F3’s look was much more like the richness you’d get off a 5D, while the gh2 (at -2,-2,0,-2) had a slightly drained film look while still rending beautiful green tones. Obviously, for nature documentary, greens are more important than reds, so once again the Gh2 was the winner.

    We were unable to test the gh2 and f3 with only available light, but with a controlled lighting setup, the two stacked up very well. We used the f3 to cover wides and mediums and the gh2 with 50 mm fd to cover the headshot. Overall, the cameras were comparable -- they both handled blacks very well, exhibited minimal noise (in both cases, when there was noise, it was quite pleasing) and experienced no aliasing around the edge of the interview subject, even with a back and top light.

    The gh2 did show a noticeable red shift in low light -- I had to click the +G up about four spots on the colour balance and go a few 100 K cooler than the F3; even then we will be doing some colour correct to bring down the red a bit.
    Overall, for a sit down interview, I’d say the F3 was the winner with more accurate colour rendition, more detail and perhaps a half stop more of latitude. That said, one is a $1200 setup, the other (counting the nanoflash & lens) is nearly a $30,000 setup.

    The placement of the F3’s viewfinder was even more inconvenient than an slrs and as such was rarely used -- forcing us to rely on the f3’s viewfinder, which is actually worse (and less accurate) than the GH2s. As the F3 lacks false colour of a red or an alexa, you’re basically shooting with a histogram and zebras, just like a gh2, so neither has the upper hand.

    We were not impressed with the build quality of the f3 -- it felt very plasticky, even more so than the gh2, and we were constantly worried we would break the thing. I could not, in good confidence, rely on it as a A-cam in a situation where I was far away from a gear house; one mistake and I think you’d shut down production. Same goes for the gh2 -- I’m sure its lack of weather sealing will one day cause me grief; thankfully, its low price tag will allow me to keep backups on hand.

    - With incredible progress of the hack, we often overlook how important the GH2’s form factor is, but I really saw it on this shoot:
    One of our DPs, who has done a lot of work in warzones, saw the gh2s and its results and immediately commented, “these are going to be the Leica’s of video.” And I realize I’ve started to use it that way: like the stereotypical war photographic with three or four leica’s and primes around his neck, I just carry around two gh2s (and may get a third) — usually keep the 14mm on one (sometimes mounted on a glidecam hd), and the second one armed with either the 50mm f1.4 leica or a 100 mm f1.4 fd -- you get the visual characteristics of primes without having to stop to change them, and also quickly become a much better shooter.

    In a doc setting, it is incredible how much you can get done when you are not tied to a heavy camera and sticks (nor crippled by the 12 minute run time of canon slrs). It was too rainy/windy/sandy at one location to risk the F3 and nano so we just pulled out the gh2s and ended up getting way more coverage than we would have ever got with the f3 (an interesting point on most of the new cameras, F3 included, is that they are not really designed to be shoulder held, so you end up killing 5 minutes to build a rig whenever you go from sticks to hand held).


    GH2 versus Arri Alexa
    The above comments about the maneuverability of the GH2 apply even moreso comparison to the Alexa -- with lens, it weighs 30 - 35 pounds and can only be operated shoulder mounted with the assistance of a custom built easy rig.

    Indoor Performace
    The Alexa is absolutely incredible when shooting indoors with natural light only. It is mind-blowingly good -- in many situations we were able to shoot with a single 1x1 light panel as fill/key. The tonality of the colours is breathtaking (especially at 10 bit) but the real secret is the 14 stops of latitude -- whereas normally you’d have to light to keep your subject from disapearing into your background, and your background bright enough to not drop into shadow, with the Arri there is no need to do this. We shot some quick and dirty recon in an old train car and I felt like I was looking at a major motion picture (in the past, you had to spend hours rigging lights so the setting would look like it was naturally lit -- with the arri, you just use natural light).

    In situations that are lit, the contrast between the arri and gh2 falls off a little -- we did a dinner where everyone had their own dedo as a key (to simulate light coming off a practical (oil lamp) on the table), with backlight coming from a fire and various practical and fill from a light panel. In this environment, the gh2’s red shift actually sold the oil lamp light very convincingly, and it’s lack of latitude was not a detriment as we were going for a dramatic look (this is not to say that it was better than the arri, however, as the arri files could also be crunched later to achieve a similar effect -- it was just that the lack of latitude as compared to the arri was not detrimental in this situation). I should say, however, there is something about the gh2 cadence that is still impressive -- for part of the shoot, we had the gh2 on a konova slider and the alexa on a microdolly (the standard dolly from an out of focus silhouette to reveal a table full of diners) and I gotta say, in some cases I preferred the cadence of the gh2 but overall the quality, lattitude and 10 bit colour of the alexa was a sight to behold.

    In run and gun situations outdoors, the arri showed some of its limits -- you really needed a good dp (which thankfully we had) who could put the sticks in the right place the first time because it just wasn’t the easiest camera to move around. Even moreso than other large cameras I’ve shot with (like the f800, which is about half the weight) the weight of the arri did limit some options and increase setup time. But, given the spectacular colours, it was worth it.

    - The weight, and the fact that it chews through a 32 gig SxS card in 20 minutes, means you’re not running this thing for long without an assistant. We were constantly dumping cards, backing them up and reformating them (and that was with 7 cards). But if you can afford a $80,000 camera body, you can probably afford an assistant.

    WINNER: ARRI ALEXA (what’d you expect?). I would say, however, the form factor of the alexa means that any doc shoot will require the highest quality, most maneuverable B camera to go with it, or you’re going to miss out on certainly angles and opportunities -- so far, the gh2 and Alexa seem a pretty good match in that respect, though we won’t really find out until we get them in the edit together).

    My biggest realization from these two weeks of side-by side comparisons (and a week earlier with the f800 as a cam) is that there really is “a gh2 look” -- something about the cadence, rendering of greens, slightly drained colour palate, and ability to handle dramatic lighting (from blacks to blowouts) makes it unique. As people once spoke of a Leica look, I think the more we play with the hacked gh2, the more we’ll realize it has something all its own. I can’t yet put my finger on what that is yet, but I can say that, much like film, there is something about its footage, which when shot right, gives you a real-but-unreal feeling; it is real because it has incredible detail and lack of video give aways (aliasing, moire, fringing/banding etc), yet is is unreal because the cadence contributes to suspension of disbelief, while its love of being at least one stop underexposed (and usually two) naturally leads to more dramatic tonality of colours and shadows than you’d experience with your own eyes).
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  • On the 2K versus 4K issue, it's always an advantage to record at a higher capture resolution than your target distribution resolution. It gives you the ability to work more wonders in post-production while minimizing the risk of degrading the final results to something less than 2K. When your final rendering step is downsampling from 4K to 2k, you have many options for selectively smoothing and/or sharpening the print as desired.

    On the GH2 versus Red issue, one thing I noticed about the Scarlet is that its crop factor at 3K is almost identical to the GH2. This means that with interchangeable lenses, you will get the same field of view on the 3K Scarlet as on the 1080p GH2. With well-matched film modes between the two cameras, intercutting GH2 into Scarlet footage should be very practical, with the Scarlet's 3K resolution insuring excellent quality in the distributed 2K prints.
  • Red EPIC and Scarlet vs GH2 Hack at 1080 24p

    This is sort of a weird place to put my little opinion on this issue but I think Vitaliy thought the whole idea was "flame" so I think this is the only appropriate location to state it.

    I would love to see a scientifically controlled comparison between all these cameras (arri alexa, red 1, epic, scarlet, gh2, gh1 etc etc.) but this isn't quite it since they compared a package of goods against another package of goods as in the package of red epic and a red lens against the package of the hacked gh2 with the Olmypus zoom lens. The clear problem with this is you can't tell if its the lens or the camera body that is falling short. In this case I have to suspect the red lens just isn't as good as the Olympus zoom lens.

    I thought the people at Zacuto did a fantastic series of tests with the 2010 and 2011 SHOOTOUT. They put top end 10-30k lenses (same lens on all the camera bodies). With that test the lens quality is taken out of hte equation as were environmental conditions which were also held perfectly equal. At that point the only difference was coming from individual camera bodies.

    A test like that with the epic is the only way to compare it to the gh2 or any other camera body for that matter.

    This is just my suspicion but I believe the Red lenses aren't on the same level of as say the top end Zeiss, voightlander or the top end Olympus lenses. I've seen tests with the same camera body where zeiss lens came out with more clarity and color than either sony F2 lenses and red lenses. My own experience is that zeiss lenses are about the same as top end olympus lenses on quality of clarity and color coming through the lenses. So it would not be a surprise if the olympus lens is indeed better than the red lens used in that test.

    At that point its not an accurate test of the red epic against the gh2. One has to use the exact same lens on both cameras first. They should have used the red lens with a pl-m43 adapter on the gh2 and then compare that footage and see how they both look.

    I personally think both are great but its a very high probability that the epic is better overall, not just on abilities but clear out footage quality as well. At the very least its easier to grade in post production. But I have to admit I like the idea of a gh23 barely being able to keep up with a red epic, and to such a degree that if you are really careful you can smoothly cut gh2 footage with red epic footage.

  • Do you know the BTV 3d chaps in Brighton Driftwood?
  • The proof is in the pudding.
    The GH2 is clearly worth the trouble.
  • @driftwood

    That's awesome!

    As for the chatter about 8k up, I figure by the time we can put 8k in the home, the whole tv experience thing will have taken an adjusted route....


    That's what I was thinking when I made that comment about "beaming it directly to our mind" in 50 years...
  • Well we world premiered 'The First Raindrop & Last Teardrop' much of which was shot on 'QuantMeBaby' and 'ReAquainted' Driftwood GOP1 ;-) at Brighton's Nuit Blanc Arts Festival this weekend onto a projected 20 odd ft wide area using a Sanyo XF47 and it was absolutely stunning.

    Thousands enjoyed the film - the resolution amazing - and it just shows how well the setting looks blown up to cinematic size.

    I think we converted 8 filmmakers in attendance to the GH2 - they were simply gobsmacked that this little camera could provide the results we showed. :-)
    teardrop premiere1.png
    720 x 405 - 1M
    teardrop premiere2.png
    720 x 405 - 407K
  • Once 8K is in the home (coming in next decade) on 85" or larger screens, I think people will be happy watching four 4K screens AT THE SAME TIME, or multiple channels at once like 16 HD channels, especially for Sporting events. Just like NORAD, except Dad has the ultimate remote...

    All people wear headphones while Kid 1 plays a 3D game, while Kid 2 watches cartoons, while Mom watches romance movie, while Dad watches a cooking show...

    Essentially, the home chill zone...
  • Great info @tfreakburg!

    So refreshing to hear someone actually comment on production and the 'ease' of using the GH2. This is my No1 reason for pursuing this camera, personally. This should not be forgotten! The 'other' cameras are great and super- but are also heavy and large. (Not IMAX large- but still large).

    As I work allot with art installation- dance- devised film- these are very important considerations.

    Smaller than the Si2K in size- and wont make you mortgage your house!

  • I know I'm new here, but I have one thing to add to all of this ranting about resolution. Everyone keeps saying how 8K and 12K etc will replace 4K, and that's true, but there is one other factor that so many pixel peepers and resolution junkies really never focus on: the resolution limitations of the human eye. Screens like the iPhone 4's Retina display have already arguably surpassed the resolving capability of the human eye, and are optimally viewed from 18" or so at 960x540. Noting that clarity dissipates with distance at a nearly exponential rate, you have a distinctly and rapidly decreasing return on investment when it comes to sheer resolution. 4K, viewed on a 48" screen from 62" will be in a similar vein to what a Retina display looks like on an iPhone. 8K and 12K most definitely will have advantages in movie theaters, but diffraction and the physical limitations of projectors already increase the softness of projection drastically. Home markets and Computer screens drive the market these days, whether Hollywood likes it or not. Ticket sales are down year after year, while streaming skyrockets. 8K has no place in the home except for a "my ____ is bigger than yours" type contest, purely because, if viewed at appropriate distances (I.E. not like a kid playing PS3 2 feet from the TV) there is a limit to what the human eye can even perceive.

    The GH2 is amazing, the Epic is amazing, Alexa is amazing, and they're all tools for production, which has different needs than deliverable. 8K and 12K DO have a place in production, but less so in deliverable. Fact is, 28 Days Later is one of my favorite films of all time, both emotionally and visually, and it was shot using lens adapters on Canon XL1s cameras, with a native resolution of 720x480 in a 16:9 aspect ratio. Resolution isn't everything.
  • @tfreakburg I still have my VHS player... just sayin :)
  • @alcomposer First challenge is small crew. Not as many hands on deck as I'd be used to with a Red One setup. Second challenge is I want to get camera in some small spaces potentially. And finally, the weight of the setup, the decrease in amount of cases to carry around, etc will add to our mobility and allow me to get more shots done, and in effect be more creative. There will be times when I will wish I had the RedOne I'm sure, but for this project I believe the pros outweigh the cons. Snowstorm looks like it could delay this project which is a bummer. Nothing I can do to change that. :-)
  • @smsjr

    Your music video project sounds exciting! Especially considering your choice of GH2 over RED- would you mind elaborating on the sort of things that you would be doing that match the GH2's form factor?

    (No need to give away secret sauce- just general stuff: Rig Wheels? POV?)
  • I suggest everyone base their comments on real world experience. I see a lot of supposition in this thread. I have to ask the question, has everyone here used the cameras in question? The only one I haven't used but will be demoing very soon is the F65. So many things become clear after you use the cameras in the real world. Specs are specs, and as we know what something means on paper can be a completely different thing when put in practice. The competency of a crew can be a big factor. I've witnessed crews flat out using cameras wrong and if you were to form an opinion on the camera based on those shoots, it would be unfair to the camera.

    Acquisition resolution is important not only for displaying in that resolution but for VFX, repositioning, downsampling, etc. I finish most projects at 1080P, but they almost always benefit when a higher resolution has been used such as RED 4K or 5K.

    What's important is we have access to all kinds of tools and we can really find just the right fit for our projects. For example, I have the ability to use a RED One for a music video shoot this weekend, but I have decided to use GH2 instead. The reason - I will get more shots with GH2 because of the form factor and the director has approved the test shots with the GH2. The great thing is we can embrace all of these cameras and feel fortunate to be living in this wonderful time where film and digital co-exist and give artists a lot of choices. I love what's going on right now.
  • Lol. That's my point about film. Lawrence was shot on 65mm, a lot more resolution than 35mm, a lot more resolution than 4k. I guess in 50 years it could all be sent directly to our brain, so who knows:)
  • @tfreakburg 50 Years??? Anybody have an idea about ANY format alive today that will even stand up in 50 years???

    The mind boggles (we better have those F#$& hover boards by then!!!!)
  • @NickBen I think you're referring to the passage, "8K. Pushing resolution to the maximum, in the future you will be able to de-mosaic files from 16-bit linear RAW". I stand corrected.

    Several of the reports I read glossed over that information and I didn't dig deeper.
  • @tfreakburg
    past is gone, future doesn´t exist yet, present is all there is...
  • If your main goal is to make the most money now, shoot cheap and finish 2k. If you want your masterpiece to continue to look beautiful and current 50 years from now (Lawrence of Arabia) you want as much resolution as possible. It still may be appreciated, like wizard of oz, but people are gonna want to restore it to current standards. Make it easier on your future fans!
  • 8K in the Sony F65 is as much marketing BS as their "innovative" Bayer-Pattern (just turned by 45 degrees). From 20 something mix you don't get that resolution, never. It will be a great 4K camera, though.
  • @thepalalias check out the sony link below, 8K output is an option also on the F65

    ... get out the magnifying glass for those 8K pixels pixel peepers!
  • >Remember Avatar's lesson, 1080p is good enough for a BILLION in sales.

    Obviously the whole point of this site is about finding the correct balance. James was able to research and test a solution for filming in 3D and came to the conclusion that right now 1920 is fine. People that just want the 'most pixels' for no reason are just eating the hype. You have to learn and apply what you know to your craft- and that means sometimes NOT going with the best of the best - largest number solution.

    Not related however- this is an issue with Apple laptops. Everyone can't stand that basically inside their tech is not going to be the 'best of everything' - there will be aspects that are leading- but others will just make do. This is because in testing there was found to be no clear advantage. Same with Avatar.

    Besides- I am sure that James can now get a couple of Epics? Right? (I think that he is a global shutter kind of guy)
  • NickBen:

    Sony's CineAlta F65 doesn't output 8k. It uses a 20.4 megapixel sensor but still outputs a 4K image (circa 9 megapixels if you output a 16x9 frame) .

    Incidentally, even the earlier CineAlta F35 (which is designed for 1080P output) uses a 12.4 megapixel sensor for a 2 megapixel frame format. The RED Epic outputs 5K.

    And of course the GH2 uses a 16 megapixel sensor and outputs the video side in 1080P.
  • Formats stick around for a long time. 4k, if it happens at all, is years away. We're still waiting for the the developed world to sign on to Blu-Ray. 8k is more Jannard hype marketing horseshit.
  • Red is about to launch an 8K resolution camera in 2012!
    Yes, 8K. A true DSMC camera that will replace both stills, video
    and film.

    MY TAKE:
    8K is on Red's roadmap as confirmed by J. Jannard, they just don't PUSH it now
    since they just are pushing the EPIC-X 5K and Scarlet (3-4K) RIGHT NOW,
    which will both look UNDERWHELMING in comparison to 8K in ONLY 6 months.

    At NAB 2012, you'll have Sony's F65 promoting 8K output capability, so
    Red will HAVE TO release their 8K camera in 2012 just to stay competitive with Sony.

    I think you will see tons of shootout videos coming soon comparing Scarlet
    scaled output 1080p to the GH2 and the next generation Canon bodies,
    and have a tough time convincing consumers of the difference except when displayed
    on new 2560x1400+ displays or 4K displays which what, 1% of the public will own?

    Remember Avatar's lesson, 1080p is good enough for a BILLION in sales.
    It would not have made much more if it was in 4K, just costed production more.

    So, enjoy the next 6 months when the Cinema crowd promotes 8K as the
    new HIGH-END standard for TRUE Cinema production. Exciting times...