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MFT lenses: Panasonic Sharpness versus Cine-Lens Softness
  • I just did a shoot where we used three Panasonic cameras of different capabilities: a GX7 and my GH2 shooting in 1080p, and my GH4 using Vlog in 4K. Most of the time, the GX7 used Panasonic lenses, while I used combinations of SLR Magic and Rokinon cine lenses to pull focus properly.

    Well, now we're in post, and there are a few problems. The GX7's footage is, well, pretty vibrant: it's smooth, with vivid color, and very sharp focus. And not only is it difficult to grade Vlog to match it (Balazar's LUTs are a big help), I'm finding that my cine-lens footage is just a lot softer than the stuff shot with auto-focus lenses.

    Is this kind of the rule with lenses-- that the auto-focus lenses made by Panasonic are just sharper than Rokinon or SLR primes?

    (Also, a side question: if I use sharpening on my 4K footage, which is better: sharpen the 4K and then reduce to 1080p, or reduce to 1080p and then sharpen?)

  • 21 Replies sorted by
  • Is this kind of the rule with lenses-- that the auto-focus lenses made by Panasonic are just sharper than Rokinon or SLR primes?

    By idea, Rokinon/Samyang at same apertures must be really sharp. May be issue is with focusing, not with lenses?

    Also, a side question: if I use sharpening on my 4K footage, which is better: sharpen the 4K and then reduce to 1080p, or reduce to 1080p and then sharpen?)

    Usually you always need to sharpen slightly after size reduction (just due to math). But you can do both.

  • Could be the focusing. Most of the shoot was in low-light conditions, and we avoided going above 800 ISO, so maybe the wide apertures made for some softness. (In the future, I may try shooting at higher ISOs and relying on Neat Video and 4K - to - 1080p reduction to remove noise.) That said, the stuff my partner shot by candlelight with the GX7 and a Panasonic lens was lovely.

    Also, I relied on the GH4's focus-peaking in Vlog, which I will never do again. But even when I relied on the focus-in-picture feature (where you had that mini-screen open up for focusing), the results are still a bit soft.

  • What cine lenses? What lens mount/adapters?

  • @mrbill We used an SLR Magic 12mm, and a Rokinon 25mm. MFT mount, no adapters.

  • I've seen a decent amount of footage shot with SLR 12MM and Rokinon 25mm, (on this site, shot w GH2), and it looks good to me in terms of sharpness. VK might be right on focusing, so I would play around and do tests with these lenses to perfect the manual focusing. (Also take a look at topics on this site dedicated to these lenses and you'll see footage shot by others. Also compare/contrast that with footage for Panasonic lenses like 25mm. That will show you possibilities for results, as well as give you an idea of differences that may or may not exist between lenses sharpness.)

  • Black ProMist Filter and Filmconvert software to soften digital footage,

  • I am surprised it hasn't been mentioned, but it's common knowledge that Panasonic lenses are ultra sharp and some feel give a more digital or video look to the footage as opposed a cine lens or vintage lens which tend to give a more organic natural or cinematic look. It could be that this is what you are noticing.

  • @darklight

    If you look all best last year released primes - all of them are ultra sharp :-) So, all this "organic look" is mostly bullshit.

  • What were the sharpness, contrast and saturation settings on each camera?

  • Interesting that nobody mentioned the automatic sharpening when using MFT lenses with electronical contacts. All Panasonic/Olympus/... MFT lenses apply in camera corrections and sharpening that you can't turn off (its not the same as the sharpening setting) - main reason is to improve image quality but reducing lens (quality) price.

    If you use fully mechanical lenses with no electrical contacts or no "chip" (thats where the data for correction is stored), you get the unaltered picture.

    Best thing to do is soften the (over-)sharp footage or sharpen the other footage in post.

  • I have a collection of contax zeiss primes that I use with a speedbooster, and haven't really noticed much of a difference in terms of resolution between native panny lenses and the zeiss primes. The real difference is in color rendition and contrast, the zeiss glass winning hands down. Not very helpful, I'm afraid, apart from to echo everyone else's advice to soften the panny footage in post.

  • Thanks for all the comments. I think my main concern is that I've invested in a couple of cine lenses, to take advantage of focus racking and the wider apertures, but now there's this trade-off in sharpness. I guess I'll be playing with sharpness adjustments in post.

    It's an odd situation for us MFT users. We can't really rack focus with the MFT auto-focus lenses. Cine lenses are great, but (as far as I've seen) they're a bit on the soft side at the F-stops. The third alternative is to get a Speedbooster and start using Nikon primes... but we lose the nice things about cine lenses, like clickless aperture settings and focus gearing. And then there's the issue of focus peaking on the GH4, and a fix for that is to get a good field monitor.

  • I don't think there is a trade off in sharpness with your prime lenses, it's more that the Panasonic ones are being artificially sharpened in camera. In my mind that makes the primes 'correct sharpness' and the panasonics need toning down to match. Although what ever looks good to you is obviously your best way forward !

  • Personally, I like sharpness, and I'd much rather make my GH4 stuff match the clarity of the GX7's for this project.

    Other than the basic Sharpness effect in Premiere pro, are there any strategies for sharpening GH4 footage in Adobe CC?

  • I think it's important to test your lenses. Just film some short clips of a bunch of different subjects, fabric, faces, nature scenes, fences, fireplaces, etc. Usually a fence, a fireplace and a tree line is all I need to see. Then you will see what the advantages and disadvantages of each lens are. I find most lenses are not sharp enough, but sometimes that's OK for a soft effect on a portrait. It's amazing that some of these mighty lenses, like the Panny 20 & 42.5 are relatively cheap.

    Also, if you film just a chart, like review sites, that won't tell the whole story. Fireplace brick, with grout, pretty much tells the whole story. The Panny 20mm, the the Panny 42.5, these lenses have super micro-textures. The combination of line-resolution, microtextures, contrast and color gives an illusion of detail: a lens that is lacking one or more of these qualities simply won't have this detail.

    There needs to be a synergy in the image, or it looks rubbery. Part of that comes from the camera settings, part is the lens. When you use a monster lens, the quality just pops off the screen. But sometimes you want a more dreamy look, like the Olly 45--it's not quite as sharp, but it delivers a very smooth image that is very pleasing.

  • @Brian_Siano With digital cameras, the sharpening, contrast and saturation settings can dramatically affect the apparent resolving power and "vividness" of a lens. So, when comparing different lenses, it is best to use the same camera with the same settings (preferably with sharpening disabled), if possible.

    Also, if you want to keep your options open in regards to post grading and post image adjustment, it is a good idea to avoid over-sharpening the image electronically in the camera.

    This is especially important if you are shooting green screen -- in-camera sharpening often screws-up keying on the edges. When the intent is to key-out the subject, always shoot with in-camera sharpening disabled.

  • @Psyco that is exactly what I was trying to say in my post above. Maybe I did not know how to properly explain it. Its that added extra sharpness of the Panasonic glass as compared to the others That I was referring to.

  • @Brian: "And then there's the issue of focus peaking on the GH4, and a fix for that is to get a good field monitor." Please explain the focus peaking issue. I use this feature with the GH4 but for anything critical I also use the zoom in pixel feature to refine the focus by eye on the most important area that needs to be sharp. Of course depth of field will play significantly into how broad or narrow the focus peaking shows. Are you saying that GH4's focus peaking is flawed? I must have missed this consensus in other posts.

  • @crowbar Brian said: "Also, I relied on the GH4's focus-peaking in Vlog, which I will never do again." I agree. GH4 focus peaking is not very good when using Vlog. It's fine using other profiles.

  • Thanks caveport for distinguishing using GH4 focus peaking with Vlog vs other profiles. With what little Vlog if have recorded, I always use my Ceneroid EVF4 RVW which has it's own focus peaking which seems to work fine. In addition it has false colors and the ability to crank up saturation and contrast to see what the heck it might look like.. I'd rather have the Shogun but so much more money...

  • @crowbar Caveport summed it up correctly. Y'see, focus peaking works by finding the points where adjacent pixels really contrast with each other. And Vlog reduces that contrast, making its pinpointing of focus points unreliable. (It'd be great if the camera could record in Vlog but display in full-range color, but...)

    I do use that pixel-zoom feature a lot, so much that I set my function buttons to it.

    Never heard fo Ceneroid. I'll have a look.