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Tips for shooting stills on the GH2, in particular with manual lenses
  • So i've hardly ever shot any stills with my GH2, using it pretty much solely for video up until now. I know that it's actually one of the better m4/3 cameras for stills, and doing a holiday recently with it as my only "proper" camera I did dabble a little.

    I'm always shooting my video in 24p mode, which I'm guessing is the reason that any form of still shot whilst shooting video is impossible. A bit of a shame.

    I was using my Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95 and was experiencing quite a few rubbish shots when trying to take them in program mode. I guess it wasn't working out so well having no control over the aperture. In the end i was forced to go for shutter priority and dial in something fast enough to be sharp... 1/40th or faster basically. I believe then i still had problems with auto ISO, and ended up having to manually dial in isos to get a result that looked close to what i wanted.

    It seems quite a struggle really. I'm assuming with coded lenses the experience would have gone a lot more smoother?

    I have a few wedding shoots coming up in the next few months, and i wonder if i could manage to shoot stills and video all with just the GH2.. if not i'll rely back on my old trusty Nikon D3 for stills, but i just don't look forward to the hassle and weight of that, as well as the GH2!

    Anyone got any tips?

  • 12 Replies sorted by
  • I'm primarily a video shooter so all my lenses are manual and it took me a while to get used to using them for photography and it pretty much just took a lot of practice.

    A few tips: Shoot at higher shutters peeds. I normally have my shutter on at least 80 if I'm photographing anything with a lot of movement. I often crank it a lot higher.
    Forget about the low apertures. You're Voigtlander's f0.95 is great if you have a static subject, but has such razor thin depth of field you can forget about getting any movement with it. As a general rule, the more you close up your aperture the easier it will be to keep focus. If you're not already doing it, shoot RAW for images. It's a lot easier to sharpen up (slightly) soft images and gives you a lot more tweaking room in post.

    But going back to the first thing I said, practice. If you're not comfortable with manual focusing, don't do it at a wedding, you're putting someone's big day at risk. Suck it up and lug the Nikon along with you.

  • Use C3 (custom mode 3) for saving your favorite photo settings. Shoot RAW. Set Aperture mode. Forget about max aperture. My default is f/2.8. Fix the distance scale. e.g. 1 meter or 2 meter or far far away. Guesstimate the fixed distance. Use your feet and gut feeling. Use LCD/EVF for quick framing and click click click.

  • I usually set up M like the Video mode, except with varying shutter speeds, different aspect ratio, everything manual; in burst mode... And along the lines of what stonebat writes above. Recently though I've started to set everything up in advance (exposure like I want it) and just wait for things to unfold..

    Set up for small jpegs along with raw for easy preview.

  • Thanks everyone.

    I don't have my camera with me at the moment, but i'm sure when i first tried Aperture priority mode with manual lenses I didn't get very far. Was your recommendation @stonebat for aperture mode only relevant for m4/3 lenses that have controllable aperture by the camera?

    I think i definitely need to try shooting some more and see if i'm happy enough by the time the day comes to go with the GH2 only, or use my D3 for stills, GH2 for video.


  • I have those same lenses, but I usually defer to the leica pana 25mm in single af mode for stills. The little camera with sharp, fast af glass can do a good job. Actually I set in AF+manual, so I can attempt to dial it by eye. It's not the best stills camera I've used, but a great one nonetheless. That new 12-35mm sounds perfect for this.

  • @jimtreats If you have a choice, I'd recommend you choose either shooting video or stills, but not both. Either responsibility is hard enough on its own, taking on both by yourself is asking for trouble (from a liability point of view - these are paying jobs and not friendly favors, right?). Personally, I wouldn't shoot wedding stills armed only with a manual lens. By the time you set your exposure and focus, many fleeting moments would already have passed. I'm a firm believer that wedding photography should only be shot with equipment capable of high-speed shooting (that is, fast autofocus & autoexposure, and high sustained framerate, in which the GH2 is lacking compared to Canons and Nikons, especially in RAW mode). Go with what you're comfortable with which seems to be video. Save the stills&video experiment for another day that is not a once-in-a-lifetime event.

  • @htinla Thanks for your extremely valid point! :)

    It's not paid work no, its for friends... I've shot about 6 weddings over the last 5 years or so, all stills. I was into stills years before enjoying dabbling with video so its really stills that are the things i know i can do ok. It's just since getting into video i've found it very hard to ever choose NOT to try video... it's going to take me some time to rediscover a drive to want to take more stills.

    I would prioritise stills over video i think, though i've not thought it through properly yet. I've done a lot of reception videos lately, where you can just get nice moments as people have a good time. This is probably the way i'd play it.. stills for the ceremony, video for later parts of the reception and little bits in between.

    I asked on this thread about manual lenses in particular as obviously that's what i've mostly got on my GH2, 14-140mm aside. My query was more it just seemed to me that the GH2 was buggy when working with manual lenses in stills mode... just from the fact that i took shots and they just wouldn't have a good exposure. As i said, in the end i had to manually select an ISO to try and get an exposure that was right. I'm sure its the contactless lenses that are perhaps confusing it a little.

    Totally right about what kit's best for wedding shots where the moment is fleeting.. I've absolutely felt 100% comfortable shooting the few wedding stills i've done with my D3 over the years.. its just pretty much bulletproof, and fast!

    I know that I'm certainly not up for juggling the two in any one moment, and obviously both will likely suffer from such an attempt. I'll have to have a real long think about it, as well as more stills testing with the GH2 and my lenses to see if it can gell with me in stills mode as much as it does in video!

    Thanks again though!!

  • I shoot totally manual. I can't stand the auto ISO or auto shutter. Watch your histogram and set the exposure to ( . ) mode. Don't forget to use the manual display mode by hitting the apeture/garbage button and then the Display button, or simply frame and set ISO/shutter in 24P mode and then switch to Manual stills mode.

    As the others have said, watch your shutter speed, but don't be afraid to go low. If you do go low, make sure you are on the tripod and use the timer function instead, that way your hand doesn't jiggle while hitting the button. This screws up most people's low shutter shots.

    After you shoot manually a while, you'll get the feel for ISO/shutter and it'll become instinctive. Luckly, I shot on real film for years before going digital so I developed it first rather than trying to backtrack.

  • Using manual lenses for "fleeting moments" is definately possible, just not recommended if you feel insecure with it.. With plenty of experience on a single lens, finding focus is; if not as fast as AF then fast enough and accurate enough to get the shot. I mean, it was done for so many years before we even heard of AF. Especially in a crowd of people it can be a big advantage to shoot manual (even if it´s not manual glass) because you can set the focus in the right areas and not have to worry about it, whereas AF might fuck up a great shot because it chooses to set the wrong area in focus...

    I recommend going fully manual if shooting with the gh2. Do it a lot, and it will sit in your backbone. (remember, you can set up the settings for your particular environment and be about right when you want to actually start shooting - I recently did this on an analogue camera without a light meter; measured before and set up the cam / did small adjustments when I thought there was a light change and my hunch was suprisingly correct for 72 frames) Then use auto features / lenses if the situation so requires.

    Shooting both video and stills simultaneously for events is a no go, absolutely. Unless you can set up a static "objective" camera and shoot stills without having to think about the other camera. For "sight seeing" or visual reverie (where success is irrelevant of documentation properties) it works, np.

  • Ok. So my exchanged 17.5mm f0.95 lens has arrived back and I've just spent a bit of time testing it, that's for another thread though.

    It has made me take stills again since starting this thread.

    I guess what i've noticed is that with manual lenses the ONLY way i've been able to see what I'm going to get when i squeeze the shutter is to put the camera in full manual mode. In Shutter priority, the viewfinder adjusts to give me a nice view. Which is great, but means i have zero clue what i'm going to get when i squeeze the shutter. I didn't try program mode but i assume that's similar.. only with manual mode do i get the WYSIWYG effect that I get in manual video mode. ie. i see if its too dark, too bright or whatever.

    Is there another way to be able to shoot like this?

  • @jimtreats Shutter priority is useless with manual lenses since the camera can't auto adjust the aperture. According to the user manual, Constant Preview (WYSIWYG mode) is only available in manual mode. Would've been nice if it were available in aperture priority mode too. Oh well.

  • @htinla thanks for the manual research. Now i've found it I may feel a lot more comfortable of being able to get the shot i expected.

    I'll presume with a proper coded/electronic lens you get good exposures as it adjusts all its variables. I guess the manual's implying that you'll still only see the result you expect in manual mode? Seems a bit odd.