Panasonic has announced price and availability of the V-Log L upgrade for the DMC-GH4: US$99.99 (or €99 or £79), mid-September (though at present you can save a whopping 4¢ pre-ordering from B&H instead). There will also be a DMC-GH4R with V-Log L built in and the removal of the 30-minute recording limit in EU countries; it’s supposed to ship 7 September for £1199 in the UK, according to dpreview.
(Image from Panasonic’s website, with some tonal-scale adjustment for clarity.)
As Panasonic says, this update…
- Adds V-Log L Gamma Profile to GH4
- Wide Dynamic Range of up to 12 Stops (about 2 stops more than existing GH4 gamma profiles)
- Improved Color Matching with Varicam
- Similar Characteristics to Cineon
- Same LUT and Curve as Standard V-Log (see curve profiles here)
…which sounds pretty exciting. But be careful; the upgrade may wind up costing you a lot more than a Benjamin (or the local equivalent; what’s the slang term for 100 euros — Delors, Mundell, Lamfalussy? — or pounds — the Maggie?).
Why? Have a look at Matt Allard’s DVX-200 V-Log L tests at newsshooter. The DVX-200 uses the same V-Log L curve, has a similar MFT sensor, and records 4:2:0 8-bit internally, just as the GH4 does.
Once it’s graded, it’s a noisy li’l bastard.
There’s no direct evidence that the camera itself is that noisy, as WYSIWYG looks recorded onboard are a lot cleaner. I suspect that capturing a flat, log image to an 8-bit, highly-compressed, 4:2:0 format is the culprit: when you grade it back to something viewable, you’re stretching out those midtones and shadows something fierce, and a mere 8 bits alone ain’t a-gonna cut it, never mind the indignities heaped upon the image’s tonal subtleties by 4:2:0 long-GOP H.264.
It’s quite likely that getting a clean grade from a GH4 log source will require a more robust recording format at least, and quite possibly a 10-bit tonal scale, too. Fortunately there are several offboard recorders fit for the task: the Atomos Shogun and Ninja Assassin, the Video Devices PIX-E monitor/recorders, and the Convergent Design Odyssey series. Unfortunately, these will cost you 10x – 20x what the V-Log L upgrade will.
But this is all speculation. I happen to have both the Odyssey 7Q+ and a PIX-E5 available (disclosure: I’m a beta-tester for Convergent Design and an independent contractor for Video Devices). Once the update is available, I’ll install the V-Log L update on one of my GH4s, and compare internal 8-bit H.264 recording to external 8-bit and 10-bit ProRes recordings. Then we’ll know.
Disclosure: I’m a beta tester for Convergent Design, so I have a 7Q+ available for testing firmware updates. I helped design the UI and wrote some of the software (the easy UI bits, not the tricky realtime video bits) for the Video Devices PIX-Es, so I have a PIX-E5 on my desk for development purposes. So, yes, I have “material connections” to both Convergent Design and Video Devices, thanks to which I have their recorders handy. I bought two GH4s myself and will spend my own Benjamin on a V-Log L upgrade; I have no material connection to Panasonic, to the extent I can’t get so much as the time of day from their Lumix division. Nonetheless I try to present all the facts as best I see them and make possible conflicts of interest clear. Make of that what you will.