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Before you rush out to buy V-Log L for your GH4…

…you might just want to see what it does.

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.

GH4 V-Log L display, courtesy Panasonic

(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.

Stay tuned…


 

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. 


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PVC Staff
Adam Wilt has been working off and on in film and video for the past thirty years, while paying the bills writing software for animation, automation, broadcast graphics, and real-time control for companies including Abekas,…

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Chris James
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Chris James

This is such horrid marketing… Seriously, USA had it first with unlimited recording along with everything else so why do this now when they should’ve done all this in the first place? Sheesh, not long till modded firmware comes out for the original GH4 to have the same stuff as the so-called GH4R.

Adam Wilt
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Adam Wilt

I’m guessing the GH4R is what it is because of the EU’s different tax treatment of imported video recorders, including cameras (ones that go over the 30-minute limit get hit with a 5-12% customs duty). The “R” lumps in long recording with V-Log L and, I’d guess, uses V-Log L as the sweetener to make the bitter medicine of the price difference easier to swallow; Panasonic probably didn’t want to burden the base-level GH4 with the recording tax, driving up the cost for the stills -only photographers as well; this way only the people who need pay for the long… Read more »

Chris James
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Chris James

I am hoping they will change that, I don’t mind spending the potentially extra £100 for V-Log and unlimited recording. They’d definitely rack in more money if they do it this way.