As I anxiously await the Lumix GH1 review unit, I want to keep all of you ProVideo Coalition readers up to date with the surprising responses I just received from Panasonic’s public relations department. A few weeks ago, I asked Panasonic several detailed questions which were not covered in any of the published material. I know many videographers who are quite curious about this US$1499 camera with humongous sensor and interchangeable Micro Four Thirds lens mount. The kit lens [14-140mm (35mm camera equivalent: 28-280mm)] is the one Panasonic recommends for video, since it is the silent one, with the very fast autofocus. Although Canon recently satisfied their 5D Mark II owners with a firmware upgrade to allow for manual ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, the 5D Mark II is still stuck at 29.97p (“30p”), with no flexibility to use the variety of extreme framerates that the Panasonic Lumix GH1 offers, i.e. 23.976p (“24p”) and 59.94p (“60p”)… or 25p and 50p in the European version. That’s why many people are still quite intrigued with the GH1, given its framerate flexibility and attractive price. So here come my questions and Panasonic’s surprising responses, which arrived today.
Live HDMI output?
T©pper asks: In GH1’s video mode, is the HDMI output active before recording video… and during the video recording also… or is the HDMI output active only when playing back video? (I asked this both for external monitoring, as well as with potential use with AJA’s KiPro or Convergent Design’s nanoFlash.)
Panasonic responds: HDMI is active only on playback.
T©pper evaluates: This is disappointing, but not a deal breaker. I really hope that Panasonic will enable this via a firmware update, but I do not know the internal design, so I don’t know whether it is feasible or not.
Manual audio recording level?
T©pper asks: Is there a manual audio recording level mode… or at least a fixed audio level setting, or is the audio level recording always automatic? Manual audio recording level… or at least a fixed audio level control is very desirable for video professionals.
Panasonic responds: Audio recording level is automatic only. There is no manual mode.
T©pper evaluates: This is disappointing, but not a deal breaker:
I suppose that Beachtek is going to sell a lot more of their DXA-5D converters, which can defeat the AGC (automatic gain control), add two balanced inputs with optional phantom power, VU meters, and manual controls for each input… or for really serious productions, many producers will use a separate audio recorder at 48KHz.
25p/50p in the USA?
T©pper asks: Will the version of the GH1 sold in the USA offer the 1080p25 and 720p50 modes? Or are those functions only available with the European version? (See my article: When 25p beats 24p.)
Panasonic responds: North American model offers 1080/24p and 720/60p only. 1080/25p and 720/50p is for PAL system region.
T©pper evaluates: This is a shame. Today I talked to two of my colleagues who shoot 25p and 50p in 60Hz countries, and based upon Panasonic’s response, they plan to import the European version of the GH1 instead of buying the USA version. Especially because of the next question/answer.
Native 23.976p recording?
T©pper asks: When recording in 23.976p (“24p”) mode, does the GH1 always record over 59.94i (“60i”) or is there also a mode to record 23.976p natively, without pulldown? (The native mode has many advantages for professionals.)
Panasonic responds: At FHD mode of NTSC version, it records only in 60i (sensor output is 24fps). It doesn’t offer 24p native recording.
T©pper evaluates: What a waste of bandwidth! The maximum available 17 megabits per second is divided up among 59.94 fields, instead of only 23.976 progressive frames… not counting the broken 4:2:0 chroma (through unnecessary interlacing), let alone an extra step in post to extract the 23.976p frames! I really hope Panasonic will add the native 23.976 option to the GH1 via a firmware update. Native 23.976p recording is no longer reserved for very expensive cameras! Even Canon’s HV40 (US$999 list price) offers native 23.976p (“24p”) recordings, and was announced months before the GH1 was announced. While Panasonic fixes this, perhaps the best band-aid for GH1 23.976p footage recorded over 59.94i will be to use CineForm’s NeoScene (US$129) to reverse telecine and (according to CineForm) even fix the broken interlaced 4:2:0 chroma. NeoScene will deliver the corrected intermediate copy in one of the three following options: CineForm AVI (for Windows users), CineForm MOV (for Mac users of iMovie ’09, Final Cut Express, or Final Cut Pro), or ProRes422 (mainly for Final Cut Studio users. or others who have installed the ProRes422 complete QuickTime component manually).
Native 25p recording?
T©pper asks: When recording in 25p mode, does the GH1 always record over 50i or is there a mode to record 25p natively, without pulldown? (The native mode has many advantages for professionals.)
Panasonic responds: At FHD mode of PAL version, it records only in 50i(sensor output is 25fps). It doesn’t offer 25p native recording.
T©pper evaluates: This is almost as bad as the lack of native 23.976p recording, although 25p over 50i is much easier to deal with in post than 23.976p over 59.94i. But come on: It’s still a tremendous waste of bandwidth!
Languages available in the USA version
T©pper asks: What are the possible language modes in the GH1 sold in the USA?
Panasonic responds: There are four languages for the LUMIX DMC-GH1 sold in the United States: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese.
T©pper evaluates: Either they meant to say English, French, Castilian, and Portuguese… or the Spanish option leads to a submenu, where the GH1 then offers us Castilian, Catalán, Euskera (Basque), and Galician (at least)!
I know videographers who planned to monitor the GH1 externally via HDMI, and others who planned to record the live output to a nanoFlash or KiPro. However, I don’t think that will be a deal breaker for them. At least two HDV producers I know who have chosen the 25p path have stated that they will import the European version of the GH1, given the fact that the USA version of the GH1 doesn’t currently offer 25p (unless Panasonic quickly releases a firmware update to add this capability to the USA version), since many of them are already used to shooting 25p over 50i. Many professional tapeless videographers I know who are already used to native 23.976p recording and native 25p recording (including several models from Panasonic and Sony) are stunned by the lack of native recording on the GH1. However, other people I know are mostly interested in the 720p50 mode or 720p59.94 (“60p”) mode, so the native issue doesn’t throw them. I’ll keep you posted with any changes… and stand by for the official review when I receive the camera.