The Packafoma Post is the post-production and creative technologies blog of Packafoma Philms, the Philadelphia video production and photography company of cousins Dax Roggio and Shea Roggio.
This is primarily a list of missing features in the Panasonic Lumix GH3 DSLM camera that I would like to see addressed in a firmware update, plus a few ideas for the next generation of the camera (GH4 or GH5). The list pertains primarily to the video functionality of the camera, which is what makes this camera a standout.
I considered ordering a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera instead of the GH3, but I ended up going with Panasonic for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that this camera is actually shipping (even overnight!).
I also very much appreciate the GH3’s ability to shoot 60 frames-per-second at full 1080p HD, and, although I use this hybrid camera primarily for video, I’m impressed by the the 16 MP RAW still capabilities as well.
Both the GH3 and BMCC sport active Micro Four Thirds lens mounts, a system that offers more versatility and more affordable lenses than Canon’s APS-C or EF (while still allowing you to use those lenses with adaptors). The Lumix GH3 edges out the Blackmagic Pocket and Cinema cameras with a true Micro Four Thirds size sensor, which is larger than “Super 16.” Both sensors are significantly larger than a typical point-and-shoot.
1080p60 is still a rare animal and wonderful feature in the GH3. Neither the Canon 5D nor 7D has it, which is a major failing at this point, because I shoot 60fps whenever I can. I’m an editor at heart and the high frame rate gives me the most creative freedom in post. Sure, I like to get things right “in camera,” but 60fps has few drawbacks while allowing me to apply pristine slow motion to any clip.
For online delivery such as Vimeo, I generally export the final cut at 30 fps. This looks best to me on standard 60Hz computer screens and televisions and is a seamless export from 60fps source material. And whereas exporting 30fps material at 24fps looks terrible, 24fps is still an acceptable option with 60fps source material.
So I’m clearly impressed by the GH3 so far, but I do have a few gripes. And what good are gripes if you don’t bitch about them publicly?
GH3 Firmware Wish List
Enable AF/AE Lock button for motion picture mode
My biggest gripe with the GH3 is that the AF/AE Lock button doesn’t work in motion picture mode. Like many pro photographers, I prefer back button focusing. I always disable the shutter button focus entirely. In the case of the GH3, the AF/AE lock button is a good option for this, but I would like to use it for video as well as stills.
The worst part about having to use the halfway shutter button press to focus in video mode is that a full press cancels recording! That’s a pretty awful risk to take every time you adjust focus. (Another simple option that would at least help the situation would be the ability to disable the shutter button record function since there is a dedicated video record button anyway.)
Continuous focus is not an option for me. It screws up pans, and I don’t always frame my subject dead center.
File name customization (prefix/suffix)
This is a such a fundamental ability that it took me a long time to accept that there wasn’t already a setting for it. For post production, it’s invaluable for clips to have file names that are unique for each camera. This is crucial for shoots with multiple cameras, regardless of whether or not they are used at the same time. Ideally, every file name should include the date/time as well.
It seems that most, if not all, Panasonic cameras are locked into a P100001 naming convention, which is terrible.
Sure, you can rename files during or after import, but if there are overlapping file names coming off of the camera, you’re just asking for confusion or even disastrous mistakes. I always ask my shooters to make sure that their cameras are using unique file name prefixes (and that their clocks are set correctly). The Canon 5D Mark III is capable of file name customization along with many other DSLRs.
Allow display information to remain visible at all times
This one seems to be on every GH3 wish list. Currently, the detailed information overlay disappears after 10 seconds. This is unrelated to the display sleep setting, which is adjustable and actually has an impact on battery life. It seems like an easy fix. So it’s odd that it hasn’t been addressed in either of the firmware updates so far.
Battery time remaining display
The three bars are terribly inadequate. If time remaining is not possible, at least give a percentage.
Allow focus switch to switch between single and continuous autofocus while in motion picture mode
What a waste to have a switch dedicated to switching between single and continuous focus for stills that doesn’t work in motion picture mode. Instead, you have to control this setting through the menu.
Shutter angle menu item that overrides dial setting and can lock in exactly 180˚ (or 45˚, 90˚, etc.)
Currently, it’s not possible to set an exact 180˚ shutter angle for a 24 fps or 60 fps frame rate, although 1/50 and 1/125 come very close.
“Flckr Decrease” is a terribly named option that does allow you to set exactly 180˚ (with options for 1/48, 1/120, etc.), but it only works in auto exposure mode, which is useless to me.
I would like the Shutter Angle option to be a menu item, like the Flckr Decrease option, because it’s way too easy to accidentally change the shutter speed with the dial when in manual exposure mode, even if it could be set for 1/48 or 1/120. Unlike still photography, shutter speed is generally a “set and forget” setting for motion picture recording. For most video shoots, I keep the same shutter speed throughout, just as I keep a consistent frame rate.
Manual focus assist magnification is a nice feature for stills or before recording, but it’s generally useless once the camera is rolling. Even while using auto focus, focus peaking is a great way to quickly confirm that focus points are as you intended.
Setting to disable shutter button record start/stop
Some users may like using the shutter button to start and stop recording and it should continue to be an option. Personally, I don’t want the shutter button to ever do anything other than snap a still, even while recording video. I don’t even want it to control focus, as I described above.
I prefer the dedicated record button to be the only way to start and stop recording on the camera body.
Rack focus speed setting
An early pre-production firmware review (EOSHD GH3 Review) indicated that it was possible to “tune the speed of [the] focus rack with a low, medium and high setting” when focusing by touching the touch screen. If this feature made it into the production firmware, I haven’t been able to find it.
It would be a very nice feature. Please put it back in!
Preset focus points
Being able to save a series of focus points would be a really cool feature, especially if also implemented as part of the Lumix Link app. It would allow precision focus pulling without the rig.
Fix Wi-Fi connections to Apple Macs and Mac networks
Despite claims that there were fixes in the last firmware update, the GH3 cannot connect to a Mac. (It sounds like it’s possible if your Mac is on a Windows network, but how often is that the case?)
Any time an internet connection setup asks for “Workgroup” in the network settings, I get nervous because I know I’m dealing with a behind-the-times, PC-centric system. Maybe there’s a video editor or photographer who uses a Windows computers. I’ve just never met one in real life.
Lumix Link: stop recording
This is more of a Lumix Link app wish list item, but I’ll throw it in. The Lumix Link app has the very cool ability of initiating recording, but perplexingly, it can’t be used to cancel recording. This certainly diminishes the usefulness of the app.
“Delete” button should not be the same button as “cancel” (menu exit)
If I have to explain this one, Panasonic should just hire me to replace whoever is in charge of their camera design, but I’ll mention one obvious problem: If I’m in playback mode and I want to exit, the natural thing to do is press “cancel”, just as I would do to exit the main menu. But the cancel button is also the delete button. So I get a heart-stopping message asking if I’m sure I want to delete the image or images. Now I’m frozen, because to cancel this operation I need to hit — wait, this can’t be right — the delete/cancel button, which is terrifying.
This could only be partially fixed with a firmware update since both the delete and cancel icons are printed next to that button, but come on people. Let’s think this one through!
While I’m on the subject, I should mention another no-brainer: Pressing and holding the cancel button should exit menu mode entirely, instead of having to hit it repeatedly.
GH4 (GH5?) Wish List
One would think that the successor to the Lumix GH3 would be the Lumix GH4, but apparently 4 is an unlucky number in Japanese culture. So according to some rumors (probably false), the next camera in this line is more likely to be the GH5. If that’s true, it disturbs me that a silly number superstition would influence the production of a piece of technology that is so reliant upon, well, math. I’m assuming Panasonic isn’t going to ignore the emergence of 4K on those same grounds. Maybe they’ll just call it 2Kx2.
In any case, my GH4 wish list should be considerably longer, but here are a few advancements that I would really like to see.
I’m not very concerned about 4K delivery at this point, but oversampling is a wonderful thing. It greatly reduces noise and allows for cropping and zooming in post without dipping below HD resolution. “Get it right in camera”, you say? Sure, but give me creative flexibility in post. It’s the same reason I love my GH3’s 60fps at 1080p. My final exports are generally 30fps, but the high frame rate means I can turn any shot into silky slowmo.
Physical switch between video mode and photo mode
I strongly believe that there should be a complete separation of photo mode and video mode. This would make the main dial and focus controls much more useful.
Currently, the dial settings mostly apply to stills, forcing you deep into the menus to make routine changes to video settings.
As an example, you should be able to switch the dial between M, S, A, and P to choose those modes for video. Bizarrely, every one of those modes sets video to fully automatic exposure.
It’s also unfortunate that you can’t switch between single and continuous focus using the same switch as for stills, and, as I mentioned above, that the AF/AE lock button is disabled for video.
The GH3 can create stunning videos, which is the most important thing, but for a camera that is renowned as a true hybrid, the controls clearly put video in the back seat.
Power cord socket instead of battery compartment adaptor
Use of the power cord adaptor prevents the battery door from closing and latching, which can interfere with tripod mounting among other things.
All-I h.264 1080p 60fps
This seems like a very reasonable step.
Apple ProRes 422 with 10-bit color
Apple ProRes and 10-bit color would be awesome for color correction without the extraordinary storage and processing requirements of RAW video.