Anamorphic Lenses & Panasonic GH5 Firmware v2 Update

My cinema cameras spend more and more time collecting dust. It seems that their purpose is more and more best served looking bad ass in front of the paying client that expects to see more than a DSLR.

The Panasonic GH5 v2 firmware update (newly released from Panasonic here) adds a number of new features to arguably the most feature packed DSLR camera available for video shooters. v2 includes a number of bug fixes, a 400 megabit 4k 4:2:2 video mode, and autofocus improvements. As a non-pixel-peeper using exclusively manual and often anamorphic lenses, the most exciting features to me are definitely the new anamorphic modes and dynamic range.

While the v1 firmware and GH4 included useful anamorphic features like 4:3 aspect ratio and 3k 60p, the GH5 v2 firmware makes this the most flexible camera I’ve ever shot anamorphic on- including BlackMagic, Kinefinity, and Red systems.

10k(!!!) 10 bit anamorphic in a DSLR

With v2, Panasonic has added ability to shoot with the full sensor height and capture a 4:3 image, similar to Alexa’s Open Gate feature. This means a 4992 x 3744 image that desqueezes to 9984(!!) x 3744 footage for editing. Set your editor timeline to 9984 x 5616 and a 2x anamorphic lens will give you a beautiful 10k 2.66:1 image. Or better yet, edit in a normal 4k video timeline for sensible delivery, yet have all of the flexibility and quality of working with 10k footage.

Not only that, but all shooting modes include 10 bit straight to the SD card. We tested with an inexpensive KomputerBay 600x 128gb (a lower brand SD card) and we didn’t have any issues with dropped frames or record stopping. 10 bit video in camera is a significant improvement over 8 bit especially in soft skies and when pushing the image around in color grading, it is a very welcome improvement.

The standard 4k anamorphic mode also now records in 4:2:2 color space. So if you don’t need super high resolution, you can take advantage of this additional color information for better keying and better using some more stressful color tools such as hue isolation.

Keep in mind that if the GH5 v1 required some serious horsepower, 5k/10k HEVC (h265) anamorphic mode from v2 will require a heavyweight PC, and possibly some fast SD cards. More on that later.

Anamorphic lens desqueeze in camera

Normally, your image will show in your viewfinder exactly as captured by your lens. When shooting with a 2x anamorphic lens, subjects will look thin and compressed, and it can be difficult to understand how to compose a frame without seeing how it will actually look in an edit. It takes time and experience to be able to desqueeze the image in your mind on set.

Several field monitors include the capability to desqueeze the anamorphic image on set. The Cineroid EVF, Small HD 501/502 or 701/702, Blackmagic Video Assist 4k with the latest firmwares all offer a number of options for properly displaying anamorphic footage. Certain cameras such as Magic Lantern enabled Canon cameras and the Kinefinity line can desqueeze the footage right on the display.

Add the Panasonic GH5 to that list. Without needing an external monitor (much welcomed when shooting anamorphic lenses on a gimbal). The GH5 will now desqueeze your anamorphic lens in camera for both recording and playback. While this feature is so simple and mundane, it is figuratively night and day when it comes to the ease of use of anamorphic lenses on DSLR. In camera desqueeze accelerates the anamorphic learning curve, making adoption of anamorphic lenses much easier for new shooters.

Anamorphic 10bit HEVC/h265 footage on the GH5

The GH5 encodes 5k anamorphic in HEVC (High Efficiency Video Compression) or h265, the successor to h264. h265 has a number of significant advantages over h264 and allows for ProRes-quality encoding but in h264 file sizes. Instead of the insane data rates of a raw camera, the GH5 with V-log and h265 approaches the dynamic range, color latitude, and flexibility of a raw cinema camera but using a fraction of the file size on consumer level SD cards. Many video players such as the default Windows 10 app will playback GH5 footage without even breaking a sweat- provided that you have a GPU that supports h265 decoding.

Unfortunately, hardware decoding advantages do not carry over to most editing programs. The current version of Premiere Pro CC 2017 will not properly injest interframe Long-GOP h265 out of the GH5, and struggles to play back the h265 it can read. Only the paid studio version DaVinci Resolve 12.5 and higher will work with GH5 5k anamorphic. For more information on this, see our article on how to edit GH5 5k anamorphic footage.

More dynamic range through HDR and HLG

HDR (High Dynamic Range) and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) in the Panasonic GH5 v2.0 firmware allow for increased dynamic range in capturing video- most beneficial for the highlights. As we mentioned in our A7S article, increased highlight retention is very welcome when shooting with anamorphic flares. Due to their sequence of compressed optical elements, anamorphic lenses can be easily coaxed to flare and bloom, especially when used during golden hour.

The unpredictable power of the sun means that anything we can do to add dynamic range and recover highlights is very welcome when shooting in this style. While not specifically built for anamorphic, HDR video and the HLG picture profile help you capture a wider dynamic range and retain more highlights and detail in your anamorphic flares.

This is (still) the best bang for the buck camera for anamorphic, by far.

We’ve shot anamorphic on Black Magic Ursa Mini, Pocket, BMPCC, Kinefinity, Red Dragon, 5D Mark II and III (Magic Lantern), Sony A7s, Panasonic GH2, GH3, GH4, and more. Although many of these cameras have strengths that appeal to anamorphic filmmaking, none of them pack all of the features and benefits that make the GH5 the highest value camera available for DSLR filmmakers looking to experiment with anamorphic cinematography. Our Isco Micro single focus lens, a GH5 v2, and a Zhiyun crane in a compact backpack allow for the most mobile cinematic setup we could build.

The insanely flexible V-Log image, 5k (stretched out to an insane 10k) with 4:2:2 10 bit and 60p 3k- all with IBIS and focus peaking and in-camera to help take the mistakes out of solo operator filmmaking make this an insane value for less than $2000. We’re not committed to any camera system or manufacturer, but we know that we will be using our lenses with GH5s for a long time. With these updates, we can’t wait to see what’s next- hopefully improvements from the post-production side in working with such high-quality footage in modern compression.

Beautiful 60p 4k anamorphic footage (unsqueezes to an insane 8k!)

If you’re looking to test out exactly what lenses will work for GH5 DSLRs, head on over to our anamorphic lens calculator to test. Select your sensor size, your aspect ratio, and you will be informed and ready to shoot!

If you are interested adding anamorphic flares to your toolbox, please visit our anamorphic lens store for demos and examples. We have spent several years collecting, modifying, and testing anamorphic lenses to weed through the junk, make needed modifications, and assemble ready-to-shoot packages.

If you are interested in learning more on working with anamorphic lenses and DSLR, please check out our anamorphic tutorial blog for more anamorphic tips and tutorials!

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