Try this for an experiment. First attach an external monitor to your camera for better viewing.

  • Create a low light situation by closing the aperture or capping
  • Dial the ISO sensitivity of the camera down to 160 or 200.
  • Dial the ISO up to 320 and watch the amount of noise
  • Dial the ISO further up to 400 and immediately dial back to 320. Less noise!!!
  • So, what’s going on here? Is it specifically my camera doing this, or do all GH2s exhibit this weird but interresting behavior?

    To cut a long story short; switching from ISO 400 to 320 = less noise, switching from 200 to 320 = more noise.

    EDIT: Sorry! I posted the wrong URL to the GH2 HDMI fix. See below for the corrected link.

    I own a Lumix GH2 already since december 12, 2010.

    I have been discussing this camera with friends (and a lot of new twitter and blog friends) ever since. The resolution is great, the noise is OK and somewhat more pleasing to the eye than the noise some other cameras produce, and the dynamic range is not bad at about 7,5 to 8,5 stops – depending on which ISO and which method of measurement used (IN VIDEO MODE).

    If it wasn’t for the weak AVCHD codec at approx. 24Mb/sec, this would be the best super mega mega DSLR for video use.
    Why does the codec fall apart? 24mbit should be OK for AVCHD at this resolution?! Indeed, but the image of this camera is TOO sharp and too detailed.
    Using a flat profile and dialing down the sharpness does still produce a too sharp image that has ugly electronic halos and ringing, amplifies the noise and stresses the codec to such an amount that horrible compression artifacts show up in parts of the image where they are best visible: in the grays and blacks.

    Panasonic, please give us SHARPNENING OFF. This is so depressing: I have beautiful detailed footage, but swarming with macroblocking (those big coloured compression blocks) and micro blocking (typical jpeg-like strange garbage around detailed areas). This all because of the extreme detail in every part of the picture. If i zoom in 100% on bricks or skin, i can see into every pore. Something i’ve never seen with pictures from my 5Dmk2.

    But, hey, a solution seemed at hand: the Nanoflash or Ninja external recorders could record the signal from the (“clean”) HDMI output! But, alas… the hdmi output on the GH2 seems to be crippled in an ugly way (messing up the interlace cadence; adding double interlaced frames each 7 seconds, or skipping frames each 7 seconds). Both the Nanoflash and the Ninja recorder can record the 1080i60 signal including a 3:2 pulldown – that’s OK –  but the recorder wil go crazy if the interlaced cadence is (randomly) messed up approx. every 7 seconds. The Nanoflash will stop recording. The Ninja is not yet available but i assume it will do the same. Normally, FCP or most other NLEs are capable of removing the 3:2 pulldown and Bob’s your uncle. If your’e clips are shorter than 7 seconds… no problem…

    So, what to do now?! I was pretty depressed after finding this out. Imagine!! A GH2 + Ninja is a sub 2000$ full HD 4:2:2 high detail camera! A kind of mini scarlet for a 1000 bucks.

    I will write Panasonic about this and report it as an error, just to trigger a reaction, but i assume it is a built-in trick to prevent recording from the HDMI output.
    Why? AF-101 .., that’s why. At least, that’s what i suspect. You could build yourself a min-af101 for a third of the price, with better video recording. If this is the case, Panasonic is missing the point; that DSLR film makers are NOT per-se AF-101 buyers.
    I know people that can afford an AF-101 but stick to their 7D. It’s what they like best and, of course, it’s a totally different market segment budget-wise.

    So what should we do?!

    – write panasonic and report an error in the HDMI cadence mechanism
    – write to sales@atomos.com (makers of the 900 dollar 4:2:2 prores hdmi recorder) and ask them to please please please make the device’s firmware compatible with the GH2

    Interesting links:

    One point of light at the end of the tunnel (not a train…): someone who does not want his name or position to be disclosed, gave me a hint: “some people” are hard at work to make the GH2 work with the Ninja recorder. But i haven’t said that of course.  Nobody can promis anything, although things are looking promising…
    That’s as vague as the general new Scarlet announcement, only without a new price tag…

    Jorgen.

    Many people have written to congratulate me on the new anti-moire filter plugin. Thanks everyone for your kind words and donations!
    Your recognition and support are very much welcome and appreciated, specially now i am going through difficult times financially 😦

    Several people have also written to let me know, that the anti-moire plugin also clears AVCHD compression artifacts and noise from e.g. Panasong GH1 and GH2 footage!
    I’ve tried it myself with low-light/underexposed footage supplied by Mary Wiegant, and indeed! Even with a minimal filter Choma Blur setting of 3 to 5, large swarming color patches magically clear up!

    Free lunch everyone! Bon apetit!

    Jorgen.

    I have been woken up by a text message from a desperate Martin Beek (@ Marvels Film), at around half past one in the morning a few days ago. His message was, that all of his testfootage shot in Belgium and Italy had been turned down by his customer because ALL the shots had micro-moire patterns in the hair of people. He was even thinking about selling all his DSLR equipment and giving it all up.

    I’ve written such a filter before, as a part of a digital imaging system for testing c-mount lenses, to reduce chromatic abberiation. I’ve now revamped this methodology into a FCP plugin called the “Marvels DSLR Moire Filter”, as a tribute to Martin, who is now in seventh heaven for all day now and as happy as a monkey with seven tails.

    I don’t want to bother you with the technical details and point you to my Plugins page (see top menu) to read more (and download) this little gem that i’m pretty pleased with myself.

    The plugin is not specifically designed to work with the Canon cameras, but with any other DSLR video camera that uses the line skipping algorithm to reach it’s HD resolution. As far as i know, that’s all of them except for the Panasonic Lumix GH series.

    To cut a long story short… If…

    • your footage is spoiled by red/blue streaks ad pixels in natural patterns and materials such as hair, grass, leaves and water…
    • putting a soft filter on the lens did not help…
    • you were not aware of it during shooting (not visible on LCD)…
    • you are using a lens that is much too sharp…
    • grass, leaves, gravel, sand or turf is swarmed with red and yellow worms (could be LSD though) …
    • you’re ready to smash your DSLR camera into the next tree…

    Then this plugin is something you’ll love!

    Well?! What are you waiting for! It’s almost free… (if you consider the semi-obligatory donation of US$10 if you REALY like it)

    PLEASE READ THE REMARKS SECTION ON THE PLUGIN PAGE ! This plugin is not specifically designed to battle aliasing problems and the resulting moire from regular patterns such as brick walls. I don’t say it won’t work, but there are other and maybe easier and better ways to prevent “roof and wall” moire.

    Martin has helped writing this article and by the look of it he was in a good mood… 😉

    Cheers,
    Jorg.

    A bit more about the new cine style picture profile v3.4 for Canon HDSLR cameras.

    Martin Beek, who works as DP for Marvels Film, has approved my new picture style that i’ve devised for them. They requested this new version (as you can read in a previous article) because they did not like using the Standard profile as a base for the v.3.3 style. I’ve changed this to using the Neutral style as a base for the new 3.4, but that meant that i had to change A LOT about the curve and redo all measurements and tests. This Marvels Cine Picture Style 3.4 (a.k.a. Advanced Flat) will be used to shoot a indie feature length movie. This movie is a Dutch/Italian co-production and a lot of footage will be shot in Italy at the end of this summer. Looks and moods have been taken into consideration with this style, combined with all the pros of the default Marvels 3.3 style regarding “flatness” and skin-tone reproduction.

    I have shot and posted a short test movie for both Marvels Film and you all, to see how it behaves regarding skin tones. Remark: skin looks a bit near blown-out on the right of the face in the graded version, but this is due to a gamma lift or broadcast-safe mechanism caused by the Youtube upload. My original seems a tad darker and less amplified than the Youtube result.

    Use this link to view in HD: http://youtu.be/XwJl5oYzdH4?hd=1

    Martin Beek has translated and edited my German instructions and explanations to him as follows.

    (About the test movie on Youtube) Right image is unaltered image from camera (5Dmk2) using the Marvels Cine 3.4 style. Left image is after some simple contrast adjustment, no color grading. The last “bonus” part is a run through Magic Bullet Mojo.

     
    The original image was white-balanced manually on a reference white card, but my camera has a slight shift to orange, that i have to correct in-camera one of these days, for the rest you can see that this new picture style offers the best skin tone rendition of all flat styles we’ve came across including our own previous styles. No “plastic skin” or other artifacts.

     
    The style differs from the standard Marvels Cine 3.3 in two ways. This style is using the neutral style as a basis instead of the standard style. This is a setting that can easily be changed in-camera to personal taste. Further and most important, Jorgen Escher has delicately changed the curvature of the S-curve in such a way that the 65-75% luminance range, where among others skin tones live, remains linear and not curved. Some of you will notice that this was already a feature of the current 3.3 style, but since this profile is using neutral as a base, we had to adjust the curve.

     
    This is NOT a replacement for the standard Marvels Cine 3.3 style, that can be downloaded here:   http://mediatube.marvelsfilm.com/marvels_cine_v33.zip
    This new v3.4 is an addition or alternative to v3.3 for those that don’t like the looks of the v3.3 in regard to orange/yellow skin tones.

     
    IMPORTANT: Canon L glass AND the Canon DSLR cameras all tend to lean to orange/yellow. This is not a flaw of the Marvels Picture Styles – pick a raw image for inspection and see for yourself. We can only try to prevent further amplification of this hue in our styles by keeping the skin-tone luminance range linear and untouched.
    The new Marvels Cine Picture Style v.3.4 (a.k.a. Advance Flat 3.4) can be downloaded here: http://mediatube.marvelsfilm.com/marvels_cine_v34beta.zip

    Remark: see update above.

    I am in the process of developing a new picture style for the Canon 5D mkII camera, that will be used for a new feature film DSLR production. Base of the style is the Marvels Cine 3.3 style, that i’ve developed for Marvels Film, using my own tools (instead of the Canon profile editor). It is NOT a replacement for the renowned Marvels Cine style, but a new experimental version that will be used to shoot early-autumn exterior scenes in Italy this year.

    If you live and shoot in a less-grey/blue environment than northern Europe, consider using this style instead of the Marvels v.3.3.

    New in this version is a slightly altered s-Curve to provide better luminance linearity in the 65-75% range (e.g. skin tones) and uses the Neutral style as a basis, instead of the Standard style as in the Marvels Cine v3.3 style. This to move the overall tone a bit more to green instead of the pronounced orange skintone look of the Marvels v3.3.

    Everyone is invited to download, test and use this new profile. Please check back regularly if you want to get the eventual release version.
    Any comments, testresults, raves and rants are much welcomed..!

    Download here: http://mediatube.marvelsfilm.com/marvels_cine_v34beta.zip

    By the way… all picture Marvels styles (most syles not by me, except for 3.3 and 3.4beta) can be downloaded as one ZIP archive here.

    Jorgen.

    I normally don’t like doing this, but i am going to quote a weblog article by someone else. This was a comment on Martin Beek’ s blog article about a Canon Picture Style that i found specially interesting:

    I personally have stopped using it (HTP) because it produces vertical banding noise (pattern noise) with almost any ISO number, under some specific conditions. Philip Bloom also reports that he stopped using it. Probably because it produces unpredictable results that are not easy to detect on-set.

    HTP further limits your ISO range and gives you an extra amount of noise. Remember than Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) is essentially underexposing all your photos by 1 stop. ISO 200 with HTP is essentially an underexposed ISO 100 RAW data pushed up to look like ISO 200. That’s how it preserve highlights. You’re essentially pushing an underexposed ISO 100 RAW to look like ISO 250 in that image (since you raised exposure in ACR another +1/3 stop).

    I personally don’t use HTP as said, but i follow another rule of thumb as an alternative, specially for commercial work that doesn’t allow for experimenting:
    1 – use ISO 160, 320, 640, 1250 and 2500 for low contrast / low light shots
    2 – use ISO 200, 250, 400, 500, etc. (ISO 100 and 125 are on their own) for well lit / high contrast shots

    1, because the broken ISOs have considerably less noise, but also have less latitude (highlights clip at raw 12650)
    2, because the whole ISOs have more noise, but retain highlights much better (highlights clip at raw 15300)

    Together with Marvels Cine 3.3 this will make your day… ;-)

    Cheers!

    Martin

    I think that Martin is mostly right, although i have to look up and compare the numbers he quotes. I must add one important remark: this is typically targeted towards shooting video, not RAW photography.