Since its release in early 2017, the Panasonic GH5 has been a popular micro 4/3 sensor mirrorless cameras choice for corporate and independent filmmakers who have come to trust Panasonic’s “GH” line on cameras to deliver great professional video since the release of the GH2. The GH5 is also chosen for its ability to record 4K 10bit 422 video internally and multiple slow motion options. Panasonic also claims a greatly increased dynamic range compared to its predecessors.
“Dynamic Range” has become an industry catchphrase in the past few years, with marketers claiming high dynamic range numbers upon a camera initial release to make their product more desirable. Unfortunately, the dynamic range a manufacturer states is sometimes found to be inflated and not a true representation of the camera’s abilities.
A greater dynamic range provides more flexibility during shooting and post-production and overall makes the camera more versatile for number of shooting conditions. The technical specifications from Panasonic claim a high dynamic range of 12 stops, but just how many stops of dynamic range are actually usable and acceptable for professional delivery?
YouTube creator biscuitsalive attempts to unearth the GH5’s true, usable stops of dynamic range and walks through the optimal picture profiles and camera setting combinations to unearth the truth.
Which picture profiles and camera settings provide optimal dynamic range?
For the three tests conducted, four picture profiles were compared. These profiles were Natural (the “baked in” look), along with three flat profiles: CineD, V-LogL, and HGL (Hybrid Log Gamma). The GH5 was set to 4K,10bit 25p at 150Mbps for the duration of the testing.
Testing the neutral picture profile, it’s noted that the recorded image provides very little flexibility at 10 usable stops of dynamic range, with whites and blacks pretty much remaining how they are recorded. You really need to nail exposure when using this profile for optimal image results.
Likewise, the CineD profile, a more flat profile for color correction in post, came in at 10.5 stops. This offers slightly more wiggle room but still a very minimal amount of flexibility.
The V-LogL and HGL picture profiles proved to have little difference in terms of dynamic range, coming in at around 11.5 stops each. However, it is noted in the video the shadows in the HGL profile seem cleaner than those in the corrected V-log footage. This seems rather negligible though and both profiles produced extremely similar results.
These specific tests conclude the maximum useable dynamic range of the GH5 to come in at 11.58 stops using the HGL profile. If you are curious about the testing methods used, the video does a great job of breaking down the process and how the results were calculated. One of the more fascinating tests includes the use of a homemade chart comprised of neutral density filters backlit by a studio LED light.
Panasonic GH5 Highlights
20.3MP Digital Live MOS Sensor
Venus Engine Image Processor
4K Video with No Crop
Internal 4:2:2 10-Bit 4K Video at 24/30p
5-Axis Sensor Stabilization; Dual I.S. 2
0.76x 3.68m-Dot OLED Viewfinder
3.2″ 1.62m-Dot Free-Angle Touchscreen
Advanced DFD AF System; 6K & 4K PHOTO
ISO 25600 and 12 fps Continuous Shooting
Dual UHS-II SD Slots; Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
Dynamic range, understandably, is an important factor potential buyers of filmmaking cameras consider before pulling the trigger on a purchase. The flexibility of color correcting and correcting exposure in post-production can prove an invaluable fallback when shooting in harsh and unpredictable environments.
Consumers need to do their research ahead of time and realize that manufacturers are not always 100% accurate about the claims about their camera’s capabilities. Also, when taking into account such tests, one should always keep in mind that for tests of dynamic range there is always some level of subjectivity. The definition of “usable” dynamic range can vary based on a filmmaker’s tolerance for noise and artifacting, along with the intended use of the camera.
Note: this article focuses on the GH5 only and does not apply to the GH5s.