Making the Pick: Choosing the GH2 for Wedding Videography

Back in 2010, when I was putting together my wedding video business and trying to decide how I was going to set myself apart from the pack, I knew I had some tough choices in front of me, choices that most people didn’t even seem to be making.

A lot of people pioneering video with DSLRs at that point were coming over from the stills side of things, organically discovering the video mode in their Nikon D90 or Canon 5D mark ii. By summer 2010, the big waves had already been made, a the 7D was available, and the Panasonic GH1 was still pretty new, too. I came into all of this, browsing blogs and videos and forums, originally looking for a way to get 35mm lens adapter for a Sony Ex-1. I’d seen Philip Bloom review that camera with the Letus adapter, and the images he was making blew my mind. I knew that this was the look that would get me clients. It was modern, it was bokeh-licious, it was cool. I shopped around a lot, and was discouraged by the $10,000 or so it would cost me just for the camera + adapter. That was out of my price range – I had a $7000 investment I could spend, and I needed more than one camera! So I turned to DSLRs.

I have to say, the things that still turn me off about using Canon DSLRs for video were what initially made me skeptical – How could I shoot a wedding ceremony in 12 minute clips? How could I eschew auto-focus entirely, when I’d come to depend on it on the dvx100s I had used in school? Without a flip-out screen, how could I shoot with the camera up high or down low? It just didn’t make sense to me. it should be obvious now why, when I saw the GH1 and started to read about it, it quickly became very attractive to me. Allow me to list the reasons I bought it:

– No record limit

– Continuous Auto-focus

– Flip-out screen

– Adaptable to use cheap ebay lenses

I used it for a year, and loved it. I had minolta prime lenses for low-light work, and shot with my 14-140 zoom lens during ceremonies. I got great footage, and was pretty darn happy with it. I played around with the hack, but ended up unhappy with less than perfect reliability. That was the main reason I upgraded to the GH2 – A better codec out of the box, meaning I didn’t need to feel like I had to hack to get a good image.

Even unhacked, I feel that the Panasonic GH2 is a great choice for event videography. Get the right lenses on it, and it’s just incredibly versatile, and its no sweat to operate more than one of them at a time, because you never have to worry that the clip is about to end – you can just shoot.

Now, I could see myself buying into a full-frame DSLR system someday, to use as a B-cam and to do photography with, because it’s not always about ease-of-use. I shoot a lot of artistic shorts, and the more bokeh-licious those are, the better. When it comes to shooting wedding cereomies and receptions though, I need compromise. I need a camera I can shoot with and know its going to get the shot every time, with easy-to-use focusing aids built in, and an interface designed to let me nail exposure before AND during the shot. I need good monitoring, and I need a light-weight package that above all costs less than the competition. When you put it all together, the only A-cameras I can see myself using at weddings are GH2s. And I haven’t even touched on all the little perks:

– 80% slow-motion at 1080p: just enough to make slowing them down further in Avid a breeze, and a bit dreamy as-is – and no workflow headaches!

– The EVF saves me money and it just works (no rigging, no HDMI).

– The built-in limiter is actually a god-send. Get clean audio in a quite room, and no distortion when you’re right up in the dance at the reception. Because ambient audio makes video better.

– Easiest camera to balance on a Glidecam.

– The histogram and REC Highlight (basically 100% Zebras) make getting exposure easy.

– Much more intuitive buttons and menus than Canon, and 3 programmable function buttons!

– Autofocus on some lenses doesn’t suck! Of what I’ve used, I consider the AF on the Olympus 12mm F2 and the Panasonic 14-140 zoom to be usable.

– It’s sharp. Very sharp. Brides LOVE sharp. Especially when combined with shallow DOF.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on a bit too much. I want to leave you with two videos. Both come from EOSHD in the last couple days, both show the GH2 in comparison to some other, more expensive cameras. If you are worried about the GH2 from an image-quality standpoint, they should sooth your nerves.

4 responses to “Making the Pick: Choosing the GH2 for Wedding Videography

  1. Excellent post! I share the same reasons for going with GH2’s for weddings/events. I started a bit earlier actually, and was shooting on video cameras and when the time came to incorporate DSLRs it was close between the Canons and GH1 because I was shooting on two HMC150’s and an HMC40. I added a GH1 and was amazed at the quality in good light and happy with it’s now light with fast primes. Then the GH2 came out and I went 100% GH2’s because they just blew away the HMCs’

    • Very cool. I still have an HMC150 that’ll I shoot with, but it can be hard to cut them together. The HMC150s just don’t have the dynamic range that the GH2s do, and they’re just not as organically sharp.

  2. Just jumping into the GH2, late to this post but you talked about the perfect lenses for weddings. Can you expand? What are they?

    • Hi Rob, I think that if money is somewhat no object, I would start out with the Panasonic 12-35 and 35-100 f2.8 lenses. They’re compact, fast, autofocus well, and are very sharp (from all accounts, I haven’t had a chance to use the 35-100 yet).

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