Panasonic GH2 video better than Red, Arri says Coppola


posted Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 2:56 PM EST

Panasonic's Lumix DMC-GH2 digital camera. Photo provided by Panasonic. Click for our Panasonic GH2 review!The folks over at the PMA Newsline tipped us off to an interesting--and likely rather controversial--project from filmmaking accessories company Zacuto, today. Back in 2010, Zacuto pitted a selection of digital SLRs against 35mm film for the Great Camera Shootout, and a year later the concept was revisited. Now, they've returned with a second followup: Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout 2012.

The result is a three-part, 90-minute documentary, of which the first two segments are currently online, while the concluding chapter is set to arrive in mid-August. Zacuto arranged for nine high-definition video cameras spanning the gamut from a $650 Apple iPhone 4S and $900 Panasonic GH2, through more pro-oriented gear such as the Canon 7D, Canon C300, and Sony FS100, right the way up to professional video cameras priced into the high tens of thousands of dollars. Each camera was placed in the hands of a talented cinematographer, and presented with a controlled scene. The basic lighting setup could be adjusted, and the resulting video color-graded to achieve the desired look. (The final lighting setup used for each camera, as well as the time spent in adjusting lighting and in post-processing is described in a PDF document.)

Zacuto's Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout offered a blind test of video from consumer and pro cameras.

The results were then screened to an audience of filmmakers, including Oscar-winner Francis Ford Coppola, allowing them to select their favorites without identifying which camera was used for each clip. At the end, the cameras' identities were revealed, and surprisingly even the iPhone 4S video wasn't instantly recognizable to all present. And which were the favorites for Mr. Coppola? The Panasonic GH2 fared best, triumphing over the vastly more expensive Red Epic and Arri Alexa.

Truth be told, it's as much the cinematographers and their visions for their clip that are on test here, as it is the cameras themselves, if not more so. But that's not really the point. The shootout serves as a beautiful demonstration of the fact that--in the right hands, and in a suitably controlled environment--even hardware affordable to consumers can provide spectacular results. It's the videographer and not the camera that makes the video, after all! 

The Great Shootout's cameras, identified. If you're ready for the reveal, skip to 13:48 in the video to see which is which.

In full (and in alphabetical order), the list of cameras tested in the shootout is as follows. (Should you want to choose your own favorites, fear not; we won't spoil the identities of the cameras used for each clip; we'd appreciate if those who comment on this article do the same.)

  • Apple iPhone 4S

  • Arri Alexa

  • Canon EOS C300

  • Canon EOS 7D

  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

  • Red Epic

  • Sony CineAlta PMW-F3

  • Sony CineAlta F65

  • Sony NEX-FS100

If you want to take the blind-test yourself and identify your favorites, you can find the unlabeled test clips at 19:06 in part one of the shootout. To identify your favorites, or if you just want to see how your chosen camera fares, jump to 13:48 in part two. And for the conclusion to the story, watch out for part three to appear next month!

When you're done, we'd love to hear your thoughts on the shooutout, which cameras you favored, and why. (But remember, please don't identify which letters correspond to which cameras!)

Get a behind-the-scenes look at how the Shootout was set up.

(via PMA Newsline)