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B&H Review: Micro Four Thirds Lenses that add Cinematic Imagery to your GH4

  • January 22, 2015
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
B&H Review:  Micro Four Thirds Lenses that add Cinematic Imagery to your GH4

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Part 1: Panasonic Leica glass paired with the Panasonic GH4 sensor

Many of you have asked me to do tests on micro four thirds lenses, so I am holding to my promise to listen and deliver. HERE WE GO!!!!!

I do want to first thank B&H Photo and Video for their incredible help and support with this post and lens test, as well as upcoming tests that we are finishing. Without their help in providing the equipment for this test, I wouldn’t be able to do this and deliver the education that I promise to all of you. It is incredibly important to me that people know who along the way helps all of us in this journey together!!! So thank you so much to B&H.

Shane dials in the lighting right before cameras roll on the lens test
Shane dials in the lighting right before cameras roll on the lens test

Experimentation and finding the right glass for your story

I have done many lens tests and have talked about the lens selection really being the soul of your film from a cinematography point of view. When I go into any project, I try to test as many lenses as I can to find the one that I feel will be the right soul of the film. On The Greatest Game Ever Played, I tested Cooke S4’s, Panavision Primos and Panavision Zeiss Ultra Speeds (or as they are now known as the Legacy primes).

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Cooke S4
Panavision
Panavision

The old look of the Zeiss Ultra Speeds is what was selected on Greatest Game. On Fathers and Daughters, I tested Leica Summilux C’s and Cooke S4’s. Based on the test, the Cooke S4’s were selected. I know that these tests are expensive and take crucial time. A precision, an attention to detail, has to be done so that you extrapolate the very best and most accurate data. We tested the Olympus M.Zukio Digital MFT and the Voigtlander Nokton. We are going to be testing more four thirds lenses, as there are newer lenses that have come out since we did this lens test. I will double back and get on those lenses too!

Panasonic GH4 with a Panasonic Leica 25mm
Panasonic GH4 with a Panasonic Leica 25mm

What says cinematic in a lens

I have been asked this question many times. I think you have to determine this for yourself, but I will offer my advice and comments so that you can see what revs my engine in the four thirds lens area.

I have been very critical of the camera that we tested with these lenses, but I try to be as camera agnostic as possible and need to show you multiple tools to use in delivering your vision.

The GH4 is our camera of choice because what came out of the box did not live up to my expectations. Trying different glass on the camera was my next thought process rather than going into speed booster and the like. We shot in the Cinema-D picture profile.

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Lens Test Rules of Engagement

We will be on the GH4 camera the whole time. We will shoot three different focal lengths on all three lens types as well at four different f-stops. We will color grade at f11 and let the color, contrast and sharpness change as the f-stop drops. Remember, we are looking for the breaking point.

Behind-the-scenes of the Lens Test
Behind-the-scenes of the Lens Test

Optimum Range of your glass

I want to show you the optimum range to harness the power of your glass. Let’s discuss this a bit. Optimum range: What does this mean? Every lens has an optimum f-stop where it produces the sharpest, most even field of view, and good contrast f-stop. Most are around a f-stop of 5.6. On Greatest Game, I shot the Ultra Speeds at a 2.0 all the time, whether it was day or night.

You have the rules. Now let’s test these babies.

1. GH4 with Panasonic Leica Glass

The first test that I want to show you is the glass that is meant to go with the camera, Panasonics’ glass along with their sensor. I have discussed how many camera manufacturers pair their sensor with glass that complements it. The Canon sensor is completely engineered to go with their glass, to the point that their sensor is challenged with latitude. Only 12 stops, where other cameras are toting 13, 14 and 15 stops of latitude. Canon turned to their lens department to help in this process. When using the Canon C500 with Cooke S4’s and Canon Cinema Zooms, I was able to expose for the background perfectly, under exposing my subject. The Canon lenses gave me about another stop of exposure latitude on the model’s face. The Cooke did not. This was revealed in a previous Shane’s Inner Circle post. If it was released before you became a member, you can purchase it in the Shane’s Store area on the website.

Here are the focal lengths for the Panasonics: 15mm, 25mm, 42.5mm

Wide Focal Length: 15mm

Panasonic Leica 15mm
Panasonic Leica 15mm

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My first reaction to this wide lens is good definition at this f-stop, but it is f11. HA HA.This lens and f-stop delivers very accurate color, and skin tones look pretty good. Field is eve. No focus vignette around the edges, but we will get to the meaning of this in a bit.

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This, again, delivers a very sharp image, great definition and color depth but notice the contrast shift. This will start to be even more apparent as the f-stops drop.

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Now we are getting in the sweet spot of this glass. The desaturation of the skin and colors is not bad. I feel this makes it more cinematic in nature. I also feel its contrast range is very nice, opening up the shadow areas. It also takes that hyper-sharp feel out of her skin. Any imperfections are minimized. Her features are not as sharp. The whole image is not as sharp, which is a good thing. The bokeh is round, which is nice as well.

If I did have to shoot with this lens on this camera, I would probably shoot this in the f2.5 area, trying to keep my depth of field as shallow as possible.

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Here is where the lens falls apart, not in a good way. Her face has lost all sharpness and definition. The contrast is mush. Nothing snaps. It just feels blah, no life and the loss of color information doesn’t help either. As we dive deeper into the medium and tight focal lengths, it will become even more apparent.

“It is not always the best to shoot wide open on a lens just because you can.”

Medium Focal Length: 25mm

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The f11 has all the color and sharpness that I have come to expect from this camera. Even field with the glass nice contrast.

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The f5.6 exhibits all the traits of the f11 but with a little lower contrast level, which slightly de-saturates the color and skin tones.

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Now we are getting to the sweet spot of this glass at the medium focal length. The Panasonic glass starts to exhibit my idea of a cinematic look right here. Contrast range is very nice as well. Opens up the shadows and softens the skin so that the slight imperfections are not revealed.

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But now look at f1.4. The lens again completely falls apart. You noticed in the wide, but wow, in the medium, it is really noticeable. Contrast to mush times ten. HA HA!!! Not shooting this glass wide open unless the story drives me to do the POV of what a drunk or drugged person would see. HA HA!!!!

Tight Focal Length: 42.5mm

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At the f11, we see all the color definition and evenness in the field of focus. Good skin tones.

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At an f5.6, the decrease in color saturation is immediately apparent with this focal length, which is caused by the contrast decreasing. Skin has de-saturated a bit as well but not a bad thing.

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Again, I feel that this is the sweet spot of this glass. F2.5 to f2.0 would be my range of making the lens fail, but its failure really makes the GH4 and this lens feel cinematic and beautiful.

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But now look at f1.2. The lens again completely falls apart. You noticed in the wide, and the medium but the close-up mushes out. I feel like I am shooting through Rosco Half Soft Frost diffusion. HA HA.

Next week, we move on to Part 2 with Voigtlander Nokton glass and how these lenses really take the Panasonic Lumix GH4 to new heights.

Shooting Location: Revolution Cinema Rentals

The Voigtlander is coming up next!
The Voigtlander is coming up next!

 

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