Hail the Mighty MFT
Some have written off Micro Four Thirds in the wake of so many great full frame cameras, but the launch of the Panasonic GH6 proves that this is still a format with a great deal to offer.
THE THOUGHT PROCESS THAT dictates a larger format is always going to be the best option would appear to suggest that those looking for a high performing hybrid camera should be turning their attention to the growing numbers of full frame models that are now on the market.
If that’s what you’re thinking, however, then maybe the launch of Panasonic’s remarkable new Lumix GH6 should pause you in your tracks. The fact is that this new model is being widely acknowledged as one of the best value and most fully featured cameras that anyone looking to move into video could consider, and it’s emphasising the point that the MFT format in general has a huge amount to offer those willing to take a closer look.
“I believe that MFT definitely has its place,” confirms CVP’s Technical Marketing Manager Jake Ratcliffe, “and there are actually some genuine benefits regarding the use of smaller sensors for filmmakers. However, really it will come down to
Does size matter? Canon’s brand new EOS R5 C full frame model versus the MFT Panasonic GH6, but for its £2000 price the smaller format is a great option.
what tools you might happen to need to get your job done. In this respect Panasonic has been right up there with Blackmagic in terms of offering fantastic and affordable filmmaking tools, and the GH6 is very much following that trend.”
For those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to take a close look at what the GH6 is offering, what’s on board this long anticipated new model should set the mouth watering. For a start, using a CFExpress Type B card it’s possible to internally record ProRes 422 HQ and ProRes 422 codec video, a professional industry standard that delivers high image quality at low compression. This in turn significantly reduces the load on the computer during post-production and allows NLE (Non-Liner Editing) without transcoding, streamlining workflow from start to finish.
The difference in sizes between full frame, APS-C and MFT is demonstrated clearly here, but the MFT format still has value.
Other highlights include 5.7K 10-bit 60p/50p recording, an anamorphic mode, a brand new 25.2MP Live MOS sensor, a Venus Engine that comes with the ability to deliver approximately twice the processing power of the GH5, excellent dynamic range and 7.5-stop Dual IS image stabilisation.
Other high-end video features include the ability to punch into the image to focus while recording and FHD 300 fps. If you want to know more there’s a link to Jake’s comprehensive review of the new model below, which will walk you through all of the new features that are on board, and it’s well worth checking out.
The GH6 is just the latest in a series of cameras from the likes of Panasonic, Blackmagic and Olympus – who have just announced their stunning new flagship OM-1 model – that prove definitively that big-name manufacturers have most certainly not given up on the MFT format. Rather it’s emerged as a highly viable, super compact and more affordable alternative to full frame, which comes with the potential to satisfy even the most demanding of hybrid operators. In short, it’s certainly worthy of consideration if you’re already running a photographic business and happen to be looking to add a video production facility to your operation.
For those who have been in the business long enough to have worked with film cameras there is still something special about full frame. It taps into a longstanding tradition in terms of frame size, the focal length of lenses remains the same as they always were and there is, naturally, the assumption that anything larger is, logically, always going to be better. It’s certainly true to say that a bigger sensor will generally deliver greater resolution, lower noise and better dynamic range, and these are all highly tangible benefits that will continue to attract professional workers.
Getting past that mindset is not easy, but if you can manage to do so then there are actually some counter benefits to be gained by tapping into the qualities that the smaller MFT format can offer. Not only is compact size a potential advantage but it’s also a fact that developing technology is enabling the quality of results achievable from smaller formats to improve all the time, while some of the perceived drawbacks that can be off-putting are being lessened or eradicated altogether.
“There’s no doubt that larger sensors do offer some genuine advantages,” says Jake, “but at the price point of the GH6 you’ll be compromising filmmaking features to gain these. You also need to consider the things that MFT can offer that full frame can’t, such as form factor for example. MFT lenses are, on average, much smaller and lighter when compared to their Super 35 or fullframe equivalents, and can often perform just as well or better. This can be a huge positive for people who want to run the smallest and lightest camera package.
“The 2x crop in comparison to fullframe that occurs when you work with MFT cameras is another key talking point. However, thanks to the MFT mount having such a short flange distance, you can adapt a huge range of lenses to fit the format or, alternatively, you can invest in some of the many excellent optics specifically produced for this format by the likes of Olympus and Panasonic. Where MFT is concerned there are so many lenses to choose from, including many ultra-wides, so you can still achieve those wider fields of view.
“If you’re really struggling at the wide end of the spectrum, you could also look at working with a focal reducer, sometimes also known as a speed booster. This will allow you to use lenses that are designed for larger formats and to achieve wider field of views at longer focal lengths. Essentially, they do the opposite job to an extender, in that they allow you to use more of a lens’ image circle and its field of view and, as a bonus, you also gain a stop of light at the same time. With the previous generation of MFT cameras, the use of a speed booster in tandem with EF lenses was an incredibly popular thing for filmmakers to do.”
Check out Jake’s excellent film on the subject via the QR Code opposite, and it will help to explain how the long-held assumption that the MFT format doesn’t cater for the widest shots can be largely overcome with the help of technology.
Regarding other perceived issues that users might have with MFT, Jake points out that it’s not just the size of a camera’s sensor that will have a key role to play but the processing pipeline behind it is also of crucial importance. The brand-new Venus engine that can be found inside the GH6, for example, is impressively packed full of power to enable high speed processing of its sensor’s greater pixel count, along with higher bit-rate video and resolution. Other impressive plus points provided by the all new processor
include improved image quality for stills, enhanced noise reduction and better colour reproduction.
Despite all this, a larger full frame sensor will still, undoubtedly, offer you a better overall performance, albeit at the expense of extra cost in terms of purchase price and increased bulk. “For the most part, larger sensors are going to perform better in pretty much every metric apart from readout speed,” confirms Jake. “However, Sony has demonstrated with the Alpha 7S III that even this area can be effectively controlled!
That said, Panasonic has managed to squeeze as much out of the GH6 as possible, including adding a dynamic range boost mode that combines different parts of an exposure to give a wider overall dynamic range, a demonstration that technology is evolving all the time to improve quality.”
WHICH MFT CAMERA?
If after all of this you’re persuaded that MFT could be the way to go, then what model should you be considering? Obviously the GH6 is the new kid on the block that everyone is talking about, but are there other MFT options that are also worth considering if you’re looking for a professional level of video performance?
“I think the GH6 is currently the best MFT camera on the market if what you’re looking for is ultimate run and gun usability,” says Jake. “However, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras are also great choices at their price points, but they require a slightly different shooting style and set of accessories. But if you require a hybrid with a lean towards video, the GH6 is simply unrivalled at its £2000 price point. Panasonic really has chucked everything it can think of into this camera!
“Panasonic’s GH series as a whole has always been way more video focused than other MFT hybrids in its market. This makes it a really good system to buy into if you’re a video shooter, as it offers so many tools that other hybrids at its price point don’t come with. For example, you’re getting features such as shutter angle, waveform and vectorscopes, plus the ability to load in your own LUTs, to just name just a few things that aren’t generally available on Sony or Canon’s full
“While the EOS R5C is a really exciting recent launch that has substantially bolstered the Canon range, this is a model that’s more than double the price of the GH6. Quite simply, if your budget is sub-£2000 then both the GH6 and the Blackmagic PCC 4K will represent a fantastic choice for the professional, particularly if shooting video happens to be the key focus of your business.”
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