Here’s an original video overview with commentary on the Atomos Shogun, emphasizing camera tests and comparisons, rather than a critical review. Mentioned at the beginning, you should start with Atomos’ own introductory video, if you haven’t already, for an explanation of the Shogun’s menus and features in-depth. The product is shipping now from the usual places, e.g., B&H Photo and Video, and Adorama.
These results show only slight differences, but they are precise. For apples-to-apples comparison without deviation, there’s always a compromise between getting things into perfect docile alignment, and pushing devices to their respective limits using shot diversity and severe motion. I chose the first approach here, for formal comparison, but subsequent field work will bear out the other more instinctual types of comparisons (and I’ll be looking forward to seeing your samples).
As explained in this video’s commentary, I was satisfied by the proof here comparing 10-bit 4:2:2 via ProRes HQ (Shogun) against 8-bit 4:2:0 via .MOV (GH4 internal), ironically by way of deduction: the capture looked identical between the Shogun externally versus the BMPCC internally, both recording at 10-bit 4:2:2 via ProRes HQ. The design philosophy at Atomos is right-on: they are leaving sensor design to the big industry vets, while pushing the envelope on this recorder/monitor side where it’s usually neglected in camera bodies. I look forward to mating the Shogun as often as possible with the GH4, but as I mention in the commentary, V-Log couldn’t come soon enough. For now, as you’ll see during each sample, I’m relying upon the FilmConvert plug-in to match footage between different camera color spaces, for common ground. (FYI, they are giving 10% off using exclusive code FOCUSPULLING at filmconvert.com.) And 10-bit 4:2:2 capture really shows its “colors” when you grade footage heaviliy, which I do.
I “obey” the 180-degree shutter rule always, because a camera test is useless if it doesn’t approximate field use, and good cinematographers are obligated to capture correct motion blur (for the sake of their audiences)! Thus all of these shots are locked down to a shutter speed of 1/60, as I’m shooting at 30 frames per second. My GH4’s ISO was at the minimum 200 in movie mode, though I cranked up to 600 or so after the sun went down. Rather than fiddling with the shutter speed (boo!), I compensated by opening up my aperture on bright lenses, including the lovely Leica 42.5m f/1.2, and the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8.
Thanks for watching, and for a quick look behind-the-scenes from this shoot, and for full-resolution comparison stills, here’s the photo album from Flickr:
Last year, when the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera arrived, I made a video to break it in, and laid down a commentary to share some insights. I challenged the camera to known weaknesses, while crafting a fully-formed lyrical piece beyond the abundance of rough tests and demo clips.
With the launch of the Panasonic GH4, we’re back to that same moment, seeing no shortage of test runs, but few large-scale works. Getting my early GH4 coincided with a trip to Chicago for a film festival I was in, so after a couple of days getting-to-know, I spent my last day running around the city before the evening flight home. This time, I was interested in the wider focal lengths that play to 4k’s strengths, thinking that Chicago’s unparalleled concentration of art and architecture would be an opportune subject. Also, I got stuck in my head a Duke Ellington composition, matching what I saw. The combined result is grandiose and over-the-top, but so is Chicago (“my kind of town”)…
Most of the shots are hand-held, with occasional application of Adobe Warp stabilization in post. A couple of shots used a cheap skater dolly too, but everything fit into a small backpack, including my Panasonic 12-35mm/35-100mm/45-200mm and Rokinon 7.5mm lenses. I balanced luminance and color on a clip-by-clip basis, then applied Kodak Vision 3 250D 5207 FilmConvert stock onto the GH4’s flat Cine-D profile, at defaults. Due to the GH4’s variable-speed limitations, the slow-motion 2 fps shots are in 1080p (upscaled to UHD), and this is also true for the time-lapse shots which actually needn’t have been restricted to 1080p (a flaw in the GH4, as under-cranked footage is even less demanding to capture). To keep the aperture open wide in daylight, I used Light Craft Workshop’s new variable RapidND filter, with visible vignetting at wide focal lengths, but overall sharpness and minimal color cast.
Challenges that I posed this time around included rolling shutter, which you’ll see in those lateral shots from the L train; pointing at the sun for black holes or blooming sensor; playing with depth of field for focus isolation; and aliased patterns which barely appear because there is no de-bayering from the sensor in UHD mode. Highlight protection and color depth is fair but not great: the GH4 still can’t beat the Blackmagic Cinema Cameras that have more dynamic range, and record internally to 10-bit 4:2:2 at a much higher bitrate.
Panasonic Lumix GH4
Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8
Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8
Panasonic 45-200mm f/4-5.6
Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye
Light Craft Workshop RapidND (use my coupon code LC-1308 for 10% off)