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Old September 12th, 2006, 12:40 AM   #1
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Panasonic PV-GS 400 Advice?

I am currently downsizing my cameras from the shoulder mount XL 1S's to the Panasonic GS400 due to an exisiting longterm cervical condition as a result of motorcycle racing accident sometime and as i predominately film dirt bike racing and GNCC type of enduro racing i am often walking around for hours at time filming in different types of terrain that needs a more mobile and smaller camera.

Unfortuantely i have found my XL1S is not that user friendly compared to tripod and filming oval racing events such as speedway or flat track therefore i have decided to down size my camera for Panasonic GS400 i was told by a few professionals who have used this camera for jobs they needed something smaller for you couldnt go past this model.

I am awaiting its arrival via freight i am therefore wondering has anyone used this sort of camera and what their thoughts are on it both pros and cons and any tips or advice on the camera would be appreciated.

As much as i enjoyed working with my XL1S, pain before pleasure is not my ideal way to film and still enjoy doing it and hopefully this smaller camera will go someway to allevating that negative.
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Old September 12th, 2006, 05:47 AM   #2
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Your professional friends did you a favor. The GS400 is perhaps the king of consumer DV over the last 3 years.

There is a lot of information on the GS400 in this forum and in other forums on the Internet. Read through the posts here to get a feel for what the camcorder can do.
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Old September 12th, 2006, 02:56 PM   #3
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Hi Nic,

I highly recommend this article.

http://www.matterofchance.com/gs400/

Regards
Leigh
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Old September 18th, 2006, 08:23 AM   #4
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Thanks Guy and Leigh for your advice :)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leigh Wanstead
Hi Nic,

I highly recommend this article.

http://www.matterofchance.com/gs400/

Regards
Leigh
www.smootharm.com
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Old September 28th, 2006, 11:41 PM   #5
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you should note the website:

http://www.matterofchance.com/gs400/

is a very nice comparison, but there are some conclusions that aren't quite correct:

(1) the exposure control DOES have an effect on the picture, but only when on auto iris. it controls the automatic exposure. if you have good CC post-procesing tools, you should set this down 1-3 notches if you're using the auto iris. this will keep the highlights and clipping under control, and from looking videoish. you'll have to bring up the midrange in post though to make things look proper again.

(2) moving the contrast control down DOES NOT give you more latitude! it simple scales the levels that are recorded to tape AFTER all other processing. look at a scope of this output (which i did). aim your camera at soemthing bright till you get overexposure and clipping, then lower the contrast control, and you will see that you get NOTHING above where the clip occurs, it just moves the max recorded value down. this will give you a much worse latitude. what you need to do is keep highlights down by underexposing slightly, using filters (graded ND, polarizers, etc.), and then bring up the midrange in post. i crush the blacks slightly too. this will give you the most filmlike output.

you should note that you'll get slightly better light sensitivity and lower noise by shooting interlaced. i'm not certain if the general latitude is better than the frame-mode/pro-cinema feature.

if you use vegas the excellent deinterlacer will give you decent-looking 24fps output when you use supersampling set to 2. i'd challenge any current SD camera under $2500 to look that presentable, given all of the above.

i'd been meaning to point out those problems above with that website, but hadn't gotten around to it. been too busy shooting. :)
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Old September 29th, 2006, 01:24 AM   #6
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Wasn't the GS400 replaced some time ago by ther GS500? In which case, why go for the older model?
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Old October 1st, 2006, 02:09 PM   #7
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Manual control is the prime reason I would spend the extra time to find a GS400, and the extra money to get one. I actually just sold mine in order to get an XL2. Let me just say that if a camera costing around 1000-1500 can yield an image like these:

http://www.maj.com/gallery/kylepro88...pple_close.jpg
http://www.maj.com/gallery/kylepro88...bs/sunset2.bmp
http://www.maj.com/gallery/kylepro88...desnapshot.jpg
http://www.maj.com/gallery/kylepro88...flower_far.jpg

Then ide be happy taking it if I was on a decent budget. Its a camera way worth it, trust me. GS500 can't even hold a candle to the 400. IMO the only thing I wish was on the 400 thats on the 500 is a widescreen LCD. Other than that is no contest.

-Kyle
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Old October 3rd, 2006, 08:01 AM   #8
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I agre with Kyle..

the consumerism of teh MX/GS series has really flattened the potenial for this camera.. Ive got an old MX500 which cost me 3600... yup.. 3600... BUT to this day, im yet to find a camera in good light which can give me this kind of footage.. IMO, its better than a VX2100 in good light.. in low light it goes like a bag of poo... but these are great units... however to get the most from them, u need manual controls
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Old October 3rd, 2006, 03:08 PM   #9
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I have been using this camera in some very demanding projects. Here are some thoughts:

1) Battery life. If you plan on shooting long hours, you need 2-3 CGA-DU21 batteries. Each will last you around 1h 30min, if you work on full manual control with the LCD open. If you shoot consecutive days, you will also probably need to buy one (or two?) extra chargers, so that you can recharge without having to worry about it!

2) You will need to use the LCD most of the time for your projects. The viewfinder tilts and extends but it really isn't easy to use at all while on the move. Generally speaking, it is not easy to view from it at all, especially if you wear glasses like I do...

3) When using the LCD be careful! There is a "powerLCD" button placed on the outer side of it, which is very easy to press without realising. This will increase the brightness, contrast and boost the colours of the image you see on the LCD screen! Apart from the fact that this increases battery consumption considerably, it may also lead you to underexpose your images thinking that what you see is what gets recorded. It is not. This function is to help you when shooting under bright sun, since at those moments you really cannot see a lot on the LCD without it. (Under very bright sun, you cannot see a lot, even with this button pressed.)

4) The OIS is fairly good but not very good. You really need to be careful how you move, if you wish to have very steady shots. I would recommend always holding the camera with your two hands and only using the hand-strap in exceptional cases.

5) Camera takes a considerable amount of time to start, after you switch it on. Given the projects you are shooting, I imagine that this may cost you some shots, if you do not start the camera at least 5 seconds before you record. There is a "quick start" button which you may use and will considerably decrease the amount of time needed to start shooting but this consumes a lot of battery at all times (in-between shoots, when camera is "switched off"). The danger is that you may forget you pressed it and when you re-start the camera after some time you have already lost a considerable amount of battery life.

6) Camera has astonishing manual controls for it's size and cost but due to it's small size, not all of them are easy to use while shooting. According to your shooting style, you may want to use the manual ring to control focus, zoom or exposure. If however you want to do a combination of the two (or three!) while shooting, you will find it very difficult to do it fast AND keep the camera steady. The LCD, when slightly tilted so that you can see better, tends to "cover" the buttons that switch the ring from one mode to another. Also, you need a lot of practice to learn how to switch between focus and exposure without spending time to look at what you are doing and therefore de-concentrating from the shot. That said, the zoom control on the back of the camera is good and you may want to use this most of the times and have the ring available for focus or exposure only.

7) The exposure ring works in "scales". Transitioning from one f-stop to another results to a visible "step-up" or "step-down". It is more noticeable on the LCD than on tape but it is still noticeable. Therefore, I would recommend not changing the exposure while on a shot, unless you really have to. Also, moving the camera from a sunny to a dark area quickly (when following a race for example) will need a considerable amount of ring-turning.

8) Auto-focus is very good. I never had a problem using it and I used the camera under some very difficult conditions.

9) If you plan to use the camera on a bike while racing, you may experience a strange "fade-out" effect while shooting: the picture and the sound will fade out for 3-4 seconds and then come back again. This is also recorded on tape. However, it only happened 2 or 3 times to me but I still do not know the reason. Maybe it was the dust, maybe the huge amount of shaking, maybe the wind against the camera or maybe something else... (maybe my camera!)

10) Same "fade-out" effect but for much less intense you may experience if you shoot in an area with a lot of electric currents around. I had this problem when shooting inside an airport. The picture tended to fade out and then come back every now and then. The whole thing would last 1 second but would repeat every 30 seconds.

11) You NEED a wide-angle lens for wide shots but BE CARFULL OF THE LENS FLARE. The Panasonic WA has very small barrel effect but has no thread for filters (!). If you use it, you will need to put the filter on the lens of the camera and the WA on the filter. This is very difficult business! The ring is too close to the lens thread and trying to unscrew the WA while keeping the filter in-place is really no fun.

12) You need a small mic! A really small one! I am using "Tiny Mike." Others are using "Rode videomic." You may want to check out http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=75696 . If you use Tiny Mike, set the audio levels to -9 db. In any case, no matter what you use, it has to be small...

As a general comment, the camera is really an excellent value for its money. I would like to say this again: The camera is really an excellent value for its money. I don't know of any other camera at this price range that can record so nice images AND offer so many manual controls. Probably the next (and last) model in the small cameras category for your projects is the DVC30, but this is a bit longer, 300 grams heavier, 1000$ more expensive and as far as I know has a less good OIS. It does have (much) better low light capability though (not very sure you need this), better DOF (not very sure you need this either) and better picture overall. I also played for some time with the idea of using an HC1 or A1 but the reported problem with their CMOS braking down on fast moving objects or panning was a huge issue for my projects.

Good luck!

Thanasis
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Old October 4th, 2006, 02:47 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Jefferson

the consumerism of teh MX/GS series has really flattened the potenial for this camera.. Ive got an old MX500 which cost me 3600... yup.. 3600... BUT to this day, im yet to find a camera in good light which can give me this kind of footage.. IMO, its better than a VX2100 in good light.. in low light it goes like a bag of poo... but these are great units... however to get the most from them, u need manual controls
Quite so Peter. I too have used the MX500 alongside my VX2000 and the images from the much smaller Panasonic are startlingly good, and at the wide-angle end of the zoom it's noticeably better than the Sony. But halfway through the afternoon the Panasonic just gives up - and for anything where the light can't be described as 'good' the VX2000 wins hands down, every time.

But there's more to image quality than initial impressions, and the much bigger chips on the VX mean dof control is a lot better. The MX500 has these dang internal, automatic ND filters that can't be turned off, so to say ''you need to use manual controls'' Peter is a bit of a laugh with the MX.

The MX also tells lies on replay, the software extrapolating the camera's f/4.5 + internal ND to say silly things like you shot this scene at f/16. Nonsence of course, and this is where the true manual control of the Sony wins out.

But it can't be denied - the MX and GS range of Panasonics with their Leica branded lenses are really superb - but only out there in the sunshine I'm afraid.

tom.
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Old October 4th, 2006, 02:59 AM   #11
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Good post Thanasis, thank you. One point though - there's a very good reason Panasonic (and most other lens manufacturers for that matter) don't fit a filter thread to the front of their wide-angle converter - and that is that you should not fit a filter there.

If there is a thread up front it's to attach a hood, not a filter.

Why say this? Well, Panasonic have been using 1"/5 chips since the MX300, and many of their camcorders now have 1"/6 chips. When you fit the Panasonic 0.7x widie you're setting focal lengths of just over 2.5 mm, and the depth of field - even at the f/4.5 aperture that the camera generally allows as the smallest - means that the dof can easily go from the surface of the front element forward - and especially so when you shoot close-ups.

Adding a filter - even one that you consider spotless - adds two extra surfaces, and the added flare can often completely spoil the shot.

Place filters (if you really feel you must) between zoom and widie, but again, check for vignetting on an underscanned image and be prepared to accept more flare. There's simply no way around it.

tom.
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Old October 4th, 2006, 05:44 AM   #12
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Hi Tom!

Thanks for pointing this out. Actually, I have never used a filter on top of a WA lens, so this is very useful for me to know, before I spoil a shot when I try to!

However, the actual problem with the GS400 is that if you use a filter on the lens and then the WA on the filter, unscrewing the WA is really really difficult, because the ring of the camera ends where the filter begins. The filter is smaller than the ring though and you cannot reach it with your finger and hold it, because the WA is larger than the filter! The situation becomes worse if you use a filter with a free-rotating outer thread. Then, even screwing the WA on it is an issue. Further more, you will never know if the WA is rotating because it is loose or because the outer thread of the filter is rotating. Which (come to think about it) is a point I forgot in my previous post: DO NOT BUY A FILTER WITH A FREE-ROTATING RING, either you want to use a WA or not. Even without the WA, it is still difficult to put it on the camera and take it out, because of the (nonexistent) distance between the thread and the ring.

Thanks,

Thanasis
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Old October 16th, 2006, 12:14 PM   #13
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sweet

The GS400 performs considerable better than the XL1s in most environments. The frame mode is the same, the lens is shorter, but the GS400 has a clean 16:9. The only downside is it isn't as good in lowlight, but everything else, it smokes the XL1's. This may come across as being bias, but I used to own the XL1's and actually sold it for the very reason that it was getting trumped by a little kid (I own the gs5000, a slightly smaller dumbed down version.)

I am now preparing for HDV and my gs500 will be a b-roll for all of my stuff in sd.

The Gs500 rocks my world.
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