The Panasonic GH2 Guide For Film makers

The Panasonic GH2 Guide for Filmmakers


Welcome to The Panasonic GH2 Guide for Filmmakers! This comprehensive guide is tailored for filmmakers who are already familiar with the basics of filmmaking. We’ll delve into the intricacies of the Panasonic GH2 without spending too much time explaining fundamental filmmaking terms.

The Panasonic GH2 is not your typical DSLR. While often grouped with DSLRs, it’s important to note that the GH2 is not a DSLR but rather a hybrid camera. Unlike traditional SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras, which use a mirror mechanism to reflect the image to the viewfinder, the GH2 utilizes digital sensors for both photography and video, offering professional-grade quality in a single body.

What makes the Panasonic GH2 stand out is its ability to deliver exceptional video and photo quality in a compact form. It boasts professional video quality, surpassing many more expensive cameras.

With its chip, the GH2 produces detailed imagery without common issues like moiré and aliasing, providing excellent depth of field and resolution in both 720p and 1080p resolutions.

With the right enhancements, the GH2 can outperform cameras in the $5,000 range, making it a budget-friendly yet powerful option for filmmakers. This guide aims to streamline your learning process, helping you master the GH2 quickly so you can easily start creating stunning films.

Now, let’s explore the unique features and functions of the Panasonic GH2, from its handling of lenses and MTS format to codec manipulation and more. Whether you’re transitioning from traditional film cameras or other digital cameras, this guide will minimize the learning curve and have you producing professional-quality films in no time.

Which SD Cards to Buy for Panasonic GH2

Choosing the right SD card is crucial to maximizing your Panasonic GH2’s potential. The camera’s performance can be severely limited by a subpar SD card, but you won’t fall into that trap. Your choice of SD card will largely depend on how much you want to push the GH2’s video capabilities.

For filmmakers aiming for top-notch video quality, enhancing the GH2’s specifications through firmware patches is essential. This involves increasing the overall bitrate and optimizing the AVCHD specification. By using tools like Ptool to patch the firmware, you can significantly improve the camera’s performance.

For example, if you plan to run a patch like Aquamotion V2, which requires 100 Mbps (megabits per second), you’ll need an SD card with a sustained write speed capable of handling it. Most SD cards indicate their sustained write speed in megabytes per second (MB/s), which you can easily convert to megabits per second (Mbps).

Here’s a quick guide to evaluating SD card performance:

  • Determine the sustained write speed of the card (e.g., 32 MB/s).
  • Convert MB/s to Mbps (multiply by 8).
  • Ensure the card can handle the desired patch (e.g., for Aquamotion V2, you’d need at least 256 Mbps capability).

While Class 10 cards generally offer decent performance, cheaper options may not meet these criteria. It’s not just about class; brand quality matters too. Transcend cards are popular, but ensure their write speed matches your needs. To maintain stability, it’s advisable not to exceed 70% of the card’s maximum write speed.

I recommend the Sandisk Extreme series, which offers a sustained write speed of 45 MB/s, suitable for most patches. These cards provide a balance of quality and affordability. For demanding patches like Driftwood’s Senda or Mysteron, consider the Sandisk Extreme Pro series, offering speeds up to 95 MB/s. The Extreme Pro is especially suitable for high-demand patches like Mysteron BURST mode, providing longer recording times.

Stick to reputable brands like Panasonic Gold and Sandisk for high-quality patches, reserving Transcend for less demanding scenarios. By investing in the right SD card, you’ll ensure smooth performance and avoid missed shots or lost footage.

Setting up your Panasonic GH2

Here’s the recommended setup for your Panasonic GH2:


  • Body only
  • 20mm 1.7 Lumix lens
  • 64GB Sandisk Extreme (45MB/s) SD card
  • Extra battery

Note: You can use a 32GB Sandisk Extreme (45MB/s) card, but higher-quality patches may drastically reduce recording time. For longer recording times, opt for the 64GB card.

To achieve the best image quality:

  1. Set the camera to shoot in 1920×1080 resolution, 24 frames per second, using the AVCHD codec and the Smooth color curve. This setup maximizes latitude and dynamic range.
  2. Set the dial on top of the camera to “M” (Creative Movie Mode).
  3. Press the Menu/Set button next to the LCD screen to enter the menu.
  4. In the first menu under Creative Movie Mode, choose “24p CINEMA.”

Now, adjust the settings:

  • In the “Motion Picture” screen:
    • Set Film mode to Smooth, with all options at -2, and hit Memory to save.
    • Set REC QUALITY to 24H.
    • Set EXPOSURE MODE to M for manual control of the aperture and shutter during recording.
  • Optional but recommended:
    • In the third menu screen (C and wrench icon), set Histogram to on. This tool helps monitor exposure accurately.

Additional options:

  • CONTINUOUS AF: Recommended off for filmmaking, unless needed in casual situations.
  • I.DYNAMIC: Generally keep this on for boosted dynamic range.
  • Metering Mode: Try different modes based on lighting and preference.
  • WINDCUT: Recommended off, as wind noise can be edited in post.
  • MIC LEVEL DISP: Set to ON for mic level display on the screen.
  • MIC LEVEL ADJ: Usually set to 2, adjusting to 1 for louder environments.
  • EX. TELE CONV: Useful for doubling focal length without degrading image quality.
  • REC HIGHLIGHT: Recommended off, rely on histogram for exposure monitoring.

Following these settings will optimize your GH2 for filmmaking, ensuring quality footage with flexibility for post-production adjustments.

How to hack the Panasonic GH2

The Panasonic GH2, straight out of the box, already delivers impressive image quality, often surpassing that of more renowned DSLR alternatives for video. However, Vitaliy Kiselev, the developer behind the GH1 hack, has managed to crack the encryption on the GH2, opening up new possibilities for enhancing its performance.

Why would you want to hack the GH2? While it already performs well, hacking enables you to achieve even greater detail and resolution, particularly beneficial for filmmaking. This boost in quality allows for better shadow recovery (dynamic range) and increased image detail, closer to film quality. Additionally, the hack unlocks features like 25p framerate for the PAL community and higher ISO up to 12,800k, enabling shooting in extreme low-light conditions or compensating for slow lenses.

Key Features of the GH2 Hack:

  • Higher bit-rate for video, resulting in film-like image detail and motion quality.
  • Ability to allocate data towards motion or still scene detail quality.
  • Higher bit-rate for audio, improving audio quality.
  • PAL and 25p framerate by switching PAL and NTSC in-camera.
  • Unlocked ISO up to 12,800k for shooting in low-light conditions.

Hacking the camera is straightforward and won’t void your warranty. You can easily revert to the stock firmware if needed. Here are the steps:

  1. Download The GH2 Hack Pack from the provided link and unzip the folder.
  2. Run “Ptool3.64d (200212)”.
  3. Load Firmware, “GH2__V11”.
  4. Click the letter J highlighted in green to load the patch settings.
  5. Select Save Firmware and save it as GH2__V1x (x can be any number from 0 – 9).
  6. Put the new firmware on your GH2 SD card (freshly formatted with a full battery charge).
  7. Turn the camera on, and push the play/preview button. The camera will detect the firmware and ask if you want to update it. Select yes.
  8. Wait for the update to complete.

Note for Mac users: Ensure the firmware file extension is .bin, not .cpgz. Also, you can use patches from the patch pack by dropping them into the same folder.

Remember to check basic hardware setup for hacking and recommended SD cards as well.

Improving Video Quality Using Patches

The Panasonic GH2, even in its stock form, can deliver impressive image quality, but hacking it unlocks its full potential. One of the most notable advantages of hacking the GH2 is the ability to capture more detail in shadows, as demonstrated in the comparison below:


Before Patch (Untouched Image)
Before Patch (Untouched Image)


After Patch (Using "Spanmybitchup v1" Patch)
After Patch (Using “Spanmybitchup v1” Patch)

The “Spanmybitchup v1” patch, developed by Driftwood, is one of the Intra AVCHD patches that maintains automatic file spanning while significantly improving shadow detail. Before applying the patch, the codec tended to discard information in darker areas, resulting in a loss of detail. However, with the patch, the shadows reveal much more detail, enhancing the overall dynamic range and bringing the footage closer to a film-like quality.

The increased fidelity provided by the patch also benefits color correction and grading, producing crisper and cleaner results. When testing new patches, low light and shadow quality are critical areas of focus. The ability to capture more shadow detail essentially means more dynamic range, a key aspect of professional filmmaking.

This patch is designed for full-spanning compatibility, making it suitable for lower-end SD cards. Even with its high-quality image output, it doesn’t consume excessive data. With “Spanmybitchup v1,” a 32GB SD card can record approximately 1 hour of footage, a significant improvement over the stock settings, which would have allowed for about 3 hours of recording.

For those seeking the highest quality images from the GH2, the Driftwood patch pack offers the best Intra AVCHD patches available. Included in the pack are:

  1. Sedna A Q20: High-detail matrix with video bitrates of 24H=154,000,000 Mbps and 24L=77,000,000 Mbps.
  2. Mysteron & Mysteron Burst: Top-notch 24pH Intra settings with deblocking, offering 720p50/60 (GOP3/6) working and spanning, as well as special burst mode settings.
  3. Quantum X ‘SpanMyBitchUp v2b’ for v1.1: Compatible with lower-end cards while still offering intra-level quality, with video bitrates of 24H=100,000,000 Mbps and 24L=5,000,000 Mbps.

With these patches, you can squeeze out the highest-quality images possible from your Panasonic GH2, bringing your filmmaking to a new level of professionalism.

Audio: Hacks & Hardware

Improving the audio quality of your Panasonic GH2 can greatly enhance the overall filmmaking experience. With the GH2 hack via Ptool, you can increase the audio bitrate from 192,000bps to 440,000bps, significantly enhancing audio fidelity. This simple tweak can be added to the patch you are currently using. Although you will lose the ability to preview videos on the camera, the trade-off is worthwhile for the improved audio quality.

But what about external methods? Syncing audio in post-production is common in the film world, and for those seeking convenience, external audio recorders like the Zoom H4n are excellent choices. However, syncing in post may not be ideal for some filmmakers, leading to the desire to plug the H4n directly into the GH2.

The Zoom H4n Handy Mobile 4-Track Recorder is a versatile tool for on-set audio recording with the GH2. Plugging it directly into the camera is a great idea, but it comes with challenges. One such challenge is losing the ability to monitor audio with headphones/line output plugged into either the GH2 or the H4n. Additionally, there’s a difference in the line level between the H4n and the GH2.

The Zoom H4n Handy Mobile 4-Track Recorder
The Zoom H4n Handy Mobile 4-Track Recorder

The solution to these challenges is the Sescom LN2MIC-ZMGHN-MON cable, specifically designed for the Panasonic GH2. This cable not only handles the audio and level difference between the H4n and the GH2 but also provides a headphone tap, allowing you to monitor audio directly from the H4n. This setup offers convenience and flexibility while maintaining audio quality.

By combining the GH2 hack with the Sescom cable and the Zoom H4n, you can use professional microphones and avoid the hassle of syncing audio in post. Depending on the microphone used, whether onboard or external, you may need to readjust your audio levels to match, but this is a straightforward process.


I highly recommend using the GH2 hack in Ptool and setting it to 448,000bps for audio. This ensures higher-quality audio settings in the H4n and maintains fidelity when running the line into the GH2. While this is optional, it significantly improves the overall audio experience when filming with the GH2.

Lenses & Crop Factor

The Panasonic GH2, as a micro four-thirds camera, features a sensor approximately 75% smaller than a full-frame 35mm camera, resulting in a 2x crop factor. This means that the reported focal length of your lenses will effectively be doubled (though some report it as closer to 1.8x). While this presents both disadvantages and advantages, it allows for the adaptation of various lenses due to the shallow distance between the sensor and native MFT lenses.

Comparison Chart for Popular Formats:

Comparison Chart for popular formats
Comparison Chart for popular formats

The above image demonstrates the crop factor in comparison to popular sensor and frame sizes. If we imagine the whole image as a person’s face, using a four-thirds camera would only capture the nose and mouth, in contrast to the full image. However, this can be easily remedied by taking a few steps back. Despite the smaller sensor size, the GH2’s newer sensor doesn’t exhibit the aliasing and moire issues commonly found in older sensors, making it a worthwhile trade-off for increased quality.

When making lens purchases, it’s crucial to consider the crop factor. For example, a 50mm lens will function as if it were a 100mm lens when used with the GH2. This can be problematic indoors when space is limited, but advantageous in situations where being twice as close to the subject is beneficial.

Adapting lenses to the GH2 using various brands and adapters may present challenges, especially for users accustomed to automatic focus. Many cheaper adapters lack electronics, preventing the camera from controlling the lens as it would a native one, thus requiring manual operation. While this isn’t a significant issue for filmmaking, casual users or novices may prefer automatic operation. However, for filmmaking purposes, manual operation is often preferred, allowing for precise control over focus and other settings.

Understanding the crop factor and its implications is essential for maximizing the potential of your Panasonic GH2 and selecting the right lenses for your needs.

Anamorphic Lenses

An anamorphic lens or lens adapter is an attachment used with prime or zoom lenses to enhance image quality and expand creative possibilities, particularly through altering aspect ratios. This attachment significantly impacts composition by changing the aspect ratio, a key consideration for filmmakers.

comparison of the 3 most common aspect ratios
comparison of the 3 most common aspect ratios

Historical Context and Functionality

Originally, 2x adapters were prevalent due to the 4:3 aspect ratio of 35mm film. These adapters enabled filmmakers to achieve a wider cinematic aspect ratio by extending the horizontal field of view, rather than cropping the image, thereby preserving image quality. Anamorphic adapters, which attach to the front of a lens, increase the horizontal field of view by 1.33x, 1.5x, or 2x without affecting image height. However, using these adapters with zoom lenses can lead to undesirable vignetting. Therefore, it’s preferable to use a prime lens that avoids seeing the edges of the anamorphic adapter, preventing this effect.

When using a camera that shoots a 4:3 frame, a 2x adapter will yield a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. For a 16:9 frame, a 1.33x adapter achieves the same 2.35:1 ratio. Films for television are typically shot in 4:3 or 16:9, while cinema often uses a 2.35:1 ratio, approximately twice the width of the 4:3 standard and 1.33x wider than 16:9. For instance, the Panasonic GH2, which shoots in 16:9, can utilize a 4:3 hack in MPEG mode to make 2x adapters useful, despite AVCHD being a superior codec.

A scene using anamorphic lens from the Star Trek and Super 8 Directed by J.J. Abrams.

Visual Characteristics of Anamorphic Lenses

Anamorphic lenses are prized for their ability to produce distinctive visual properties that evoke a cinematic look and feel. The primary motivation for using an anamorphic lens is to achieve the widescreen aspect ratio of cinemascope, rather than the standard 16:9 or 4:3 ratios common in television. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio is the most prevalent cinematic standard, offering a wider field of view that mirrors human perception without becoming distracting.

Modern cameras, which often shoot in 16:9, benefit most from a 1.33x adapter to achieve the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Using a 2x adapter on a 16:9 frame produces an excessively wide 3.55:1 field of view, which can be impractical for most purposes but may be creatively useful for landscapes or experimental shots. Anamorphic lenses are also known for their unique lens flares, a characteristic often exaggerated in films such as J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” and “Super 8.”

Practical Considerations

Quality anamorphic lenses, especially 1.33x adapters, are rare and expensive. Among the most sought-after are the LOMO lenses, noted for their ease of use and exceptional image quality. Proper mounting is critical, as the lens must be perfectly level with the camera sensor to avoid skewed images. Clamps are typically used to secure the lens to the prime or zoom lens, ensuring horizontal alignment for the desired image morphology.


Anamorphic lenses often have limited minimum focusing distances, which can be mitigated with diopters. Diopters act as magnifying filters, enhancing sharpness and reducing the minimum focusing distance. While diopters improve close-up focusing capabilities, they can compromise infinity focus. However, their benefits often outweigh this drawback, especially for subjects within a few feet.

Common Anamorphic Lenses

2x Lenses:

  • Kowa Prominar / Bell & Howell: Known for excellent image quality comparable to the more expensive Iscorama lenses. Best used with a 35mm prime lens on Micro Four Thirds.
  • Hypergonar H Chretien Societe HiFi2 (and mini version): Less commonly mentioned but delivers high-quality cinematic images.
  • Other notable 2x lenses: LOMO OCT18 or OCT19 (Konvas 35mm), Sankor 16C, 16D, 16F / Singer, Isco CentaVision 2x, Proskar.

1.5x Lenses:

  • Iscorama 36 and Iscorama 54: Considered top-tier but are rare and expensive.

1.33x Lenses:

  • Panasonic LA7200, Century Optics, Isco 2000, Optex: These lenses are highly valued for achieving the cinematic 2.35:1 aspect ratio with modern 16:9 sensors.

In conclusion, anamorphic lenses are essential tools for filmmakers seeking to create the immersive, wide-aspect visuals characteristic of cinema. While they present certain technical challenges and can be costly, the aesthetic benefits they provide make them a worthy investment for serious visual storytellers.

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