June 19, 2014

SUBJECT: Birding with the Panasonic GH4 - Part II: Slow-Motion


Eastern Bluebird Chick being fed by parent
Dad feeds junior some tasty mealworms. (Tamron 150-600mm + Panasonic Lumix GH4, 4k video frame grab.)

A few years ago, Sony came out with the FS-700 video camera which was able to shoot 240 fps at full 1080p. Super slow-motion adds a whole new dimension to videography and I came close to plunking down a large sum of money just for the FS-700's ability to do such that.

I was able to actually try the FS-700 out with the Canon 600mm f/4 lens using a Metabones adapter. (Thanks to the fine folks at AblelCine in Oak Brook, IL.) Although the lens worked with the camera, the ergonomics were so awful that I passed on the camera. It was just way too unruly to do any serious work with such a long telephoto lens and the long camera housing. It was a real stretch (pun intended) to focus the lens manually.

As of this writing, Sony FS700 is still the king when it comes to super slow motion video. The Panasonic GH4 does have the ability to do 96fps which is 3x slow-motion. This comes nowhere near the capability of the FS-700 (10x), but it does produce quality video at 3x, but just not as slow.

On and off, over the past few weeks I've been taking some clips at 96fps to test out the GH4. At first blush, the quality of the output does not look as outstanding when compared with the GH4's higher bit-rate codecs, but a little post-processing (sharpening) does a good job of bringing the video to life.

Here are a few sample videos highlighting the GH4's slow-motion capabilities. As always, please download the video(s) from Vimeo for best results. (Click on the Vimeo icon in the lower right corner of the video, then click the download button.)

The first video was taken at a heron rookery. Especially with large birds, you can get away with faster speed slow-motion due to the large wings of the herons. (The bigger the bird, the slower the wing-beat.) All of the clips in this video were taken of birds-in-flight. It requires good hand-eye coordination, a good pan-head and some luck. Most of the clips were taken with the Tamron 150-600mm lens (Canon mount) adapted for the GH4. There are some that were also taken with the Canon 600mm f/4 II lens also adapted for the GH4


The second video was taken during the early morning hours at our house in Minnesota. A large mesoscale thunderstorm had just rolled through the area and left a gentle rain that fell for over an hour. I thought it would be neat to catch the rain falling in slow-motion with one of my favorite birds, the Eastern Bluebird.

So far, this has been a pretty good nesting season for them but I am vigilant in keeping nest boxes clean. Besides predation from raccoons, chicks can fall prey to black flies and other @#$%! insects.

That's about it for now. I have more to discuss regarding the GH4 and lots of fun images and video to show, I just need to find time to produce all of this!


—Alan Stankevitz


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