PANASONIC LUMIX DC-BGH1 OVERVIEW
What would you say if we told you that there is a 4K cinema box style camera waiting for you with a price-tag of under $2K? Yeah, right... Well, believe it or not, Panasonic announced something like that back in October 2020, but it won't be available until the end of February 2021. A time which we are already getting close to, so let's take a quick overview on this magnificent motion picture creator beast.
Unbox Your Creativity
For the first time in Panasonic's history, the LUMIX BGH1 is considered to be the brand's first Box- Style Mirrorless Cinema and Live Camera. This compact cinema camera features C4K/4K 60p/50p and 10-bit video recording. And it also provides the V-Log L featuring log characteristics with a wide dynamic range of 13 stops, which isn't that impressive when compared to some photography oriented cameras, but for $1,997.99, we can't be picky about that.
This new cinema camera takes advantage of high mobility, an extensive LUMIX G interchangeable lens lineup, and even jammed all technologies Panasonic has ever acquired through the development of professional cinema cameras, camcorders and the LUMIX GH series. The LUMIX BGH1 is their ultimate proposal for having an easy to install camera with high expandability allowing multiple layers of control. It also delivers some versatile ways of shooting like drone- mounting, IP remote control, live streaming and more.
According to Panasonic's website, the main innovations of this camera are that it is a Netflix Approved Box Camera Perfect For Livestreams, Broadcasts And Cinema. The high performance LUMIX BGH1 is compact and portable, with expandability and multi-camera control with WiFi, PoE+ and 3G-SDI. It has amazing Image Quality. This camera provides superior low-light performance by using a high sensitivity, 10.2MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor with Dual Native ISO technology for an enhanced noise reduction experience.
Exceptional Video Capability of C4K/4K 60p 4:2:0 10-bit, 4:2:2 30p 10-bit ALL-Intra 400Mbps recording, V-Log L with 13 stops of dynamic range. Handy professional level features like 10-bit internal recording ensures rich data and smooth gradation, with the option of simultaneous live output over HDMI or 3G-SDI. Supports Anamorphic recording, Genlock IN/Timecode IN/OUT and unlimited recording on all settings. And remote control of multi BGH1 cameras via Ethernet with LUMIX Tether App while supplying power via PoE+. Control both by the app and with SDK is also available via USB-C.
Some other fine features of this 0.54kg (1.2 lb) are Anamorphic video support, MFT lens mount, internal fan to keep camera cool, it measures less than 4" square for lightweight applications on drones or gimbals, HDMI 2.0 and 3G-SDI video outputs, it records up to 4K60 10-bit 4:2:2 to SD cards or HDMI/3G-SDI outputs simultaneously with unlimited recording time. Also four programmable Fn buttons, tally lights on front and rear, genlock BNC input/output, Timecode BNC input/output and of course, dual SD card slots for a smooth workflow.
Essentially, the Panasonic LUMIX BGH1 Cinema 4K Box Camera is a modular, box-style digital cinema camera with a very small form factor. A feature that makes it perfectly suited for gimbal and drone footage as well as broadcast, live streaming, vlogging, and even cinema production. So it isn't a toy camera, even if the size and price would be suggesting otherwise.
It is an extremely well-suited device for multi-camera environments, not only because it's very portable and mobile, but because it also includes timecode and genlock BNC ports. So anyone can sync it up with other cameras to make syncing in post-production smooth and easy. The built-in RJ45 Gigabit LAN port allows you to sync with other networked BGH1 cameras, manage the camera settings and functions, and even perform direct IP streaming with a future firmware update. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality for monitoring, configuration, and control via a smartphone or tablet using the LUMIX Sync app.
This sweet box-style digital cinema camera comes with a 10.2MP M4/3 sensor as we already mentioned, and it records video with resolutions up to 4K60 and features VariCam Look workflows such as V-Log L and Cinelike, dual-native ISO using its Venus Engine, anamorphic support, advanced AF (autofocus), various remote and power options. It also supports HLG (Hybrid Log- Gamma) color for vivid imagery to aid professional color grading. And there are tons of goodies packed into this tiny form that make it the go-to production camera in any mobile and multi camera production environment as you can read here.
Another useful built-in function on the LUMIX BGH1 is a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C input for controlling the camera with the LUMIX Tether app that allows to capture still images and control up to 12 BGH1 cameras. We also can find a 2.5mm LANC input for an additional camera control option with an optional external controller. Some nice audio features include high grade 48 kHz/24-bit LPCM format, an integrated stereo microphone, a 3.5mm mic input, and a 3.5mm headphone output. The optional DMW-XLR1 XLR adapter can be mounted with the camera's hot shoe, allowing one to record with professional microphones for an extra value of $397.99.
This magnificent camera allows multiple ways for footage recording due to high data rate files in the ALL-Intra Long GOP, MOV, and MP4 recording formats with H.264 and H.265/HEVC codecs. The camera supports unlimited recording time and allows you to record 10-bit 4:2:2 video using the camera's dual SD card slots. It can output up to 4K via the HDMI 2.0 output, or you can output up to 1080p resolution via 3G-SDI.
The BGH1 allows you to output via HDMI and 3G-SDI simultaneously, so you can use one signal for monitoring and the other for recording. It also supports recording at variable frame rates up to 1080p240 for high-quality slow-motion video; and last but not least, custom 3D LUTs can be uploaded into the camera using the SD card slots!
How does it Feels?
Well, we haven't had access to it yet, but according to a reliable source, we can say that it won't tire you down. The box-style video camera has been designed to be as adaptable and flexible as possible, making it great for shooting anywhere, at any moment in time.
It's built around an over sized 4/3 sensor, which is quite similar to that one inside any GH5S. In fact, the 'GH' in BGH1 has been embedded in it simply to invoke the almighty GH series cameras. But in terms of performance, this bad boy goes above and beyond any of those GH models from Panasonic.
The concept is simple, the camera can be connected to a wide variety of other devices, depending on our needs. The expectation isn't that anyone needs everything the camera offers; but instead, it offers a wide number of users out there all the key features they need for their stuff.
The camera also comes with Variable Frame Rate mode, with 1080 capture at up to 240p and 4K at up to 60p, output at a variety of frame rates. And there's a 10-bit HLG capture and anamorphic support as well with corrected previews output over HDMI or SDI. The LUMIX BGH1 uses the latest improvements to Panasonic's DFD autofocus system. And the only thing missing is the ability to output waveforms or vectorscope, which Panasonic says it expects to be offered by many of the things you might connect the BGH1 camera to.
Also important to mention is the fact that the camera can be used as a self-contained optical device. Which of course isn't the most ergonomic one, but it has a series of customizable buttons and a control dial to compensate that awkward handling. Besides the lack of screen*, the BGH1 can be used as a standalone device.
* In its most basic layout, the LUMIX BGH1 can be used with the Lumix Connect app on a smart device, and set to record.
A hot shoe would feel like a strange addition to a cinema camera with no mechanical shutter, but its provision means it's compatible with the aforementioned DMW-XLR1 module for balanced audio inputs. And as we expected, this great looking camera comes with an HDMI socket, fast enough for allowing 10-bit streaming of DCI 4K at up to 60p. And according to several reviews, this is the most consumer-friendly of the camera's outputs, allowing the use of external monitors and recorders while shooting.
Who Should Invest the BGH1 Cinema Box Camera?
As you might reckon, we don't like stating that a camera should be bought right away. We rather take the investment approach, and we'll keep that even for such a promising camera. If you are certain that your income would drastically benefit from it, then you should buy it, why not? But there are some things to consider, like lenses and all the extras that cinematographic workflows require.
But in the hypothetical scenario in which money isn't much of a problem, then we could say that this camera is a perfect content creation tool for those in the need of a compact cinema device that can be mounted in a gimbal or a drone in a secure and reliable way.
So, as you might be expecting by now, from a camera which explicitly references the GH series, this one does pretty much everything the GH5S does. So if you are looking for an upgrade from the GH5S or any other GH camera, then this beast is for you. However, if you are not a previous GH user, then you must be willing to spend several bumpy hours on the complex learning curve such a system will impose into your mind. But this is something we all experience at least once in our careers' span, so it shouldn't derive you from accessing the wonders of professional cinema tools.
Side note on the Ethernet Connection
This one might be a new thing to encounter if you come from the photography world. In addition to video transmission and camera control signals, this camera supports power over Ethernet; enabling us to shoot without running out of battery or plug-in power. Additionally, up to 12 cameras can be shot remotely from the Lumix Tether app.
But if one is not using Ethernet or the camera's 12V DC input to power it up, the camera can use Panasonic's VW-VB video camera batteries (yup, they are huge). These Lithium-Ion battery packs are available in capacities of 43, 65 and 86 Wh (7.28V 11,800 mAh), which will provide battery life way beyond anything standardly used in photography. Just to illustrate this, Sony's NP-FZ100 (which is perhaps one of the most powerful battery packs out there in the photography sphere) is rated at 16.4Wh. So, the smallest version of the Panasonic VW-VB, is 2.62 times bigger than the NP-FZ100; which leads to 3.96 and 5.24 times larger respectively for the 65 and 86.
According to Panasonic, they say that they are currently working on some firmware stuff that will allow video streaming using an RTMP system over Ethernet. This means that the camera can be sent to someone, remotely setted up, and streamed back to the via a low-latency RTMP connection.
This is the first step into a cinema grade camera that is built solid and can take a beating. It perfectly fits in the contemporary virtuous content creator's workflow. Panasonic has broken it down so anyone gets access to the simplest aspect of what a camera is, while still magnifying the possibilities for the cinematographers using it.
Not all visual content creation needs are the same, but that doesn't mean one needs a specific camera for each and every single situation. This camera is capable of delivering the whole scope, from shooting a movie or a commercial, to multicam live streaming of an event. The BGH1 is simply something we haven't seen before.