Monday, 31 August 2015

refreshing an old Lumix GH1 for FHD video (DSLR camcorder build - Part 1)

P9010200 Lumix GH1 ready to be hacked
I've been using some video equipment recently as part of the Mixtape sessions and it got me thinking about ways to create a dedicated DSLR rig that could go alongside the Canon system that I normally use.

In practice, many DSLRs have video capabilities nowadays, and my routine use of Olympus OM-D EM cameras means that there is always a video capability available.

For this experiment, I want to make the camera dedicated for video, perhaps squeezing some more bit-rate from it than conventional. I guess it's a form of overclocking. The most well-known modifications are to Canon 5D II and III DSLR - mainly adding new menus for things like sound levels and exposure metering.

My preference was to do something with a micro 4/3 system. The cameras don't have lock up mirror to worry about and the type of sensor doesn't have the same heating issues as, say, a Canon.

I've selected an old Lumix GH1 body for the adaptation. The GH1 has plenty of form for being hacked, the most well known being via the work of Vitaliy Kiselev, who developed a firmware utility called Ptool which takes the Lumix firmware image and allows modification of various parameters.

That also explains why I'm using an old camera body for the experiment - this could all go horribly wrong. Actually, there's copies of the Lumix GH1 on eBay for around £100 now, whilst the similar form factor but progressively improved Panasonic Lumix GH2, GH3, and GH4 go up in price as £250, £400 and £900. I'm guessing the GH5 will appear early next year at around £1000.

The latest GH4 can record 4K video, but I'm happy enough to create something that will run with FHD (Full HD which is 1920x1080 pixels). It's still more pixels than many of the non-huge televisions use and won't look too out of place alongside my conventional HD camcorder images. To put it in context, a conventional 25 frame per second PAL DVD is 720 × 576 pixels per frame.

By using a micro 4/3 I can easily try a variety of lenses, including my old manual OM Zuikos. This could be quite entertaining and create a wide kit of parts for almost no outlay.

I'm also interested to create the finished object with more of a film camera appearance rather than looking like a stills camera, so I'll be looking for some cheap Meccano-like parts to be able to dress the finished item. It was amusing filming some of the Mixtape sessions and to get reactions about having a 'proper camera' when using the relatively modest Canon XF system. For this one I'm thinking matte box and camera cage.

But, first things first. I'll need to re-blow the firmware in the camera...

No comments: