Tester13: “The GH2 is the best (disastrous) camera for video shooters!”


What does the famous GH1 hacker Vitaly Kiselev (alias “Tester13”) think about the new Panasonic GH2? I had the chance to talk with him. I kept the chat content untouched (without any language correction). The Interview is very long so please click the link below to read it!

Reminder: Tester13 (Vitaliy Kiselev) is the hacker that patched the GH1/GF1 camera software. He is active on DVXforum.com and Pentax-hack.info.

43rumors: What do you think about the new Panasonic GH2?
VK: I think that Panasonic announced their best camera in the history. This is clear.
VK: But.
43rumors: But?
VK: I think that Panasonic now is on the verge of disaster concerning GH2.
VK: Really.
43rumors: That is a surprising statement! Are you not contradicting yourself?
VK: No. Just look at GH2. Body only is introduced. But price is $899, and this is USA price!
43rumors: So you say the camera itself is fantastic but the price too high?
VK: It could be fine if they have intentions to ship it on mars.
VK: But in reality we have a bunch of cameras with video or with “video”.
VK: Strongest are from Canon and Nikon. But Sony is pretty close.
VK: Boundary today is in $800-900 dollars. So they spotted it right. But this boundary is for Nikon or Canon.
VK: You could sell 60D fine, but you can’t sell the GH2 for similar price.
43rumors: Why?
VK: Because it is m43 body, use m43 lenses and is made by Panasonic.
43rumors: But the Gh2 has a much better video quality than the 60D…
VK: Yep. GH2 video quality and usability will be much higher. But.
VK: Panasonic has very tough lesson to learn. Average people do not shoot video frequently. And film makers number is still very small.
VK: People like that camera shoots video, use it from time to time (most of them about 5-10 times for whole body life).
VK: And that’s really all.
VK: So, you can’t sell GH2 as video camera with only marketing slogan being “it shoots best video” :-)
VK: I see big fail ahead. I mean disproportion between sales and expectations of them.
43rumors: Because the image quality is worse than the 60D the Gh2 should have been priced much lower?
VK: Because Panasonic has much smaller fellowship and fewer lenses. I can find many points here.
VK: But most importantly – because GH2 seems to be very high margin camera.
VK: Look at Sony NEX with four chips and look at GH2 with one on top of the other.
43rumors: Don’t you think the many filmmakers will buy that camera? Maybe that is the real target from Panasonic.
VK: As for filmmaker community. I am sure that it’ll be most popular VDSLR, yes.
VK: But, again, filmmaker community is not extremely important. It is hard for me to tell this :-)
43rumors: So you say issue number one is the high price, issue number two is the small range of lenses. What Lenses should Panasonic make to be really competitive?
VK: I think that Panasonic do not need many lenses to grow fast. It needs extremely cheap electronic converters for Canon and Nikon lenses. With full AF, and IS working.
43rumors: And a dedicated fast video-zoom lens! Maybe it will come with the AG-AF100
VK: As for fast video zoom lens – just go and buy one TV lens with 2x extender :-)
43rumors: Let’s talk about the technical qualities of the GH2. What do you like most about the GH2?
VK: I think I like 1:1 crop zoom the most. One feature that will never be available for AF100.
VK: Making your $10 c-mount lens extremely useful. :-)
VK: Get one used F1.4 ENG motorized zoom lens, buy adapter and here you go. You are shooting on the camera with sensor between 1/2″ and 2/3″.
VK: In fact, you have top of the line Panasonic 2/3″cameras image as free addition to GH2. :-)
VK: Plus large DOF. I love large DOF in many cases.
43rumors: Did you analyze the GH2 video encoder?
VK: GH2 encoder seems to be much better. Not perfect, of course.
VK: B frames are present. But CABAC encoding is not. Generally, it looks strange. But decision can be not related to technology, but more to corporate politics.
VK: Otherwise GH2 could become camcorder in different form factor :-)
VK: 1080p50 and 1080p60 modes also absent. Can be also not entirely technological choice (making TM700 still shine in some aspects).
43rumors: Will you be able to hack the Gh2 to allow 1080p60 recording?
VK: No one knows it :-)
43rumors: Disaster: Price, Lenses and?
VK: Look at GH2. Again prices in Europe and UK are set by some strange man.
VK: Any reason behind it?
VK: Others are doing this. So we will be doing the same. It is nuts.
43rumors: All products are more expensive in Europe. It’s not just Panasonic. Also the Canon or Nikon cameras are more expensive here.
VK: Problem is that any SANE reasons behind this are unknown :-)
VK: As I said. Everyone is doing this. Crowd instincts.
43rumors: What if the price of the GH2 body would be $600 (or 600 Euro). Would that really help to sell much more cameras?
VK: I expect that body sales will triple at least. And remember – GH2 is high margin camera, so actual profits will be also larger.
VK: And Panasonic make money on lenses. More bodies – more lenses – more money – everyone happy – management get bonuses. :-)
43rumors: But at least they are now offering a “Body Only” version. So they are learning…slowly!
VK: Yeah. Read Thom Hogan’s today essay :-)
VK: They iterate, iterate, iterate.
VK: Up to the death of the company.
VK: I fully agree with him – very near future belongs to modular solutions backed by strong software.
43rumors: More disasters?
VK: Next iteration of “Disaster story”
VK: GH2 sensor.
VK: It looks like they can’t make enough sensors.
VK: Look at AF100 and GH2 announcement. Both had been guarded against obtaining raw footage.
VK: They are afraid that final specs of sensor (due necessarily to produce them in big quantities) could differ.
43rumors: So we have another cause of disaster after price and lens….the limited sensor production.
VK: No, we have many other causes. We just started.
VK: :-)
43rumors: So many?
VK: Limited sensor production can be extremely important. Same thing with GH1.
VK: Limited numbers of cameras in first months.
43rumors: Why didn’t they address the issue? It looks like they do everything possible to NOT sell cameras :)
VK: They always want to be on edge, here are consequences of this. :-)
VK: No one knows how economy will behave after January.
43rumors: Keep on with your disaster list…
VK: Next up.
VK: Photokina show.
VK: Marketing disaster.
VK: Why they need bunch of incompetent people preventing to make any footage???
VK: Why do they think that such exhibitions are still important?
VK: Times changed.
43rumors: What should they do?
VK: I am here with Thom :-)
VK: Read his essay :-) He perfectly said that they must do.
VK: I can only add one thing.
VK: Guys. Make long list of any people in communities, review sites, valuable shooter or just famous owners of your brand, etc.
VK: And send them bodies just after announcement.
VK: Do not rely on review sites. They are good. But their influence now is smaller and smaller.
VK: And they publish review of your camera after FOUR months after introduction.
VK: This guys will tell EVERYONE about your product right after 20min of postage opening :-)
43rumors: Canon is doing a much better job here.
VK: Yeah Canon is interesting. But I don’t like their methods.
VK: Look at Canon related blogs.
VK: They are have some kind of self-censorship. Every Canon product is fanfares for month. All else is generally ignored with small essays about features.
43rumors: Panasonic should sent the GH2 to Philip Bloom…
VK: No, they should not.
43rumors: why not?
VK: Look at religion. They always work on someone who don’t have faith or who already with them, at least partially.
VK: I don’t see any point to spend money and time turning someone if you can just get same for free :-)
VK: So, for one man it can be good. But as company politic it leads to nowhere.
VK: They must make their own followers. In fact, they already have them.
43rumors: it surprising how big companies do have such a weak Marketing. Can’t really explain why it is so…
VK: Do you know who they teach marketing in universities now? I know. Just remember set of rules. Don’t break them.
43rumors: Are there any more disaster after price-lens-sensor-marketing?
VK: Yeah, of course.
43rumors: Oh my god! Panasonic will hate you after reading the interview 😉
VK: Many guys at Panasonic love me, some hate. But it do not change the fact that I just tell real facts 😉
43rumors: next disaster is…?
VK: New batteries.
VK: Without any actual need for them. One big reason – Chinese companies reversed their protocol. Long time before my hacks. So, they made entirely new stuff :-)
VK: Next up.
VK: Region restrictions. PAL/NTSC, limited language selection.
VK: It is so old. So idiotic.
VK: Someone just needs to find the guy who is responsible for this and fire him for economic diversion against Panasonic Corporation.
VK: Going next.
VK: Metal rigs for straps.
VK: Someone must be fired also.
VK: Body is hard to hold for anyone with big hands due to them. It is bad design. Worse, these things do not hold properly.
VK: Going next.
VK: GH2 is something like king of video cameras among VDSLRs. :-) But.
VK: Look at the movie menus. And audio level adjustment.
VK: It looks like Frankenstein from Panasonic consumer cameras and someone who had been fired from Canon for developing adjustment of audio levels in 60D.
VK: Guys. Just get any prosumer camera from this century and look how all this is implemented.
VK: I suggest to start rewriting this firmware parts right now.
VK: It’ll take may be one – two weeks. But it’ll be big good surprise :-)
VK: In fact, looking at announcement I think that they are collecting feedback. And we’ll see some surprises in final firmware. At least I believe in these guys. Most of them are ultra-smart. May be ten times more smart then I am.
VK: They just have all this Japan bureaucracy above them :-)
43rumors: Did you tell Panasonic what you don’t like about the GH2?
VK: No. Not yet. But I had been told they are reading your site each day :-) Making reports even :-)
43rumors: Really?
VK: Yep. You are famous in short circle :-)
43rumors: I hope they will read your interview and consider your suggestions.
VK: Make it into report and place it in archive for future review :-)
43rumors: LOL
VK: Next up.
VK: 2.5mm jack and no headphone out.
VK: I don’t know any sane man who could have idea to put 2.5mm jack where is enough space for normal 3.5mm.
VK: And we do not even approached famous 50i mode with 17Mbits.
VK: I really like the idea of 50i. It had been my secret dream for GH2.
VK: But people are people. They just hate deinterlacing of HD H264 footage. :-)
VK: They had been looking for 1080p50.
VK: Look at all still review sites.
VK: GH2 introduced some minor improvements :-) Like interlaced 50i mode, instead of proper p25 mode.
VK: This is what they say.
VK: And this is real problem.
43rumors: Why?
VK: Instead of revolutionary view (such as G1 reception) they get “minor improvements” and “good video modes”
VK: So, if they have even small chance to make this encoder work in 50p they must start working now.
VK: And many people like 25p mode. So, this is also can prevent many complains.
43rumors: Could you be able to add 50p?
VK: I don’t know how much idiot you must be, if you depend on some guy who must hack you camera to make it sell much better. It is abnormal.
VK: They clearly need some reform before modular and software revolution hit them very hard.
VK: All I know is that leading management is still dreaming of making high margin cameras using some parts of user feedback and definitely without any software politics improvements.
VK: Many mobile phones manufacturers had similar thoughts. Now Apple selling much less phones then major players make more profit.
43rumors: Instead companies tend to be more conservative
VK: I can tell you simple thing that I told one Panasonic top manager.
VK: You can’t innovate while you afraid to lose your warm place.
VK: They are just afraid.
VK: If you go to your boss or even your colleagues with some new thing you will be made responsible. And they do not want to be responsible for risky things.
VK: They prefer live without any changes and all will end like boiled frog.
VK: But frog really liked warm water.
VK: She just made small mental error. Wrong conclusion.
43rumors: Think Thom Hogan and his suggestions for future cameras (modular etc). Which company will be the first to bring innovation?
VK: No one knows. I had some hopes for Panasonic, but I am not sure now.
VK: All this mirrorless thing will quickly translate to modular cameras.
43rumors: I need a VDSLR to shoot commercial: Do you recommend to buy the “hacked” Gh1 ($999 with 14-140mm) or the more expensive GH2?
VK: I recommend to buy that is actually available now if you want to shoot something. Otherwise you’ll be waiting for second coming.
VK: As soon as GH2 will be available it’ll be better camera, of course.
VK: But from all my bodies I love G1 the most (for photo, of course). Isn’t it weird?
43rumors: Cheap, small and good image quality
VK: Yeah. Without lens you can get it for $200-250.
VK: Mount some old Vivitar. And here you go.
43rumors: Will it be harder to hack the GH2 than it was with the GH1?
VK: As for “harder to hack”.
VK: It depends.
VK: If this frog start to realize real situation, it could be very easy. :-)
VK: But any way we’ll try to use BGA desoldering and direct flash reading.
VK: So, if any good engineer with background on flash programmers and BGA things are reading this, contact me at dvxuser or mail me.
43rumors: Is there something else you want to say about the Gh2?
VK: Go and buy it as soon as it’ll be available. As it is the best disastrous camera for video shooters that I know. :-)
43rumors: that will be the interview title: “GH2: The best disastrous camera for video shooters” :)
VK: Perfect title!

Many Thanks Vitaly!

For 43rumors readers: Feel free to comment this post if you want to ask him something. And…guys you heard Vitalys words, go and preorder the camera :)

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