Panasonic GH4 Firmware Upgrade 2.3 for V-Log L: Some Facts, Some Questions & Some Controversy.

by Karin Gottschalk14 Comments

A Panasonic Australia professional division employee told me, during SMPTE2015 in Sydney earlier this year, that the long-awaited firmware upgrade for the Panasonic Lumix GH4 that would contain V-Log L was coming in October and would cost US$90.

Good and not so good. Good that V-Log L was finally to make its appearance after months of being taunted by beta testers around the globe shooting V-Log L footage and sharing it online with Panasonic's blessing.

Not so good that it was taking so very long, and bad for some of us that it is to be paid-for and not free as all previous GH4 firmware upgrades have been. Worse that it would cost so much at such a rotten time for the Australian dollar, enfeebled by extreme government mismanagement, resulting economic turmoil, a possible coming deep recession, the highest unemployment for years and adverse employment, remuneration and social security conditions for anyone not white, male or aged between 25 and 45.

At the current exchange rate, US$100 = AU$142.37. A press release that arrived from Panasonic Australia 9:05am September 2 states that the retail cost of the version 2.3 firmware in Australia will be AU$149.00. I hope it stays fixed at that price. Latest financial news is that the Australian dollar will soon be worth US$0.50.

Panasonic USA's Firmware Upgrade Kit web page tells us the US price will be US$99.99 with free shipping on all orders. Meanwhile B&H Foto & Electronics Corp's Panasonic V-Log L Function Activation Code for Lumix DMC-GH4 page cites expected kit availability at “end of September 2015″ and invites us to calculate shipping. If you are US-based, that shipping comes in at between $US5.25 and $US48.06. If you live in Australia, don't fall into that entrenched habit of ordering it from good old B&H because shipping ranges from $US10.75 to $US95.60.

Graphic by Panasonic showing the process of obtaining and installing firmware 2.3 containing V-Log L. Looks complicated and apparently prone to failure. Eduardo Angel is sharing a long step-by-step article on it and Panasonic USA has made a lengthy short movie about it.

Graphic by Panasonic showing the process of obtaining and installing firmware 2.3 containing V-Log L. Looks complicated and apparently prone to failure. Eduardo Angel is sharing a long step-by-step article on it and Panasonic USA has made a lengthy short movie about it.

Since when is a simple firmware upgrade a “kit”? When it turns into “a box containing the code and manual” according to the good folks at Porter Novelli Sydney, Panasonic Australia's appointed PR agency.

Being an environmentally-conscious citizen of the world, I can't help but dwell on the thought of all those carefully packaged little Firmware Upgrade Kits trotting the globe to whomever has plunked down a cool $99.99 to $149.00 or more depending on which part of the globe you live in, what the current exchange rate is and how many extra taxes, imposts and charges you are going to be whacked with.

The thought of all that cost to the environment for something that, in the update's previous versions, could simply be downloaded from a server within seconds horrifies me, quite frankly.

So what do you get for all that cost to hip pocket and the planet? Here's the list:

  • Adds V-Log L Gamma Profile to GH4.
  • Wide Dynamic Range of up to 12 Stops.
  • Improved Color Matching with Varicam.
  • Similar Characteristics to Cineon.
  • Same LUT and Curve as Standard V-Log.

And here is the step-by-step procedure to install the firmware, as shared by Panasonic USA in an almost 5-minute movie at YouTube:

Panasonic LUMIX GH4 VLog L & Firmware 2.3 Update Process

  1. Purchase the key code kit DMW-SFU1 from this page. This is not for immediate download, as its kit that will be shipped to you.
  2. Update a fully charged LUMIX GH4 with firmware Version 2.3 from the Global Joint Update Service
  3. Export the camera's serial number to an SD Memory Card by inserting the SD card into the camera and press Menu – Setup – Activate – Export Serial Code to save serial code as SERIAL.LST file.
  4. Upload the SERIAL.LST file by inserting the SD card into your computer. From the Update Portal Web Page use BROWSE to find and select “SERIAL.LST” file on the SD card. “SERIAL.LST” is saved in folder of PRIVATE – PANAGRP – PAVC – LUMIX – ACTV – “SERIAL.LST then press Upload to proceed.
  5. Input “Key Code” from the kit you purchased in “Upgrade Software Key” to this website to get activation code. Alphabet on key code must be big letter to input. Please be careful with misspelling such as 1 “one” and I “big letter of “i”” or 0 “zero” and O “big letter of “o”” Please input key without hyphen “-“. Click Register
  6. ACTIVE.LST should auto download from the site. Save this file to the SD card in the folder PRIVATE – PANAGRP – PAVC – LUMIX – ACTV.
  7. When prompted power cycle the camera. You will find your new V-LOG L feature under the Menu Photo Style.

New York-based photographer/cinematographer Eduardo Angel, who has long been beta-testing V-Log L and sharing his results thus stoking the fires of desire is kindly sharing his own take on the installation process with The Panasonic GH4 V-Log L is out! Step-by-step installation tutorial.

I urge you to watch the video and read the instructions carefully lest something go wrong. It does not appear to be a straightforward process by any means.

Another aspect of this firmware update that is really standing out is the keenness with which the various branches of Panasonic are urging customers to pre-order. If you don't pre-order now, will it be over to the customary backorder and waiting, waiting, waiting regime so familiar here at least? Perhaps.

The folks at Porter Novelli tell me that “Panasonic Australia will be bringing in sufficient stock to satisfy the demand from Australian customers. However, we would recommend placing an order with your local specialist retailer to secure your V-Log upgrade. We encourage customers with any questions about their GH4 firmware upgrade to contact Panasonic Customer Care on 132 600 or via our website.”

I suspect it will be very much the same everywhere. Place your pre-order now to ensure you don't miss out. Because if that happens…

Concerns have been raised online after it appeared, from information apparently shared by one branch of Panasonic, that the serial number and nation of purchase of your GH4 would be linked with where in the world you can buy your firmware upgrade. Globetrotting GH4 owners will be relieved to know that “there are no regional restrictions to this code” so you can apply firmware bought anywhere to a GH4 bought anywhere.

Excellent! Now let's get back to the issue of price and having to pay for a firmware upgrade at all. Way back from the moment it was shared online that Panasonic would be charging for a consumer camera firmware upgrade for the very first time, fanboys began fawning about their willingness to pay and how much they were prepared to and able to pay. My heart sank at reading all that.

Not $US9.00, not $US99.00, not $US199.00 but $US1,999.00. Yes, just one dollar short of $US2,000.00, way more than the camera itself costs even in the GH4's new form, the GH4R, announced by Panasonic UK and available in the United Kingdom and Europe. Does the UK collectively regard itself as being in Europe?

 

The new, ostensibly European version of the GH4 in the GHR boasts V-Log L already installed and removal of the European 30-minute recording limitation, bringing it into line with no such limitation in other parts of the globe.

If I need a second GH4 as a backup, which is very likely for an upcoming low budget documentary feature to be partially shot in some really challenging locations, then I won't be buying another GH4 or a GH4R. I'd much rather wait for next year's GH5 which I hope will come with V-Log L – of course – and opt for another type or brand of camera instead, in the interim, if I really, really need one.

Sony's RX100IV looks mighty tempting and their RX10 II is worth considering. And neither demands you pay extra for a log photo style. Both come with S-Log installed.

And then Panasonic themselves have other cameras that would do well as V-Log-less B-roll backups. Or perhaps I should take a serious look at Sony's hopefully coming A7S II, especially given its predecessor's now well-proven available darkness credentials? Then there is the Panasonic AG-DVX200 and better again, the amazing Super35-shooting, M43-using JVC GY-LS300 4KCAM.

Aren't we spoilt for choice now? And so many cameras that already have log photo styles included or a freely downloadable log-including firmware update.

Just one more thing before I complete this article. You wouldn't know it while reading all the “yeah, I can easily afford any amount for V-Log L” comments splashing around the interwebs but not every GH4 owner is equally well-off and able to rip out a century or more right out of his or her wallet then and there.

And I am seeing comments along the lines of “well, not every user wants or needs V-Log L”. Quite possibly. But boys, there so many more types of people in the world than you and the ones you imagine there to be. Cease the strutting, preening and prancing, please!

Part of my constituency as a writer and teacher and, indeed, moviemaker, is those without easy access to the means and knowledge to tell their own stories. Those who most often live in middling or extreme poverty and various degrees of disadvantage and discrimination. The other half of the human population. The one you take for granted.

You know, women. Of all ages. None of the female moviemakers I know, perhaps with one exception, can afford anything they need when they need no matter how low or high the price. Not like the male moviemakers of my acquaintance.

All female moviemakers have no choice but to be way better than the guys to even get considered. No automatic ushering into nifty moviemaking jobs for us. We need to learn everything, know everything, do everything and do it far, far better than any guy to even get to the front door. As for actually getting through the front door – almost none of us make it. Here, at least.

Nonetheless and especially because of all that, we need V-Log L just as much as we need everything else in the moviemaker's arsenal and we should not be forced to weigh up a firmware update against feeding the kids or ourselves. Or weighing up whether to learn a possibly door-opening new skill or simply surviving.

Panasonic, could you possibly have a rethink on this, please?

Panasonic GH4 firmware upgrade 2.3 for V-Log L: some facts, questions & controversy. Click To Tweet

Panasonic LUMIX GH4 V-Log L Function Firmware Upgrade Kit DMW-SFU1

Via Panasonic:

Features
In response to the demand from the film production market, log video recording (V-Log L) is now available for the LUMIX GH4, and offers exceptional flexibility as well as wider dynamic range for color grading in post-production process. V-Log / V-Log L were developed to feature similar characteristics to Cineon, which is a characteristic curve for film digitalization. Taking full advantage of Four Thirds sensor, V-Log L boasts a log characteristic with 12 stops. Both V-Log and V-Log L have the same characteristic curve, and LUT (Look Up Table) can be utilized.

VLogLScreenCap

Learn more about Panasonic LUMIX GH4 V-Log L Function Firmware Upgrade Kit DMW-SFU1 Here.

(cover photo credit: snap from Panasonic)

Karin Gottschalk

Karin Gottschalk

Karin is a documentary moviemaker, journalist, photographer and teacher who conceived and cofounded an influential, globally-read, Australian magazine of contemporary art, culture and photography. While based in Europe, contributing to the magazine and working in advertising, she visualised a future telling the same sorts of stories with a movie camera and audio recorder. Now back in her home base in Sydney, Karin is pursuing her goal of becoming an independent, one-person, backpack multimedia journalist and documentary moviemaker. Mentorless and un-filmschooled, she is constantly learning and sharpening up her skill set.
Karin Gottschalk

Comments

  1. I’m forced to agree with you as the GH4 was always touted as a filmmaking tool for the masses a somewhat step to the side from the bmpcc.  The elitist attitude of those whose claim to be making so much money that $99 is a drop in the ocean makes me wonder if they then should have by now made the step up from a consumer camera to something more “professional”?

    When I look around me I realise I’ve been lucky enough to own a decent amount of gear and I actually chose to continue using the GH4 over the sony fs7, but I constantly meet people with a single Voigtlander 25mm and a GH3 who can only dream of someday owning a GH4 and it’s very humbling.

    The be honest the whole V LOG affair has been a PR disaster for panasonic and they have be hemorrhaging users to sony ever since the A7s, so the GH5 may be a case of too little too late.

    I’m patiently waiting to see what Blackmagic does in regard to the second coming of the pocket camera if not then the JVC GY-LS300 4KCAM may well be my next camera as I have a full set of voigtlander nokton’s in need of a loving home.

  2. I am excited to use the VLog on the GH4, I am disappointed with the $99 price tag on firmware. Also I am disappointed with the horrible upgrade process. It appears that Panasonic missed a great marketing opportunity, and turned it into a PR nightmare instead. This type of news just works against the GH4 users who actually help market their products online. As an owner of many cameras including Blackmagic, I look forward to firmware upgrades that extend the features of such cameras. The equally disturbing unknown release day is bothersome. Why even make an announcement for what is still vaperware until I can actually buy and install.

  3. For me that tax you have to pay, which we can call it that way, is a good reason not to buy a GH4. 

    Firmwares are just updates that usually correct errors or add functions that should have been there when the equipment or program was released. And Panasonic should be ashamed to charge for that. 

    If enough people make a loud noise about this, Pana might have to get back over this and reimburse anyone that already paid for it. And be just a regular upgrade. 

    Blackmagic added functions to the Pocket, like VU-meter and many other things, and never charged a cent for that.

  4. Having been working with and testing VLog one thing I can say is that it’s the real deal, and worth every penny. VLOG gives a gorgeous flat image, and the two stops dynamic range increase is definitely real. 

    This is the first video I’ve posted using it…
    Shot this little glamour film with my wife for our blog a day ago in the dark with harsh contrasty light constantly changing. Simply applied the Alexa Log C LUT in Color Finale and faded it to my taste to do a natural grade. ISO’s in this vary from 800 -1600. 
    www.togetherinstyle.com/stories/sequens-a-fashion-film

    I’ll be doing lots of shooting with it in the next couple of weeks and sharing on Together In Style.

    I already loved the looks I was getting without VLog on the GH4. But in reality, color wise, the GH4 is now like having a mini Alexa in terms of color as VLog is just so well engineered. It makes the GH4 worth a heck of a lot more, and really no other camera can compete with what the Lumix is delivering in terms of color and capability at any price point.

    Sure, an Alexa can shoot with wider dynamic range and a super 35 chip. But, it doesn’t do all the other cool things that the GH4 can do in terms of stills. This is the best all around camera in my opinion on any budget. I wouldn’t question it’s value until you work with it as I am sure they could have charged $999, but instead they brought this pro feature to a consumer camera for $99. I am thankful for it.

  5. And what about Spanish and european GH4 owners? Do we have to buy the upgrade kit to B & H and pay about 30% of customs fee and an extra shipment to Europe?

  6. DigitiFILMS Blackmagic and the so-called consumer divisions of other camera makers have shown the right way to handle updates to what they market as consumer or enthusiast cameras. Free of charge. Panasonic was doing the right thing too, until this. Their formerly good image has taken a big hit in my humble opinion.

  7. coolrob00g 
    I am curious on why would you choose the JVC LS300, which has little background behind on pro cameras, and seemed to care very little on past semi-pro products they released. One hint I read on an article about it is that it’s not a product JVC designed and it’s just putting their name on it. 
    The recent LS300 and the Aja were designs I tried to find out how they behaved compared to other existing cameras, and they seem to have serious weaknesses, for me at least. What they promised seems to be doubtful when all things considered. 
    You might say Blackmagic also had no camera background behind them, and their first product, the BMCC 2.5K, took some time to take off. But when it did, it stayed there as probably the first affordable high quality video camera, improving on the Canon 5DMkII or III, and directly comparable to Alexas or Reds. 
    I must say I sympathize with the GH4 concept, as I didn’t find the GH3 a real improvement on the GH2, which I intended to buy back then. The problem at the time were the AVCHD files, which were difficult to import to Avid. Now external recorders allow recording directly from GH4 to DNxHD format, accepted by Avid. 
    In the meantime I bought a Pocket and started recording doc stuff with it, with excellent results. Also made several tests to see how far I could go with it in latitude, using a Sigma 17-50 with Metabones, using a pola filter to control things in very bright situations, as well as ISO settings. The results were incredible. 
    As I don’t have a GH4 or know anyone that does, I can’t compare both cameras, now using this V-LOG firmware, even if reducing the GH4 4K to 1080p for comparison.

    I consider myself an indy filmmaker, and my tests made me even consider writing a feature script adjusting the story and the locations to the camera limitations (that it had, of course), using as little additional light as possible, even in interiors. I’m still working on that. 

    There are not that many tests comparing the GH4 to the Pocket, and the ones I’ve seen favor the latter, if I’m not wrong. 

    We should two Blackmagic Micro cameras soon to compare things better, particularly between the 4K, and the GH4. And I’m also curious about the global and rolling shutter on the 1080p type. 

    Price between the GH4 and the Micro 4K should be quite close, even if the Micro needs an external monitor. So I’m looking forward to exhausting comparison tests with them.

  8. Hi Karin
    Good on you for being so determined in your craft, I am a music composer actually…both real world…and on computers since the Atari days.

    I have mixed feelings about this VLOG-L update, but I personally will pay the $99 for it, although it rolls of at 79 IRE for compatibility to the varicam, that’s annoying cause it compromises the ability to write it nicely into an 8 bit H.264 codec.
    They should have made it from scratch and made a LUT for it…especially if they are charging, but there you go, we will see what they come up with in the future… Illya Friedman seems to think there is a lot more on the horizon for the GH4 and he would know.
    BTW I am from Oz too….and although I agree with you that the current government is floundering and has mismanaged several things, bear in mind the senate has blocked most of the legislation to try and get the economy out of the stalled lane. I know that we would be even worse of with the economy wrecking Labor govt that only took seven years to create the worst debt Aust has ever had…from a budget surplus, and they block any serious move to try and pay that back.

    Abbott for all his faults at least cares about this deficit somewhat, whereas Shorten would not give a damn.
    Anyway I hope the VLog works out well, I guess it better, cause it looks like they are planning more paid firmware updates, judging by the Activation List…sigh!!

  9. Yep the the black magic micro was shipping in May. Then June, then July, August, September? And so on. I preordered and am still waiting!

  10. carlmart coolrob00g The only reason I’m looking at the JVC LS300 is so I can use my mft glass and shoot in 4k.  The Micro 4k does all that but I’ve not read or seen anything that tells me I’ll be getting the same look as the bmpcc, which I did own when it first came out.

  11. i just went to update the software but only found Lemac in australia selling and because i use 2 GH4s , i shoot weddings, but the price for delivery from Brisbane to my home an hours drive is $40, this is crazy and greedy,,, so it would cost me a total of $340 , although i could make do with just one of the cameras having log, some wedding receptions are very dark and its needed as we know the GH4 is not good at all in low light, well Panasonic im one future customer you have lost,, your a greedy stupid arrogant company, reap what you sow,,
    BigSmiles

Leave a Comment