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.
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:
- 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.
- Update a fully charged LUMIX GH4 with firmware Version 2.3 from the Global Joint Update Service
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- ACTIVE.LST should auto download from the site. Save this file to the SD card in the folder PRIVATE – PANAGRP – PAVC – LUMIX – ACTV.
- 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
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.
(cover photo credit: snap from Panasonic)