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Panasonic BGH1 Review

Introduction

Released in the fall of 2020, Panasonic’s BGH1 moves their LUMIX range into fresh new territory. Technically, it sits between the GH5s and the higher-end S5. And it’s a camera that shares many commonalities between both these releases.

Over recent years, we’ve seen a spike in box-style cameras, and with this release, LUMIX gets into the act. The BGH1 is a compact modular, box-style cinema camera aimed at all videographers anything from gimbal or drone work to broadcasting, live streaming, and full-blown cinema productions.

And it’s a purpose-built camera, but one that’s seemingly versatile enough to suit any workflow. It comes to market to compete in this unique segment against the Blackmagic Micro Studio and the Z Cam E2C. But is this camera merely a stripped-down GH5s with lacking ergonomics and screens? Or does it have more substance than meets the eye? And is this indeed a RED KOMODO for ⅓ of the price? Let’s find out.

 

What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Panasonic BGH1? 

Pros:

Image Quality

It obtains a similar 10.2MP Micro-Four-Thirds sized sensor from the GH5s. But, unlike the GH5s, this is not a stills configuration. Instead, it uses a 4K optimized sensor that uses a full-time electronic shutter rather than a mechanical one. As such, it doesn’t provide many still shooting capabilities. Instead, it only captures Fine or Standard JPEG images pulled from the LUMIX Tether software. But this makes sense since it’s a video camera, not a hybrid. Thankfully, it blends many video capabilities from the GH5s. And Panasonic has capitalized on the full-time electronic shutter to upped several of its abilities to make the camera broadcast-quality ready in the process.

With that it shoots C4K video up to 60p at 4:2:0 10-bit or 4:2:2 10-bit at 30p. And you can use either LongGOP compression with a data rate of 200 Mbps or jump to 400 Mbps with ALL-Intra. Granted, you only get ALL-I at 30p for both C4K and 4K UHD. Additionally, it shoots 1080p full HD up to 60p internally, or 240p using the Variable Frame Rate option, at 200 Mbps with 10-bit 4:2:2 and ALL-I. And all resolutions shoot to either the MOV or MP4 formats.

Overall, the video quality this camera produces is excellent and outpaces the GH5s. It boasts 13 total stops of dynamic range, rather than 12, providing a 1 stop improvement in the highlights. And that refinement lets the camera recover more details with a smoother roll-off in extremely contrasting scenes. As such, it’s a marked improvement over the already excellent GH5s. Additionally, it also provides 10-bit color at 4K 60p, instead of 8-bit. So taken together, the footage is fantastic. Recording in the V-Log and Cinelike profiles produce flat and accurate rendering, well suited for post-processing. And it also obtains a similar refined color science from the S5, S1H, which both match the flagship Varicam. So as it stands, this is currently the best image quality available in the Micro-Four-Thirds ecosystem.

Panasonic has improved the sensor’s readout speeds, which virtually eliminates rolling shutter on this camera. And like many of their cameras, this one too offers unlimited recording.

It has a Variable Frame Rate option that records Anamorphic, C4K, and 4K video from 2-60 FPS and FHD from 2-240 FPS.

Note: it doesn’t record audio in this mode or support AF. And 240 FPS has a crop.

It obtains Anamorphic recording from the GH5s and S1H, letting the camera record video with a 4:3 aspect ratio. And it can also de-squeeze the images for proper monitoring.

It obtains Panasonic’s full suite of Photo Style Modes from Flat, Cinelike D2, V2, Like709, V-LogL, and HLG. The Cinelike D2 and V2 profiles are new, they were first introduced on the S5. These are tweaked profiles that produce more natural colors that don’t require much grading. But, with V-LogL pre-installed, the camera is perfectly apt to match their flagship Varicam cinema camera.

It obtains Live Cropping, which crops into the frame to create a digital pan or zoom recorded to a full HD video. It’s an excellent option to create smooth pans, tilts, or zooms without physically moving the camera.

It has Loop Recording, which continues the recording by deleting the oldest segments to free up card space.

It has Segmented File Recording, which divides a MOV file every few minutes while recording to avoid loss due to unforeseen interruptions.

It has zebras for highlight warning indication.

It has the Frame Marker, which sets the desired aspect ratio on the display while recording. And this helps you gauge the angle of view before cropping in post.

It has Color Bars and Test Tone, which displays color bars while recording. And the camera can also output a test tone while the bars are shown.

You can upload custom 3D LUTs by using the SD card.

It has HLG and V-LogL View Assist, which help gauge the recorded footage by applying a LUT preview from the SD card during recording.

It can output a clean 10-bit 4:2:2 C4K or 4K UHD 60p signal via the HDMI port or a 1080p signal via the 3G-SDI port. It can also output to both simultaneously so that you can monitor and record. And a recent firmware update brings RAW video support to compatible external recorders.

Low Light Performance

Like the GH5S, it features dual-native ISOs using the Venus Engine and thus it’s low light performance too is excellent. But, Panasonic has modified the starting values to ISO 160 and 800 for the standard profile or ISO 400 and 2,000 for V-Log L, nearly a two-stop reduction compared to the GH5s. And this refinement represents a subtle but noteworthy improvement. Otherwise, the camera maintains a similar native ISO range of 160 to 51,200, further expandable to a low of 80 and a high of 204,800. And users can expect usable videos up to ISO 6,400 or 12,800 with minor processing.

Focusing Performance

It marks one of the few box-style cameras with autofocusing support. And surprisingly, it obtains Panasonic’s most advanced AF system debuted on the S5. With that, it uses a 225-area contrast-detect AF system with DFD technology and support to -6 EV. And like the S5, it also offers Face, Eye, Body, and even Animal detection, which account for the subject type, size, color, and motion. But, the smaller Micro-Four-Thirds sized sensor here has dramatically enhanced its performance. This is due mainly to the smaller sensor compared to full-frame and its faster readouts. Plus Panasonic has also refined the detection algorithms, further improving their speed, consistency, and accuracy. Together, this camera focuses faster and more consistently across the board than the S5. If there’s a reasonable amount of subject separation and the scene isn’t overly cluttered, the camera will confidently track the subject. And it’ll do so regardless if the subject turns to profile or away from the camera. And it does so noticeably faster than the S5. So, as it stands, this is currently the best implementation of this system we’ve seen to date. And it’s easily reliable enough for most filmmakers to use and appreciate.

The camera obtains AF Custom Settings (AF Speed and AF sensitivity), so you tailor the tracking speed and sensitivity for better results.

It obtains several manual focusing aids such as focus peaking, MF Guide, Focus Resume, focus magnification, and Touch MF Assist.

Battery Performance

It includes a power adapter that connects to mains power for continuous operation. And you can purchase an external VBR-series battery if needed. However, the battery life varies based on the size used. But the largest one, the BHR118, offers 560 minutes of 4K 60p and 640 minutes of FHD 60p, or 300 minutes for the smallest size. As such, battery life is outstanding and likely to last a full-days shoot with ease.

Note: these are proprietary batteries taken from the EVA-1 that are slightly difficult to source. But you can find adapters that convert its power input to other more common styles.

User Interface

It uses the standard Panasonic user interface and menu design found on the S1, S5, and even many GH series cameras. Panasonic long ago mastered this particular design, and this camera merely continues the tradition. The menus are modern, clean, and straightforward. And they’re not overly cluttered with settings either. As such, newcomers to the ecosystem will find them intuitive, easy to navigate, and quickly mastered.

Also of note, the LUMIX Tether desktop application is equally as intuitive. And connecting the camera to a computer provides the full working menu with plenty of customization. In many respects, it’s largely reminiscent of their other capture software used on their stills cameras. But, it provides even more options and detailed control over the settings. You can also connect using ethernet or the USB-C, so you have some options there. And compatible PD-rated USB-C or PoE+ Ethernet devices can even power the camera with this connection. Additionally, the software has no lag or latency in changing settings, and you can even pull files directly from the camera to the connected device. Overall, it’s well designed, well implemented, and a fantastic companion program.

The camera offers four customizable Function Buttons around the housing, Fn1-4, that you can customize to over 30+ settings.

It has a dedicated Quick Menu button. Pressing this button recalls the Quick Menu, which gives you a list of 12 of your most-used settings. There, you can configure the order and the relevant items it displays.

It offers the customizable My Menu, where you can register up to 23 of your most-used main menu items.

It offers twelve custom shooting modes, letting you quickly recall complete shooting setups.

It offers the Save/Restore Camera Settings option, which recalls camera settings from the SD. And it’s a great option to recall relevant settings when shooting with multiple cameras.

Note: You can also switch the units of Shutter Speed and ISO to Shutter Angle and Gain.

Physical Layout & Ergonomics

Physically, the BGH1 is ultra-compact but also as boxy as you’d imagine. And with this release, Panasonic placed enormous emphasis on making this camera as compact and lightweight as possible. Measuring less than 4 inches and weighing only 545g (1.2 lb) body alone, it weighs less than the GH5. So in this regard, they’ve succeeded. But the control layout and physical interface of the camera are quite minimalistic. It only offers the bare necessities. These include a control dial, shutter release, Q button, Delete, Playback, and several function buttons. Otherwise, it’s barren.

Even so, it has eleven 1/4-20″ threads around its body, providing unrivaled flexibility in rigging or adding accessories. Yet, its small compact size makes it easy to deploy on a gimbal, crash cam, or on compatible drones. Even so, the device is tough. It uses both aluminum and magnesium for its housing, adding durability and protection. And given its modular design, you’ll have the utmost freedom to rig it as needed for production. So you can either keep it lightweight with a handle, lens and monitor alone. Or you can fully build it with a matte box, cage, XLR audio, focus puller, and much more. The options are endless.

It has both front and rear-facing tally lamps, which you can see from virtually any direction to ensure the camera’s rolling.

It obtains the built-in fan from the S1H, with full customization over its operation. And it helps ensure the camera remains cool during prolonged shoots.

Niche Features/Extras

It has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) connectivity, letting you connect to a smartphone or tablet to control the camera with the LUMIX Sync app.

It offers E-Stabilization, which applies 4-axis digital image stabilization to recordings. And it can also combine with optically stabilized lenses to increase performance. But, enabling this feature will crop into the frame.

It has dual card slots, both of which support UHS-II SD cards. And they also support hot-swapping, so you can record as long as needed.

It has both timecode and genlocks BNC ports, letting you sync on a frame by frame basis with other cameras. And it becomes the only camera at this price point with these input/outputs. As such, it becomes an exciting budget-friendly option for broadcast sports and VR applications.

It has an RJ45 Gigabit LAN port. This connection lets the camera sync with others on the same network and manage their settings and functions. You can even stream directly from this port with a future update. And for the first time on a LUMIX camera, it now supports PoE+ (Power-over-Ethernet). So connecting it to a compatible network switch can also charge the camera too.

It has a USB Type-C (USB 3.1 Gen1) that supports tethering via the LUMIX Tether app and continuous power with PD-rated sources. And connecting to the Tether app lets you capture stills, videos and remotely control up to 12 cameras too.

It has a 2.5mm remote input to add the optional controller.

It has a full-sized HDMI type A port.

It has a microphone input.

It has a headphone output.

It has an integrated stereo microphone to capture scratch or reference audio.

It has a hot-shoe, letting you connect the optional DMW-XLR1 adapter to interface with professional XLR microphones.

It obtains the Luminance Spot meter, which lets you specify anywhere on the screen to measure the luminance level.

Cons:

Image Performance

The camera lacks a mechanical shutter. Thus, it lacks the necessary component needed to capture high-quality photos. Instead, it only captures JPEGs from the LUMIX Tether app alone, nowhere else. And it cannot capture RAW images or sequential images in bursts. So, overall,  if you’re looking for a hybrid camera to capture stills, then the GH5S is the better option.

Video Capabilities

A new firmware update brings RAW video via the HDMI port to an external monitor. However, this output disables the external monitor’s display, meaning you cannot control any relevant camera settings whatsoever. Instead, you’ll have to connect the camera to the Panasonic tethering app or use a second SDI monitor to change all the camera settings. So for most, this format isn’t practical, especially if you’re shooting on the go as it requires two monitors or a computer nearby. Not ideal.

It lacks vectorscopes, waveforms, and RGB parades. But, it’s unlikely the target demographic for this product won’t have a monitor without these features built-in. Even so, it would be a nice bonus when using the LUMIX Sync or even the LUMIX Tether apps, as neither have these features.

Display

The camera thoroughly lacks displays, unlike its nearest rival, which at least has a small status LCD to navigate the menu. Instead, your only option is attaching an external monitor, connecting to a smartphone, or using the tethering app. But, you won’t be able to connect to a phone without first enabling Wi-Fi. So you’re a bit out of luck if it’s disabled and you don’t have a monitor on hand. It’s a strange move to see Panasonic force users to always have a monitor handy, even for small menu setting changes, as it builds up the camera. Future iterations should include a built-in settings display, or the smartphone app should have menu functionality.

The refresh rate on the LUMIX Tether software is relatively low. And it makes it challenging to perform manual focus polls accurately as there’s a bit of latency.

Ergonomics

Most of the buttons lack tactile separation. And suppose you’re wearing gloves while handling the camera. In that case, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to identify any of its buttons quickly. Considering this camera will be rigged in a cage most of the time, their design doesn’t help to initiate custom functions.

The positioning of the hot shoe will block the control dial if you attach an accessory, such as a small microphone or a receiver. It’s not in the ideal placement on the camera’s body.

Lacking Features

It lacks in-body stabilization.

It lacks built-in ND filters.

It lacks a dust reduction system on the sensor.

It only has a 3G-SDI output, limiting the port’s resolution to 1080p. As such, it’s only helpful for monitoring and not recording.

Is this a good beginner camera?

No.

This camera is far too niche and requires you to have some working knowledge about rigging and external accessories. As such, consider getting the Panasonic G100 instead if you want a capable video camera. Or you can step up to the GH5 if you’re an enthusiast.

Is this a good camera for you?

Yes.

For streamers, this camera is one to consider. It offers a dedicated ethernet port now with PoE+ support, making it the perfect option for professional streaming applications. And you can stream at 4K 60p with up to 12 cameras via the LUMIX Tether app to programs like OBS. As such, it’s a powerful option for live event work.

For indie filmmakers, this is a camera to consider. With its compact and small form, it gives you immense flexibility in rigging the camera as needed. And you can do so to create a cinema camera that’s 1/3rd the cost of the normal options.

If you prefer better handling though and DSLR styling, consider the S5 or GH5s instead. The S5, in particular, has a full-frame sensor, the full V-Log profile, and a better dynamic range. So as a package, it provides a substantial improvement in image quality. But, the BGH1 does have better I/O and connection options for interfacing with professional broadcast devices. And you only get these kinds of connections with rigging the S5 and GH5s.

In the end, Panasonic’s BGH1 is not a traditional camera aimed at most consumers. Instead, it’s an interesting alternative for a wide range of videographers who want a dedicated camera suited to professional environments. And one that does so without forcing users to compromise and opt for a DSLR-styled design. Yet, the starting price makes it quite an affordable option for many broadcast workflows or filmmakers, especially given its versatility and size. So as it stands, it’s an innovative release from Panasonic that does something different. And it’s a powerful complement for remote studio environments, live streaming, cinema, and Multicam VR setups. And if you want unrivaled flexibility to customize a camera system to the job at hand. In that case, this is undoubtedly one to consider.

Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
4

Summary

Panasonic’s BGH1 packs all of the high-end Micro-Four-Thirds features from the GH5s but ups its flexibility and connectivity.

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