Shooting a video with two very different cams… the Panasonic GX7 and Nikon D600

This is a video I did with Jordan Pearson of Dark Atom Media. We wanted to shoot something that would capture a fun vibe whilst promoting our friend Danni's makeup business.

What is it like shooting with a full-frame camera that’s known to have poor video quality vs shooting with a Micro Four Thirds camera which has optimal video quality but a poorer sensor?

Pretty nice actually. They complement each other very well. The trick is to play to each camera’s strengths. The D600 has no focus peaking and has a soft image, so I nailed it to a tripod and slapped my Tokina AT-X Pro 80-200mm f2.8 on there. With a large aperture telephoto lens most of the image becomes out of focus, which effectively makes the in-focus parts look really sharp. The Panasonic GX7 resolves much more detail in video and so I put the wider Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 (plus the Tiffen Ultra Contrast 3) on there via a Metabones SpeedBooster, which would be like putting a 24-70 f4 on a full frame. This combination was put on my hand-held rig.

The problem with the D600 is not just that it’s soft but that it also has a ton of moire/aliasing/false colour. So any time you’ve got detailed objects in focus, those weird artefacts will steal the show. However for non-video-nerds that stuff is usually invisible and when doing close shots of people it’s not a problem at all unless they’re wearing intricately patterned clothes.

What people do notice is tonality (which nerds call dynamic range) and colour. These are things that the D600 clearly does better than the GX7 sometimes but not all the time. Look how much better the Nikon handles the nuances of skin in the above picture. To be fair to the Panny though, it has the Ultra Contrast filter on a cheap Tamron lens on an optical adapter.. so there’s a lot of glass affecting its image there. But I suppose that is another point – I’m using a load of glass to hopefully create a more fimic look with the Panny. Sadly it’s not going to work 100% of the time whereas I find that close to 100% of the time, the Nikon comes out with a beautiful image.

Above is another comparison image. The Nikon has the Cineflat profile on (which I highly recommend BTW) and the GX7 is dialled close to flat. Both images have had a slight curve adjustment. In this instance I prefer the GX7’s image. But it’s very subjective really.

The shoot itself was a very nice experience. It wasn’t really a professional shoot so everything was quite relaxed and the girls enjoyed themselves. I brought along two wall-powered 125W LED lights with soft boxes (one got smashed, RIP). I also wrapped them with coloured film to give some more colour to the shoot. Everything was a bit impromptu really and we ended up using a lot of things that were lying around as props – like the wheel chair, ladder etc.

This is actually not the first time I’ve shot a Panasonic camera alongside another brand. Last year I shot an event with a GH3 and a Canon 6d + 550d. I’ve also been in Jessops/Calumet to pit my GX7 against the Sony a6000, Nikon d5300 and Nikon d750 (no pictures).

I will say that the Nikons have consistently given the best overall image, especially in challenging light. And for this reason I have decided to sell my D600 and replace it with a D5500. Lesser featured body, smaller image sensor but much better video and it has 60fps! And with the HDMI out I will be able to use it in an ENG style shoulder rig.

I will be keeping the Panasonic GX7. It may not have as good a image as the Nikons but it really only shows when you put them side-by-side. And even then it’s not always a sure thing. For travel this little camera with a strong feature set is ideal! Keep on the look out for my 1 ½ year review coming soon).