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Getting the film look with Micro 4/3rds cameras

The micro four thirds system is something your either going to love or hate. Some people love it because of the relatively compact size of the cameras, and others hated it because the small sensor gives images a "flat" look in comparison to the shallow depth of field provided by full frame cameras like the Canon 5D. I too were skeptical about the system but quickly became a fan of it once I got my hands on the Panasonic GH3 and some exotic lenses such as the Voigtlander 17.5mm. The system has seen tremendous growth over the years due to such Panasonic GH2's huge success with cinematographers, Olympus's impressive advancements in still photography and support from companies like SLR Magic and Voigtlander.  These companies made it their duty to address the flaws and provide solutions to the growing micro four thirds system...and as an avid user of the system...I have created my own solutions for those as invested in (or looking to invest in) such a young yet promising field. As you may or may not know, I have wrote a couple articles in the past for Canon users titled "getting the film look with your Canon DSLR". I loved my Canon but the deeper I got into cinematography is the more I realized I needed something with better image quality...and that's where the Panasonic GH3 came into play. It had features such as 1080p at 60 frames per second with jaw dropping detailed images and Wi-Fi to get my pics online ASAP ! I seen a dramatic improvement in quality but there will still some flaws that instantly stood out to me that I seek to fix or at least create a workaround to these issues.

some people hate the deep depth of field of Micro 4/3rd cameras and would prefer the prized shallow depth of field look from full frame cameras. You would be glad to know that contrary to popular belief  IT IS POSSIBLE to get shallow depth of field out of a micro four thirds system !

Depth of field

Coming from a crop sensor or even a full frame sensor camera you'll soon notice the deep depth of field in your images. I've personally grown to love the results of deep depth of field, an effect widely used in cult classics such as Citizen Kane and films by Alfred Hitchcock. The massive depth of field allows me to keep multiple subjects in focus and helps when pulling focus when shooting fast moving subjects even at small apertures like what's provided with the ridiculous f0.95 Voigtlander lenses ! However some people hate the deep depth of field of Micro 4/3rd cameras and would prefer the prized shallow depth of field look from full frame cameras. You would be glad to know that contrary to popular belief  IT IS POSSIBLE to get shallow depth of field out of a micro four thirds system ! Lens companies like Voigtlander and SLR magic provide lenses with apertures up to f0.95 and they are close focusing damn near into the macro range. The close focusing capabilities is the key to getting the look because depth is the ability to emphasize distance from the foreground (subject) to the background. The closer you can get to the subject while keeping them in focus (and maintaining the composition your going for) is the key to creating the separation which will give you the desired shallow depth of field effect.

Focal Length

When shooting micro four thirds the focal length will be doubled. This can be either a great thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it. On one end if you want a cheap telephoto you can buy an 85mm for example which will be the equivalent of 170mm on your micro 4/3rd camera. The image will be sharper because the sensor only sees the center which is the sharpest part of the lens with little to no vignetting. Some say the crop sensors makes lenses made for full frame cameras loses their true resolution...but...that's not what I've seen, my vintage Asahi Super Takumar 85mm is a beast when stopped down !

Diffusion

These modern lenses, especially the ones made by Panasonic and Zeiss are VERY contrasty. Throw a diffusion filter on there to lower the contrast of the lens. This will help create a smooth transition from highlights to shadows and reduce banding. The added benefit is that when you do slightly  overexpose your image the bright lights glow instead of looking like a white patch of nothingness. Even light diffusion helps !

Color Grading

I'll admit I don't like how color is rendered on my Panasonic GH3 as much as I did my Canon, however there are software such as FILM CONVERT and Vision Color's "Osiris" LUT's that I use to help me get the color palette im looking for. The important thing (for me at least) when using FILM CONVERT is to research each available film stock emulation that they offer so you can know which situations they were originally used for. Some film stocks were optimized for shooting under tungsten light and others were made for daylight, not saying you can't get a good match with a film stock without worrying about that stuff...it just helps in my opinion. I usually over expose my footage in camera by a 1/3rd to 2/3rd's of a stop then reduce the exposure by a stop in FILM CONVERT. The over exposure is to make sure the details you want remain in the camera's sweet spot, underexposed footage in Micro 4/3rds footage looks ugly. You reduce the exposure in FILM CONVERT to balance the brightness of the image, the results are incredible ! My final step is to pick a LUT from Visioncolor's pack and in done.

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Make sure to watch the attached video and comment. See something you would do different ? Have questions ? Tips and tricks of your own ? Let me know and stay tuned for the next one !

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