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after its launch, Jon still rates it very highly – but there was also the issue that the replacement GH5 model had a design element included that ruled it out of the running for work as an action camera. “The GH5 turned out to be something of a non-starter for us,” he reveals, “because it featured a stabilised sensor and it’s impossible to lock this, even when the system is turned off. This meant that we couldn’t get a static shot from a moving vehicle, which ruled the camera out for the work we needed to do.” Instead of accepting the situation, however, Jon sent a sizeable feedback document to Panasonic outlining the issues he was facing and detailing what he needed from a camera in order to be able to use it on The Grand Tour , and his comments were very much taken on board. “I’m based quite close to Panasonic’s UK HQ in any case,” he says, “and head over there two to three times a year to speak to them about product developments. It appears that the company took the feedback they received from both myself and others like me seriously, because virtually everything I talked about ended up being incorporated into the new GH5s, and it was fantastic
to camera in a very natural way. It just wouldn’t be possible to fit a camera 40cm long by 15cmwide in that kind of space, and so I started out on Top Gear working with Toshiba HD Mini Cams, which were officially designed for inspection purposes. Although just two inches square, they were able to deliver decent footage that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to achieve.” It became Jon’s job to rig up all of the in-car material along with wheels, badge and exhaust motion shots where cameras would be attached to the car to achieve dramatic action footage. Following the launch of the Canon 5D Mark II, however, aesthetics changed somewhat and suddenly the look that was required altered as well. No longer was the GoPro style of wide-angle, curved field of view in vogue, but now the requirement was for the shallow depth-of-field that a full- frame sensor could provide. “With this in mind I turned to using cameras such as Panasonic’s GH2,” says Jon, “which were still highly compact but could deliver broadcast quality footage, much better than that achievable with the Toshibas. By hacking the firmware it was possible to get far greater data rates,
“Virtually everything I talked about ended up being incorporated into the newGH5S”
BELOW Anna Collins is a veteran of run ‘n’ gun filmmaking, which sometimes involves helicopters.
giving results that were actually better than some dedicated broadcast cameras were capable of delivering at the time. What was good was that Panasonic itself didn’t mind people playing around with its products: in fact, the man responsible for the hacking is now an ambassador for the company! It’s one of the key reasons why the GH series is as good as it is, because the company listens to feedback from the people who are using the cameras.” Jon has remained a fan of the GH cameras ever since, and until very recently was using the GH4 for pretty much all of his work on Top Gear and then The Grand Tour . Much of this was down to the quality of the camera and what it could offer the filmmaker – in fact, four years
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