Paid-for DMW-SFU2 video upgrade

Panasonic has a history of offering paid upgrades to add more sophisticated video features to its cameras. The S1 continues this tradition, with an optional upgrade for videographers who have a workflow that demanding higher bitrate and/or Log capture capability.

Key Takeaways:

  • SFU2 video upgrade may require additional payment ($199/€199/£179)*
  • Intended for video makers: adds 10-bit capture and Log gamma option
  • Also brings waveform displays and ability to upload LUTs

The SFU2 upgrade does more than just add Log capabilities, though: it unlocks the ability to capture or output 10-bit 4:2:2 footage in both 4K and 1080 resolution (in its standard form, the camera can only capture 10-bit 4:2:0 footage and even then only in its HLG mode).

Sensor region Format Resolution Frame rate Bit-depth Bitrate
Full width MOV 3840 x 2160 29.97p / 25p / 23.98p 4:2:2 10-Bit 150Mbps
1920 x 1080 59.94p / 50p / 29.97p / 25p 100Mbps
Super 35 - 3840 x 2160 59.97p / 50p 4:2:2 10-Bit HDMI output only
1920 x 1080 59.94p / 50p / 29.97p / 25p

The value of 10-bit and a big sensor

You don't need to be shooting log footage to use the camera's 10-bit capture/output capabilities, but the increased bit-depth is necessary for the camera to offer the full V-Log response.

Log is an attempt to share the storage space in the file more equally between the tones you've captured (rather than devoting most bits to the midtones, as most tone curves do). This gives you more flexibility when it comes to editing if you're likely to make significant adjustments.

The larger sensor of the S1 means it can capture more dynamic range than the GH-series cameras

There are two potential drawbacks to shooting Log: one is that capturing additional highlight information means using a lower exposure, bringing higher noise levels in the midtones and shadows. Also, if you're too ambitious in your processing, you may find the files are still 'stretched too thin' and posterization can appear. The step up to 10-bit reduces this posterization risk, since it means you have 1024 values to encode the captured information rather than the 256 values that an 8-bit file gives.

The larger sensor of the S1 means it can capture more dynamic range than the GH-series cameras, meaning you can capture additional highlights without the shadow/midtone noise cost getting too high.

In conjunction, these two factors allow the S1 to use Panasonic's full V-Log gamma curve, not the truncated V-LogL version that its smaller-sensor cameras used. The V-Log mode also applies the 'V-Gamut' color response, which is intentionally de-saturated to prevent any of the color channels from clipping. This means the S1 can slot directly into any professional workflow alongside its professional VariCam cameras, albeit with lower bitrate capture.

Other functions

In addition to 10-bit capture/output and V-Log, the SFU2 upgrade brings the option to upload LUTs (look-up tables) to the camera, so that you can view a corrected preview while shooting Log. It also gains the Waveform display that makes it easier to correctly expose Log footage.

We'll be shooting a project using the SFU2 upgrade when it becomes available, and will look into the differences that it makes.

*Early buyers of the S1 can get the upgrade for free. Details of this offer vary between markets.