Why the Lumix GH4 and the Profoto B1 are the ultimate tools for weddings
There are two inventions that have dramatically impacted the way we capture and create at weddings. The first is the Panasonic Lumix GH4, and the second is the Profoto B1 and B2 off camera flash systems.
To be fair and up front, I need to mention that Jennifer and I have recently become Lumix Luminaries, and Profoto sponsors speakers. Both companies have a small number of elite photographers and filmmakers around the world who they sponsor to teach and educate. It's an honor to be asked to be in their programs. However, we would have written this post either way, and this post is in no way biased. Everything I will mention here is simply based around our own personal real world experiences. We have been photographing weddings for 20 years, and have evolved into this style because it is consistent, it works, and it's just plain beautiful.
The Lumix GH4 is a very interesting camera that is a hit among filmmakers, including ourselves because of it's 4K capabilities, and it's incredibly light weight size. But, what about still photography? How does it stack up against our full frame DSLR's? The answer is that it depends on how you look at it.
Want to learn more? Check out this podcast available over at Skip Cohen University a website dedicated to the growth and education of professional photographers.
Photography and Video by Maring Visuals
DSLR's do one thing amazingly well
Here is the scoop... Full frame DSLR cameras have one amazing thing going for them, and that is the ability to push the ISO incredibly high. They do one thing very well, and that is capture amazing still photographs. For video they are painstaking to work with, but for still photography the good old DSLR is an amazing tool that has stood the test of time.
However, we photograph weddings, and there are some downfalls to using a DSLR that has driven us crazy for over a decade. My one pet peeve about DSLR systems is that they all put their focus assist infrared beam in the flash as opposed to the camera body, which leaves us hanging if we want to use off camera flashes in low light situations such as on the dance floor at weddings. In our experience, even with the most expensive DSLR shooting in extreme low light without the flash on the camera has always been tricky, and not advisable if you want to make sure you nail focus in these moments. Yet, off camera flash is sooo much prettier than on camera flash. So... What to do...
Bring on the GH4 Mirrorless Camera
The Lumix GH4 may look like a DSLR, but it isn't. Rather, it's a mirrorless camera with an EVF, (Electronic Viewfinder.) For all practical purposes it just may be the ultimate wedding camera for the style of photography that we do. Our style is a blend of real moments captured unobtrusively, photojournalism if you will, and beautifully lit portraits. We have a very high end clientele that adores high quality, and well lit, photography. If we put it in film terms, our work is more like Gatsby in that it is well lit, as opposed to an independent film which relies on budget lighting and high ISO's. There is nothing wrong with either approach, in fact we come from a PJ style background shooting with high ISO's ourselves. However, we are seeing that our clients seem to be drawn to a more professional quality, which makes sense because it's different to what the large majority of photographers do. They want to look good in the photographs we take, and they want the photography to be consistent from cover to cover in their final wedding albums. Off camera flash helps us to achieve that quality and consistency.
The GH4 has plenty of pixels for weddings. At 16 megapixels it's really the ideal size of output. We've printed stunning 40x60 inch prints on canvas for numerous clients using GH4 files so resolution is perfect. The ISO looks fantastic up to 1600 and beyond if necessary once a little noise reduction is used which is just fine for wedding ceremonies, etc... Not to mention their incredibly fast prime lenses like the 42.5 1.2 Nocticron Leica lens or the new 20mm 1.7 pancake. With glass this sharp and fast, ISO is never an issue at weddings..
However the most important feature that truly makes the GH4 a stand out camera is that the focus assist lamp is located in the camera body on the GH4. It's the feature that prompted us to write this post and share. This is a big deal because DSLR systems always hunted for focus when the lights got low at wedding receptions making it challenging to use off camera flash in key moments such as the announcement, first dance, cake cutting, etc... The GH4 never seems to miss a beat in these key moments as it's focus assist lamp just works when it should.
Profoto B1 & B2 Powerful and Portable
The Profoto B1 is the most reliable flash system we've ever used for weddings. One battery lasts pretty much the entire day. Occasionally we need a second for overly long weddings. At first thought you may think that studio strobes would be annoying at a wedding with big bright flashes. On the contrary, because the B1 and B2 have remarkably short flash durations so the flash is actually less bright in appearance to the eye than an on camera flash in most cases. We are only looking to get f/4 at ISO 400 on the dance floor at most and as the couple moves throughout the reception we can adjust Aperture and ISO to control exposure and work from long distances. The B1 also recycles brilliantly fast and most certainly faster than an on camera system. This means we can be trigger happy if we want, and never miss a moment.
Combine the power of the Profoto B1 or B2 with a Panasonic Lumix GH4 and you are not only working lighter than ever, you are working more consistently as well. We stumbled upon this combination by accident at a wedding, and it really made a difference in our ability to nail important moments with an even higher quality look. This is how we shoot the modern wedding, and our clients adore the quality and consistent results this combination allows us to produce.
Check out the video above to see how we are using these two new technologies together. Enjoy some moments lit with off camera flash below by myself and our team at Maring Visuals.