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Panasonic LUMIX BGH1 Camera Review

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Panasonic recently announced the LUMIX Multipurpose BOX Style Camera (BGH1). As the name suggests, this is a camera that can be used for a wide variety of applications.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on one and put it through its paces. Please be aware that this is a review of a pre-production version of the BGH1. There may be some functionality changes and issues that get fixed in the shipping production version.

Essentially Panasonic has taken the internals of a GH5S and rehoused them in a box. Ok, there is a little bit more to it than that, but that is the best way to quickly describe what they have done.

For this review, I am going to primarily focus on how the camera is to use and operate for its intended use. Despite being labeled as a multi-purpose camera, the BGH1 is not a camera I would personally recommend or use as a digital cinema camera replacement.

Image wise this camera is going to offer you very similar results to the GH5s.

I would have liked to have captured a lot more vision with this camera, but Panasonic didn’t include a battery so what I could do with the camera was very limiting.

Key features

  • M4/3 10.28MP (17.3 x 13 mm) Digital Live MOS sensor
  • Dual Native ISO
  • Lightweight & compact design
  • 4K DCI & UHD 4:2:2 10-bit up to 29.97p internal recording
  • 4K DCI & UHD 4:2:0 10-bit 59.94p internal recording
  • Full HD up to 240fps
  • 3328 x 2496 Anamorphic at up to 50p
  • SDI & HDMI Out
  • TC In/Out & Genlock
  • Ethernet with PoE+
  • WiFi, Bluetooth
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What it is and what it isn’t

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It is important to understand what the LUMIX Multipurpose Box Style Camera is and what it isn’t. This is not a camera that is going to be for everyone.

The BGH1 is being touted as a camera you could use for:

  • Live streaming
  • Gimbals
  • Drones
  • Multicam productions
  • On Vehicle shots
  • VR
  • Sports
  • Broadcast
  • Cinema
  • Documentaries

Despite this being a camera that you could use for a range of applications, it is clearly suited to some applications more than others.

LUMIX BGH1 Ready for live streaming 1

As a live and MultiCam solution, there is a lot to like. The camera has the ability to output over HDMI, SDI, and USB-C simultaneously. It can also be powered and controlled via Ethernet. You can also control the camera through WiFi or Bluetooth.

If you use the LUMIX Tether for Multicam, you can control up to 12 BGH1 cameras at once. The camera also has timecode In/Out and Genlock.

The camera will also be very suitable for broadcast applications.

Its small size and design also mean that it would be well suited for use on drones and gimbals. Because of the box design, in theory, it should make it easier to balance than a lot of other cameras.

I found that the camera was indeed easier to balance than a lot of cameras on a gimbal. Because of the box design, you don’t have an uneven weight distribution.

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If you are looking to use the BGH1 primarily as a digital cinema camera then there are quite a few things you need to be aware of. The camera doesn’t have any screen, display, or EVF. To use it as a stand-alone digital cinema camera you will need to attach a monitor. You will also need to rig it in some sort of cage, or at a bare minimum put some type of handle or support on the side of it.

Like a lot of box style cameras, you have the ability to customize it by building it up, but also the advantage of keeping it small and compact when needed.

You could well make the argument that if you are looking at buying a stand-alone camera for traditional uses that don’t include multi-cam or live streaming, then the GH5S or even an S5 would make a lot more sense than a BGH1.

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However, if you want a camera that is very versatile and can be used as a jack of all trades solution, the BGH1 could be made to work if you are prepared to live with the caveats of trying to do so.

What it doesn’t have

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As I have already mentioned, there is no LCD screen, EVF, or display screen of any kind. There is also no internal ND filters or IBIS. There is also no onboard XLR inputs.

Where does it sit in Panasonic’s Line Up?

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According to Panasonic, the LUMIX BGH1 sits above the GH series, but below the LUMIX S series.

Weight, Size & Design

The BGH1 is small, compact, and lightweight. Like quite a lot of modern-day cameras, it is essentially a box. The box design has its advantages and disadvantages.

The camera really is tiny and in some ways, it reminds me of the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera.

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With a compact lens on, it is still incredibly small.

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The flip-out screen on the GH5S

I am still a little surprised that Panasonic didn’t include a flip-out LCD screen, or at the bare minimum, a status display screen so you could make changes without having to use an external monitor or app to control the camera.

It would have been nice to see the same flip-out LCD screen found on the GH5S on the BGH1. In saying that there wouldn’t be a lot of places where you could physically fit it on the camera.

The trouble is because the BGH1 is so small, even an Atomos Ninja V dwarfs the camera.

The body frame is composed of aluminum and magnesium alloy. The camera weighs 545g (19.22 oz) and it has physical dimensions of (W) 93mm x (H) 93mm x (D) 78mm. This makes it smaller and lighter than a GH5S. As a comparison, a GH5S weighs 580g (20.46 oz) and it has physical dimensions of (W) 138.5mm x (H) 98.1mm x (D) 87.4 mm.

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Despite all the talk of it being so small and compact, if you have a look above, you can see how it compares to the full-frame Panasonic LUMIX S5.

There is only a handful of buttons and dials on the camera. There is a power On/Off switch on the front of the camera, and then on the top, you have a Record button, Menu dial, Delete/Back button, Q.Menu, Playback, and a Function button.

There are 3 other Function buttons on the front of the camera. All four function buttons can be customized. If you press the Q.Menu then the function customization screen comes up. I wish Panasonic had have labeled the front three function buttons. I was constantly forgetting what I had assigned to each one. They are also a little awkwardly positioned and they are not the easiest to locate when you are trying to do something quickly. Again, these types of design choices clearly tells me that the camera was designed with certain applications in mind and not others.

Panasonic has included quite a few mounting points on the camera body. There are 11 1/4 20″ holes available. This allows you to mount the camera in just about any way you want.

Build Quality

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The BGH1 is reasonably well made and it still feels solid, despite its small size and weight. The media card slot door has a nice firm mechanism and the covers on the inputs and outputs fit securely without moving around or falling off.

Inputs & Outputs

The camera has the following inputs and outputs:

  • 1x 3G-SDI (Out)
  • 1x HDMI (Out)
  • 1x Timecode In/Out (BNC)
  • 1x Genlock IN (BNC)
  • 1x USB-C
  • 1x RJ45 LAN
  • 1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm Stereo Mic Level Input
  • 1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm Stereo Output
  • 1 x 2.5 mm LANC Control

The inputs and outputs are all located on the rear of the camera. When you are using them you really do need to remove the covers otherwise they just get in the way.

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Another thing to note is that because the HDMI port is located on the back of the camera on the right-hand side if you are using a monitor like an Atomos Ninja V, the HDMI cable will need to be wrapped around the camera.

Sensor

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The BGH1 uses the exact same M4/3 10.28MP (17.3 x 13 mm) Digital Live MOS sensor that is found in the GH5s. It also uses the same Venus processor.

As this sensor features a multi-aspect ratio design it allows you to record 4K DCI and UHD, as well as anamorphic footage. This design allows you to maintain a lens’s native angle of view despite changing the image format. Additionally, the sensor and processor combination gives you high readout speeds and suppresses rolling shutter distortion by approximately 1.3x compared to the GH5.

The sensor’s deliberately low-resolution design, and subsequently larger pixel size (4.68 µm pixel pitch), gives it better low-light performance, and according to Panasonic, good dynamic range. Borrowing from Panasonic’s broadcast line of video cameras, Dual Native ISO technology is used that sets ISO 400 and ISO 2000 as base sensitivities for low noise levels. The overall native sensitivity range runs from ISO 160-51200, and can be extended to ISO 80-204800.

Dual Native ISO

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The DC-BGH1E, like most modern-day Panasonic cameras, features a dual native ISO.

The BGH1‘s dual native ISOs are 400 and 2000 when shooting in V-Log L. Normally noise increases as sensitivity rises with a single native ISO image sensor. However, the image sensor with Dual Native ISO in the BGH1 is claimed to minimize noise generation by choosing the optimum circuit to use before gain processing, according to the ISO sensitivity that is set.

This Dual Native ISO feature can be switched manually between LOW and HIGH just like on the S1H.

Now, the Dual Native ISOs do change depending on what profile you are shooting in:

  • Normal picture profiles: 160 and 800 ISO
  • V-Log L: 400 and 2000 ISO
  • HLG: 320 and 1600 ISO
  • Cinelike D2/V2: 160 ISO and 800 ISO

Panasonic is claiming that the camera has 13 stops of dynamic range when shooting in V-Log L. That is 1 stop more than the GH5S and GH5. Panasonic told me that this 1 extra stop can be found in the highlights. They claim the BGH1 has 5 stops above middle grey and 8 stops below. In theory, the BGH1 should have better highlight handling than both the GH5 and GH5S.

I compared the BGH1 with the Panasonic S5 and the S5 certainly holds highlights far better than the BGH1. If you look above you can see a luminance waveform for both cameras shooting the same scene. The BGH1 was set at 400 ISO in V-Log L and the S5 was set at 640 ISO in V-Log.

Look at how the BGH1 rolls off highlights compared to the S5. This is where there is quite a noticeable difference between V-Log L and V-Log.

As far as overall image quality is concerned, it is certainly a capable camera and it will give you results that are very similar to a GH5s.

Internal Recording Capabilities

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Panasonic was the first company to introduce 4:2:2 10-bit internal recording in a mirrorless hybrid and they have 7 cameras that are capable of recording UHD 4:2:2 10-bit internally. No other company making mirrorless hybrids can claim that. Here are the 7 cameras capable of capturing UHD 4:2:2 10-bit internally:

  • Panasonic Lumix G9
  • Panasonic Lumix GH5
  • Panasonic Lumix GH5s
  • Panasonic Lumix S1H
  • Panasonic Lumix S1
  • Panasonic Lumix S1H
  • Panasonic Lumix S5

While the BGH1 isn’t really a hybrid mirrorless (although you can take photos, but only via the tethering app) it also can record 4K DCI and UHD in 4:2:2 10-bit internally. Here is what the BGH1 can capture when it comes to internal video recording:

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The camera has a pretty decent range of recording capabilities. You can record ALL-Intra in 4K DCI, UHD, and 3328 x 2496 Anamorphic, in 4:2:2 10-bit (400Mbps) up 29.97p. In HD you can record at up to 59.94p in ALL-Intra (200Mbps).

If you want to record 4K DCI or UHD in 59.94p you can only do so in 4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP H.265/HEVC at 200Mbps.

The camera is capable of shooting 3328 x 2496 Anamorphic at up to 50p in 4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP H.265/HEVC at 200Mbps.

In HD you can record up to 240fps in 4:2:0 8-bit. Once you go over 200fps there will be a slight crop of your image.

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The BGH1 has unlimited recording times in every mode. There is also a Pixel-Pixel mode you can shoot in that will give you added reach if need be.

While ALL-Intra is a pretty good codec it isn’t the most edit-friendly. Given that the camera has no monitor or any type of display you would think that it probably makes more sense to just attach an Atomos Ninja V and record ProRes. However, here lies the problem. If you connect an Atomos Ninja V via the HDMI output on the BGH1 and you want to record, you can’t have the overlays turned on that you are going to need when using the monitor to control the camera.

What does it record to?

The BGH1 has dual SD card slots. It is compatible with UHS-I/UHS-II UHS Speed Class 3 standard SDHC/SDXC Memory Cards and UHS-II Video Speed Class 90 standard SDXC Memory Cards.

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You can do Relay Recording, Backup Recording, and Allocation Recording.

Relay Recording– Recording switches automatically from one card to another once the first card fills up.

Backup Recording– You can record the same material simultaneously to both cards.

Allocation Recording– Record videos to one card and photos to another.

What can it output?

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The BGH1 has both a 3G-SDI and a full-sized HDMI output. The camera has the ability to simultaneously output over HDMI and SDI. This is a first for a LUMIX camera.

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The camera can output 4K DCI or UHD at up to 59.94 in 4:2:2 10-bit over HDMI and 1920 x 1080 up to 59.94p in 4:2:2 10-bit over SDI.

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I’m a little disappointed that Panasonic didn’t put a 6G or 12G SDI output on the camera. If you want to output anything other than HD, you can only do so through HDMI.

You can output de-squeezed anamorphic images over HDMI and SDI. The camera has options for 1.3x, 1.33x, 1.5x, 1.8x, and 2x anamorphic de-squeeze.

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Panasonic does include a Cable Tidy with the camera that you can use to take the strain off the HDMI cable.

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Now, you can simultaneously internally record while outputting at the same time. Please note that this can only be done while outputting over HDMI.

No RAW Capabilities

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The BGH1 has no RAW capabilities, either internally or externally. Given that the S5 and S1H have the ability to output a RAW signal over HDMI, it is a little odd that it has been left out of the BGH1.

It would not surprise me if the ability to output a RAW signal over HDMI gets added to this camera eventually.

V-Log L & LUTs

Just like the GH5S, the BGH1 has the ability to record in V-Log L. V-Log L on the GH5S gave you a claimed 12 stops of dynamic range. As I mentioned earlier, Panasonic claims they have been able to extract an additional stop of dynamic range in the highlights with the BGH1.

The camera allows you to load up LUTs via an SD card. You can also assign to output that LUT over either HDMI or SDI independently.

The BGH1 can record in the following picture profiles:

  • Standard
  • Vivid
  • Natural
  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Monochrome
  • L. Monochrome
  • L. Monochrome D
  • Cinelike D2
  • Cinelike V2
  • Like709
  • V-Log L
  • Hybrid Log Gamma
  • My Photo Style 1-10

You can also adjust the following parameters:

  • Contrast
  • Highlight
  • Shadow
  • Saturation
  • Color Tone
  • Hue
  • Filter Effect
  • Sharpness
  • Noise Reduction
  • Dual Native ISO Setting
  • ISO
  • WB

You can make adjustments to certain parameters once you choose a picture style. With V-Log L and Like2100( HLG) you can’t change as many parameters for obvious reasons.

Cinelike D2, Cinelike V2, and Like709 are all good options if you don’t want to record in V-Log L.

Now, one thing to note is you can turn the Noise Reduction to -5 when shooting in V-Log L, however, you can’t set the sharpness to under 0.

Luminance Level

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On the BGH1, Panasonic gives you the ability to assign the luminous range when recording video. When shooting in any of the 8-bit codecs you can choose to set the luminous range at:

  • 0-255
  • 16-235
  • 16-255

Now, the luminance range settings will change if you are shooting in any of the 10-bit codecs. Instead of the above, you can choose to set them at:

  • 0-1023
  • 64-940
  • 64-1023

In V-Log L you can’t adjust the luminous range. It is preset at 0-255 when shooting in an 8-bit codec and 0-1023 when shooting in a 10-bit codec.

What about heat?

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The BGH1 utilizes a new heat dispersion structure that allows for unlimited video recording. According to Panasonic, this is a very similar system to the one that is used on the S1H.

Now, there is an in-built fan. You can choose to set the fan to Auto1 / Auto2 / Normal / Slow.

The camera is rated to work in temperatures from -10oC to 40oC (14oF to 104oF). According to Panasonic, when the ambient temperature is high or continuous recording is performed, the camera may stop the recording to protect itself. Wait until the camera cools down to use it again.

I didn’t encounter any overheating problems during testing or use, however, I wasn’t using the camera in any hot conditions outdoors.

How do you control the camera?

That’s a good question! As the BGH1 doesn’t have any LCD, EVF, or even a status display screen you need to either hook up a monitor via HDMI or SDI, or control it over ethernet, USB, or through Wi-Fi/Bluetooth.

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Over WiFi or Bluetooth you can use the LUMIX Sync App. You can use this app to monitor images from the camera (there will be a delay) and also control various aspects of the camera.

LUMIX Sync is fairly straight forward and easy to set up.

You can adjust quite a lot of functions using LUMIX Sync, however, you can’t access the main camera menu and I couldn’t find any way of being able to do a manual white balance.

Above you can see what the LUMIX Sync app looks like and the occasional image freeze that you can experience.

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It was also quite annoying that if you don’t have a card in the camera it just keeps flashing ‘No Card’ in the middle of the screen. If you are using this camera for live streaming or remote operation when there won’t be a card in the camera, this warning should be something that you can turn off.

Another bug that I found was that if I turned the WiFi off or turned the camera off and then back on again, the LUMIX Sync app didn’t remember my previous settings. It resets everything, including picture profile, ISO, f-stop, etc. This is very frustrating.

If you have been using LUMIX Sync to control the camera and you then attach a USB-C cable and use LUMIX Tether for Multicam, it turns the WiFi control off in the camera! The only way to turn it back on is to attach a monitor and go back into the menu and turn it back on.

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For some strange reason, you can’t turn the WiFi back on when the camera is attached via USB-C. If you try and access the WiFi menu when LUMIX Tether for Multicam is open, you get a warning comes up on the screen.

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If you have the WiFi turned on and then you attach a monitor via SDI or HDMI you can’t view anything. You need to access the main menu and turn the WiFi off. If I don’t want to use the monitor anymore and want to control the camera over WiFi I have to go back into the menu while the monitor is still attached and turn the WiFi back on.

There are a couple of other major issues I also encountered. You cannot format the SD card through the Lumix Sync app. You either have to hook up a monitor and then access the main menu or put the card in another LUMIX camera, in my case the S5, to format the camera. You can also do it through the LUMIX Tether for Multicam.

If you want to control multiple BGH1 cameras you can also use the LUMIX Tether for Multicam software. This will allow you to control up to 12 BGH1 cameras and also stream and monitor images from a computer. You can also do remote recording, and save remotely recorded images to the computer.

LUMIX Tether for Multicam works well and it makes it very easy to control your camera from your computer. Above you can see how it works.

As Panasonic has not put any type of monitor or even a status display on a camera, they should have made it possible to control all aspects of the camera and access the full menu through the LUMIX Sync app. Yes, you can access the main menu through LUMIX Tether, but you are only going to use that if you have a computer attached to the camera or if you are controlling it remotely over IP.

Video Assist Tools

Along with focus peaking, focus magnification, and zebras, the BGH1 also has a histogram as well as a luminance spot meter. There is no waveform or false colors.

The luminance spot value shows your IRE as a percentage. When you select V-Log L as the picture profile the luminance spot value changes to +/- STOP values. I am not quite sure why Panasonic has done that. 0 Stop indicates an IRE value of 42%. If you shoot an 18% grey card then you can just adjust your aperture until it hits 0 Stop in V-Log L and you know your exposure will be spot on.

With zebras, you can set two levels independently. In a nice touch, you can also set your zebras to exactly 42% when shooting V-Log L.

Live Streaming

You can use the recently released LUMIX Webcam Software with the BGH1.

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It works with the above streaming platforms.

You will eventually be able to do direct IP streaming over ethernet from the camera once a firmware update gets released.

As a live streaming and remote camera, there is a lot to like, but it is a little puzzling that Panasonic didn’t choose this time to also announce some sort of low-cost competitor to the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini or ATEM Mini Pro. Blackmagic has created a good ecosystem with its ATEM switchers and cameras that make for a very affordable multi-camera live streaming solution.

In saying that, Panasonic does have a lot of switchers and associated equipment, but they are aimed more at the broadcast market.

Menu System

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The menu system is very similar to any other current LUMIX camera. If you are familiar with one of these existing cameras you will find this menu system easy enough to use. It does have fewer menu options than other LUMIX cameras, but that’s mainly due to the fact that it really isn’t a mirrorless hybrid.

What is nice to see is that Panasonic has incorporated the filtering system that they have in the S1H into the BGH1.

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This helps tell you what codec and frame rates are available at certain resolutions. It does this by a process of elimination.

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The more options you filter, the smaller the number of results becomes until you are left with only the options that are possible.

I like this filtering system as it allows you to quickly work out what options are available to you based on your requirements.

Autofocus

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The BGH1 uses the exact same autofocus system as the recently released S5.

Panasonic doesn’t exactly have a good reputation for autofocus performance, especially when it comes to video. However, Panasonic is claiming the autofocus performance on the BGH1 is a lot better than that used in the GH5S.

Now, before you get too excited, it is still a contrast-based autofocus system. Panasonic claims it has twice the tracking performance speed of previous systems for face and eye detection. When it comes to human or animal tracking performance they are saying that the performance has been increased by 5x.

Panasonic has improved face detect autofocus when shooting video so now if a subject turns their head the system will still recognize them. I tried out the face and eye detection and it works well in the right conditions.

Look, the Panasonic autofocus is a bit hit and miss and it isn’t the most rock-solid and reliable system. However, in the right conditions, it isn’t too bad. Above you can see some tests using the AF. In good lighting conditions, it works well, but when objects are dark or the light isn’t good it struggles.

On the plus side, it is really handy that you can control and use AF via the LUMIX Sync and LUMIX Tether apps.

The continuous AF is not overly reliable in some situations. However, as the BGH1 will primarily be used in fixed locations, the AF should work well for those types of applications.

While the autofocus is ok, if you are controlling the camera by attaching an external monitor then you really miss the touch screen operation you would get on say an S5 or S1H. The only way to move around the focus area is to assign it to a function button which you first have to press and then you need to use the scroll wheel to move it around.

The AF doesn’t work when you switch the camera to the VFR (variable frame rate) mode. In normal shooting modes, it will work even up to 4K DCI 60p.

My concern with using any camera for live streaming or remote operation is that if the AF system isn’t great it doesn’t make for a reliable solution.

Remote Manual Focus Adjustment

On the BGH1 you can remotely control select native lenses when they are set to manual focus. On the LUMIX Sync and LUMIX Tether apps you can make the adjustments. Above you can see how it works.

This is handy if you don’t want to use autofocus and you need to make sure that focus is spot on and won’t change.

Low Light Performance

The camera’s low light performance is pretty decent and I think most people will be happy with it.

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I also tested the camera out shooting V-Log L with the noise reduction set to -5.

Audio

The camera does have a built-in stereo microphone and a 3.5mm mic jack. If you need to add further audio capabilities it is compatible with the Panasonic DMW-XLR1 XLR Microphone Adapter ($397.99 USD).

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This just attaches to the hot shoe interface on top of the BGH1. I didn’t have access to a DMW-XLR1 so I was unable to test it.

Power

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The BGH1 can be powered in a few different ways. It draws just 7.5W. As far as onboard batteries are concerned you can use:

  • Li-ion Battery Pack AG-VBR59 (7.28V, 5900mAh, 43Wh) (sold separately)
  • Li-ion Battery Pack AG-VBR89 (7.28V, 8850mAh, 65Wh) (sold separately) 
  • Li-ion Battery Pack AG-VBR118 (7.28V, 11800mAh, 86Wh) (sold separately) 
BGH1 body backslant K

An AG-VBR118 battery is claimed to be able to power the camera when shooting 4K/60p for approx. 560 min. Now, you need to be aware that the Panasonic AG-VBR118G battery costs $349.95 USD.

You can also power the camera through a 12V DC input and through ethernet using PoE+. USB-C can also be used as long as it is receiving a PD USB-C source.

General Usability

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This is where the camera is a little hit and miss for me. The overall usability of the camera really depends on what you are using it for and how you have it configured. For certain applications the usability will be pretty good, for others, it won’t. Panasonic is calling this a Multi-Purpose BOX camera and therefore, I need to review it as such.

As the BGH1 has limited controls on the body of the camera itself and with no LCD screen, or status display, making simple changes to basic functions such as aperture, ISO, WB, etc. is not that quick or easy to do.

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IRIS (aperture) assigned to a function button. You have to press the function button and then make the adjustment.

With no dedicated buttons for WB, ISO, Aperture, etc. you are forced to assign various key functionality to the four function buttons on the camera. Having to assign the IRIS (aperture) to a function button is a real pain. I cannot for the life of me work out why you can’t assign it to the scroll wheel. For some strange reason the scroll wheel is set to shutter and you don’t seem to be able to change that.

If you just attach a monitor and plan on using it like any other traditional video camera then usability isn’t all that great. If you are used to a hybrid mirrorless where you can make adjustments via touch controls right on the screen then the BGH1 is going to frustrate you.

Using the autofocus is equally as frustrating when you are controlling the camera with an external monitor attached. The only way to move around the focus area is to assign it to a function button which you first have to press and then you need to use the scroll wheel to move it around.

If you are using the LUMIX Tether app to control the camera, then things are a little easier, however, not being able to access the main menu in the app is very frustrating.

If you physically tether the camera to your computer via USB-C then use LUMIX Tether you can actually get a pretty decent live image with not a ton of delay. This is a handy option if you are live streaming and you want to control your camera without having to stand behind it.

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If you want to use the BGH1 as a traditional digital cinema camera then it does require a lot of accessories, especially if you want to make it your main camera. As I have mentioned numerous times in this review, there is no LCD screen, no status display, or EVF on the camera. You really have to attach an external monitor to be able to use it properly, then you need to buy a battery, then you are going to need some sort of cage or handle. Look, I get it, with a lot of cameras you need quite a few accessories to get them up and running, but I just want potential buyers of this camera to understand fully what is needed to turn this into their primary camera.

The easiest solution I found was to actually just to use an iPhone as the monitor and camera control device. This way I was able to see the image as well as use touch screen control to operate the camera.

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The image latency is actually not so bad and the quality of the image on the screen is better than I expected. If you attached a new iPhone 12 Pro to the BGH1 you could have a very bright display and I think it would potentially work well.

As Panasonic has also opened up an SDK, there is a possibility that someone may develop an app where you can attach your phone directly to the BGH1’s USB-C output and potentially be able to control the camera and view images without needing to use WiFi or Bluetooth.

Again, the biggest problem, even when using an iPhone to control the camera, is that you can’t access all of the functionality.

The M4/3 mount also makes adopting other lenses you may own very easy. There is a large array of affordable lens adapters out there that open up a lot of possibilities.

How does it compare to the GH5S?

As the BGH1 uses the exact same sensor and processor as the GH5S, let’s compare the two (at least on paper).

BGH1GH5S
SensorM4/3 10.28MP
Digital Live MOS
M4/3 10.28MP
Digital Live MOS
Dual Native ISOYesYes
Dynamic Range
(Claimed)
13 stops12 Stops
IBISNoNo
Picture ProfilesV-Log L, Cine D2/V2V-Log L, Cine D/V
Internal Recording4K DCI up to 23.97p
4:2:2 10-bit

4K DCI 59.94p
4:2:0 10-bit (H265)

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496
4K DCI up to 23.97p
4:2:2 10-bit

4K DCI 59.94p
4:2:0 8-bit (H264)

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496
External Recording4K DCI up to 59.94p
4:2:0 10-bit
4K DCI up to 59.94p
4:2:0 10-bit
HDMI OutYesYes
SDI OutYesNo
Timecode In/OutYes (BNC)Yes (BNC
conversion cable)
GenlockYes (BNC)No
EthernetYesNo
Recording Media2x SD2x SD
LCD ScreenYesNo
EVFYesNo
Audio3.5mm stereo input
Compatible with
DMW-XLR1
3.5mm stereo input
Built-in Stereo Mics
Compatible with
DMW-XLR1
Headphone JackYesYes
Included BatteryYesNo
Weight580g (Body Only)545g (Body Only)

What is it similar to?

As far as form factor and sensor size are concerned, the closest cameras to the Panasonic are the Z CAM E2-M4, Z CAM E2, and Blackmagic Design Micro Studio Camera 4K.

So how do they compare on paper?

Panasonic
DC-BGH1E
Z CAM E2-M4Z CAM E2Blackmagic
Micro Studio
Camera 4K
SensorMFT
17.3 x 13 mm
MFT
19 x 13 mm
MFT
17.3 x 13 mm
MFT
13.1mm x 
7.3mm
Weight 545g / 19.22 oz930g / 32.8oz757g / 27.7oz303g / 10.7oz
Rec Media2x SD1x CFast 2.01x CFast 2.0None
Inputs & Outputs1x 3G-SDI (Out)
1x HDMI (Out)
1x Timecode In/Out (BNC)
1x Genlock IN (BNC)
1x USB-C
1x RJ45 LAN
1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm Stereo Mic Level Input
1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm Stereo Output
1 x 2.5 mm LANC Control

1 x HDMI
1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm Stereo Mic Level Input
1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm Stereo Output
1 x 5-Pin LEMO Mic Level Input
Other I/O
1 x USB Type-C
1 x 10-Pin LEMO Sync
1 x 9-Pin D-Sub RS-232
1 x 2.5 mm LANC Control
1 x RJ45 LAN
1 x HDMI
1 x USB Type-C
1 x 10-Pin LEMO Sync
1 x 9-Pin D-Sub
RS-232
1 x 2.5 mm LANC Control
1 x RJ45 LAN
1 x 6G-SDI In
1 x 6G-SDI
Out
1x HDMI Out
1 x DB-HD15
1x USB 2.0
Mini-B port
DisplayNoneFixed LCDFixed LCDNone
BatteryPanasonic AG-VBR59/89G/118GSony L-seriesSony L-seriesCanon LP-E6
Power1x 12V DC In
PoE+
1 x 4-Pin LEMO1 x 4-Pin LEMODC Power
Input
WiFiYes2.4 GHz Wi-Fi2.4 GHz Wi-FiNone

What about recording differences? Let’s have a look at how the Panasonic
DC-BGH1E compares to these other options.

Panasonic
BGH1
Z CAM E2
Internal
Recording
ALL-Iintra 4:2:2 10-bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 29.97p

3840 x 2160p up to 29.97p

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496 up to 29.97p

1920 x 1080 up to 59.94p

LongGOP 4:2:0 10-bit H.265/HEVC
4096 x 2160p up to 59.94p

3840 x 2160p up to 59.94p

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496 up to 50p

LongGOP 4:2:2 10-bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 29.97p

3840 x 2160p up to 29.97p

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496 up to 29.97p

1920 x 1080 up to 59.94p

LongGOP 4:2:0 8-bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 59.94p

3840 x 2160p up to 59.94p

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496 up to 59.94p

1920 x 1080 up to 240fps in VFR
ProRes 422HQ 4:2:2 10-Bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 30 fps 
3840 x 2160p up to 30 fps 
3696 x 2772p up to 30 fps 
1920 x 1080p up to 100 fps 

ProRes 422 4:2:2 10-Bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 48 fps 
3840 x 2160p up to 60 fps 
3696 x 2772p up to 48 fps 
1920 x 1080p up to 120 fps 

ProRes 422LT 4:2:2 10-Bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 60 fps 
3840 x 2160p up to 60 fps 
3696 x 2772p up to 60 fps 
1920 x 1080p up to 120 fps 

ProRes 422 Proxy 4:2:2:
4096 x 2160p up to 60 fps 
3840 x 2160p up to 60 fps 
3696 x 2772p up to 60 fps 
1920 x 1080p up to 120 fps 

H.265 10-Bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94/120 fps (230 Mb/s) 
3840 x 2160p up to 24/25/29.97/50/59.94/120 fps (230 Mb/s) 
2696 x 2772p at 23.98/24/29.97/50/59.94 fps (230 Mb/s) 
1920 x 1080p up to 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94/240 fps (200 Mb/s) 

H.264 8-Bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94/120 fps (230 Mb/s) 
3840 x 2160p up to 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94/120 fps (230 Mb/s) 
3696 x 2772p at 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps (230 Mb/s) 
1920 x 1080p up to 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94/240 fps (200 Mb/s) 
External
Recording
OVER HDMI:
4096 x 2160p up to 59.94p 4:2:2 10-bit

OVER SDI:
1920 x 1080 up to 59.94p
4:2:2 10-bit
Up to DCI 4K 60p 4:2:2 10-bit
Up to DCI 4K 60p 4:2:2 10-bit
4128 x 2176 
12-bit ProRes RAW recording over HDMI
Panasonic
DC-BGH1E
Z CAM E2M4
Internal
Recording
ALL-Iintra 4:2:2 10-bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 29.97p

3840 x 2160p up to 29.97p

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496 up to 29.97p

1920 x 1080 up to 59.94p

LongGOP 4:2:0 10-bit H.265/HEVC
4096 x 2160p up to 59.94p

3840 x 2160p up to 59.94p

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496 up to 50p

LongGOP 4:2:2 10-bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 29.97p

3840 x 2160p up to 29.97p

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496 up to 29.97p

1920 x 1080 up to 59.94p

LongGOP 4:2:0 8-bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 59.94p

3840 x 2160p up to 59.94p

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496 up to 59.94p

1920 x 1080 up to 240fps in VFR
ProRes 422HQ 4:2:2 10-Bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 30 fps 
3840 x 2160p up to 30 fps 
3696 x 2772p up to 30 fps 
1920 x 1080p up to 100 fps 

ProRes 422 4:2:2 10-Bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 48 fps 
3840 x 2160p up to 60 fps 
3696 x 2772p up to 48 fps 
1920 x 1080p up to 120 fps 

ProRes 422LT 4:2:2 10-Bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 60 fps 
3840 x 2160p up to 60 fps 
3696 x 2772p up to 60 fps 
1920 x 1080p up to 120 fps 

ProRes 422 Proxy 4:2:2:
4096 x 2160p up to 60 fps 
3840 x 2160p up to 60 fps 
3696 x 2772p up to 60 fps 
1920 x 1080p up to 120 fps 

H.265 10-Bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94/120 fps (230 Mb/s) 
3840 x 2160p up to 24/25/29.97/50/59.94/120 fps (230 Mb/s) 
2696 x 2772p at 23.98/24/29.97/50/59.94 fps (230 Mb/s) 
1920 x 1080p up to 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94/240 fps (200 Mb/s) 

H.264 8-Bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94/120 fps (230 Mb/s) 
3840 x 2160p up to 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94/120 fps (230 Mb/s) 
3696 x 2772p at 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps (230 Mb/s) 
1920 x 1080p up to 23.98/24/25/29.97/50/59.94/240 fps (200 Mb/s) 
External
Recording
OVER HDMI:
4096 x 2160p up to 59.94p 4:2:2 10-bit

OVER SDI:
1920 x 1080 up to 59.94p
4:2:2 10-bit
Up to DCI 4K 60p 4:2:2 10-bit
4128 x 2176 
12-bit ProRes RAW recording over HDMI
Panasonic
BGH1
Blackmagic
Micro Studio
Camera 4K
Internal
Recording
ALL-Iintra 4:2:2 10-bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 29.97p

3840 x 2160p up to 29.97p

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496 up to 29.97p

1920 x 1080 up to 59.94p

LongGOP 4:2:0 10-bit H.265/HEVC
4096 x 2160p up to 59.94p

3840 x 2160p up to 59.94p

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496 up to 50p

LongGOP 4:2:2 10-bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 29.97p

3840 x 2160p up to 29.97p

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496 up to 29.97p

1920 x 1080 up to 59.94p

LongGOP 4:2:0 8-bit:
4096 x 2160p up to 59.94p

3840 x 2160p up to 59.94p

Anamorphic
3328 x 2496 up to 59.94p

1920 x 1080 up to 240fps in VFR
None
External
Recording
OVER HDMI:
4096 x 2160p up to 59.94p 4:2:2 10-bit

OVER SDI:
1920 x 1080 up to 59.94p
4:2:2 10-bit
3840 x 2160p 23.98/24/25/29.97/30
1920 x 1080p 23.98/24/25/29.97/30/50/59.94/60
1920 x 1080i 50/59.94
10-bit 4:2:2 video via 6G-SDI 

The BGH1 is very similar in a lot of respects to the Z Cam E2 and E2-M4. The Z CAM offerings have the advantage of being able to record ProRes internally and to be able to record a RAW signal externally. The E2 can record 4K DCI up to 120fps. They also have a status display screen.

The BGH1 does feature SDI, Timecode In/Out (BNC), and Genlock (BNC). The Z CAM cameras only have HDMI and a 10-Pin LEMO Sync.

In a lot of ways, the Z CAM E2 offers a lot of the same functionality as the BGH1, but with the added advantage of higher frame rates when shooting in 4K DCI and UHD, ProRes recording, and external RAW recording capabilities.

Are M4/3 sensor cameras still relevant?

DSC 0616

With the industries push towards larger sensor sizes, you may well be asking whether M4/3 sized sensor cameras still have a place. I personally do think there is still a place for them, but it really depends on the type of work you do.

Compared to S35 and full frame sensors, M4/3 is not that popular anymore, especially for video shooters. However, the fact that Panasonic is still releasing M4/3 sized sensor cameras in 2020 tells me that they think there must still be a market for them.

Some of the benefits of M4/3 are more affordable and lightweight lens options, adaptability of other lenses (although most short flange mounts now have that ability), and longer focal reach.

Some of the downsides include low light capabilities, crop factor (although this can be overcome with speed boosters), and getting wide shots with non-native M4/3 glass (again, can be overcome with speed boosters).

Oh, by the way, if you are a fan of the M4/3 GH series, Panasonic has confirmed that the GH series will be expanded and that new cameras will be coming soon.

Missed Opportunity?

While there is quite a lot to like about the BGH1, a lot of Panasonic fans might be wondering whether Panasonic should have gone in a different direction. The last low-cost digital cinema camera they released was the AF-100. You could also argue that the EVA1 was a low-cost digital cinema camera, but that depends on your definition of low cost.

The AF-100 was released way back in December 2010, and at the time, there was nothing else like it on the market. It retailed for $4,995 USD.

Panasonic could have taken the GH5S sensor and put it into a small, compact-sized digital cinema camera with built-in ND filters, an LCD screen, and a couple of XLR inputs. I think a lot of people would have seriously looked at a camera like that, especially if they priced it at under $4,000 USD.

They could have also taken the S5/S1H sensor and made an EVA-2. I think either of those two options I have mentioned would have more universal demand than a box camera.

Who knows, maybe Panasonic will still release a camera or cameras like I just mentioned.

What do you get?

This is what you get when you purchase the BGH1:

  • BGH1 camera
  • AC Adaptor
  • AC Cable
  • Cable Lock Band
  • Body Cap
  • Hot Shoe Cover
  • AUDIO Terminal Cover
  • DC IN Terminal Cover
  • BNC Terminal Cover
  • HDMI Terminal Cover
  • REMOTE Terminal Cover

What you need to know is that Panasonic doesn’t include a battery with the camera. You need to buy batteries separately. This is an oversight in my opinion, especially because the particular batteries this camera takes are not something that you are likely to own.

Price & Availability

LUMIX BGH1 Ready for events 2

The Panasonic BGH1 will retail for $1999 USD and £1899 in the UK. The camera will be available to purchase in mid-November.

You could argue that this is perhaps a little too expensive for what it is. When you consider you can buy a Panasonic S5 for roughly the same price, or an actual GH5S for $1,799 US*, maybe the BGH1 should have been closer to $1600-1700 USD. However, it is priced in line with the Z CAM E2.

*Current price on B&H (13th October 2020)

Here is how that price compares to competing cameras:

PRICE
Panasonic BGH1$1999 USD
Z CAM E2$1999 USD
Z CAM E2M4$1499 USD
Z CAM E2-S6 Super 35 6K Cinema Camera$2599 USD
Blackmagic
Micro Studio
Camera 4K
$1,295

Conclusion

Screen Shot 2020 10 10 at 14 01 49

With the current COVID-19 pandemic still sweeping across the world, the way we produce and receive some of our content has pivoted towards streaming and remote camera operation.

LUMIX BGH1 Feature 7 1 1 LUMIX Tether

The BGH1 certainly is relevant in this current climate. However, a lot of cameras can now be used for live streaming and they can also be controlled via WiFi and Bluetooth. So, it is no surprise that Panasonic is marketing this camera as a jack of all trades camera that could be used for a multitude of applications.

The decision to stick with the M4/3 sensor out of the GH5S and not use a sensor from one of the LUMIX S cameras could be viewed as a strange one. M4/3 is arguably not as popular as it once was, especially with the industry trend moving towards larger sized sensors.

In saying that, the BGH1 isn’t really a camera you can just label and put in a box. Its small size, weight, and versatility allow you to turn it into whatever you want it to be. This isn’t going to be a camera for everyone and despite its versatility, it is better suited to certain applications than others.

The inherent problem of any product that has been designed to be a jack of all trades solution is that ultimately there will be compromises that you have to live with. Not everything with this camera is as clear cut as it may seem. The camera can be difficult to control and it does have some operational quirks that can catch you out.

DSC 0742 01

The BGH1 is a camera that some people are going to love and others will love to complain about. The great thing is we now have so many choices at our disposal that there is a camera out there that will suit your needs.

The camera is going to suit broadcast and specialty applications, and it will also work reasonably well for live streaming and as a remote camera that can also be used in multi-cam scenarios where you want to sync and control numerous cameras.

It also has the flexibility to be thrown on a drone, gimbal, or even used as a stand-alone digital cinema camera if you want to rig it up. With its small size, you could always keep one in your bag and use it as a ‘B’ camera or an emergency backup camera. However, in saying that, there are better cameras out there for more traditional purposes and it is going to be hard to convince potential users that the BGH1 is a better option.

The BGH1 is a multi-purpose camera that also quite niche. That may sound like a contradiction, but that is how I personally see it. In a lot of respects, it doesn’t really offer you any more than a Z CAM E2. In fact, you could argue that the Z CAM E2 is a more fully-featured camera for the same price.

I think this camera is the type of camera you really need to get your hands on and try out before reserving judgment. Personally, I found this camera a little too niche. While there are certain aspects of the camera I liked, I think not adding even a simple status display screen is a big oversight. It is just too difficult, regardless of what application you are using the camera for, to properly control all aspects of how it operates.

Again, this is just my personal opinion and you need to take into account that I reviewed this camera as a Multi Purpose BOX camera and I looked at how it can be used in different capacities.

What do you think about the Panasonic LUMIX BGH1? Is it a camera you have any interest in? Let us know in the comments section below.

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