UPDATE: PTool v3.62d Firmware Screenshots and Visual Instructions. Please refer to the new article for updated STEPS 4. Link will open in a new tab for easy comparisons. The new PTool v3.62d adds much better shadow detail and fixes the “blip” or hiccup in the first second of video and is super stable Steps 5-10 below still apply.
Simple instructions with visual aids for applying the Panasonic GH2 42Mbps firmware hack. This firmware hack changes the default Cinema 1080/24p bitrate from 24Mbps to a staggering 42Mbps. The firmware hack, developed by Vitaliy Kiselev, can be found on his personal website. Consider making a small donation to Vitaliy on his website, he spent the last 6 months creating this fabulous firmware update and is generously providing it for free. Damn near Canon 5DMK2 video quality for a fraction of the price.
This firmware hack is not for everyone, especially if you are not technically inclined….be warned. While I wrote these super simplified instructions, please do not ask me for tech support, all you will hear is chirping crickets from me, not trying to be rude….just sayin’ Tech support can be found on Vitaliy’s site, he wrote the software and knows it best.
FAQ regarding the 42Mbps firmware hack
- Best uses for indy film videographers and video enthusiasts
- This works for the Panasonic GH2 only…period!
- Is it stable…yes. I have shot over 4 hours of video with zero issues
- Will it “brick” my GH2, not if you follow the directions very carefully
- Can I return to the default firmware version…sure, just uncheck the boxes in the patch and your back to default settings
- Will my cheap ass class 2, 4 or 6 card work? Eh, why risk frustration and lost footage, I recommend a good Class 10 card, they start at $27
- How many gigs do I need? My 16gig card holds 48 minutes of 42Mbps footage. Before the hack, the same card held 1 hour and 30 minutes. So the 42Mbps uses about 50% more space for the same shooting time. This is a good thing folks….nice clean video like the Canon 5DMK2 which shoots at 39-45 Mbps!
- How does the video look? At 3200 ISO I see zero grain and noise in the shadows, looks like it was shot at 160 ISO.
- This works on NTSC & PAL versions of the GH2. However, the PAL version of the GH2 will remove the 30 minute recording time limit . The only drawback for our European friends is that they loose 25p. PAL cameras will shoot 1080/24p….not 1080/25p. Vitaliy will update this and other features in future releases…so make a donation
- I only post stable releases that I have personally tested and verified for commercial video shooting and paid shooting gigs.
OK, all aboard, lets go!
Required Tools and Downloads
- PTool Firmware Manipulation Tool v3.61d – download the software tool from this website
- GH2 Firmware v1.0E Download – firmware download link
- Wine App for Mac Users – allows Mac users to emulate the PTool without installing Windows. Works great on my iMac in Lion OSX….download link
- A SDHC card that is formatted in the GH2. This is how we load the new firmware on the GH2. Remember, formatting erases EVERYTHING on the card!
Loading the Software and applying the Patches in 10 Easy Steps
1) Begin with downloading all the tools and place them where you can easily find them. Mac users, be sure to have the Wine App installed to open the PTool Firmware Manipulation Tool. On my iMac, I simply “right click” and “open with Wine App”….simple as that. Another option is Parallels or Windows in Bootcamp. Windows users just open the “ptool3.exe” file.
2) Same procedure for Windows or Mac…..click load firmware and proceed.
3) This third step is REALLY IMPORTANT! Be sure to check the “Version Increment” box and type in 10 in the green type below. Some folks use “1″, but Vitaliy recommended “10″. The purpose of this step is to allow us to revert back to the default Panasonic firmware setting or make additional changes to the firmware patch as they become available. Future releases will allow changes to other features of the camera. Read the yellow toolbar on the top right… additional explanations.
4) The GH2 NTSC camera patch differs very slightly from the European GH2 PAL version. PAL cameras need the 30 minute time removal and the 25p – 24p boxes checked. Two images below, first is for NTSC and the second image is for PAL. Obviously one needs to know which camera one bought…yep!
42000000 is the bitrate number that is stable on my camera and many other users have also reported stable video. Yes, some folks use 52000000 or higher, but I shoot for a living with my GH2 and I like stable results and zero F#@&%&. The suggested value by Vitaliy works just perfect
5) Lets save the firmware patch with a new name. NOTE: The firmware patch has to have the same format as the original name or it will not save or load….see the image below. The important thing is to name it other than “GH2__V10″ which is the original name that the Panasonic Mothership used. As new patches become available, we will name them in higher increments such as “GH2__V12″ and so on.
6) Drag the saved and newly named firmware file to your GH2 formatted SDHC card. In my case I named it “GH2__V11.bin”. The firmware file should be about 15.6MB on a Mac, Windows size may be a bit smaller or the same.
7) Loading the firmware into the GH2 Camera. IMPORTANT NOTE: Only use a freshly charged battery that is charged to 100%. If the camera looses power, it could very well turn into a $1600 paperweight. Simple as that! Charge your battery before going any further.
Firmware update procedure is the same on PAL and NTSC camera versions. Place the SDHC card into the camera and press the green play button just right of the eye-piece view finder. You will be greeted with the “body firmware update message”, press yes and let the camera do its thing. The firmware update will take about 4 minutes. DO NOT TOUCH any buttons. Just put the camera down and let the firmware update proceed till it is completed…….4 minutes.
8) SUCCESS After about 4 minutes the camera will restart and you will be greeted by the standard display we see when we first turn the camera on. Have a beer, coffee or cocktail…only two simple steps left. All the nerve racking stuff is done and we just need to set the camera to “Cinema 1080/24p High” shooting mode.
9) Cleanup the SDHC card by formatting it in the GH2. This will wipe the firmware off the card and any system files that our computer may have written to the card. Formatting also segments the card again and prepares the blocks, it is just good practice and digital housekeeping.
10) Setting up the camera for 1080/24p and 42Mbps bitrate. Use a good brand Class 10 Card, we just increased the bitrate by 90%. Good and reliable cards begin with the Transcend 16gig Class 10 card, about $27. I use the new 16 gig Sandisk Extreme Pro III for about $70 each which are also recommended for the Nikon D7000.