Panasonic GH2

Revisiting the GH2 Hack

The unauthorized and unoffificial firmware hack of the Panasonic GH2 was one of the main motivating factors that led to me buying the camera. In case you’re not familiar, the hack fully exploits the GH2’s video capabilities, improving image quality, and making various custom modifications possible. It had yet to be successfully implemented when I first purchased the camera, however, there was so much momentum behind the movement that it seemed inevitable. When the code was finally cracked, I dove right into it.

The first few times I went through the trouble of hacking my GH2, I was surprised at how confusing the process was. The third or fourth time through, I decided to keep meticulous notes about how to carry out the process. These notes became my “How to Hack the GH2” post, which is still a major source of traffic for my blog.

Hacking and rehacking my camera’s firmware didn’t become a big preoccupation of mine. Initially, I auditioned a handful of patches, and ended up keeping cbrandin’s 44M hack on my camera for the bulk of the past two years. Even though I hadn’t become obsessed with transplanting my camera’s soul over and over again, there were plenty of people over at www.personal-view.com who had.

After a long hiatus from hackville, I recently decided to update my camera’s firmware again, to experience the quality of a fully mature patch. As much as I appreciate the underground camera hacking community, I have to say, navigating the Personal-View website and trying to figure out what’s what is a bit maddening. The maze-like circuit board header graphic, with its punk-rock-ransom-note font really suits the site.

Screen shot 2013-03-12 at 7.37.50 PM

Trying to determine what the best new patches are, and where to locate them, is a major challenge when you’ve been away from this world for a long stretch. Again, I don’t want to come off as ungrateful. This site and the people who contribute to it are very much appreciated.

After spending a couple of hours reading through the forums, it was clear that the patches had come a long way. There were now hacks that had been tailored for specific lenses, hacks like Cake v2.3, which were specifically tweaked for long takes (such as shooting live theatrical performances), there were even hacks that featured customizations to improve the audio performance of the GH2 (Driftwood’s Apocalypse Now Series 1). It was wild. Another world entirely.

Since I hadn’t performed a hack in so long, I was apprehensive to do so. Remember, if you mess up, you can brick your camera and void your warranty. I was unsure if anything had changed about the process. Early on in my research at Personal-View that night, I read a post by someone who directed you to a link to a new firmware download from Panasonic. This made me unsure if my old hacking instructions were up to date.

This uneasy feeling sent me digging through the Web, trying to determine if it was better to use the latest firmware from Panasonic to hack the GH2, or if the ancient firmware that I link to in my “How to Hack the GH2” post was still the one to use. I dug and I dug, however, I couldn’t find any information that stated that the new firmware was required. In fact, I couldn’t even find the original post I had read that linked to the new firmware. I had gotten lost in a maze of expensive-camera-hacking-jitters. Fear had taken over, and I lost an hour of my life researching an imagined phantom. It was time to get down to business and hack.

I returned to my old blog post for help, reading through the instructions step by step, as if I were hacking for the first time. It was kind of great. All of the info in the post was still totally accurate. I spotted and fixed one insignificant typo, but besides that it was high fives all around. I was able load a new patch with relative ease. It was awesome.


After reading about all of the various new patches available, I decided to try one called Flow Motion v2. It was optimized for the GH2’s higher frame rate 720p 60fps mode, which is something I want to experiment with soon. Besides doing slo-mo work, Flow Motion seemed to be an all-around high quality and very stable patch. What finally sold me on it was this short documentary, which was shot with a GH2 running Flow Motion:

Over the weekend, I shot a short how-to video using this patch that I’ll post soon. Compared to cbrandin’s 44M patch, Flow Motion certainly fills up memory cards a lot faster. You can only fit about 9.5 minutes of video on an 8GB card. And that’s a-okay with me! My footage looks disgustingly good, considering that I’m kind of a hack. ;)

UPDATE: This post is from 2013. I created a newer post entitled Revisiting the GH2 Hack in 2015. Read that for more current information. Also, if you want to remove the hack from your camera and return to the original firmware, check out my new post How to Unhack the GH2.




Published by

Sam

Writer, musician, photo taker and video maker. When not writing somewhat longish articles for this blog, I write incredibly short things on Twitter: @SamMallery

23 thoughts on “Revisiting the GH2 Hack”

  1. Thanks dude. I find your blogs really helpfull and I totally agree with you on the layout part of personal view. I got so terrible lost that I even considered resetting the factory settings of my gh2 and just leave it like that. I’m now trying flow motion v2 tonight (filming a funk music festival in Leiden) and tomorrow (a promotion film for a students´ corps in Amsterdam). Greetings from Holland!

  2. This is a great post! I’ve had my GH2 for a couple years and have never hacked it, but I’m ready to finally. The Personal View site always leaves me feeling so overwhelmed, so thanks for doing a lot of the ground work!

  3. the personalview website IS a great website but hard to navigate. I just stumbled on to it yesterday. If there is a document that lists all the latest hacks and what each hack does or strives to do with the video I think that would be great. What would really be nice is a visual still from different hacks. thanks for your website. Great resource!

  4. Great post ! so as the “How to Hack the GH2” post that i’m about to use to hack my own GH2.
    You recommended good hacks but they are meant for specific tasks. What would you suggest for a general use ? I just want to get the best out of my camera with stability and a reasonable bit rate. I have to admit that I’m totally lost on Personal View forum ! The specifications associated to the hacks are Chinese to me >.<
    Greetings from Paris

  5. Thanks for you kind words! Hack wise, the best I’ve used is the old CBrandin 44M that I used up until recently. The Flow Motion V2 hack has been kind of a let down. It gets buggy and claims that my SD card isn’t fast enough sometimes, and puts the GH2 in a weird state where it can only be powered off by removing the battery. When it works, the footage looks nice, but it’s a bit of a pain. I’ll rehack again, hopefully soon, and I’ll likely write about it too, so keep an eye out for a blog post on the subject.

  6. Just want to thank you for both of your how to hack the gh2—finally I at least prepared a hack file on a mac. Still not sure which hack to use– finding commentary and then finding the download is very frustrating.

    I downloaded sanity 5.1 for no particular reason. Still looking for an appropriate hack for studio shooting of science demonstrations—-sometimes with very bright explosive fires and low light levels. If you have any suggestions let me know. Again — thank you!

  7. I’ve had the GH2 for 8 months and I have really struggled with the hack too. I used it to increase the bit rate to 36Mbits/s and remove restrictions (ISO limit and UK time limit). I use HBR at 25fps and any increase in the bit rate over 36 and uploaded hacks made the camera freeze on my 45mb/s Sandisk cards. I kept working at it and found that I had to use the 24fps settings for the uploaded hacks to work. I have recently been using Driftwood Moon 7 hack and all is stable on 1080 24fps and 720 50fps (it freezes after 5 seconds on HBR 25fps). The Moon 7 hack is excellent and averages at around 140Mbits/s – the quality is a step above my 36Mbit/s with greater detail and stands up better to some colour enhancements. Now I have found a setting I like I am keeping to that one as your right choosing a setting is not easy.

  8. HI, i hacked the camera with the cbrand hack, following your guide. Now i want to hack it with a sanity 5.1, but i have some doubts. Do I have to load again the original firmware in ptools, or just the cbrand (the one that is in the camera at this moment)?

    Thanks!

  9. Just got won a auction for this camera as a second body to 5D3 and testing the waters as I might prefer the small form factor. Q. If I want 1080p at 30 fps I don’t need to hack, right? But if I want 1080p at 50 fps I must, right? Thanks!

  10. Funny, this is exactly what I went through… I bought that ‘installation guide’ of EOSHD, which was ok, got me the hack installed, but never gave it any thought… Didn’t use the GH2 that much (only bought it for multicopter use)…. but last month I used it as ‘spare’ for my 5D setup (with Atomos Blade)… but… turned out to be much more then a spare! Quality rivals the 5D … bigtime! Only 5DmkII RAW (didn’t use the RAW on the 5DmkIII) is waaaaay better, but very buggy (only 1 take of the 5 was good, but… damn good!!)

    So… I started to ‘relearn’ the GH2 again, but … since the menu and stuff is already way different and in my eyes ‘complicated’ , and… I have the same as you that I don’t ‘get’ the ‘hack site’…. I’m glad you summed it up! Thnx mate, much appreciated.
    I bought a fast SD card (SanDisk 95Mb/s) since my old hack sometimes ‘stalled’, so I’m ready… :)

    PS just bought an old Nikon 300mm/F4.5, and now the fun really starts hehe…. 2x crop, already the same as a 600mm, and in ‘tele video’ it gets even bigger then 1000mm!!! Not sure if the quality as good as the ‘normal’ mode but….

  11. This is a great write up! I have to say thanks to people like you who can making hacking suitable for beginners.

    One question if you don’t mind. I tried the Flow Motion 2 hack and I think everything was loaded successfully. I assume that the menu doesn’t change = normal? The hacks basically change each camera’s mode to be better? Thanks.

  12. Hacking a GH2 is somewhat anticlimactic because at the end of the process nothing about the camera is different. Menus and display information is unchanged. What the hacks do go on behind the scenes.

  13. Like you I’ve been consistently using and enjoyed the EOSHD tutorial recommended cbrandin’s 44M hack. I would like to somehow add the best overall audio hack to this without screwing it up. So I assume I tweek settings in the ptool program, but I’m wondering if you have settled on the best audio hack settings in your research? Thanks so very much for taking the time to post this article and offer any help. Gratefully, Bill

  14. Okay, sorry for my uninformed previous post above. The flowmotion 2.02 does the audio in it. So my question after using the GH2 firmware version 1.1 and hacking with flowmotion 2.02 is….the only selection now that I can do HBR (high bit rate)? And that enables something? Otherwise, do I select manual movie mode rather than creative, do AVCHD1080i and that’s actually 1080p? Perhaps there’s an article that reviews the 1.1 menu with a flowmotion hack so that people like me can make sure they are getting the flavor they want, like: 1080p 25fps. Thanks!

  15. Hello to all I won’t to hack my gh2 but only use it on automated setting when taking video being a newcomer , will I get a lot of improvement with the hack ? Cheers Nic

  16. Thank you for putting this together. I’m one of those users who purchased this camera but 2 years later haven’t shot a scrap of footage. :( The possible reason is complexity. Who can speed read any of these forums that offer either hacks or open source software, I mean who has the time? The human mind can’t keep up with the pace. The technology is thrusting us along so fast, we don’t even get time to read the user manuals. Did you read the Blu-Ray manual, Front Loader manual, Dishwasher, Smartphone, Forum, Facebook, Blog, Youtube…..Here ????
    The problem is losing information, it gets out dated so fast that 2 years on the internet is a lifetime. Our camera’s are out dated faster than we can use them. Anyway, (clearly I had nothing else to do today) I also would like to thank you for collating this information in one location. Many thanks. S

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.