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.
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-
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.