Let me preface this by reminding readers that I’m first and foremost a cinematographer. Though I do take stills on occasion, the majority of them are part of a time lapse. With that in mind, my recommendations for the Panasonic Lumix GH4 are purely from the video perspective… but that shouldn’t surprise you. After all, it’s primarily a video camera.
The Panasonic Lumix GH4 has been, and rightfully so, lauded with praise lately. The camera has some phenomenal specs. On paper, you can’t help but be in awe of this thing.
- 16.05 MP Digital Live MOS Sensor
- DCI 4K 4096×2160 at 24p
- UHD 4K 3840×2160 at 30p/24p
- Full HD up to 60p
- 3.0″ 1,036k-Dot OLED Touchscreen Monitor
- 2,359K-Dot OLED Live View Finder
- Support for 59.94p, 23.98p, 50p, & 24p
- 4:2:2 8-Bit or 10-Bit HDMI Output
- High-Speed 49-Point Autofocus
- Magnesium Alloy, Weather-Sealed Body
Not to mention, you can shoot up to 96 frames per second natively in 1080—something that Panasonic’s competitors can’t seem tits competition, perhaps a Sony a7S, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera or even the Canon 5D Mark III, none of them pack the punch that Panasonic has. The Panasonic Lumix GH4 isn’t perfect, but it does get a lot right in a variety of ways:
- From the build of the body, it’s a tough, sturdy camera. I like the build quality, and I like that it’s weather-sealed. For me the biggest advantage to the body design is the flip-out screen. I’m baffled by other companies choosing to go with a tilt screen, which only changes a viewing angle vertically. Panasonic went with the much more useful flip-out screen, which not only works vertically, but also horizontally. You can stand to the side or in front of the camera and see through the viewfinder. That’s absolutely clutch.
- As mentioned, the frame rate is amazing. Slow motion offers creatives the chance at more ways to tell visual stories. It’s not super slow, but its’ slow enough to make compelling video.
- Advanced codecs and numerous video recording format options: if you’re into video, you know this is important. That’s all there is to it.
- The camera shoots 4K natively, something the Sony a7S and no Nikon or Canon DSLR can do. Why is this important? I’m not going to go out and start making 4K videos, but it does give me options. I can shoot in 4K with the intent to edit in 1080 and crop, move, shift, stabilize and balance footage much more freely with all that extra real estate. It’s going to change the way I shoot and make my time in my edit bay far more enjoyable.
Panasonic didn’t hit ALL of the right notes though… there are places where they can improve. Firstly, ISO performance isn’t great: the GH4 tops out at “good” quality around 1600. So when it comes to a low light battle, the a7S wins hand over fist. Also, Panasonic purportedly has issues with consistent white balance in stills, which is problematic when you are doing, say, a time lapse. It isn’t anything that can’t be fixed in post, but it’s always nice to get it as close to “right” in camera. The white balance issues can probably be fixed with a firmware update.
Even with the small problems with the GH4, it’s hard to deny how great it is for mobile filmmakers. I’m excited about mine, and the great video I will be able to produce with it.