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Panasonic GH4 first impressions

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by Promit, Apr 28, 2014.

  1. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    Mine arrived today. I don't have a lot to say on the matter yet, as it's raining here today which limits my ability to put the camera to any interesting use. (It's waterproof, I'm the one avoiding the rain :rolleyes:) I'm also going to ignore the photographic aspects of this camera entirely, as I'm not sure there's anything that merits comment. AF system tests will have to wait.

    It came in a super nice box. Maybe that seems silly but the whole thing is matte black on the inside, and packed neatly with just a few items. As many have said before, it's outwardly nearly identical to the GH3. Indeed the only real difference I'd notice if blindfolded is the heavy locking mode dial, which has very positive detents. It's considerably stiffer than I'm used to, enough that I'm not sure locking was necessary. That's probably a good thing. There's also a slightly different viewfinder; we'll get to that. The same exact battery and charger are in use between the GH3 and GH4, which is also welcome and will faciliate A/B camera setups. And overall, the camera is very well put together while still very lightweight. Unfortunately they kept the bad parts of the GH3 body too. The thumb wheel is still obnoxious to use, due to being wedged into the handgrip. Still have the annoying PC sync socket with screw cover. The camera also has the same rubber sealers seen on the OMD cameras and the GH3, so if you found those annoying, no luck here.

    Turning the camera on doesn't yield any surprises. All of the software seems to be pulled directly from the GH3, just with more options. A lot more options. I'm not one to rely too much on the manual, but there's a ton of different ways to configure this camera and not all of them are obvious. The nice thing is the basics -- 4K recording, peaking, zebras were easy to get set up. I did notice that the camera does not allow you to jump into 4K record mode from photo modes; hitting the record button will always yield 2K. Sharp, stunning, sky high bitrate 2K, but 2K nonetheless. Jump into manual movie mode, however, and the camera gives up the goods. I haven't yet tested 200 mbps recording (2K only) but my Sandisk Extreme Pro card (UHS-1, 95 MB/s) appears to be sufficient to record 100 mbps in both 2K and 4K. That's a relief - have you seen the prices on UHS-3 cards? Record time on a 16 GB formatted card is 20m26s, in 24p 4K.

    The screen is super nice, but more welcome is the extremely nice viewfinder, which seems to have gotten a wider eyecup and a longer eyepoint. As a glasses wearer, this is a huge improvement for me. I still start to lose the corners when you move off center, a problem I've had with every Panasonic camera I've ever used. But it's less than ever, and I don't think it's particularly different from my A77 in that regard. There's a low sensitivity setting on the eye sensor too, which is must-have. Also, the LVF toggle button now shuts off auto-switching until it's held to re-enable. Clever. Like the GH3, there are more function buttons than I can find functions to assign to. Audio levels are on screen, gains are now in dB instead of "magic Panasonic scale", and auto-gain can be disabled! My E-M5 is increasingly looking like a toy next to these bodies. There's a touch screen on board, which is not my preferred method of interacting with a camera but it seems to work fine. There are a few functions on there (one-shot AF in MF mode, for example) that I'll probably map to function buttons, if I can. The camera has three custom modes on the mode dial, like the GH3.

    As for the actual footage? Sharp, rich, with wide flexibility in color profiles. The addition of two explicit Cine profiles (flattish, and super flat, I think) is very welcome. I'm very tired of playing color profile games on other cameras (GH2 and Sony users know these games well). The camera allows you to save custom profiles as well. You can even control the camera settings with shutter angle and dB gain, if you'd like. The images coming off the camera is now in the range where I think you'll start to see weak glass (adapted lenses, 16mm stuff, etc) become a problem. The pixel density in 4K is high enough that classic video lenses will hold things back. As far as 4K... I'm on 1080p screens and it's brutally sharp downscaled. I think it'll still look fine when I test it on the 2560x1440 screens I have at work. Panasonic video was always sharp, but this is insane. I don't know if I can go back to the A77 for video after this. For cinematic use, I suspect that we're going to have to start softening the image artifically.

    So that's what I've learned about the camera so far. About the only thing I could possibly wish for on this thing is phase detect (and maybe extension to ISO 100). Hopefully I'll have an opportunity tomorrow to see if the new Panasonic AF system offers any advantage for moving subjects.That quibble aside, this camera seems to be practically speaking a "last camera". I don't know what they could possibly add that would encourage an upgrade, short of a massive jump in imaging or focus performance.
     
    • Like Like x 13
  2. JYPfoto

    JYPfoto Mu-43 Veteran

    268
    Aug 27, 2013
    The price of U3 cards aren't so bad, you can get a 64GB Transcend for $50.
     
  3. ralfmouth

    ralfmouth Mu-43 Regular

    77
    Oct 16, 2012
    Test video maybe? 4k > 1080 footage i've seen looks really solid. What about 4k mode on a 4k display - now that would be fun.
    There are a couple disappointments i'm hearing so far but in general, i'm envious. Enjoy.
     
  4. M4/3

    M4/3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    713
    Sep 24, 2011
    GH4 is not stabilized. Try hand held macro or telephoto video shooting. No problem for the E-M5. BIG problem for the GH4. So if I get a GH4 for general video, I'll still need to keep my E-M5 for macro or telephoto video shooting.
     
  5. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    Joe
    There are always the the stabilized lenses as an option for owners of those lenses, but to my understanding, the crazy resolution and in particular the 4K allows for massive amounts of cropping...end result being shoot slightly wider and let software stabilization in post do all the work and still end up with IQ better than just about anything on the market under $20K !! I do the odd little bit of video with my EM5 and although the stabilization is nice, the actual video quality itself ordinary...even for casual video shooting I find the videos at a pixel level crumble terribly, made worse if shooting into distance with lots details and camera panning/movement....no amount of IBIS induced smoothness can correct that...still though, it's generally enough for my simple video needs.

    It's encouraging that Panasonic has finally jumped on the IBIS bandwagon...the thought of a future GH5 4K with IBIS is interesting to say the least.
     
  6. AndrewS

    AndrewS Mu-43 Regular

    46
    May 12, 2012
    Hi, Promit, Thanks for posting. Just a couple of comments. The owners manual says ISO 100 is available. With regard to PDAF it might be as well to see how good this latest version of Panasonic CDAF is for follow focus work. If it is confirmed to work as well as some early reports suggest it might turn around the whole CDAF/PDAF debate. Bear in mind Panasonic has (virtually) no legacy DSLR lenses to worry about. Your comment about the rear dial intrigues me..."the thumb wheel is still obnoxious to use being wedged into the handgrip" I have used a lot of cameras with front and rear dials in many different positions and find the GH3/4 implementation of the rear dial the best I have encountered. What exactly do you find "obnoxious" about it ?
     
  7. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    They have invented something these days, called the stabilised lens. End of 'BIG' problem.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    I'm glad to hear the EVF is improved. That was a big factor for me in choosing the GX7 over the GH3. Seems like Panasonic is really on a roll these days
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. RRRoger

    RRRoger Mu-43 Regular

    57
    Apr 28, 2014
    Monterey Bay
    and 128GB for $107
     
  10. RRRoger

    RRRoger Mu-43 Regular

    57
    Apr 28, 2014
    Monterey Bay
    [QUOTE Your comment about the rear dial intrigues me..."the thumb wheel is still obnoxious to use being wedged into the handgrip" I have used a lot of cameras with front and rear dials in many different positions and find the GH3/4 implementation of the rear dial the best I have encountered. What exactly do you find "obnoxious" about it ?[/QUOTE]

    I came from Nikons and I find the front wheel to be most akward on my GH3.
    But when you are required to hold down a button at the same time, they both are.
     
  11. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    USA
    Nice ! That's good to hear about the EVF. Whenever j check out Gh3 in a store , edges seem curved to me.
     
  12. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    Ok, just to comment on what people have said:
    * ISO 100: found it. It's behind an option called "Extended ISO" which is off by default, presumably to avoid your average person using a push processed mode with limited DR. Fine, but unfortunately it's not available in video mode, where I actually wanted it most. This is not unusual, I guess - my Sony doesn't allow extended ISO in video either - but it is unfortunate.
    * Stabilization: Would I prefer IBIS over not-IBIS? Yes, obviously. It'd have to be the 5 axis system, as none of the others (including the GX7) are vaguely suitable for video use. My A77 uses a (partially?) digital stabilizer which crops the image. An on-camera option like that would be nice too. But as it stands, the combination of OIS when available, and significant cropping flexibility otherwise is okay for me. This is leading towards a slightly different production pipeline, where framing during the shot is wider and more relaxed than what the final output will be. This is still a subject of some experimentation for me.
    * Rear dial: I can't spin it comfortably, my thumb runs into the rubberized grip. It's just like a GH3. If you don't mind the GH3, then you won't mind the GH4. That's all.

    LATE CORRECTION: ISO 100 doesn't appear to be push processed, since the DXO numbers show improved DR. So why is it an extended ISO?
     
  13. jonlong

    jonlong Mu-43 Regular

    142
    Oct 25, 2013
    Does the GH4 have panorama mode? All comments that I have seen say that it does not, but photographyblog review says that it does.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  14. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    The manual doesn't mention a panorama mode and there's no evidence on the camera itself of such a feature. The mode dial is just PASM, M-video, C1/2/3, art filters, and iA. Personally I have been much happier building panos after the fact, rather than the in-camera modes. Phones nowadays have some pretty awesome pano modes, but that's not what we're getting on the cameras.
     
  15. jonlong

    jonlong Mu-43 Regular

    142
    Oct 25, 2013
    I was never impressed with pano modes until the iphone 5, and then was astounded at how well it works on my G6. It's not a feature I use often, but when I want to use it, I like how effortless it is with the G6. I'm hoping that it's hidden somewhere on the GH4. Photographyblog doesn't mention where the option is.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  16. M4/3

    M4/3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    713
    Sep 24, 2011
    Is 4K video from the GH4, downrezzed to 1080, noticably sharper and more detailed than regular 1080 video from older Panasonics like the GH3 and GX7? Here is a GX7 video sample that's so sharp and clear that I really wonder if 4K video from the GH4, downrezzed to 1080, could better it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgOph2RiDIk
     
  17. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    If you watch that video carefully, and know where to look, there are quite a few problems with the image. Some of these problems are created by YouTube. Others are presumably from the camera. First of all, there's quite a bit of digital sharpening happening, and if you look carefully you'll see edge halos as a result. There are also a number of edge aliasing problems; all of the building roofs are jagged at 0:13. That would be fixed with 4K capture after downres. There are color compression artifacts in the sky/clouds at 0:18. The shadow gradations in the man's suit at 0:25 are gone. Both of those could be helped, to varying degrees, by improved color resolution. At 1:21 the video actually begins running out of bitrate for the frames - watch the poster in the background going nuts. (This is almost certainly YT's fault.)

    Individually, these are small, quibbly nit picked details that any sane person would dismiss as utterly trivial. Together, they sum up to produce an image that creates a certain feel that has historically been accused as "digital". The jump from digitally sharpened to actually sharp data is an important one. The higher bitrates are significant, albeit more so in capture and edit/grading than distribution in the YouTube era.
     
  18. humzai

    humzai Mu-43 Veteran

    410
    Apr 17, 2012
    I'm surprised at the lack of interest in the GH4. The E-M1 release was much more noisy. The GH4 is a great camera,.I haven't used it enough to be certain but the C-Af with tracking might be on par with the E-M1. I'll write down my thought's once I get enough use out of it.
     
  19. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    I guess it just depends where you look. Michael Reichmann at Luminous Landscape raved about it and said he is going to buy two to use in his work. Kirk Tuck already bought one to join his two GH3s for his work. M43 rumors seems to post about it every day. Enthusiasts seem less excited about it than people who use it in their work, but the pros seem very excited about it.

    I think the quality of the video makes people forget that it takes stills as good as the best m43 out there. Maybe better since early reports are saying it has 1/2 stop better latitude than the sony sensor in the GH3. And better usability as well if you use Panasonic lenses since they are in the DFD database.

    The way its implemented also seems aimed at a working pro. Menus and external controls have only small refinements over the (already ergonomically excellent) GH3, which lets a GH3 user switch over easily and not slow down his work (but generates less excitement since it doesn't look "NEW!!!"). They made huge advances but are presenting them as evolutionary changes. If they had made it substantially different in form from the GH3, they could have amped up the drool factor, but I have read some pros blogs where they appreciate the evolutionary approach and not having to relearn their camera simply because of change for changes sake (Kirk Tuck).

    Panasonic is currently creating its own market by focusing on hybrid, and whoever is in their camera division is doing a lot of things right. Right now, its by far the best platform out there for creating web content, but its not limited to that at all. It creates excellent video that rivals cameras which cost 10x as much, and produces very good stills that are useable in (almost) every situation. If things continue like they are, I really think Panasonic will take a significant chunk of the pro market and the bigs will be scrambling to catch up.

    And here is someone who tested the C-AF and found it much improved, but still not as good as his D4
    http://www.naturalexposures.com/panasonic-lumix-gh4/
     
  20. humzai

    humzai Mu-43 Veteran

    410
    Apr 17, 2012
    I suppose the ooooo! new and shiny factor is lacking in the GH4 but only on the surface. I think many people don't realize the significance of the beast. I have only formed nascent opinions but the specs alone should leave people salivating. I think much of it has to do with 4K and the perception that it's not really of benefit. I can't wait to try using it for nature photography.