I recently rented a Panasonic GH4 and shot some test footage to see if I wanted to add it to my arsenal as both a video camera and a lightweight stills camera. The short answer is Yes! with a couple of caveats (below the video).
- All the footage was shot using the Cinelike D profile, with saturation and contrast set to -5.
- I did a light amount of color grading in Premiere Pro CS6.
- For the 4K tests, I downsized 50% (in Premiere) to match the 2K (1080p) footage.
- The first couple shots are from El Dorado County in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California; most everything else is from the Eastern Sierra Nevada.
I thought the video quality was great, with a couple quirks. Notably:
4K is cropped
Shooting the GH4 in 4K (3840×2160) crops the image compared to 2k (1920×1080). As it turns out, I later learned (after returning the camera) that I probably should have used the “C4K” setting which is 4096×2160, and presumably wouldn’t have cropped the image. Doh! Nonetheless, I thought the downsized image was noticeably sharper than 1080p.
Slow motion is soft
Slow motion shooting at 96fps softens the image. I found this most notable on wide shots (especially with lots of detail — see the river shots at 1:47); close-up shots didn’t seem to suffer (or at least show) the softening as much. In my tests I was shooting pretty high ISO, and that may have contributed.
Viewfinder can be sluggish
This was my first time using an Electronic View Finder (EVF), and it was both great and annoying. Seeing real-time effects of changing settings such as shutter speed and aperture was a joy. But one morning it was was 26º F, and the EVF was noticeably sluggish to respond to changes in camera position. That might not be a big deal locked down on a tripod, but could be aggravating on a Steadicam, or trying to shoot stills quickly.
This was also really noticeable when shooting with long shutter speeds. I tried a few night photos of stars with a 30 second exposure, and could hardly stand it as I changed composition, and had to wait half a minute for the viewfinder to catch up.
Still photos were nice
But the jury’s still out. At the time of the test, Adobe did not yet support the GH4 RAW format, so I was limited to evaluating JPGs. Still not bad, though, with a decent amount of dynamic range. The image below is a JPG straight out of the camera, with no additional processing.
This is not a review
This is not a formal, rigorous review of the Panasonic GH4 — just my initial impressions, with a couple drawbacks pointed out. There are a ton of things I loved about the GH4, and there’s a good probability it will replacing my kickaround “lightweight” Nikon D7000 as a hiking and video camera.