Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4
|Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GH4 has been described as a ‘hybrid’ photo/video camera by the Technical Image Press Association (TIPA), which recently awarded it the top place in this category. The categorisation is certainly justified as the camera has been designed to excel at recording both still pictures and movie clips. The GH4 is the first consumer camera capable of recording 4K video, a feature that created a buzz when it was shown in prototype form at CES in January.
It’s also the first 4K-capable camera with a consumer-level price tag, which has set an interesting precedent. Sony has followed with its Alpha 7S, which was announced at NAB 2014 and is likely to be more expensive. Other similarly-priced alternatives from Blackmagic and JVC are essentially video cameras and Canon’s EOS 1D C is a high-end, professional cinema camera.
We received the GH4 with the G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 ASPH Power OIS lens, which is one of the lenses we used for reviewing the DMC-GH3 in April 2013. This lens is a premium-quality, fast zoom lens with dust- and moisture-proof sealing to match the camera body.
Top view of the GH4 with the 12-35mm f/2.8 lens fitted. (Source: Panasonic.)
Who’s it For?
The obvious user base for a camera like the GH4 is photojournalists, news and current affairs reporters and independent documentary makers, who will benefit from its compact size, light weight and inconspicuous appearance. These users will find it perfect for ‘run-and-gun’ situations, where will be less tiring to carry that regular gear, enabling users to obtain steady movie clips and sharp stills in situations that would be impossible with larger, professional cameras.
It could also be suitable for wedding photographers since it gives photographers the option of using a totally silent electronic shutter that can be used for shooting stills (JPEG and raw) at full 16MP resolution. This allows it to be used for shooting ceremonies and other events where shutter noise would be intrusive.
Wedding and event photographers would also benefit from the superior performance at high ISO settings, the fast autofocusing system and the ability to record at up to 12 frames/second with focus locked on the first frame or seven frames/second with continuous autofocusing. They can also make nice-looking A3 prints from individual frames grabbed from 4K video clips.
Built-in face recognition will make it easier for independent operators to record interviews because the camera will keep the subject’s face sharp, allowing the interviewer to maintain eye contact and concentrate of the interview, rather than the technology. Film schools would find a wealth of professional functions in the compact camera body, some enabling creative filter to be applied to movies as they are recorded.
It will also suit professional sports and wildlife shooters who want an adjustable stills/video camera that can fit into tight spots that a pro camera can’t reach. The relatively small size of the camera and lenses make it ideal for taking aerial footage with a drone. An important advantage for such users is the GH4’s splash- and dust-proof construction and its durable shutter mechanism, which is rated for more than 200,000 cycles.
Most of these aspects of this camera make it attractive to advanced enthusiasts who want to capture high-quality stills and also tackle serious video movie production. And its price tag will put it within reach of many of them.
The rear panel of the GH4 with the monitor reversed onto the body. (Source: Panasonic.)
From the start we felt the GH4 could be the most significant camera Panasonic has released so far, and after using it for almost two weeks we believe it will be a genuine game-changer. Not only is it a superior performer for still image capture, but to offer such a wide range of video options – many of them meeting professional requirements – puts the icing on an already attractive cake and takes the camera into areas we could only dream about previously.
Panasonic isn’t without competition in the stills arena, with rival cameras from Fujifilm, Olympus, Samsung and Sony bringing DSLR-like imaging performance and functionality into smaller, lighter equipment. But none of them yet matches the GH4’s video capabilities or quality. And this combination of excellence in both imaging fields sets the GH4 in a class of its own.
Rivals will surely appear later in the year, probably coinciding with Photokina in September. But until then, the GH4 holds the crown for price, performance and functionality.