Is the Panasonic GH4 Really Worth the Hype?

GH4-beauty

Panasonic’s GH4 was only released a few months ago and since then it seems to have taken the indie filmmaking world by storm. But is it worth the hype? 

By Nicole Boyd

Since Panasonic’s announcement, all the way back in February (you can our article here) that it was releasing a 4K DSLR cinema camera, speculation has been rife that this could signal the end of Canon’s firm hold on the indie filmmaking market.

The Canon EOS 5D (in all its variants) has been the undisputed king of DSLR cinematography since its release in late August 2005. Yes, other cameras came and went that challenged the 5D’s hold (Nikon’s D7100 comes to mind, also Canon’s own EOS 7D) but nothing really pushed it from its place as number one. Particularly with the addition of Magic Lantern’s RAW shooting mod and Canon’s updated releases (5D Mk2 & Mk3).

Even Hollywood blockbusters, with their seemingly endless budgets have incorporated shooting with the 5D. Films such as The Avengers (2012) , Captain America (2011), Iron Man 2 (2010) Black Swan (2010) , and 127 Hours (2010) all used the 5D in some capacity or another.

Second-Unit DP Jonathan Taylor attaches a Canon 5D MKII to a taxi for an action scene in 'Captain America: The First Avenger' (image: Canon)

Second-Unit DP Jonathan Taylor attaches a Canon 5D MKII to a taxi for an action scene in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ (image: Canon)

Canon has certainly had quite a run with the 5D and there’s still no end to its popularity.

But is it still the best choice for video recording on photographic cameras? Possibly not. And which camera will take its crown, the Sony A7S or the GH4 – both mirrorless options.

As for the GH4 it’s hot-of-the-block and is chock full of features, with the latest filmmaking fad – 4K – front and center. It’s also a good deal cheaper to buy then the 5D Mark III, which costs around US$3,399 (body only), whereas you’re looking at saving a couple of grand by purchasing the GH4, which is priced around US$1,697 (body only).

When reputable camera reviewers such as Philip Bloom, Caleb Pike, and Dave Dugdale start talking about making the switch to the GH4, it should make you stand up and listen.

Whether or not it’s a 5D killer is debatable, but is it worth the hype?
The consensus seems to be that it is.

GH4 (image: Philip Bloom)

GH4 (image: Philip Bloom)


REVIEWS

Philip Bloom’s first impressions with the GH4 were:

“Really impressed. This is a groundbreaking camera. 4K internally is a big deal, and the fact it looks this good is terrific…I am excited by this camera. It’s small, is packed with astonishing features, gives me a terrific image, and is bloody cheap…I can see this camera potentially becoming THE next big thing for low budget filmmakers”

You can see Philip’s full video review below (37 mins):


 

Dave Dugdale has been teaching amateur DSLR users for a number of years and he was so impressed with the GH4, he sold all his Canon glass and made a permanent switch from the 5D Mark III to the GH4, he said:

“The image detail is over the top compared to my 5D, it’s small and lightweight which means I will take it more places, dynamic range is slightly better depending how you set it up, super clean image with no aliasing in 4k, cleaner image at iso200, file sizes that are comparable to my 5D, features not found in Canon camera like focus peaking, and zebras that are getting me better images…I think indy filmmakers can produce stunning work with the camera as long as they add just a little bit of light.”

Here’s Dave’s review in full (45 mins):


 

Caleb Pike has also made the switch to GH4, he has said:

“The Panasonic GH4 is an amazing camera. I haven’t been this excited about shooting since I bought my 7D. Not because its a nice toy, but because I can spend more time and energy on my projects, talent and cinematography and stop dealing with silly DSLR issues.”

Here’s Caleb’s review in full (32 mins):


SHOOTOUTS

There has also been a huge amount of comparison videos between the GH4 and other professional cameras. Back in March, we looked at a side-by-side comparison of the 4K DSLR with the Arri Alexa (you can see that here).

Below is the GH4 VS the RED Epic VS 5D Mk III ML RAW from Neumann Films (you can download the files here):

 

Next we have the GH4 VS Canon C100 by Steve Chan of DSI Pictures:

 

Finally, here’s possibly the most significant of the shootouts and will be the deciding factor on many new purchases.

GH4 VS Sony A7S by World of DSLR:

 

It seems at least in this video that the A7S is the winner. Keep in mind, however, that the Sony doesn’t do 4K internal recording, so you’ll need to hire an external recorder if you plan on shooting in that resolution. In saying that, the GH4 only records 4K in 4:2:2 8 bit internally, if you need to shoot in 10 bit you’ll also need an external recorder.

Also, the A7S is more expensive than the GH4, coming in at around US$2499 (body only) and is currently only available as a pre-order. Another thing to think about is that the A7S is a full-frame camera, whereas the GH4 is only a micro four thirds, so there are definitely more advantages to the Sony in that regard.

In the end, it all comes down to what requirements are needed for your project. If your film calls for multiple night or low-light scenes, then the extra boost in ISO on the Sony makes your choice easier. On the other hand, if your budget is tight, it may be a better idea to just hire a few more lights and grab the GH4.

There’s always the chance your DP owns a 5D Mk III already, and no-cost will always win out for micro-budget filmmaking.

As to the question, is the GH4 really worth the hype? We reckon, yea, it absolutely is.

 

Gh4 and MoVI (image: Philip Bloom)

Gh4 and MoVI (image: Philip Bloom)

4 Comments

  • Reply July 26, 2014

    theSUBVERSIVE

    “…the GH4 only records 4K in 4:2:2 8 bit internally, if you need to shoot in 10 bit you’ll also need an external recorder.”

    The GH4 records 8-bit 4:2:0 internally and both 8-bit and 10-bit 4:2:2 externally, the only difference being that by shooting externally in 8-bit you can also record it internally, while that’s not possible if recording in 10-bit. Also, the A7s can only shoot 4K 8-bit 4:2:2 externally, there is no 10-bit option for it.

    Although I appreciate their effort, the comparison by World of DSLR is quite pointless. I mean, you are comparing 4K video, putting it side-by-side in a 1/16th of the actual resolution? What’s the point of that? UHD is 3840×2160, while the size used in the side-by-side is 960×540, you basically lose the whole point of comparing a 4K video. They could had at least made some 100% or 200% window comparing the images. Moreover, if you are recording 4K files externally from the A7s, why not compare it with the same settings with the GH4? It would be much more interesting to see a GH4 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 against the A7s 4K 8-bit 4:2:2, not to say that it would be kind of fair then, comparing both cameras at the max of their capabilities.

    At this point I think it’s fair to say that it’s not just hype, because it’s not an empty bandwagon made by some advertising or marketing, the GH4 earned it. Most professionals won’t simply sell their gear just because of a hype. Changing gear and system is a serious financial investment and commitment and simple hype wouldn’t do it, such a change needs time, research, experimentation and tons of consideration. I don’t think the GH4 works for everybody but it’s certainly getting some deserved attention.

  • Reply August 2, 2014

    Red Sea Visuals

    Just shot two short films with the GH4. Takeaways are..

    – Easiest 4K acquisition/workflow on the market. SDHC cards!
    – Flip out monitor is fantastic (peaking, horizon level indicator, movable gridlines, scopes!)
    – Shutter in degrees (180d shutter reading, not 50th!)
    – Actual timecode ?(set from RecRun/clock to anything you want!)
    – WiFi live view to my phone! (Direct/Operate a car shoot from back seat! or chase vehicle!)
    – Greenscreen no problem when using Atomos Ninja Blade (exports clean 4:2:2 10bit 1080p)
    – Batteries last forever (never ran out of one on all day shoot!) 2 Spares unused.
    – Timelapse to.Mov in-camera! Saves a .Mov file as well. Playback of timelapse in camera!
    – 96fps slomo(1080p) creates a slo-mo file (playback as well – no more post slowdown!)
    – White Balance has color picker, but also displays X/Y number settings, so repeatable settings on another cam are easy.
    – ISO usable from 200-3200, not super high but totally workable. (Who shoots professionally in the dark?)

    Wishlist:

    – Want ability to name files recorded by GH4 using my phone to dictate in filenames/good/bad takes.
    – HDMI locking connector!

    It is a very useful tool for run-n-gun filmmaking…interviews.
    My 2 cents

  • Reply February 8, 2016

    DB

    This isn’t a fair comparison of the two cameras. You deliberately chose shots that incorporated heavy amounts of green and yellows – one of the few things the GH4 does better than the A7S. You deliberately chose not to show a comparison of low light footage. Why? The A7S outshines the GH4 in low light.

    • Reply January 3, 2017

      Duke Sweden

      In my experience the world is, in fact, mostly yellow and green.

Leave a Reply

12 + six =