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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Gear Review

  • September 11, 2014
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Gear Review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

This is David Weldon, Shane’s assistant. Welcome to the first of many gear reviews coming to the Hurlblog. A few months ago when I came on board the HV Team, Shane approached me and said, “We need to get our hands deeper into new products on the market and deliver clear and accurate reviews for our readers. I want us to show our readers what we found out in our tests, as well as showing off how to test these products.”

All of this has come because you (the readers) have asked for these gear reviews and Shane has heard your voice!

Members of Shane’s Inner Circle who were members in September 2014 received Shanes’s in depth audio, written commentary, and camera test video as part of their membership.

If you would like to view the rest of this article, it may be purchased in Shane’s Store, as can all other educational content of interest.

Don’t miss out on another article from Shane’s Inner Circle! Sign up now.

Now with Shane’s guidance, I will be laying out how our tests went when we put these products in Shane’s hands. First up, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 with the interface unit that has the audio inputs, SDI outputs and full sized HDMI output.

Camera Specs

Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds (M4/3)

Pixels:

  • 17.2 megapixels (Actual)
  • 16.05 megapixels (Effective)

Max Resolution: 4608×3456

File Formats:

  • Stills: Jpeg, MPO, RAW
  • Movies: MOV, MP4, MPEG-4 AVCHD
  • Audio: AAC, Dolby Digital 2ch, Linear PCM

Recording Media:

  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC

Recording Formats:

  • MOV

○     4096 x 2160p 24fps (100Mbps)

○     3840 x 2160p 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97fps (100Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080p 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94fps (200Mbps)

  • MP4

○     4096 x 2160p 24fps (100Mbps)

○     3840 x 2160p 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97fps (100Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080p 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94fps (200Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080p 25, 29.97fps (20Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080p 50, 59.94fps (28Mbps)

○     1280 x 720p 25, 29.97fps (10Mbps)

  • AVCHD

○     1920 x 1080p 23.98fps (24Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080p 50, 59.94fps (28Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080i 50fps (24Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080i 50fps (17Mpbs)

○     1920 x 1080i 59.94fps (24Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080i 59.94fps (17Mbps)

ISO Sensitivity

  • 200-25,600
  • 100-25,600 (in extended mode)

Cinema Picture Profiles

  • Cinema D
  • Cinema V

Shutter

  • 60-1/8000sec
  • 1/24-1/16000 sec in Movie Mode

Outputs (Body only)

  • ⅛” Headphone
  • ⅛” Microphone
  • AV
  • HDMI D (Micro)
  • USB 2.0
  • Wired Remote Port

Battery

  • 1x Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, 7.2DC, 1860mAh

Some added notes to these specs:

  • 4:2:2 10-bit or 8-bit External HDMI Recording
  • 4:2:0 8-bit internal recording
  • Peaking and Zebras are available
  • Variable slow motion recording up to 96fps (in camera only)

 

External Interface Unit
External Interface Unit

The external interface unit (DMW-YAGH interface unit) includes:

  • 2 Mono XLR Inputs
  • Line/Mic Switch
  • Audio Monitor (Physical Display)
  • HDMI Output (Full sized HDMI)
  • Quad-Link SDI Output for 4:2:2 10-bit 4K External Recording
  • 3G-SDI BNC Connectors
  • Timecode In
  • 4-Pin XLR Power Input (12VDC)

4K recording options and Shane’s settings

The obvious attraction to this camera is its 4K internal recording. In the price point of $1,697.99, this doesn’t exist in many other areas. It wasn’t until a few days ago that the Blackmagic 4K Production Camera came into that ballpark with its price drop down to $2,500. Most 4K capture puts you in a much higher price point, but those cameras also give a much larger image, whether it records RAW or a compressed format at a higher bit-rate. Just a few factors to consider in your purchasing decision.

It’s difficult to match this camera up against larger sensor cameras (RED Dragon, Arri Alexa, etc.), with higher recording options because it’s just a different tool. They cannot be compared. Instead, we have to look at where this camera comes into play and what it competes against.

When we did our camera test, we matched the Panasonic GH4 against these cameras:

We matched the GH4 against these cameras because it is still a DSLR at its basic form.

When you’re setting up the camera if you are looking to record in the maximum 4K resolution and not 4K UHD, you must set the camera into the 24.00hz Cinema mode, whereas if you are in the 59.94hz mode, this puts you in 4K UHD. We did our test in 4K UHD, as most digital platforms are shot in 59.94hz. The end delivery is commonly projecting in 59.94hz as well, either your television or a digital film projector in theaters.

For the picture profile, we set it to “Cinemalike-D” to maximize the most out of the image, attempting to give us the flattest looking image, just like we would do in our other test cameras (Canon C100 – CanonLog, Canon 5D Mark III – HV Picture Profile). We tweaked it beyond just the picture profile by turning the contrast and sharpness down to “-5”. Shane felt this camera right out of the box was ridiculously sharp. It was so sharp that it gave a broadcast video feel to it, not a cinematic feel at all.

Shane set this camera to its base ISO of 800 and immediately saw that this camera has a lot of noise. 400 ISO was a lot cleaner, but Shane kept the test around each camera’s native so he could see how exactly the camera was affected in each area.

image003_sm

Camera Tests

In each of our tests we kept to these same parameters:

We used the EF mount Zeiss CP.2 Primes with an EF to M4/3 adapter, one that did not have glass in the adapter. This way it did not affect the image or create distortion in the test. Using an adapter like the Metabones Speedbooster in this test would not give us a true reading on the camera’s settings as it would change the optical parameters, thus not allowing us to be 100% accurate.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

 

Our first test was the Day Exterior ISO Noise Test. In this test, here is what Shane was looking for:

  • Skin tone detail on our model’s face
  • Highlights in over and under exposed areas
  • Black level in over and under exposed areas
  • Fall off on our subject (sharpness and focus)
  • Color
  • Overall Noise from the sensor at ISOs: 800, 1600, 3200, 6400

 

Day Exterior ISO Test: 800 ISO
Day Exterior ISO Test: 800 ISO

 

Members of Shane’s Inner Circle who were members in September 2014 received these video tests as part of their membership.

If you would like to view the rest of this article, it may be purchased in Shane’s Store, as can all other educational content of interest.

Don’t miss out on another article from Shane’s Inner Circle! Sign up now.

Our second test was the Night ISO. Shane is looking for how the camera reacts to run and gun street urban lighting and at what noise level we end up breaking the camera.

Night ISO Test, ISO 800
Night ISO Test, ISO 800

Our third test was the Fill Test. Shane was looking for good skin tones and how the camera looked when pushed to the underexposing point with fill light levels on the right side of Eli’s face.

image011_sm

Our fourth and final test was the latitude test. In this test, Shane is looking to see how the GH4 handles over and under exposure. This camera says that is hosts 13 stops of dynamic range, some of which does not come into play when shooting video, but it is available while shooting still images. Shane says….

image013_sm

Overall Thoughts

After our extensive testing of the Panasonic GH4, we have some thoughts on the platform. The image that this camera creates looks and feels more like a broadcast video camera than it does a cinema camera. Where this camera felt most like it was showing us a video look is in the night ISO test. Our model almost appeared to be jumping off the screen, as if she were standing in front of a green screen wall. There was very little falloff on the edges of her body, so she ultimately looked extremely sharp, where the background fell way out of focus.

I’ve heard a lot of people are interested in using this camera for documentary style shooting because of its price point, the flip out LCD screen and the ability to shoot 4K. The drawbacks to the platform are when shooting anywhere over ISO 400, you begin to introduce an unnatural noise pattern. Shane’s feelings on the noise were that it didn’t look natural like film, but it had the sporadic array that a broadcast camera would create.

“But it shoots 4K, Shane and Dave! And it’s under $2000!” You’re absolutely right – it is an inexpensive camera that delivers 4K, but is it worth it? I think back to NAB this past year when Michael Cioni of Light Iron Outpost gave a presentation at the Arri booth that highlighted understanding what your deliverable file format needs to be. If you do not have the need for a 4K deliverable, why would you sacrifice areas of dynamic range, variable frame rates, etc., just to have 4K? Think about what the needs for your project are, not just the price of the camera and its overall resolution.

See more about Light Iron Outpost in Shane’s article.

Our Final Thoughts

As far as using the Panasonic GH4 on a feature film or commercial project, we have felt through this test that it does not fit where Shane likes to work. The GH4 does have its place and is still defining what that place is, but this camera does not have a filmic feel. It looks and feels like a broadcast video camera.

Our best advice? Rent the Panasonic GH4, do your own tests, shoot with the camera and determine for yourself if it fits into your workflow. We are in an exciting age and place in digital capture, where every camera that is developed does have a place in the industry. It is up to you to find where it fits in your projects!

Special Thanks
Good friends at LensProToGo provided us with all of our equipment for this test. You can go to their website and find everything you need for your camera tests and projects. On a personal note, the staff at LensProToGo were the absolute nicest and easiest group of people to work with on our camera test. Without their help and future support in our upcoming tests, we wouldn’t be able to provide this information for our readers, so give a big thanks to them!

LensProToGo

We also want to thank our friends at Paskal Lighting for providing all of the grip and lighting equipment for our test shoot. They have been great friends of Shane’s for many years and have been and will continue to be a part of many of his productions.

Paskal Lighting

We also cannot say thanks enough to our great friend David Cole of Modern VideoFilm for coming in huge for us and delivering an incredible set of color grading for this camera test and our upcoming tests that will hit the blog in the coming months. I (David talking here) had a great opportunity to sit with David and learn from his 18+ years of color timing and coloring experience. He is an incredible artist and we are all incredibly grateful for his time and efforts on this project.

Thank you also to Revolution Cinema Rentals for supplying much of the gear for these tests.

Modern VideoFilm

We would also like to thank our volunteer Shane’s Inner Circle members who donated their time to help out on the camera test. They were a rock star team!

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image023_sm

 

Hair and Makeup: Krista Jee; Camera Operators: David Weldon, Chris Herr, Matt Eidenbock, Matt Williams, Austin Lewis, Larry Pinto and Kyle Klebe.

Members of Shane’s Inner Circle who were members in September 2014 received Shanes’s in depth audio, written commentary, and camera test video as part of their membership.

If you would like to view the rest of this article, it may be purchased in Shane’s Store, as can all other educational content of interest.

Don’t miss out on another article from Shane’s Inner Circle! Sign up now.
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