Panasonic has just announced that their new GH4 camera is bringing 4K video resolution to DSLR/DSLMs. I’m excited and I think you should be too.
The camera comes with some amazing specs like 1080p 4:2:2 10-bit output via HDMI and slow-motion at 60fps in full HD (see the full list of specs at the end of this page). GH4 has grown up quite a bit – it’s no longer an amateur toy but a broadcast quality camera!
UPDATE Mar. 12, 2014: The camera is now available for purchase at Amazon and B&H Photo Video. Click below to find out more.
Wondering which lenses to get for the GH4? Check out my recommendations in this post.
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Here are some of the highlights:
4K video recording!
In case you haven’t already realized, this gives you images so big that they will look super smooth on big movie theater screens. In addition, for broadcast or online work, you will have extra resolution for post manipulation. For example, you can crop the images to change the composition or to post-stabilize the shots and still have super crispy 1080p final output.
Multiple formats: you can shoot in MOV, MP4 and AVCHD.
At $1698, this is by far the most affordable 4K camera.
Slow-motion – 60 frames per second at full 1080p resolution. Something that still many higher end DSLR’s can’t do. Many Canon camera’s can shoot at 60 frames per second but at lowered resolutions. That is also the reason why I like the Sony NEX5 or NEX6.
Recording super high bit rate : 1080p recording at 100 or even 200 Mbps!
This blows out the competition – other DSLR’s still record below 30 Mbps.
This means that you can now expect sharper images and less compression artifacts. This also allows to further push the image in post-production when doing color grading or VFX.
Also, the camera’s video meets broadcast quality specifications at 150 Mbps or above.
Great HDMI output options
At 1080p 4:2:2 8-bit compression you can, at the same time, record to the camera’s card and output to an external recorder. Plus, you can also output an amazing 1080p signal at 4:2:2 10-bit compression! This again makes the post processing even easier.
Just hook up an external monitor and recorder – like the Convergent Design Odyssey7 or Odyssey7Q – and you’ve got a pro camera in a ultra small package.
It’s light and small
This is a really important point – it was one of the reasons why DSLR’s took off. The size allows you to stick the camera into small places, but also lets you mount it on other platforms, like low-cost camera jibs. For the same reason, Panasonic’s previous camera GH3 was so popular with multicopter pilots. It gave great quality without the need to invest in expensive octocopters needed for bigger cameras. Now, any decent quadcopter can lift the camera up into the sky and shoot 4K video!
Inexpensive recording storage
The camera doesn’t require any expensive SSDs or custom media to store the 4K image, like many of the other cameras. You can just use a SD card! Which means that you get to shoot 4K video for a lot less.
For example, the 4K BlackMagic Design camera (which is still on backorder), yes, it allows you to record 4K but doesn’t really cost $4K, like advertised. That was just a marketing ploy. To really use that camera in 4K, you need to spend at least another $1000 for SSD drives and battery solutions… and more like $2000 to get it field-ready. That’s not the case with the GH4.
The new GH4 camera is weather-sealed like the Canon 7D – which is why I use my 7D to this day. A little bit of rain will for sure not stop you from shooting.
No RAW format
The last thing that gets me even more excited about this camera is the fact that it allows you to shoot 4K video BUT not in RAW format. You might be wondering why that would be a good thing.
Well, yes, it would be great if you could switch between RAW and compressed 4K video. But just because there is the 4K RAW option (like on the BlackMagic 4K camera), it doesn’t mean that most documentary or ENG type-of-work filmmakers end up shooting in 4K. 4K video in RAW format eats up so much space and requires so much processing power that it’s just not realistic for someone doing a quick run-and-gun shoot. The same goes for indie filmmakers.
I’ve used the BlackMagic camera and on most occasions, I just ended up shooting in the 1080p prores option. This way, I didn’t have to worry about running out of hard drive space in the middle of a day. I wished that the BlackMagic allowed me to shoot 4K but in a nicely compressed format that didn’t require gigs of space for just a minute of video footage. I ran into th same problem with the Red Epic.
In the end, I find that for most work, you don’t want to shoot 4K RAW, because it just gives you ridiculously large file sizes. Plus, you don’t need THAT much control over all of your shots all the time. Now, when shooting a proper film with a proper budget where you can afford to buy or rent extra hard drives and have assistants caring them, that is not a problem. But outside of big-budget film and music video work, you will find it better to shoot a good compression video instead of RAW… and this is what the GH4 delivers!
The crop factor, although still not as bad as standard video camcorders or the BlackMagic Design 2.5K camera, is a bit more than most DSLR’s like Canon 7D. It’s about 2.0X crop when compared to a full frame camera. In comparison, the Canon 7D or T3i or 60D cameras all have 1.6X crop sensor. Still, the GH4 gives you a nice shallow depth of field.
The GH4 is a DSLM (i.e. mirrorless) camera, not a DSLR. Photographers will probably see it as a negative. But for filmmakers and those who buy the camera mainly for video recording, there are no practical differences. Actually, there is an advantage: without the mirror between the lens mount and the sensor, it is easier to adapt lenses designed for other cameras.
That’s about it…
I think it’s great that Panasonic decided to release the camera because this will definitely push the other camera manufacturers to step up their game.
By the way, those of you who do not need 4K resolutions should look at the GH3 model. It shares many of the qualities of the GH4 and since it’s been on the market for a while, you can get very good deals on it.
Here’s a set of two batteries and a charger that works both with the GH4 and GH3
Here are some of the first clips from the new GH4 camera. They’re on YouTube but you can view them in 4K since YouTube now also supports it. Of course, you also need a 4K monitor to see it in all its glory.
Also here is the official video from Panasonic about this new camera:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 specifications
Body type SLR-style mirrorless
Body material Magnesium alloy
Max resolution 4608 x 3456
Other resolutions 4608 x 3072, 4608 x 2592, 3456 x 3456, 3264 x 2448, 3264 x 2176, 2448 x 2448, 2336 x 1752, 2356 x 1560, 1920 x 1080, 1744 x 1744, 1824 x 1368, 1824 x 1216, 1824 x 1024, 1712 x 1712
Image ratio w:h 1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels 16 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors 17 megapixels
Sensor size Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
Sensor type CMOS
Processor Venus Engine IX
Color space sRGB, AdobeRGB
Color filter array Primary color filter
ISO Auto, 200-25600
White balance presets 5
Custom white balance Yes (4 spots)
Image stabilization No
Uncompressed format RAW
JPEG quality levels Fine, standard
JPEG (DCF, Exif 2.3)
Optics & Focus
Contrast Detect (sensor)
Autofocus assist lamp Yes
Digital zoom Yes (2x, 4x)
Manual focus Yes
Number of focus points 49
Lens mount Micro 4/3 Lens Mount
Focal length multiplier 2×
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCD Fully articulated
Screen size 3″
Screen dots 1,036,000
Touch screen Yes
Screen type OLED
Live view Yes
Viewfinder type Electronic
Viewfinder coverage 100%
Viewfinder magnification 0.67×
Viewfinder resolution 2,359,000
Minimum shutter speed 60 sec
Maximum shutter speed 1/8000 sec
Built-in flash Yes
Flash range 17.00 m (at ISO 200)
External flash Yes (via hotshoe or PC sync)
Flash modes Auto, auto/redeye reduction, forced on, forced on/redeye reduction, slow sync, slow sync/redeye reduction, forced off
Flash X sync speed 1/250 sec
Single-shot, continuous, bracketing, self-timer, interval
Continuous drive 12 fps
Self-timer Yes (2 or 10 secs (single or three-shot))
Exposure compensation ±5 (at 1/3 EV steps)
AE Bracketing ±3 (3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)
WB Bracketing Yes (3 exposures in blue/amber or magenta/green axis)
Resolutions 4096 x 2160 (24p), 3840 x 2160 (24p, 25p, 30p), 1920 x 1080 (24p, 25p, 30p, 50p, 60p), 1280 x 720 (24p, 25p, 30p), 640 x 480 (25p, 30p)
Format MPEG-4, AVCHD
Videography notes Supports IBP and ALL-Intra codecs; 1080p data rates up to 200 Mbps
Storage types SD/SDHC/SDXC
USB USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMI Yes (micro-HDMI)
Microphone port Yes
Headphone port Yes
Wireless notes 802.11b/g/n, WPA/WPA2, WPS, Wi-Fi Direct
Remote control Yes (via DMW-RSL1 wired remote)
Environmentally sealed Yes
Battery Battery Pack
Battery description DMW-BLF19 lithium-ion battery and charger
Battery Life (CIPA) 500
Weight (inc. batteries) 560 g (1.23 lb / 19.75 oz)
Dimensions 133 x 93 x 84 mm (5.24 x 3.66 x 3.31″)
Orientation sensor Yes
Timelapse recording Yes