Panasonic Lumix GH4 Review

 
Camera Reviews > Panasonic Lumix Cameras > Lumix Compact System Camera i First Shots
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4
Resolution: 16.05 Megapixels
Sensor size: Four Thirds
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: EVF / OLED
ISO: 100-25600
Shutter: 60-1/8000
Max Aperture: n/a
Dimensions: 5.2 x 3.7 x 3.3 in.
(133 x 93 x 84 mm)
Weight: 19.8 oz (560 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $1,700
Availability: 04/2014
Manufacturer: Panasonic
16.05
Megapixels
Micro Four Thirds mount Four Thirds
size sensor
image of Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4
Front side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 digital camera Back side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 digital camera Top side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 digital camera Left side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 digital camera Right side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 digital camera

Panasonic GH4 Review -- First Impressions

Overview and Walkaround by
Tech Insights by Dave Etchells
Posted 02/06/2014

Updates:
03/10/2014: Added pricing and availability
: Image Quality Comparison and Print Quality Analysis

Panasonic GH4 Review -- 3/4 view with LCD

Panasonic has taken their flagship GH camera to the next level with the new Panasonic GH4. As one might expect, given the sneak-peak of its prototype shown at CES this year, the "4" in the name will surely come to represent "4K." The Panasonic GH4 is the world's first mirrorless camera with 4K video recording capabilities.

Indeed, 4K video recording is making its way into the hands of mere mortals with the Panasonic GH4 after spending much of its time solely in the realm of high-end, professional cinema cameras. Cameras like the Canon 1D C HD-DSLR and dedicated video cameras such as the Canon C500 and Blackmagic Production Camera 4K are all aimed at professionals with professional budgets. Now, with the Panasonic GH4, high-resolution 4K video is within the reach of large number people from advanced enthusiasts and serious hobbyist as well as being ready to tackle serious professional-level cinema and video productions.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Front view (prototype)

Note: Camera images shown here without the GH4 logo are of a pre-production model we handled that was not cosmetically final.

Imaging. Going down the specs list for the Panasonic GH4, nearly all aspects of the camera have received an update or improvement compared to the GH3. The GH4's imaging sensor has received some polishing, and while it keeps the same 16.05-megapixel resolution, this new Digital Live MOS sensor features wider dynamic range with an expanded ISO 100 option (GH3 went as low as ISO 125) and allows for a 60 minute bulb shutter.

Panasonic has also said the new sensor delivers twice the readout speed compared to the GH3, which clocked in at around 100 milliseconds. The new GH4 sensor is said to have a high-speed readout of under 50 milliseconds. What does this all mean? The GH4 should be significantly better at handling rolling shutter in both stills (when using the electronic shutter) and video with Full HD 60 frames per second readout.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Speed

Speed and Focusing. Coupled with this new sensor is a new quad-core imaging processor, the Venus Engine 9AHD. The new horsepower provides better sensitivity with a standard ISO range of 200-25,600 (expandable down to ISO 100), and boasts new burst shooting performance at 12fps (in AF-S mode) for up to 40 RAW images or 100 JPEGs. The GH4 also provides a big improvement over the GH3 with continuous AF burst shooting at 7fps (up from just 4.2fps).

Panasonic also claims that the new processor helps produce better image resolution, dynamic range and more accurate colors, as well as doing hefty number crunching for 4K video encoding and giving a boost to the GH4's AF speed.

The new GH4 utilizes Panasonic's fast contrast-detect AF combined with a new technology call "Depth From Defocus" (DFD), which uses the lens information (when using Lumix lenses) to calculate the subject distance using the out-of-focus areas of the two pictures (one near and one far). This data is then combined with contrast AF for final fine-tuning, all within 0.07 seconds for very high-speed AF performance, helping not only with sheer AF speed, but also with increased AF tracking performance and continuous AF burst shooting.

IR publisher Dave Etchells goes in-depth with the new DFD technology below.

The GH4 also features improvements to continuous AF in both stills and video with better accuracy thanks to finer wobbling (presumably meaning subtler back-and-forth adjustments as it continuously maintains focus). According to Panasonic, since there is no need for on-chip phase-detect pixels, thanks to DFD, the full sensor is devoted to image quality (no missing pixels being used for AF).

The Panasonic GH4 features many other focusing improvement seen on other recent Panasonic cameras like the GX7 and GM1 including Pinpoint AF and higher AF performance in low-light conditions (-4EV). The GH4 also introduces some new features for the GH line including a 49-area AF grid (up from 23 on the GH3) with the ability to manually select custom AF area groupings. There's also a freely re-sizable 1-area AF mode as well as face and eye detection AF.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Rear view (prototype)

Video Features. While the Panasonic GH4 undoubtedly features a lot of improvements for still photography, Panasonic themselves have said the image quality is a slight improvement over the GX7, but the main focus was drastically increasing the video recording features, performance and image quality.

The big story with the GH4, like with the GH3 before it, is video recording. The GH3 blew us away with its high quality video recording features, and now the new GH4 provides not only much higher resolution video, with both Cinema 4K (4,096 x 2,160) and 4K Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160), but also drastically increased video bitrates practically across the board compared to the GH3.

Both 4K resolution video formats are recorded with a bitrate of 100Mbps in IPB compression, and Full HD video can be cranked up to a whopping 200Mbps bitrate with ALL-Intra compression for some seriously high quality HD footage. Of course you can also tone it down to 100Mbps IPB or a humble 50Mbps IPB. The GH4 can also record in AVCHD with a same array of video resolutions and bitrates as the GH3.

Be sure to check out Dave Etchell's in-depth video features rundown further down in our preview.

With all that horsepower in such a small body, Panasonic has done some serious design work and created a heat-dispersing design that allows for unlimited continuous video recording, even in 4K. Yes, that also means that the strange dual-model setup of the GH3, with one version for NTSC countries and another for PAL, differing only by how long you could continuously record video, is no more. The GH4 is a single model, with user-selectable NTSC or PAL recording frame rates.

Speaking of frame rates, as the "cinema" naming in Cinema 4K suggests, C4K video is captured at the film-standard 24.00fps (not 23.97), while 4K Ultra HD resolution provides some options with 29.97p, 23.98p, and cinema 24p (there's also 25p for the PAL countries).

For the professional shooter, Panasonic has really gone all-out to make the GH4 a serious option for high-end video productions. Apart from the high-resolution and high-bitrate video, the GH4 has full 1080p HD clean HDMI out with 4:2:2 10bit (or 8bit) output, giving you not only the ability to use an external HD monitor while recording video but also use HD capture recorders like ATMOS Ninja. The GH4 is, furthermore, able to output full 4:2:2 10bit 4K video via HDMI for use in 4K recorders or monitors.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Front view (prototype) with DMW-YAGH

For serious professional workflows, Panasonic has also announced alongside the GH4 an attachable interface unit, the AG-YAGH (or DMW-YAGH for the US), shown above, providing 4K HD-SDI output with timecode, XLR audio, and DC power. This gives the Panasonic GH4 the ability to integrate very well with professional cinema and high-end video production workflows with industry-standard connections and interfaces.

The all new Panasonic GH4 provides not only 4K high-res video and very high bitrates for stunning image quality, but also a number of improvements for still photographers all at a relatively affordable price point; one that's far below other professional flagship stills cameras and pro 4K cinema cameras alike. Suggested list price is US$1,699.99, with availability starting from late April, 2014.

With super fast AF and burst shooting, improved dynamic range and high ISO performance as well as super high-resolution 4K and HD video, all packaged inside a rugged weather-resistant magnesium body with a durable 200K-rated shutter life, Panasonic is clearly taking aim at the Olympus E-M1 as the perfect professional field camera that's not only a very well-rounded stills shooter, but also perfectly at home as a professional video camera, thus making it, as Panasonic puts it, "the ultimate photo/video hybrid interchangeable lens camera."

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Front view prototype with 14-140  lens

Walkaround. The design of the Panasonic GH4 is strikingly similar to the GH3, so much so, that if there wasn't a "GH4" logo stamped on the front you probably couldn't tell the two apart. (As you can see, our sample was not cosmetically final and had no model name.)

By the numbers, the GH4 is nearly identical to the GH3, measuring in at 132.9 x 93.4 x 83.9mm (5.23 x 3.68 x 3.30 in.) and weighing just a bit more than its predecessor at 560g with SD card and battery. The body construction itself is also nearly identical with rugged magnesium alloy body that's sealed to be splash- and dust-proof.

Along the front, you have the same minimal buttons aside from the lens mount release button and flash sync terminal. Like the GH3 before it, the hand grip and left-most front surface are coated in a nice, rubberized grip for a secure hold.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Controls

Moving to the top of the camera, you'll see the one main difference in the GH4 -- the mode dial. The biggest change is the new locking mechanism. Functioning just like the locking mode dial of the Olympus E-M1, press the button to lock the dial in place, and press it again to unlock -- very useful to prevent accidentally changing modes.

The other change is that Panasonic has removed the Scene Mode option on the dial.  The GH4 does still include a range of creative effects modes and picture styles for fun and creative photos and video.

Along the top of the handgrip, the GH4 includes a trio of quick access buttons for White Balance, ISO and Exposure Compensation, just like the GH3. In front of those buttons, sits the top control dial for making adjustments to exposure settings such as aperture. Below this trio, is the first of five customizable function buttons. There is also an indicator light for Wi-Fi connectivity. The GH4 also includes NFC connectivity for quick and easy pairing with a smart device for image sharing and remote control with Panasonic's Image App.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- With Flash DMW-FL580L

In the center, the GH4 has a standard hot shoe for mounting various accessories like the Panasonic DMW-MS2 Stereo/Shotgun mic, which thanks to the new processor and software in the GH4 is now able to zoom and adjust the balance between stereo and shotgun recording angles. The hot shoe is also compatible is flash units such as the new Panasonic Wireless Flash DMW-FL580L. Flanked on either side of the hot shoe sit left and right mics for stereo audio recording.

The GH4 also includes a pop-up flash unit, that's activated by a soft button along the left side of the EVF.

Lastly off to the leftmost side of the top panel sits and the smaller drive mode dial, featuring options such as Single, Continuous, Exposure Bracketing, Self-Timer, and a new Interval option.

Moving down to the back of the camera, the layout of buttons and dials are, again, identical to the GH3. However, there are big changes for the 3" live view display and EVF. The 3.0-inch, vari-angle, touchscreen OLED monitor sports a big resolution increase from a 610K dots to 1036K dots with a 10,000:1 contrast ratio. The EVF also gets a resolution boost with 2360K dots over the 1744K dots of the GH3.  The EVF of the GH4 provides a 100% field of view with a 0.7x magnification.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Rear view, LCD closed

As far as buttons go the layout is fairly standard, with a second control dial right next to the mode dial for exposure adjustments like shutter speed or scrolling through menus. On the right side of the EVF, placed comfortably near the thumb-rest is the AF mode dial, which surrounds the AF/AE Lock button. The recessed video recording start/stop button is also placed next to the thumb-rest. The button is easy to press when you want, but the recessed design helps prevent accidental presses.

Further down in the bottom right region, sits the large main 4-way control dial for navigating through various menus and settings. We also have a section of Function buttons (#2-4) that are programmable, but have default functions as well, which are printed below each button, and the display button for toggling through various on-screen information overlays. Lastly, up on the top left corner of the rear of the camera sits the playback button and the fifth programmable Function button, which also doubles as the LVF/EVF toggle button.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Right side, with 14-140mm lens

Moving around to the sides of the GH4, we have the SD card door and 2.5mm remote terminal on the right side, and the 3.5mm mic jack input, headphone jack, Micro HDMI (Type-D) and AV out ports on the left.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Left side, with 14-140mm lens

Lastly, along the bottom, the GH4 features a standard 1/4-20 thread tripod socket, connections for the battery grip accessory and new interface unit, and the locking lithium-ion battery compartment.

Ready to pre-order? Get your spot in line with a trusted Imaging Resource affiliate now:

Panasonic GH4 body-only: ADORAMA | AMAZON | B&H
Panasonic GH4 + DMW-YAGH Interface Unit Kit: ADORAMA | B&H
Panasonic DMW-YAGH Interface Unit: ADORAMA | B&H
Panasonic DMW-FL580L Wireless Flash: ADORAMA | B&H

 

Tech Insights: Panasonic's DFD autofocus technology

by Dave Etchells

With the GH4, Panasonic has introduced an all-new autofocus algorithm that eliminates many of the drawbacks of contrast-detect autofocus, and delivers AF speeds approaching those of traditional SLRs. DFD stands for "Depth From Defocus," and to understand what this is all about and why it's such an impressive innovation, let's first take a quick look at how camera AF systems work.

In traditional SLRs, the mirror system diverts a small portion of the incoming light to a separate autofocus sensor, typically located in the bottom of the mirror box. A prism there splits the light coming from opposite sides of the lens and directs it to paired groups of sensor pixels, forming each AF point. Depending on the focus of the lens, the light falling on the paired groups of pixels will either line up (focused) or be shifted one way or the other relative to each other (front-focused or back-focused). Phase-detect AF thus not only knows whether the subject is in focus or not, but if out of focus, it knows in what direction and how much out of focus the image is. This means the camera can command the lens to move directly to the correct focus setting, without having to "hunt" along the way.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- PDAF Illustration

This illustration shows how the split image seen by the two halves of a conventional phase-detect AF point explicitly show the amount of defocus in an image. (Illustration courtesy of and copyright 2013 by Rob Taylor - Source )

The other way of determining focus is called "Contrast-Detect", and involves measuring how abruptly objects in the image change from light to dark or back again. When an object is in sharp focus, the tonal values will change fairly rapidly as you move from pixel to pixel. When it's out of focus, these transitions happen much more gradually. With contrast-detect AF, the camera measures how rapidly brightness levels change from pixel to pixel, shifts the lens' focal distance slightly, and measures the brightness changes again. If there were more differences between pixels after the focus change, that means the subject is closer to being in focus, so the camera will shift the focus again, take another look, and keep going until it finds that the pixel to pixel contrast dropped slightly. That means it just passed the point of best focus, so it'll drop back one increment and snap the picture.

Panasonig GH4 Review -- CDAF Illustration

This figure shows an example of contrast-detect AF at work, including "hunting" for the point of sharpest focus. (Illustration courtesy of and copyright 2013 by Rob Taylor - Source )

Because it's an iterative process, contrast-detect AF can be rather slow, compared to conventional phase-detect AF, as found in SLRs. Also, since the only way the camera can tell whether the subject is focused or not is by tweaking the focus and seeing if the contrast signal gets better or worse, this is why you'll often see contrast-detect AF systems "hunting" for the best focus, constantly moving in and out of focus during a video recording.

Panasonic has been very successful in making their contrast-detect AF systems very fast, to the point that they're in many cases as fast or faster than the phase-detect systems on low-end SLR cameras. Still, they're not up to the speed levels of the best phase-detect systems, and they're still prone to hunting during video recording, even if to a lesser degree than many competing systems.

Recently, a number of manufacturers have managed to integrate phase-detect pixels onto the main image sensor, but on large-sensor cameras, AF speeds are still rather slow, because it takes too long to clock the PDAF data off the larger imaging chips.

With all that as background we can now talk about Panasonic's latest AF innovation, Depth From Defocus, or DFD technology. Panasonic's engineers realized that they had more information to work with than just whether incremental changes in focus resulted in better or worse contrast measurements; they could also tell how much the contrast signal improved or worsened. By knowing how much the focus improved or worsened after a small focus change, they had an opportunity to tell how far out of focus the lens was. They had the opportunity to tell that, but actually knowing how far the lens needed to travel required that the camera know a great deal about the lens. Basically, the camera has to have a detailed understanding of the lens' bokeh, across the full range of out of focus conditions, at all focal lengths (in the case of a zoom lens), and all apertures.

That's a pretty tall order, but since Panasonic manufactures their own lenses, they could in fact characterize each of them fully in this regard. So of course, that's what they did, and they loaded a full database of the bokeh behavior of all their current lenses into the GH4's memory. As a result, no matter the focal length, aperture, or subject distance, the GH4 can very quickly determine now much out of focus each lens is, and in what direction, just by comparing two images, acquired in rapid succession, with a small lens movement in between. By interpreting the change in bokeh from one "look" to the next, the GH4 can calculate how far it needs to move the lens, to get very close to the final focus setting. After this rapid movement, it does one or two normal contrast-AF cycles to fine-tune the focus, before snapping the shot.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- DFD illustration

Conventional contrast-detect autofocus involves a progressive "hunting' process to find the point of best focus. Panasonic's new Distance From Defocus method can quickly calculate the amount and direction of misfocus and move the lens close to the final focus setting very quickly.

We'll of course want to test this new DFD focusing algorithm in our lab before we give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, but the (very) rough prototype we saw did indeed slew focus very rapidly, and comparison videos Panasonic showed us with DFD enabled vs not did indeed show a pretty dramatic improvement in focus acquisition times. Panasonic thinks that they'll be able to get the GH4's basic AF-determination time down to 0.07 second by the time it enters production, and that it will be able to shoot at 7 frames/second, with full autofocus tracking.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- 49-area AF

49-area AF.

This deep understanding of lens bokeh by the GH4 apparently also helps minimize focus hunting, since the camera can detect and quantify changes in subject focus without having to move the lens. You should thus only see the lens shift focus when the subject actually moves, and the process of re-acquiring focus should be noticeably faster than in the past. (You can bet we'll put all this to the test, as soon as we can get our hands on a production sample of the GH4!)

Of course, given that the camera needs to understand each lens' bokeh characteristics in great detail, the first question we asked was what will happen as Panasonic develops and releases new lenses: Will the GH4's firmware have to be updated every time a new lens comes out? The answer was that, while the GH4 will contain a database of all the current Lumix lenses, new models will have their bokeh profiles stored on internal memory in the lens itself. So, no camera firmware updates needed, each new lens will carry with it the information needed to make DFD work.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Focus peaking

Focus peaking.

This naturally leads to the next question: What about third-party lenses? As you might expect, the GH4 doesn't contain a bokeh database for every non-Lumix lens out there, so third-party lenses will revert to Panasonic's (already very fast) conventional contrast-detect AF algorithms.

The Panasonic GH4's AF features aren't only about improved speed, though; the camera now sports 49 contrast-detect AF areas up from 23 in the GH3, and has both face and eye-detection AF, a flexible 1-area AF option, and a flexible "pinpoint" AF display, for setting focus very precisely on small elements within the scene. In 1-area AF mode, you can change the size of the AF frame, and there's also focus peaking, a much-requested feature.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Face and eye detection

Face and eye detection.

You can also select the AF area via the rear-panel touch screen, optionally enable Eye Sensor AF, which starts the AF running when you bring the camera to your eye, and select a one-shot AF mode that lets you use AF for initial rough focusing, then switch to manual focus for fine-tuning. Finally, the GH4 is capable of focusing at light levels down to -4EV, a challenge even for many phase-detect systems. All in all, the Panasonic GH4 sports an unusually capable and flexible AF system.

As always with new technologies, we'll withhold judgment on Panasonic's new DFD approach until we have a chance to try it out in practice. The performance of the early prototype and the demo videos Panasonic showed us were very encouraging indeed, though. Panasonic has always been a leader in advancing the speed and accuracy of contrast-detect autofocus, and this latest innovation of theirs promises to kick it up another substantial notch. Kudos to Panasonic for their continuing innovation in this area.

 

In-Depth: Panasonic GH4 Video Capabilities

by Dave Etchells

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Left side with mic

The earlier GH3 was already one of the leading interchangeable-lens video platforms, but the Panasonic GH4 takes its video capabilities to a whole new level, with full 4K video, both IPB and All-I recording in a range of container formats, data rates as high as 200 Mbps(!), clean HDMI output at either 8 or 10 bits, and a super-high full HD frame rate of 96fps for 1/4x slow-motion when played back at 24fps. There's a whole host of other features, so many that we're going to just hit them briefly here. It's safe to say, though, that the Panasonic GH4 is going to be a dream machine for both professional and high-end amateur videographers.

4K recording. Around the office, we've been joking that 4K is this year's 3D, given the massive focus on it at this year's CES show. TV manufacturers are clearly hoping that 4K will revive TV sales, by getting consumers to upgrade their current sets, just as they did with 3D. While 3D was an unmitigated flop with consumers, 4K does in fact bring noticeable improvements in image quality. Whether the improvements will be enough to make consumers reach for their wallets isn't clear, but 4K is potentially useful for many filmmakers, looking to integrate video with conventional film. Depending on the software involved, it's also quite possible that downsampled 4K video will result in better-looking HD than you'd get shooting directly in HD in the first place.

However the 4K space eventually sorts itself out, the Panasonic GH4 will be fully 4K capable at launch, able to record in both 3,840 x 2,160 and 4,096 x 2,160 formats, recording IPB data at a rate of 100Mbps in either format. (The processing burden of encoding 4K data means the data rate is limited to 100Mbps; the camera can do 200Mbps with conventional 1080 HD imagery.)

High bit rates, multiple container formats. We just alluded to this, but a key feature of the Panasonic GH4 is the very high data rates it can record at, as well as pass through its HDMI port (more on that in a bit). Where the GH3 was limited to a maximum of 50Mbps (not too shabby in its own right), the GH4 can go as high as 200Mbps in All-Intra mode at full HD resolutions, and frame rates from 24-60fps. IPB recording can go as high as 100Mbps, at the same frame rates. High bit rate video can be saved in either MP4 or MOV containers, and standard AVCHD format can be recorded up to 28Mbps. Of course, data rates of 200Mbps require a very fast memory card to keep up. The Panasonic GH4 is compatible with the SD UHS Speed Class 3 (U3) standard, which guarantees an uninterrupted 30 MB/sec data stream. Very few of these cards are on the market as yet, so be sure you're using the right card, if you want to achieve these very high sustained data rates.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Video Options
4K
Container
Resolution
Frame Rate
Bitrate
Compression

MP4 / MOV

Cinema 4K
(4,096 x 2,160)

24.00p

100Mbps

IPB

4K Ultra HD
(3,840 x 2,160)

29.97p / 23.98p

25.00p

24.00p

29.97p / 23.98p

23.98p

High-Bitrate Full HD
Container
Resolution
Frame Rate
Bitrate
Compression

MP4 / MOV

1080p
(1,920 x 1,080)

59.94p / 50.00p
200Mbps

ALL-Intra

100Mbps

IPB

50Mbps
29.97p / 25.00p
200Mbps

ALL-Intra

100Mbps

IPB

50Mbps
24.00p
200Mbps

ALL-Intra

100Mbps

IPB

50Mbps

23.98p

200Mbps

ALL-Intra

100Mbps

IPB

50Mbps
Low-Bitrate Full HD
Container
Resolution
Frame Rate
Bitrate
Compression

MP4 / MOV

1080p
1,920 x 1,080

59.94p / 50.00p

28Mbps

IPB

29.97p / 25.00p
20Mbps

720p
(1,280 x 720)

10Mbps

SD
(640 x 480)

4Mbps

AVCHD
Progressive

1080p
1,920 x 1,080

59.94p / 50.00p

28Mbps

AVCHD

59.94i / 50.00i

17Mbps
24Mbps

23.98p

24Mbps

Clean HDMI, 4:2:2, 8 or 10-bit output. "Clean" HDMI means straight output of the video stream, without any viewfinder or settings overlays, for recording on an external recorder. So-called 4:2:2 is a standard professional digital video format, and is supported by most video-capable ILCs (Interchangeable-Lens Cameras). The big news with the Panasonic GH4 in this area is that you can select either 8 or 10-bit output. The higher bit-depth will produce much smoother gradations, something particularly noticeable in areas of very subtle variation, such as blue sky, or subtle highlight gradations. (It's important to note here, though, that the GH4's 10-bit output is only available when streaming video to an external recorder. The data recorded on the internal SD card is 4:2:0 at 8 bits.)

Zebras! This was a very highly-requested feature from GH3 customers, and Panasonic stepped up to offer it in the GH4. It's a way of easily seeing areas of your image that might be over- or under-exposed; the camera overlays a pattern of zebra-stripes on such areas, making them immediately evident. For whatever reason, relatively few video-capable ILCs offer this feature, but it's a standard one in dedicated video equipment that pro video shooters rely on heavily.

Variable frame rate. Mentioned briefly above, this will be of interest to people wanting to shoot slow-motion video. Shooting slo-mo involves capturing video at a high frame rate, and then playing it back at a slower one, typically 24fps. With a maximum frame rate of 60fps, most video ILCs can only achieve only a 1/2.5x slow motion effect. The GH4 supports frame rates as high as 96fps at full HD resolution, meaning you can achieve a slow motion effect of 1/4x.

Time Code, Rec run/Free run. As the name suggests, time code is a separate data stream of precisely-encoded time information that indicates just when each frame of video was shot. Time code is essential for editing-together video shot on different cameras. Rec run means the time code advances only when the camera is recording, while Free run means it runs continuously from whenever it was first set. Free run is useful when multiple cameras are being used, with the video from each stopping and starting at random times. With the DMW-YAGH interface unit (the AF-YAGH outside the US, see below for more info), the Panasonic GH4 can also accept external time code input, so multiple cameras can be precisely synchronized on a set.

Pro-level video signal adjustments. This is a bit of a catch-all category, as there are a number of adjustments to the video signal that important in professional environments. Among them, the Master Pedestal Adjustment sets the black level of the video signal, Cinema-Like Gamma makes the GH4's tonal rendition match the specs of cinema vs normal video output, and Luminance Level Adjustment lets you set the tonal range from 16-255 brightness units, 16-235 units, or 0-255 units. While of little interest to amateurs, these adjustments are critical in professional applications.

Color bars and audio reference signal output. This is another pro-only consideration, but having the Panasonic GH4 able to output standard color bars and an audio reference signal makes it much easier to match its output to other video devices, avoiding odd color casts, tonal breaks, or audio level problems.

Center marker. This is a small point, but illustrates the attention Panasonic gave to user requests in designing the GH4. Having the frame's center point marked with an overlay in the viewfinder display can help a lot in setting up shots, especially when you need to match the framing from one take to another.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Rear with DMW-YAGH IU

The DMW-YAGH Interface Unit (AF-YAGH outside the US). While the Panasonic GH4's video capabilities are quite impressive on its own, the DMW-YAGH interface unit delivers a lot of connectivity that's important to professional videographers. The shot above shows a rear view of it, where you can see separate stereo VU displays (the bar graph segments on the left), the manual record level adjustments for both channels, and the controls to set mono or stereo recording, and the level options (including +48v phantom power) for the two XLR connections on the side.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- DMW-YAGH IU ports

As the name "Interface Unit" suggests, the main function of the DMW-YAGH is to provide audio and video interfaces necessary for use in professional videography applications. On the audio side, a pair of latching XLR-type connectors provides balanced-line connectivity for external microphones, and as noted above, the unit is capable of accepting either line-level or mic-level signals, as well as providing +48v phantom power for condenser mics.

There's also a set of four BNC connectors for the SDI digital video interface preferred in pro video applications. A key advantage of SDI connections over HDMI ones is that the BNC connectors lock, so the cables won't disconnect if they're tugged. As alluded to earlier, there's also a time code input (TC In) connector, that lets you slave the Panasonic GH4 to a master clock that ties together all the capture devices used on a set.

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Right side with DMW-YAGH IU

The DMW-YAGH adds some bulk to the GH4, but really not much more than dictated by the bulk of the connections themselves. (They arguably might have reduced the bulk slightly, by having the SDI and XLR connections exit from opposite sides, but that would have resulted in much more unwieldy cable routing.) The combined package is still very much hand-holdable, although you'd probably mount the camera on a fluid-head tripod for most pro video applications, anyway.

At the time of this writing, Panasonic hadn't yet released prices for either the GH4 itself or the DMW-YAGH interface unit, but it's a safe bet that they'll come in well below the cost of current competing solutions from other manufactures. (For instance, we expect that the price of the Panasonic GH4 itself will be close to that of the GH3 before it, which will price it far below competing pro-grade 4K capture solutions.)

Update 03/10/2014: Panasonic has announced pricing and availability! Suggested list price for the DMC-GH4 body is US$1,699.99, a $400 premium over the GH3's list price. The DMW-YAGH interface unit is listed at US$1,999.99. When purchased together, the body plus interface unit go for about US$3,300. Shipments begin in late April, 2014.

Panasonic GH4 video summary. As we said at the outset, the GH3 was already one of the preeminent video capture platforms on the market, but the Panasonic GH4 represents a large step up in almost every area. Obviously, our ultimate assessment of the GH4's video capabilities will depend heavily on how the production sample performs in our testing, but all indications at this point are that it's going to disrupt the current video-capable ILC market in a big way. The capabilities it promises, at the price we're expecting, should really throw down the gauntlet to all competing manufacturers. Hard on them, perhaps, but a very good thing for videographers everywhere.

Ready to pre-order? Get your spot in line with a trusted Imaging Resource affiliate now:

Panasonic GH4 body-only: ADORAMA | AMAZON | B&H
Panasonic GH4 + DMW-YAGH Interface Unit Kit: ADORAMA | B&H
Panasonic DMW-YAGH Interface Unit: ADORAMA | B&H
Panasonic DMW-FL580L Wireless Flash: ADORAMA | B&H

 

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops comparing the Panasonic GH4 with the Panasonic GH3, Canon 70D, Nikon D7100, Olympus E-M1 and Sony A6000.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses.

Panasonic GH4 versus Panasonic GH3 at Base ISO

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 200
Panasonic GH3 at ISO 200

Given that both the GH4 and GH3 have similar 16.1-megapixel sensors, it's no surprise that their images are nearly identical here at base ISO. The fine detail in the mosaic crop looks similar as do the fabric swatches, apart from perhaps a minor difference in exposure. Default noise reduction seems stronger in the GH4, though, as you can see in the first crop comparison, with shadowy areas looking a bit smoother than the GH3. (In fact, some of the texture in our background is treated as noise and actually smoothed away.)


Panasonic GH4 versus Canon 70D at Base ISO

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 200
Canon 70D at ISO 100

Despite the smaller sensor, the GH4 wins with sharper fine detail in both the mosaic and fabric crop comparisons, although the 70D is definitely not a bad performer with more accurate colors and higher contrast. However the 70D also produces more obvious sharpening haloes.


Panasonic GH4 versus Nikon D7100 at Base ISO

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 200
Nikon D7100 at ISO 100

Unlike the previous comparison, the APS-C Nikon D7100 with its 24MP AA-filterless sensor is able to out-resolve the 16MP Four Thirds Panasonic GH4, especially in the fabric crops comparison, and we prefer the Nikon's color. Even though there's a noticeable difference in resolution, the GH4 is able to produce a nice, high level of fine detail in the mosaic crops, however.


Panasonic GH4 versus Olympus E-M1 at Base ISO

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 200
Olympus E-M1 at ISO 200

These two flagship Micro Four Thirds cameras are fairly evenly matched here at ISO 200, with both cameras producing lots of fine detail. The GH4's rendering looks slightly more natural while the E-M1's is a bit crisper with higher sharpening and contrast. Both do well with the fabric swatches, as well as with the mosaic, although there is a slight color cast difference.


Panasonic GH4 versus Sony A6000 at Base ISO

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 200
Sony A6000 at ISO 100

Both cameras do an excellent job with crisp, fine detail at base ISO. Other than the noticeable difference in resolution, both cameras display excellent detail in the mosaic crop. The GH4 in fact appears to edge out the A6000 with the red fabric with a cleaner, crisper look to the leaf pattern, while the A6000 handles the pink fabric noticeably better.

 

Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Panasonic GH4 versus Panasonic GH3 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 1600
Panasonic GH3 at ISO 1600

Again, like the base ISO comparison, the GH4 and GH3 are pretty evenly matched here at ISO 1600. Interestingly, there are some noticeable chroma noise "splotches" in the GH4 bottle crop that aren't seen in the GH3 crop, though the GH3 shows slightly higher luminance noise and sharpening artifacts. In terms of fine detail, they are quite similar in the mosaic crop, but the GH3 gets the nod in the red and pink fabric swatches.


Panasonic GH4 versus Canon 70D at ISO 1600

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 1600
Canon 70D at ISO 1600

The GH4 does much better than the 70D at reducing luminance noise grain at ISO 1600, though it does leave green and red chroma noise splotches in the shadows. Fine detail in the mosaic is similar, but the GH4 tips the scale with a more natural look to the tiled pattern. The 70D does a bit better in the red fabric, while the GH4 wins with the pink one though it's a bit too magenta.


Panasonic GH4 versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 1600
Nikon D7100 at ISO 1600

Despite the larger, much-higher-res sensor, the GH4 generally does better at reducing high ISO luminance noise at default settings. Interestingly, even though the D7100 is quite effective at reducing chroma noise, it continues to do much better with the red fabric. Fine detail in the higher contrast mosaic crops actually looks fairly similar barring the differences in resolution and default sharpening, but again, the Nikon produces more accurate colors.


Panasonic GH4 versus Olympus E-M1 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 1600
Olympus E-M1 at ISO 1600

Both cameras here do well at reducing noise, but the effect of the E-M1's noise reduction looks stronger. Fine detail looks better on the GH4 however, as the E-M1's noise reduction processing produces a somewhat muddled, distorted appearance to the mosaic crop. However, on the red fabric, things are quite evenly matched, though the GH4 does better with the pink fabric.


Panasonic GH4 versus Sony A6000 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 1600
Sony A6000 at ISO 1600

Again, another big difference in resolution, 16 vs 24, but the GH4 does surprisingly well against the A6000. Noise reduction is much stronger on the A6000, and while it does well at removing noise, it muddles up the mosaic detail and the fabric swatches, especially the pink fabric. The GH4, on the other hand, maintains a nice level of fairly clean, fine detail.



Today's ISO 3200 is yesterday's ISO 1600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3200.

Panasonic GH4 versus Panasonic GH3 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 3200
Panasonic GH3 at ISO 3200

At ISO 3200, the GH4 shows better noise reduction processing, as the GH3's NR looks a little too strong with artifacts more visible in the bottle crop, for instance. The level of fine detail on the mosaic crop looks similar, although NR processing is a little more evident from the GH3. The GH3 does ever-so-slightly better at the fabric crops over the GH4 (both struggle quite a bit though with the red fabric).


Panasonic GH4 versus Canon 70D at ISO 3200

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 3200
Canon 70D at ISO 3200

It's a similar comparison here as the one we saw at ISO 1600, as the GH4 processes out high ISO noise and grain much better than the 70D at ISO 3200. Fine detail in the mosaic is better from the GH4, and while the 70D does a bit better in the red fabric, again, the GH4 wins handily with the pink one.


Panasonic GH4 versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 3200
Nikon D7100 at ISO 3200

Again, like the ISO 1600 comparison, the GH4 shows less noise thanks to its noise reduction processing, while still showing good fine detail. However, despite the noise, the D7100 also does well with fine detail, especially when comparing the fabric swatches, with which the GH4 struggles.


Panasonic GH4 versus Olympus E-M1 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 3200
Olympus E-M1 at ISO 3200

Very similar comparison again in terms of noise reduction, and while the GH4 shows a nice amount of fine detail in the mosaic crop, the E-M1's NR processing distorts the mosaic tile crop detail quite a bit. Both cameras struggle similarly with the red fabric, though the GH4 still does better with the pink one.


Panasonic GH4 versus Sony A6000 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GH4 at ISO 3200
Sony A6000 at ISO 3200

At ISO 3200, the GH4 and A6000 compare quite similarly, especially in the bottle and mosaic crops, but with an obvious difference in image resolution. Both show relatively low levels of noise and fine detail, though the A6000 looks a bit more "processed." However, things change with the fabric crops, where the A6000 show a better attempt at resolving the red leaf pattern.

 

Detail: Panasonic GH4 vs. Panasonic GH3, Canon 70D, Nikon D7100, Olympus E-M1 and Sony A6000

Panasonic
GH4

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Panasonic
GH3

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
70D

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D7100

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus
E-M1

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
A6000

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. For fine, high-contrast detail, these letters allow us to really "read between the lines" so to speak. All cameras here do well at base ISO with lots of crisp, fine detail in the lettering, with the 70D, E-M1 and A6000 showing a bit more contrast by default across the board. It's a similar story at ISO 3200 as well, although the 70D and D7100 falter a bit with a lack of crispness compared to the others. The GH4 does well at all ISOs, even ISO 6400 and compared to cameras with larger sensors like the 70D and D7100. Compared to the GH3, the GH4 looks quite similar in terms of levels of crisp, fine detail and low noise at the higher ISOs.

 

Panasonic GH4 Review -- Print Quality

Overall, very good 24 x 36 inch prints at ISOs 100 and 200; ISO 1600 capable of a nice 13 x 19; ISO 6400 prints a good 5 x 7.

ISO 100 and 200 images are excellent at 24 x 36 inches, with nice detail. Colors are generally accurate, but yellows are desaturated and shifted a bit toward green. Despite the extended ISO of 100, prints at both 100 and 200 look practically identical. Even though the GH4 has "only" a 16MP sensor, up to 36 x 48 inch prints are easily suitable for wall display purposes.

ISO 400 prints look quite good at 20 x 30 inches, with wall display prints possible up to 30 x 40 inches.

ISO 800 yields a nice 16 x 20 inch print. 20 x 30s are fine for less critical applications, but there is some minor luminance noise in the shadow areas. Colors still look accurate, and the camera still has the ability to resolve fine detail.

ISO 1600 is capable of a good 13 x 19 inch print, with 11 x 14s looking even better. Typical troublesome areas like the red swatch in our test target still looks great at this ISO.

ISO 3200 prints are good at 11 x 14 inches, with some minor grain in the shadows. Also, the red fabric swatch is starting to lose detail. Colors are beginning to be slightly muted as well, but enough saturation is preserved for good prints.

ISO 6400 produces a nice 5 x 7, with 8 x 10s being suitable for less critical applications. Noise is starting to show up more, but is still mostly concentrated in shadowy areas.

ISO 12,800 prints are acceptable at 4 x 6, although colors look slightly muted, but enough color is preserved for decent prints. Noise is quite high here, preventing us from calling any larger size acceptable.

ISO 25,600 does not print a usable 4 x 6 and is best avoided.

While the Panasonic GH4 certainly brings lots of upgrades in terms of video capabilities, it's not altogether much different from the GH3 in terms of still image quality. Housing a similar 16MP sensor, the GH4 yields high quality 24 x 36 inch prints at extended ISO 100 and base ISO 200. This quality is maintained nicely at ISO 800 with relatively large prints for its Four Thirds sensor size, and allows for good 11 x 14 prints up to ISO 3200. The default level of noise reduction does well at these relatively high ISOs to keep noise under control while maintaining a lot of fine detail. At very high ISO levels, however, prints sizes can only go so large before noise takes its toll on fine detail and color.

 

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