Panasonic Lumix GH4 Review

 
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Panasonic GH4 Performance


Timing and Performance

Excellent performance for a Compact System Camera, though buffer clearing can be sluggish with RAW files.

Startup/Mode Switching/Buffer Clearing

Power on
to first shot

~0.8 second

Time it takes to turn on and capture a shot.

Play to Record,
first shot

~0.7 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Buffer clearing time
4 seconds after
230 Large/Fine JPEGs*

Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card.

23 seconds after
21 RAW files*
37 seconds after
21 RAW+ L/F JPEG files*
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme Pro 95MB/sec UHS-I SDHC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Startup time is quite fast for a Compact System Camera, and so is changing from Play to Record and taking a shot. Buffer clearing times can be long, but buffers are deep, particularly when shooting JPEGs. See below for some additional buffer clearing with a U3 rated UHS-II card.


Shutter Response (Lag Time)
with Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 H-HS12035 lens
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode
0.186 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting.

Full Autofocus,
Multi-area AF mode
0.186 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting.

Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Flash enabled
0.351 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting, auto flash enabled.

Manual Focus
0.057 second

For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".

Prefocused

0.050 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

The Panasonic GH4's contrast-detect autofocus is very quick for a CSC, and improved over the GH3's. The GH4's single-shot full-autofocus shutter lag (with the subject at a fixed distance) is 0.186 second using single-area (center) AF with the 12-35mm f/2.8 lens in our tests, and 49-area AF tested the same. Enabling the flash increases lag quite a bit to 0.351 second, but that's still pretty good. When manually focused, the GH4's lag time drops to only 0.057 second, which is also quite fast. The GH4's prefocused shutter lag time of 0.050 second is also very quick, though not as fast as some CSCs.

To minimize the effect of different lens' focusing speed, we test AF-active shutter lag with the lens already set to the correct focal distance.

To see how much difference a more recent lens makes, we retested 1-area and 49-area AF modes with the recently released 14-42mm II lens:

Shutter Response (Lag Time)
with Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II H-FS1442A lens
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode
0.143 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting.

Full Autofocus,
Multi-area AF mode
0.151 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting.

As you can see, single-shot full AF lag with the newer 14-42mm II H-FS1442A lens is even faster than with the older 12-35mm f/2.8 lens we used to test the GH3 with. These speeds are approaching pro DSLR performance.

 

Cycle Time (shot to shot)
with SanDisk Extreme Pro 95 MB/sec UHS-I card

Single Shot mode
Large/Fine JPEG

0.35 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots with no signs of slowing, 1 second to clear*.

Single Shot mode
RAW

0.40 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots with no signs of slowing, 7 seconds to clear*.

Single Shot mode
RAW + L/F JPEG
0.35 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots with no signs of slowing, 27 seconds to clear*.

Early shutter
penalty?

No

Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous High
Large Fine JPEG

0.08 second (12.83 frames per second);
230+ frames total;
4 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 230 frames with no signs of slowing.

Continuous High
RAW

0.09 second (11.76 frames per second);
21 frames total;
23 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 21 frames, then slows to an average of 0.51s or 1.98 fps.

Continuous High
RAW + L/F JPEG

0.08 second (11.90 frames per second);
21 frames total;
37 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 21 frames, then slows to an average of about 1.06s or 0.94 fps.

Continuous Super High
4MP JPEG

0.03 second (40.00 frames per second);
120 frames total;
11 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over maximum buffer length of 120 frames.

Flash Recycling

4.2 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme Pro 95 MB/sec UHS-I SDHC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Single-shot cycle times are quite fast, and also improved over the GH3. We measured 0.35 second for Large/Fine JPEGs, 0.40 second for RAW and 0.35 second for RAW+L/F JPEGs.

Continuous High mode is very fast at about 12.8 frames per second when shooting full-resolution JPEGs with AF locked at the first frame. This drops to about 11.8 frames per second with RAW files, and 11.9 fps for RAW+JPEGs, still very fast.

Full resolution buffer depth is essentially unlimited for Large/Fine JPEGs, with a fast card. When shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG files, buffer depth drops to 21 frames, which is still pretty good. Buffer clearing times are fast with just JPEGs, but a little slow when shooting RAW files with our 95MB/s UHS-I card.

The flash recycles after a full discharge in an average of 4.2 seconds, a bit on the slow side.

 

Since Panasonic specifies a UHS Speed Class 3 card for 4K and high-bitrate Full HD video recording, we also tested stills-mode cycle times and burst mode with a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-II card which is rated up to 250MB/s for writes and 280MB/s for reads (using UHS-II, which is not supported by the GH4. However the card is U3 speed rated). Below are our results with the U3 UHS-II card:

Cycle Time (shot to shot)
with SanDisk Extreme Pro 250 MB/sec UHS-II card

Single Shot mode
Large/Fine JPEG

0.35 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20+ shots with no signs of slowing, 2 seconds to clear.

Single Shot mode
RAW

0.46 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20+ shots with no signs of slowing, 5 seconds to clear.

Single Shot mode
RAW + L/F JPEG
0.41 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20+ shots with no signs of slowing, 26 seconds to clear.

Early shutter
penalty?

No

Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous High
Large Fine JPEG

0.08 second (13.31 frames per second);
160 frames total;
8 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over 160 frames before slowing down.

Continuous High
RAW

0.09 second (11.69 frames per second);
39 frames total;
25 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 39 frames before slowing down.

Continuous High
RAW + L/F JPEG

0.08 second (11.95 frames per second);
36 frames total;
45 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 36 frames before slowing down.

Continuous Super High
4MP JPEG

0.03 second (39.8 frames per second);
120 frames total;
7 seconds to clear

Time per shot, averaged over maximum buffer length of 120 frames.

As expected, the U3 UHS-II card didn't really make a big difference to frame rates, however it did provide deeper buffers when shooiting RAW files. Oddly, the GH4 was actually slower at clearing than with our UHS-I card.  (As mentioned, the GH4 is not UHS-II compliant, but the card should fall back to UHS-I mode.)


Bottom line, the Panasonic GH4's performance is generally excellent. The only real performance weakness we found in the lab is sluggish buffer clearing when shooting RAW files.

Battery Life

Above average battery life for a Compact System Camera.

Operating Mode Battery Life
Still Capture, CIPA standard
(with H-HS12035 lens)
500 shots
Still Capture, CIPA standard
(with H-VS014140 lens)
500 shots

The Panasonic GH4 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and charger. The CIPA rated 500 shots per charge is well above average for a Compact System Camera, but still lower than a typical prosumer DSLR when using an optical viewfinder. We strongly recommend getting a second battery for your GH4 if you plan any extended outings, and if you need longer battery endurance, consider purchasing the DMW-BGGH3 battery grip which effectively doubles battery life with a second lithium-ion battery installed.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on a fully-charged rechargeable battery), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

 

Panasonic GH4



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