Panasonic GH4 Conclusion

Pros: Cons:
  • Comfortable, DSLR-like ergonomics
  • Superb build quality; splash- and dust-resistant magnesium alloy body
  • Excellent image quality and high ISO performance for Micro Four Thirds
  • Terrific dynamic range for its class, slightly improved over its predecessor
  • Very fast autofocus
  • Very low shutter lag
  • Extremely fast burst modes (~12fps at full resolution)
  • Deep JPEG buffers
  • Good RAW buffer depths (can vary a lot with card type, though)
  • Lots of latitude for in-camera processing options (noise reduction, saturation, contrast, etc.)
  • Above average battery life for a CSC
  • Good flash range
  • Shutter rated to 200K cycles
  • Electronic shutter option
  • EVF is bright and easy to read
  • Touchscreen vari-angle OLED monitor is high-res, crisp and easy to read in sunlight with a responsive touch panel
  • Built-in, pop-up flash
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC
  • Lots of physical controls and customization options
  • Locking mode dial
  • 4K video: Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160) and Ultra HD/4K (3840 x 2160)
  • Very high quality video with excellent detail, colors and dynamic range
  • High bitrate video (100Mbps for 4K, up to 200Mbps for Full HD)
  • Professional-level video features
  • Very minimal rolling shutter effects with 1080/60p and 30p video (some rolling shutter effect at 1080/24p)
  • Variable Frame Rate video: slo-mo and semi-timelapse (up to 96fps and down to 2fps @ 1080p resolution)
  • Clean HDMI output, 4:2:2, 8 or 10-bit
  • High ISO performance not as good as some APS-C models, with image quality dropping off quickly after ISO 3200
  • Auto and Incandescent White Balance too warm indoors in tungsten light
  • Sluggish buffer clearing with RAW files
  • Slower burst shooting with continuous AF (but still fast at ~7fps)
  • Single memory card slot
  • Rolling shutter noticeable in 4K videos at 30p and 24p
  • 10-bit 4:2:2 video limited to external recorder only; internal video only 8-bit 4:2:0
  • Body size is not as compact as other mirrorless cameras; comparable to smaller DSLR (may be a Pro depending on your preference)
  • 4-way control dial can be tricky to rotate quickly without inadvertently pressing a directional button
  • DMW-YAGH interface unit is expensive with a list price of $2,000

The Panasonic GH3 is already an excellent camera and one of the best Micro Four Thirds models out there, yet Panasonic has somehow managed to make it even better with the GH4. From the exterior, the Panasonic GH4 might not look all that much different than just a GH3 with a new badge, but the interior has undergone some serious revamping. The sensor, while keeping the same 16 megapixel resolution, has slightly improved dynamic range, and a new extended ISO of 100 is available. But above ISO 200, it's pretty much neck-and-neck compared to its predecessor, with only minor improvements seen in JPEGs at some higher ISOs. The sensor readout has also been given a boost, which, as we found, also helps reduce rolling shutter.

Other areas received a nice performance boost as well. Autofocus performance is excellent, especially when using Panasonic lenses, as the camera incorporates Panasonic's new DFD technology, and the GH4 now gets a 49-area AF grid (up from 23 on the GH3). We found AF speed in good lighting to be near instantaneous with most subjects, though small and low contrast subjects can cause issues.

Thanks in part to its new quad-core image processor, burst shooting and buffer performance is impressive. While burst shooting with continuous AF takes a hit in speed, the GH4 still manages a very respectable 7fps. The eye-opener is with burst shooting without continuous AF: 12fps. Coupled with a bigger buffer that's able to handle more than 100 JPEGs or up to 40 RAW images (RAW buffer clearing is a on the slow side, though), the GH4 is a worthy camera for capturing fast-moving subjects, so long as continuous AF tracking is not a priority.

Of course, the GH4 is not just a stills camera, it's a hybrid. The GH3 made a huge splash in the HD-DSLR, or rather, "HD-DSLM" market, and the GH4 improved upon its already-impressive set of video features and image quality. The big story with video on the GH4 is, of course, 4K. Offering both Cinema 4K and Ultra HD/4K resolutions, the GH4 is ready, out of the box, for all your ultra-high-res video needs. Full HD also gets a significant boost in image quality with a trio of high bitrate options (200, 100 and 50Mbps), and there's a vast array of professional-level amenities, from focus peaking and zebras for highlight clipping to timecode and luminance and black level adjustments.

Video quality, not surprisingly, is very impressive with highly detailed picture quality and excellent dynamic range. While the default Photo Style is a little heavy on contrast and highlights were easy to blow out, like most settings with the GH4, it's very easy to tweak the image styling, tone, sharpness and contrast to your liking or needs, including two new cinema-style presets.

Of course, one of the biggest downsides to the GH4 is the smaller Four Thirds sensor, which simply does not have the low-light, high-ISO performance of most APS-C cameras at a similar price point. We saw image quality start to take a significant hit past ISO 3200 which isn't as good as some cameras with larger sensors, but is pretty much on par with the best Micro Four Thirds models shipping as of this writing.

The other potential downside, though admittedly a rather subjective one, is that of physical size. Mirrorless cameras, by virtue of their design "sans mirror" have the ability to be very compact or at least significantly smaller than DSLRs. The Panasonic GH4, however, is still rather large, and similar in size and ergonomics to a smaller DSLR, such as a Canon T5i or Nikon D5300. Granted, it's certainly much smaller and lighter than something like a Canon 5D Mark III, which the GH4 competes against in the video market, so there's still a significant size and weight advantage there. And of course, Micro Four Thirds lenses are significantly smaller than their APS-C and full frame counterparts.

So, if you're a DSLR shooter looking to downsize to a mirrorless camera and still want classic DSLR ergonomics and comfort, the GH4 is the camera for you. If you're looking for that go-anywhere, carry-with-you-all-the-time camera, the GH4 might not be the one, well, unless you carry a bag everywhere too.

All in all, the Panasonic GH4 takes the impressive specs and performance of the GH3 and kicks them up a notch -- a big notch -- with faster burst shooting and quicker AF, not to mention tons of video features. With 4K video, higher-bitrate Full HD, focus peaking, zebras, a plethora of image tweaking adjustments and clean, uncompressed HDMI output, the GH4 is at home in the hands of not only advanced and professional still photographers, but also in the hands of advanced and professional videographers.

In what is most assuredly one of the best Micro Four Thirds cameras on the market today, the Panasonic GH4 is an easy choice for a Dave's Pick.

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