Panasonic GH4 Conclusion
Panasonic GH4 Conclusion
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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