Download the full 4K source file at vimeo: www.vimeo.com/95030149

Screen Shot 2014 03 10 at 09.42.47 150x150 Panasonic GH4 review & aerial test   BeliefPanasonic raised many eyebrows when they announced the new iteration of its highly popular interchangeable lens camera series, the Panasonic GH4. A small form factor camera that not only shoots 4K with an MFT mount, but even sports a 10bit signal via an optional XLR/SDI unit. (or give 10-bit 4:2:2 4K and 10-bit 4:2:2 1080p from the HDMI port on the camera).We took the GH4 for a spin and tested it in the field together with an hexacopter team.

I don’t know how many of you had the chance to work with the legendary Panasonic DVX-100 and remember the joy when we finally used an affordable progressive camera with a “cine-gamma” preset that helped produce a unique image that was very special and cinematic at that time.

DSC05029 640x359 Panasonic GH4 review & aerial test   BeliefFast forwarding to the present time that same feeling is here again! With the GH4 Panasonic managed to create a very unique and extremely affordable working tool. It’s not that the camera doesn’t have its limitations (low light capability) and irritating tidbits, but all in all, I’m sure this camera will capture an honorable place in the arsenal of documentary style film makers and drone operators.

In the above GH4 field test, the sole purpose was to imitate a “documentary style” shooting day and boost up the production value with some aerial shots in order to see how the Panasonic GH4 performs on a mid size drone. (pay load up to 5 kilos, caring a camera/lens/gimbal)

DSC04978 640x359 Panasonic GH4 review & aerial test   BeliefWhen I write “imitate a documentary style shooting day” I mean having the camera, up to 2 relatively fast zoom lenses, a tripod, a very small light kit and a single wireless mic set. The full equipment list can be found at the end of the article.

FYI: The YAGH XLR/SDI unit was not used for this test as I felt it was not relevant for this type of run & gun shooting. It will be used in a different test.

DSC05018 640x359 Panasonic GH4 review & aerial test   Belief

So, how is it to work with the GH4? Let me start with the things that could be issues for some shooters as myself:

• Lowlight capability. Somehow I felt that the camera produces very nice images when it set it not higher than 400 ISO. When you move to 800 ISO and above the footage becomes blocky (noisy + codec), especially on flat single surface elements.
• No 25p in true 4K mode (not UltraHD). This is a serious limitation for the “PAL” countries’ broadcast market. I’m not sure why companies like Panasonic (and Canon before with their 1DC) choose to ship “half backed” products and exclude 25P from their first release.
• One camera, multiple identities. I am sure that every professional person that will start working with the camera will have troubles with the camera menu and would love to skip the photo and, to say it more precisely, the consumer part of it. Panasonic, take a free advice from cinema5D and make a “video only version” of your GH4 camera.
• Low data-rate when shooting 4K (100 Mbps)
• Soft full HD picture quality
• The input pre-amps for on-camera audio are a bit noisy
• Average quality LCD and EVF
• Hard to see the whole frame when looking through the tiny EVF
• Wifi has very limited range
• Another quirk that should be noted is the location of the headphone jack. As the use of headphones doesn’t allow the articulation of the camera LCD screen for low angle shots.

DSC05037 640x359 Panasonic GH4 review & aerial test   Belief

The strengths of this camera comes in picture quality and of course its price point. High quality 4K shooting just became extremely affordable…

• Moire and aliasing have been greatly reduced.
• The extensive “video menu” helps adjusting many parameters for your preferred picture style (Photo style, Highlight Shadow, Luminance Level, Master Pedestal Level)
• Unlike other (Canon or Nikon) cameras, when using the GH4′s EVF, you can stay very compact for documentary style shooting. No urgent need for an external EVF if you need to be quick.
Kinotehnik’s LCDVFBM LCD Viewfinder for Blackmagic Pocket Camera will perfectly fit the GH4 LCD screen if a loupe is needed for easier focusing.
• The “lock button” prevents accidental rotation of the “mode dial”.
• Focusing is made easy with automatic zoom of a portion of the frame
• Zebra
• Audio monitoring levels and manual adjustment
• “Syncro scan”- for fine shutter adjustments
• Panasonic recommends SD U3 cards for sustaining 200 Mbps (ALL-Intra) at 1080p for best results. While this is true, If you are after 4K shooting, the Transcend SD HC U1 are just fine!

DSC05061 640x359 Panasonic GH4 review & aerial test   Belief

When it comes to flying the Pansonic GH4, I used the help of two colleagues whom I consider to be the best in Austria to preform such a task, DOP Thomas Kirschner and pilot Raoul Gorka from copterunit.com. Their experience in building custom made drones and their ability to perform amazingly in such a short time, opened the room for some extra creativity.

Thomas and Raoul are used to flying the Panasonic GH3  and were very curious to see how the GH4 performs as they are currently looking for a 4K camera solution which does not exceed 5 kilos together with lens. For those who are familiar with flying the GH3, there is a little surprise. The mini HDMI port was replaced with a micro one… This unexpected little surprise gave us the chance to test the “wifi mode” of the camera. At the beginning we were relived to see that downloading and installing the app is very straight forward (look for “Panasonic image app” in the search box of your smartphone), but later when trying to view and control the camera from the app we were disappointed to see that the wifi connection is very weak and unreliable.

DSC04981 640x359 Panasonic GH4 review & aerial test   Belief

DSC04983 640x359 Panasonic GH4 review & aerial test   Belief

By the way, Austria became one of the first countries to regulate flying drones. Outdoor flying is not permitted anymore unless you have a specific permission which takes time to acquire. This is the reason for the lack of shots taken with the GH4 outside.

 

Camera settings used in this video:
• Photo style: Cinelike D (all set to 0)
• Rec format: MOV
• Rec quality: C4k (4096×2160)
• Exposure: M
• Highlight Shadow: Brighten shadows
• Luminance Level: 0-255

Edited on Adobe Premiere CC. and treated with “filmconvert”.
Music: themusicbed.com Dexter Britain – From Truth

A special thanks to:
-Bernadette Kerschbaummayr, DDr. Karl Rehberger and Sacristan Wolfgang Hammer from St.Florian’s monastery
-Thomas Kirschner and Raoul Gorka from copterunit.com

DSC05072 640x359 Panasonic GH4 review & aerial test   Belief

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Reply
Jens Peters May 12, 2014

Nice vid. What kind of lenses are used?

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 13, 2014

Hi Jens.

Panasonic 12-35mm f2,8 for 98% of this video ad 7-14mm f4 for one or 2 shots.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
Jens Peters May 13, 2014

Thanks for the info. Looks very crispy.

Reply
Philip Bloom May 13, 2014

Nice review Johnnie, A quick observation about the headphone jack placement. You can easily rotate the screen without hitting the headphone jack. just don’t turn it all the way out before you spin it. Been the same for the other GH cameras if I remember rightly!

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 13, 2014

Philip my dear friend, good to hear from you again!
Thanks for the headphone tip.

Take care and hope to see you soon.

Johnnie

Reply
Steven Williams May 13, 2014

Very nice video. This little camera seems to be stepping up and meeting everyone’s expectations. I’m really concerned about these aerial shots though. Is it worth risking one of a kind books and a library manager for those shots? I’ve yet to come across the insurance policy that will cover accidents involving either.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 13, 2014

Hi Steven. Thanks for taking the time watching the video and commenting.

Please trust that all safety rules were kept that the library manager (and books) will not be at ANY risk at ANY time.

Thanks again.

Johnnie

Reply
Peter Kent May 13, 2014

Beautiful place, thanks for this Johnnie!

Looks like perfect lighting is still very important with micro 4/3 as some of the footage is just breath taking and some not so much due to noise and clipping so the same limitations with the GH2 seem to be there, better controlled perhaps but still there. Even though we may be a bit spoiled with all the Raw options around I still love this camera a prefer it over most.

One thing about your description though, I think the GH4 still outputs 10bit 4:2:2 HD through HDMI even without that SDI/XLR unit.

Keep up the good work!

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 13, 2014

Dear Peter, thank you for your kind warm words!.

Indeed you are right about outputting 10 bit 4:2:2 HD without the panasonic external unit.

Will be corrected.

Thanks!
Johnnie

Reply
k May 13, 2014

That lack of 25p is probably because of technical limitations of camera = 24p in 4k may be the absolute maximum without any overheating issues. I don’t think they did on some strange purpose to annoy europeans. Slow motion would also proof that explanation – 96fps (in 1080p) divided by 4 is 24.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 13, 2014

Hi K.

You may be right. The thing is, any company who is taking the international broadcast market seriously can not ignore 25p to start with.

Thanks!

Johnnnie

Reply
k May 15, 2014

But then as far as I’ve read online (I do not own gh4 yet) it records in UHD in higher frame rates so broadcast is covered. True 4k is only 24p but then it is really for cinema only – so I don’t see a problem there. Real issues are low light capabilities and that extreme sharpness.

Reply
Kain Cirus May 13, 2014

Gh4 is to sharp for my taste. It’s not about amount of detail, but contour sharpness. It’s so sharp that I concentrate on poping form the screen details like that guys eyebrows instead the subject.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 17, 2014

Hi Kain.

I guess I had to lower the sharpness in the camera settings to “minus all the way” and not keep it on Zero.

On my next test, will do.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
Pedro Hofmann May 13, 2014

Ich wusste doch ohne unten gelesen zu haben bereits, dass diese Innenaufnahmen mit Copter nur von Thomas Kirschner sein können :-) Super gemacht.
Hoffentlich ergibt sich bald ein Job für copterunit bei mir damit wir mal zusammen arbeiten können. You guys rock! John… natürlich – du machst sowieso tolle Sachen

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 17, 2014

Hi Pedro. As i don’t really speak German I guess you referred to Thomas and Raoul’s work. Indeed very professional fun to work with people!

Thanks.

Johnnie

Reply
Dale Robinson May 14, 2014

Johnnie, thank you for the review Will you please share the Film Convert settings used.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 15, 2014

Hi Dale.

I tried various settings and decided to go with “GH3/Natural/KD 5207 Vis3. Then tweaked it to my liking.

Hope this helps.

Johnnie

Reply
ddwilfork May 14, 2014

I rarely comment on this site because I like and appreciate your work.
However, I am mystified that you seem to like this camera, based on that video.
The lack of DR headroom is frankly shocking. The over-sharpness can be dealt with, but there’s no consistency to the colour throughout (the skin tones in the wide are wildly different from the interview), there seems to be very low tonal variations, and anywhere bright (window or sky) looks like hard clipped white.
I loved the DVX-100 (I shot a feature doc on one) and the Varicam (again, I shot a feature on one) but this is nowhere near either of those.
You’ve shot better looking films with Sony NEX7s/Nikon DSLRs than this.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 14, 2014

Hi ddwilfork.

Please don’t judge DR based on my video. The light conditions in this huge library were not easy do deal with.
Indoor was very dark (and no way to add extra lights) and the light coming from the windows during that grey day almost “forced” me to over exposed in order to see the all library. It was a calculated “risk” but in order to better judge the quality DR of the camera, a different test should be made.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
Miroslaw Chalupka May 15, 2014

You did a good job with sound Johnnie. People focus on picture and don’t pay too much attention on another 50% of story which is sound. Thanks

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 17, 2014

Hi Miroslaw,

Thanks for the thumbs up. Appreciated!.

Johnnie

Reply
Dan Hitchman May 16, 2014

One thing that might have helped with these low lit environments was a low f-stop lens like a Voigtländer prime or newer Panasonic/Leica or Olympus prime. Yes, the run ‘n’ gun approach may not be as easy with a prime, but even that kind of video shooter should have a low light capable wide and/or “normal” prime in his/her bag when the need arises and you definitely needed one here.

Great job, though!

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 17, 2014

Hi Dan.

You are absolutely right!

For that test video, I’ve tried working with a lens which I thought many people will choose working with.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
Phil May 17, 2014

Love it when you craft a good story into your tests. Truly wonderful. I came away with genuine curiosity for the people and the monastery.

Perfect location to show off the G4s resolution. I also appreciate a test with skin tones under various lighting. While in general, too detail much for my taste, the library and church interiors, are a prefect example of when resolution does enhance a story.

I’ve always thought you must be really nice guy, (most don’t make it in ENG w/o this quality) but for me this piece absolutely confirms it!

Really, who let’s one fly a copter in such a historic ornate *plaster* and painted environment? Trusting souls, no doubt.

“…. Please trust that all safety rules were kept that the library manager (and books) will not be at ANY risk at ANY time.”
Really? How? Did you have a safety cable to yank the copter down or away from impending impact?

I only ask in the genuine curiosity of how this assurance could be made. Having worked with both radios and software I could never make that claim. Not doubting your team’s obvious skill, merely the underlying physics and probability. :-)

Risk management aside (and no challenge intended, only curiosity) these are wonderful shots. (maybe not the perspective twisting pan at 1:36 :-) I think you have captured both the strengths and weakness of the G4 in 3 minutes. Thank you.

Phil

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 18, 2014

Hi Phil.

Thanks for your kind warm words!. Hope to meet personally one day. Happy to invite you for a drink!.

I’m committed doing those camera reviews the way I usually work with any other camera on my daily job, “documentary style”. Only by using those new cameras in “real world situations” I can judge if they “work for me” and share my experience with the community. BTW, in the very near future we at cinema5d will add another dimension to our reviews. A “scientific” aspect to “how cameras performs” will be added. Moire, aliasing, sharpness lowlight capability + more. All will be covered in a very easy to read way and comparison between different cameras of interest will be possible.

Regarding my “safety claims”. Curiosity is good :). Bottom line, all was taken care of!

More tests/reviews are coming soon. Hope to see you commenting on those too.

Take care and thank you again for watching the video and commenting!

Johnnie

Reply
Phil May 17, 2014

“H” key must be stuck. Meant GH4.

And to complement the audio. It really holds one.

Reply
Jason Lovette May 19, 2014

Good work under difficult lighting conditions using only a few small Cineroids. A documentary artist must decide that the story trumps any minor technical objections since we often have to work with a small hardware loadout for the sake of mobility. All cameras have limitations and the GH4 is no exception but with it’s capabilities at price, it’s a gem. I think some people may have misunderstood what you have demonstrated.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri May 20, 2014

Hi Jason.

Thanks for watching the video and commenting. Appreciated!!!

Johnnie

Reply
julian May 30, 2014

Great video, need more camera test like this! I am hoping to replace my 7D with a GH4 soon.

Hoping you could answer a question for me. I know on the GH3 that you cannot use HDMI out and connect a mobile device via wifi at the same time. Are you able to use HDMI out and wifi together on the GH4?

Also what gimbal are you using on your hex? I have a heavily modified came-7000 that works great with my 7D.

Keep up the great work!

Julian – from Vancouver

Reply
Myles June 9, 2014

Fantastic review, nice short film Johnnie. Stellar work. I think you can probably sense that from the comments (haven’t seen to much activity and positivity here for a long time).

Reply
kara johnson June 22, 2014

Hi have you experienced any problems with using an external mic to record audio on this camera? I just wondered since many reviews say there is a buzzing noise when recording audio with this little beast.
Thanks
Kara

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