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Lumix GH4 First Impressions Video Review + How It Stacks Up To The GH3

I was lucky enough to be one of the first to get the new Lumix GH4 when they were officially released last week, and it’s been a fun few days messing around with the camera. Below is a video review of the GH4 that also heavily focuses on how it compares to the GH3, since so many GH3 shooters are considering the upgrade. Check out the video for the full rundown, or if you can’t view the video I have also summarized my thoughts below.

Build
Nothing has changed as far as the physical build of this camera. It is identical to the GH3 in every way except for the GH4 badge, which is good news for GH3 shooters that have extra batteries, cages, or other accessories as they can use all of their GH3 gear on the new camera. As I also mentioned in the video, I’m happy they kept the body as is and didn’t opt to make it larger, because the small footprint of the camera is one of the reasons I like it so much – it’s easy to travel with or get low-key guerrilla shots with, but it still feels somewhat rugged and is weather sealed.

LCD/EVF
The LCD and specifically the EVF on the GH3 were really sub par considering how great the rest of the feature set was on that camera. Panasonic has clearly taken feedback from the GH3 shooters as the new GH4 LCD and LVF are both hugely improved, with double the pixel count of their GH3 counterparts. This will make focusing way easier, especially in exterior daytime situations where you need to rely on the EVF.

Image Quality
The image quality has undeniably been improved in every area with the GH4. The bit rate can go up to 200mbps in 1080p mode, or 100mbps in 4K mode which is a huge leap ahead of the GH3 which peaked at 72mbps. There isn’t a gigantic difference in quality when comparing the 1080p modes of the GH3 and GH4, but the 4K mode (more on it below) really gives the GH4 an edge, especially when downscaling that image to 1080p.

4K Mode
There are two different 4K modes you can shoot in: True 4K (4096 x 2160) and Ultra HD (3840 x 2160). The true 4K mode shoots at a 1.85 aspect ratio, while the UHD mode shoots at 16:9. Both modes are great to have, although I will personally shoot at 4096 x 2160 more often since it is designed to have a cinema aspect ratio as opposed to television, and most of what I will shoot with this camera will be narrative material. It’s also worth noting that when shooting in 4K there is a slightly bigger crop factor (2.3x) than when shooting in 1080 (2x).

Slow Motion
The slow motion on this camera is amazing to have, and I’ve actually got some pretty great results with it in daylight. It’s important to remember though, that the bitrate is pretty low in variable frame rate mode (100mbps) which means when you’re shooting at 96fps the data rate is being stretched pretty thin. If you nail the exposure and white balance in camera, this won’t be an issue at all, but just be more careful when shooting in this mode since there is less room in post to grade the footage. And also remember that you’ll need a lot of light, or very fast lenses to shoot at 96fps for any night shots since you definitely don’t want to have to shoot at a high ISO in VFR mode.

Dynamic Range
Generally the DR has been improved across the board on this camera. The difference as compared to the GH3 isn’t huge, but it is definitely noticeable. I would put it at about one stop above the GH3 (12 stops or so), which isn’t bad at all considering the relative performance of other cameras in this price range. It’s not going to give you the DR performance of a Blackmagic Cinema Camera or RED Epic of course, but considering the price point the GH4 it does really well in this regard and should be more manageable in high contrast situations when compared to the GH3.

Low Light
Overall the low light ability of this camera is much better than the GH3. I’ve been a bit spoiled by the amazing low light capability of my C100 (which is one of the best low light cameras out there in my opinion), so I wasn’t as ecstatic about this improvement as I would have been if I was coming off of a GH3 as my primary camera. Even so, the difference is welcomed and a big change from the GH3 which struggled to even get usable results at 3200. I am confident that I will get clean footage at 3200 on the GH4 and even comfortable shooting at 6400 if I need to, knowing that I can de-noise it in post. This still isn’t a “low-light camera”, but it can definitely be used in low light situations if need be.

Other Video Features
There are loads of other video based features that have been added to the camera which make shooting so much easier – Focus peaking being the one I am most excited about. There are also customizable zebras, color bars, timecode, S-curve based shadow/highlight settings (for helping to get more dynamic range), and lots more.

Stills Quality
One of the biggest areas of improvement seems to be the stills quality of the GH4. I always had trouble shooting stills on my GH3, because it just didn’t perform well in a lot of shooting conditions. The GH4 still delivers 16MP stills, but the overall quality seems to be better all around. The images are sharper and more dynamic, giving me confidence in using this camera for stills. This is purely based on my feeling when shooting with the camera, as I haven’t taken still photo test shots from the GH3/GH4 and put them next to each other, but even based on my eye alone there is a big difference which makes this camera so much more versatile.

Summary
The GH4 is an incredible camera from front to back. The fact that you can shoot 4K and 96fps slow motion inside of a body this small is groundbreaking, and the additional video features that have been added go a long way in making this a viable option for high quality 4K production. All of the issues that I had with the GH3 have largely been resolved with this new camera, most notably the terrible LCD and LVF that desperately needed updating. Overall I definitely recommend this camera if you’re doing any sort of narrative, documentary, or small broadcast project that requires an extremely high quality image with a small footprint, not to mention the fact that you can also get some incredible stills on this camera makes it even more versatile as well.

If you’re interested in purchasing the GH4, be sure to order through my affiliate B & H by clicking the link below:

gh4

Lumix DMC-GH4 – $1698.00 at B & H

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About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

24 Comments

  • Altus Firth
    May 30, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Hi Noam!

    Fantastic site, thanks for all the input.

    Please can you help, till now the images from the GH4 have not impressed me, sharp yes but they seem to lack that creamy filmic look that even the GH2 had.

    I love your work so do you have examples of what you have been able to do with the GH4 and also comparison shots with gh2?

    Many thanks

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 2, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      Thanks for the message Altus. I am very impressed by the GH4, but feel it doesn’t look as filmic only because of a lack of footage online right now. With proper grading/lighting, the camera can be extremely cinematic. I am actually shooting a music video with it tomorrow and will be sure to post some more filmic GH4 material in the future.

      Reply
  • […] is probably my favorite camera right now, hands down. Recently I did a video review on this new 4K shooting DSLR from Panasonic and I will re-iterate here that this camera is nothing short of amazing. The Lumix GH lineup has […]

    Reply
  • Sam Storey
    May 9, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Are the crop factors you mentioned above relative to Super 35 or full-frame? Either way, what would be the best focal lengths for achieving an equivalency to 28mm and 85mm (as on a Super 35 movie camera, not a full frame stills camera)?

    Reply
  • Groundless
    April 30, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Great review! Thank you. I hope to see more of your GH4 explorations. I’ve only had the chance to shoot some hand held test footage yesterday. Playing with the CinD and some simple quick grading of down converted 1080. I am really interested in working out some nice curves for this camera. One for full sun/ one for low light magic hour/ one for tungsten etc….
    Here is a link to the little footage I edited together you can see graded clips first and then all the un-graded clips follow. Also the firs title shot was slowed 50% in post not re-timed so it’s a little jittery but not bad for all hand held footage.
    Cheers from Nova Scotia!

    https://vimeo.com/93324148

    All hand held…..GH4 12-35mm / 4K CinD down converted to 1080p/ first clips are lightly graded/ notice the highlights on the white church at end compared to graded clip.

    Reply
  • Roman
    April 30, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Hi)

    How about memory cards? what you use?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2014 at 1:46 am

      I like Sandisk Extreme cards – never had an issue with them.

      Reply
  • christophe bailleau
    April 29, 2014 at 10:23 am

    can i have a cinema look, feeling with the gh4, like with the blackmagic ?
    thanks

    Reply
  • christophe bailleau
    April 29, 2014 at 10:20 am

    hello
    i want to make a fiction film now; blackmagic cinema camera, or gh 4?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2014 at 1:45 am

      Tough decision! I still think the BMCC will give the most cinematic result, but it really depends on what you’re shooting.

      Reply
  • Robert
    April 29, 2014 at 6:25 am

    So, even in All-I mode, the GH4’s ALL-I isn’t a constant bitrate, right? The bitrates will get low in low- light or less detailed situations, correct?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2014 at 1:45 am

      Yes as far as I know, the bitrate changes based on the detail and other variables.

      Reply
  • Paul
    April 29, 2014 at 5:22 am
  • Xiong
    April 29, 2014 at 3:26 am

    Good review, quick and to the point. Im interested in how it lets you fine tune with the s curves, are there already presets out there that lets you get the best dynamic range out of the image?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2014 at 1:43 am

      Thanks Xiong! There are already curve presets built in, but you can actually customize them by dragging them on the touch screen. It’s a really cool feature to have.

      Reply
  • Nathan Rogers
    April 29, 2014 at 2:37 am

    Good write up. I’m also in LA and agree with everything in your review. I got a GH4 and 3 MFT Voigtlanders from Hot Rod Cameras in L.A. last week. Still haven’t used the Voigts on a paying job yet, have you tried them?

    Nat

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2014 at 1:43 am

      Awesome! Yes I have used the Voigts and they are fantastic lenses. Can be a little soft wide open, but I always prefer that over an overly sharp look anyways.

      Reply
      • getem
        May 6, 2014 at 4:29 am

        Which lenses did you use for this video? I own the Panasonic 12-35mm and while I think it’s the best range for this camera I also feel at times the image can be a little too sharp and contrasty.

        Would you recommend I sell the 12-35mm for possibly another lens, if so which?

        Thanks and excellent website you have here and what you are doing for the community!

        Reply
        • Noam Kroll
          May 15, 2014 at 8:59 pm

          Thanks for the feedback! The 12 – 35 is an excellent lens, but I agree it can be a touch sharp. Especially in 4k… You don’t need to sell it by any means as it is a really fantastic piece of glass, but if you prefer not to use zooms at all, then that is a different story. If you do keep it, try dialing back the contrast on your picture profile to compensate for the crushed blacks.

          I used a Tokina 11 – 16 and Rokinon 35mm T1.5 Cine lens in this video.

          The 12 – 35 i

          Reply
  • Name*luca
    April 29, 2014 at 12:59 am

    Message* i own a c100 wich I’m using for wedding , and bmcc beside 5d2- 7d
    I’m Thinking to get gh4 to be able to have 4k in my arsenal for when needed also for areal on rc quad copter etc…

    My question is: how do you see it to pared as Second cam next c100 for wedding ( I would use it in 1080 mode ) instead than buying a second. C100?

    I was also thiniging of The bmcc as 2nd cam since has very similar look but ( battery , ssd , no nd …etc etc can be problematic for such type of shooting we all know is not a doc cam

    Thx for the review well done as usual :))

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2014 at 1:42 am

      I think it would be great to have as a b-cam for the C100, especially if you don’t mind doing some grading in post to match the two. The BMCC is fantastic as well but I wouldn’t recommend shooting weddings with it. Thanks for the feedback!

      Reply
  • ziffhunker
    April 28, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Noam Kroll you are cool man. I hope you can prosper and never become corrupt. I feel like got a very accurate FYI on this GH4 with no more and no less than one would want, thanks.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2014 at 1:40 am

      Thank you! And I hope so as well, haha! Glad that you enjoyed it.

      Reply

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