Thank you forseeking out our Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Review. The full review is below, but you may prefer to download our PDF version, which includes test images and full specifications. You can download it here: Panasonic Lumix DMC GH4 Review.pdf
Let’s not beat about the bush here. There is no other camera on the market like the Panasonic Lumix GH4. No other model that’s designed on a still camera platform has quite the video capabilities of the GH4. In this regard, it challenges the dedicated video cameras from Black Magic, Canon and even the Red series, but Panasonic has also thrown compactness and affordability into the mix. The GH3 threatened to be the hybrid camera cat thrown among the video pigeons, but the GH4 is a veritable feral feline ready to consume anything that gets in its way.
Of course, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Panasonic knows a thing or two about building pro-level video cameras, but the GH4 goes far beyond anything anybody anticipated in this category. If you’re a still photographer who likes what the GH4 has to offer – and, make no mistake, it’s hugely accomplished here too – be prepared to get on the end of a long line of videographers with their credit cards at the ready.
As we noted with its predecessor, while the GH4 is technically a compact system camera, it’s not really all that compact, especially compared to the likes of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 or Fujifilm’s X-T1, but alongside its main competition in the video world, it’s very small indeed.
You can read all about its video features in the ‘Making Movies’ panel, but it’s worth summing up the key capabilities here. For starters, the GH4 can record 4K video, either at the Ultra HD resolution of 3840x2160 pixels at 25 fps or the Cinema 4K resolution of 4096x2160 pixels at the cinematic speed of 24 fps. Both the 4K resolution settings are recorded at a bit rate of 100 Mbps using the IPB compression regime which is double the standard set for broadcast quality (and, by the way, represents a massive data-crunching exercise). Furthermore, when the GH4 records at the Full HD resolution, there’s the option of using a bit rate of 200 Mbps (with All-Intra compression) which enhances the picture quality by a significant margin. The GH4 is the world’s first mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera with 4K video recording, and it also records this resolution simultaneously to its memory card rather than just to an external recorder via the HDMI output (more details in the video panel).
Given 3D pretty well flopped (again), 4K is the next big thing in video and the Ultra HD TVs are already coming thick and fast, but there’s not a lot to show on them beyond what you can record on 4K cameras like the Lumix GH4. The 4K image quality is discernibly better than Full HD – even when downsampled to FHD – so there is some justification for upgrading if you’re a video enthusiast, but if you’re quite satisfied with your 2K display, you may need more convincing. Nevertheless, right now it looks like 4K will become a major part of the video-making landscape, especially as the GH4 takes it out of the professional realm and actually makes it more accessible to enthusiast-level shooters. In fact, here Panasonic has been very clever because the GH4 can be easily integrated into a professional video production workflow via the optional DMW-YAGH Interface Unit (also confusingly called the AG-YAGHG, but it looks like the former designation is being used in this market as that’s how it’s described on the Panasonic Australia Website) which has the industry-standard BNC-type connectors for the video output (4K or HD) and balanced XLR-type connectors for the audio inputs, the latter with phantom power for condenser-type microphones. Even though this is quite an expensive component – and probably not required if you’re only dabbling with video – the combined cost with the GH4 body is still well below what you’d pay for a semi-pro HDV camcorder.
Externally, the GH4 doesn’t look hugely different in either styling or size to its predecessor and its magnesium alloy bodyshell is again fully weather sealed. However, both the OLED-type EVF and the external monitor screen step up in resolution; the former to 2.36 megadots and the latter to 1.036 megadots. The monitor screen is adjustable for both swing and tilt, and has capacitive touch controls.
The control layout is centred around a main mode dial (now lockable) on the top deck with front and rear input wheels, a selection of function buttons (for direct access to key items such as ISO, white balance and exposure compensation), and a combined navigator keypad and control ring on the rear panel. As before, there are five multi-function hard keys, but this number is now matched with the ‘Fn’ soft keys that are tabbed in the monitor screen, giving a total of ten user-assignable controls. A total of 54 functions are available for each of the hard keys and 50 for each of the soft keys so the scope for customisation is extensive. There’s also the ‘Quick Menu’ control screen which can be operated using touch control or more conventionally via the navigator and the input wheels. Alternatively, everything is still included in the standard menus so Panasonic has covered all the bases in terms how the GH4 might be flown – from traditional D-SLR style to touch operations which include autofocusing and shutter release. The live view screen can be configured in a variety of displays, including a dual-axes electronic level, an exposure meter (with aperture and shutter speed scales), a real-time histogram, guide grids (selected from a choice of three) and a centre marker (particularly useful when shooting video). The histogram can be moved around – by simply dragging it – and positioned as desired while one of the grid displays allows for the grid lines to be moved around by touch as well.
The image review screens number five and can include a highlight warning, a full set of histograms and a detailed info set. The playback functions include thumbnail pages of 12 or 30 images, a calendar thumbnail display, zooming up to 16x and a slide show with a choice of transition effects. The touch controls here include a swipe action for browsing and the pinch action to enlarge or reduce the image size.