Please allow me a spoiler from the very start. Every few months I get a camera for a review which I would rather not return afterwards and Panasonic GH4 is one of those. If you owned at least several cameras, you probably know the feeling when you take new camera for the first time and simply fall in love with it from the very start. That’s how I felt about the GH4. Pretty much everything on GH4 feels and works just the way I like. GH4′s key features include 16 megapixel sensor, 4K video recording, 2.36 million dot electronic viewfinder and 12 fps burst rate inside a light weather sealed magnesium alloy body.
PANASONIC GH4 GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS
- Announced: 2014.
- Type: Mirrorless
- Dimensions: 133 x 93 x 84 mm (5.24 x 3.66 x 3.31″)
- Weight: 560g (with battery)
- Sensor: 4/3 CMOS, 16 MP (4608 x 3456 pixels)
- ISO range: Native 200 – 3200, Extended 100 – 25,600
- Image stabilization: No
- Dust and moisture protection: Yes
- Flash: Pop-up + Hot-shoe
- Continuous shooting: 12 fps (7.5 fps with AF)
- LCD screen: 3″, 1,037,000 dots, articulated, touch sensitive, OLED
- Electronic viewfinder: 2,359,000 dots
- Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Battery: Li-Ion DMW-BLF19
- Video: 4096 x 2160 (24p), 3840 x 2160 (24p, 25p, 30p), 1920 x 1080 (24p, 25p, 30p, 50p, 60p), 1280 x 720 (24p, 25p, 30p), 640 x 480 (25p, 30p)
- Connectors: USB 2.0, micro HDMI, 3.5mm mic input, 3.5mm headphones,
PANASONIC GH4 CONSTRUCTION AND HANDLING
GH4’s build quality is superb and I mean that in absolute terms. From the very first moment I held the camera it felt natural and well balanced. All of the outside materials are high quality, from plastic used to rubber on the grip. Grip has an excellent shape and allows single handed use (with lighter lens) a breeze. Having in mind most of the micro 4/3 lenses are pretty small and light, you actually get a very portable package which still has full size grip and a wide range of external buttons and dials.
GH4 has three assignable dials; more than enough for anyone. Those positioned at the top (front and back one) have just the right resistance, but the one on the back is not thought out very well. It is too recessed so when you rotate it, your thumb will rub against the rubber on the grip and against the LCD screen.
Mode dial has locking switch – good to prevent accidental change. Drive mode dial cannot be locked but has very strong resistance when rotated – that should also be enough to prevent accidental rotation.
Shutter button has well defined two level presses, but some of the other controls feel a bit spongy, especially AE/AF lock button. Video recording button is recessed so there is no fear of accidental video recordings. As for the control layout, I found it quite logical.
Memory card compartment could have had stronger opening mechanism, it happened to me twice to open it accidentally just be gripping on the camera a bit tighter.
Tripod mount is far enough from the battery compartment – it is possible to change battery when on tripod without removing the tripod quick release plate.
Main menu can be navigated using multi-way controller or with the front and rear dials which is my favorite solution – once you get used to it, it is much faster to scroll and find desired option. The same goes for quick menu; you can use either multi way controller or the dials in which case you do not need to select an option first – it can be changed by simple rotating of the second dial (G6 cannot do that).
There is a total of 5 assingable buttons so anyone will be able to custmoze GH4 to personal taste.
LCD has perfect viewing quality. Bright, extremely sharp and with excellent colors. It is also tiltable and has touch control which I have disabled during my time with GH4 since I’m not a fan of touch screens.
Electronic viewfinder is also superb, one of the best on the market. It has 2,4 million dots. I really would not have a problem using it over a classic optical finder on DSLR. One thing that can still be perfected is time that it takes to switch between LCD and EVF – it is not slow but still not instant (around a second).
Rubber piece around the viewfinder can be removed – essential for people who use glasses (myself included). Panasonic GX7 doesn’t have this option what makes it impossible to see the entire EVF.
Here’s a comparison of GH4, GX7 and G6 just so you can get a sense of physical size:
PANASONIC GH4 SENSOR AND IMAGE QUALITY
Sensor used in GH4 is of the 4/3 size, 17×13 mm and has 16 megapixels. That is a bit smaller than APS-C in DSLR cameras, but image quality is basically on the same level. Colors and dynamic range are excellent, and the camera only looses its breath at higher ISO – 3200 and above. Noise is also sometimes visible on lower ISO values but this can be cleaned without a problem. There is room for improvements though: Nikon D7100 for example has more resolution without AA filter and Olympus E-M1 has a bit better better high ISO.
One of the thing I liked most on GH4 is full electronic shutter, when enabled the camera is dead silent, it doesn’t let a whisper when it takes a shot. There are some limitations though: with electronic shutter, you cannot use built- in flash and shutter speed is 1“ or faster. Only mecahnical shutter enables longer exposures. Mechanical shutter is also very quiet – more silent than any DSLR shutter.
ISO 200 is native ISO value, ISO 100 is marked in GH4 as “Low”, so basically it is preferable to use 200 whenever possible.
MEMORY, BATTERY AND CONNECTORS
GH4 accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards. There is only single slot; two of them would have been better; Canon 7D Mark II and Nikon D7100 have them.
Battery life is superb. From each charge I got at least 550 images, usually around 650 shots. For a mirrorless camera, that’s the best so far. Only Samsung NX mini can deliver similar battery life, but that model is way below GH4 in terms of specifications and image quality. Most similar mirrorless competitor – Olympus E-M1 has around 400 shots battery life.