Home Camera Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Gear Review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Gear Review

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

This is David Weldon, Shane’s assistant. Welcome to the first of many gear reviews coming to the Hurlblog. A few months ago when I came on board the HV Team, Shane approached me and said, “We need to get our hands deeper into new products on the market and deliver clear and accurate reviews for our readers. I want us to show our readers what we found out in our tests, as well as showing off how to test these products.”

All of this has come because you (the readers) have asked for these gear reviews and Shane has heard your voice!

Members of Shane’s Inner Circle who were members in September 2014 received Shanes’s in depth audio, written commentary, and camera test video as part of their membership.

If you would like to view the rest of this article, it may be purchased in Shane’s Store, as can all other educational content of interest.

Don’t miss out on another article from Shane’s Inner Circle! Sign up now.

Now with Shane’s guidance, I will be laying out how our tests went when we put these products in Shane’s hands. First up, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 with the interface unit that has the audio inputs, SDI outputs and full sized HDMI output.

Camera Specs

Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds (M4/3)

Pixels:

  • 17.2 megapixels (Actual)
  • 16.05 megapixels (Effective)

Max Resolution: 4608×3456

File Formats:

  • Stills: Jpeg, MPO, RAW
  • Movies: MOV, MP4, MPEG-4 AVCHD
  • Audio: AAC, Dolby Digital 2ch, Linear PCM

Recording Media:

  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC

Recording Formats:

  • MOV

○     4096 x 2160p 24fps (100Mbps)

○     3840 x 2160p 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97fps (100Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080p 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94fps (200Mbps)

  • MP4

○     4096 x 2160p 24fps (100Mbps)

○     3840 x 2160p 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97fps (100Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080p 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94fps (200Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080p 25, 29.97fps (20Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080p 50, 59.94fps (28Mbps)

○     1280 x 720p 25, 29.97fps (10Mbps)

  • AVCHD

○     1920 x 1080p 23.98fps (24Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080p 50, 59.94fps (28Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080i 50fps (24Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080i 50fps (17Mpbs)

○     1920 x 1080i 59.94fps (24Mbps)

○     1920 x 1080i 59.94fps (17Mbps)

ISO Sensitivity

  • 200-25,600
  • 100-25,600 (in extended mode)

Cinema Picture Profiles

  • Cinema D
  • Cinema V

Shutter

  • 60-1/8000sec
  • 1/24-1/16000 sec in Movie Mode

Outputs (Body only)

  • ⅛” Headphone
  • ⅛” Microphone
  • AV
  • HDMI D (Micro)
  • USB 2.0
  • Wired Remote Port

Battery

  • 1x Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, 7.2DC, 1860mAh

Some added notes to these specs:

  • 4:2:2 10-bit or 8-bit External HDMI Recording
  • 4:2:0 8-bit internal recording
  • Peaking and Zebras are available
  • Variable slow motion recording up to 96fps (in camera only)

 

External Interface Unit

External Interface Unit

The external interface unit (DMW-YAGH interface unit) includes:

  • 2 Mono XLR Inputs
  • Line/Mic Switch
  • Audio Monitor (Physical Display)
  • HDMI Output (Full sized HDMI)
  • Quad-Link SDI Output for 4:2:2 10-bit 4K External Recording
  • 3G-SDI BNC Connectors
  • Timecode In
  • 4-Pin XLR Power Input (12VDC)

4K recording options and Shane’s settings

The obvious attraction to this camera is its 4K internal recording. In the price point of $1,697.99, this doesn’t exist in many other areas. It wasn’t until a few days ago that the Blackmagic 4K Production Camera came into that ballpark with its price drop down to $2,500. Most 4K capture puts you in a much higher price point, but those cameras also give a much larger image, whether it records RAW or a compressed format at a higher bit-rate. Just a few factors to consider in your purchasing decision.

It’s difficult to match this camera up against larger sensor cameras (RED Dragon, Arri Alexa, etc.), with higher recording options because it’s just a different tool. They cannot be compared. Instead, we have to look at where this camera comes into play and what it competes against.

When we did our camera test, we matched the Panasonic GH4 against these cameras:

We matched the GH4 against these cameras because it is still a DSLR at its basic form.

When you’re setting up the camera if you are looking to record in the maximum 4K resolution and not 4K UHD, you must set the camera into the 24.00hz Cinema mode, whereas if you are in the 59.94hz mode, this puts you in 4K UHD. We did our test in 4K UHD, as most digital platforms are shot in 59.94hz. The end delivery is commonly projecting in 59.94hz as well, either your television or a digital film projector in theaters.

For the picture profile, we set it to “Cinemalike-D” to maximize the most out of the image, attempting to give us the flattest looking image, just like we would do in our other test cameras (Canon C100 – CanonLog, Canon 5D Mark III – HV Picture Profile). We tweaked it beyond just the picture profile by turning the contrast and sharpness down to “-5”. Shane felt this camera right out of the box was ridiculously sharp. It was so sharp that it gave a broadcast video feel to it, not a cinematic feel at all.

Shane set this camera to its base ISO of 800 and immediately saw that this camera has a lot of noise. 400 ISO was a lot cleaner, but Shane kept the test around each camera’s native so he could see how exactly the camera was affected in each area.

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Camera Tests

In each of our tests we kept to these same parameters:

We used the EF mount Zeiss CP.2 Primes with an EF to M4/3 adapter, one that did not have glass in the adapter. This way it did not affect the image or create distortion in the test. Using an adapter like the Metabones Speedbooster in this test would not give us a true reading on the camera’s settings as it would change the optical parameters, thus not allowing us to be 100% accurate.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

 

Our first test was the Day Exterior ISO Noise Test. In this test, here is what Shane was looking for:

  • Skin tone detail on our model’s face
  • Highlights in over and under exposed areas
  • Black level in over and under exposed areas
  • Fall off on our subject (sharpness and focus)
  • Color
  • Overall Noise from the sensor at ISOs: 800, 1600, 3200, 6400

 

Day Exterior ISO Test: 800 ISO

Day Exterior ISO Test: 800 ISO

 

Members of Shane’s Inner Circle who were members in September 2014 received these video tests as part of their membership.

If you would like to view the rest of this article, it may be purchased in Shane’s Store, as can all other educational content of interest.

Don’t miss out on another article from Shane’s Inner Circle! Sign up now.

Our second test was the Night ISO. Shane is looking for how the camera reacts to run and gun street urban lighting and at what noise level we end up breaking the camera.

Night ISO Test, ISO 800

Night ISO Test, ISO 800

Our third test was the Fill Test. Shane was looking for good skin tones and how the camera looked when pushed to the underexposing point with fill light levels on the right side of Eli’s face.

image011_sm

Our fourth and final test was the latitude test. In this test, Shane is looking to see how the GH4 handles over and under exposure. This camera says that is hosts 13 stops of dynamic range, some of which does not come into play when shooting video, but it is available while shooting still images. Shane says….

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Overall Thoughts

After our extensive testing of the Panasonic GH4, we have some thoughts on the platform. The image that this camera creates looks and feels more like a broadcast video camera than it does a cinema camera. Where this camera felt most like it was showing us a video look is in the night ISO test. Our model almost appeared to be jumping off the screen, as if she were standing in front of a green screen wall. There was very little falloff on the edges of her body, so she ultimately looked extremely sharp, where the background fell way out of focus.

I’ve heard a lot of people are interested in using this camera for documentary style shooting because of its price point, the flip out LCD screen and the ability to shoot 4K. The drawbacks to the platform are when shooting anywhere over ISO 400, you begin to introduce an unnatural noise pattern. Shane’s feelings on the noise were that it didn’t look natural like film, but it had the sporadic array that a broadcast camera would create.

“But it shoots 4K, Shane and Dave! And it’s under $2000!” You’re absolutely right – it is an inexpensive camera that delivers 4K, but is it worth it? I think back to NAB this past year when Michael Cioni of Light Iron Outpost gave a presentation at the Arri booth that highlighted understanding what your deliverable file format needs to be. If you do not have the need for a 4K deliverable, why would you sacrifice areas of dynamic range, variable frame rates, etc., just to have 4K? Think about what the needs for your project are, not just the price of the camera and its overall resolution.

See more about Light Iron Outpost in Shane’s article.

Our Final Thoughts

As far as using the Panasonic GH4 on a feature film or commercial project, we have felt through this test that it does not fit where Shane likes to work. The GH4 does have its place and is still defining what that place is, but this camera does not have a filmic feel. It looks and feels like a broadcast video camera.

Our best advice? Rent the Panasonic GH4, do your own tests, shoot with the camera and determine for yourself if it fits into your workflow. We are in an exciting age and place in digital capture, where every camera that is developed does have a place in the industry. It is up to you to find where it fits in your projects!

Special Thanks
Good friends at LensProToGo provided us with all of our equipment for this test. You can go to their website and find everything you need for your camera tests and projects. On a personal note, the staff at LensProToGo were the absolute nicest and easiest group of people to work with on our camera test. Without their help and future support in our upcoming tests, we wouldn’t be able to provide this information for our readers, so give a big thanks to them!

LensProToGo

We also want to thank our friends at Paskal Lighting for providing all of the grip and lighting equipment for our test shoot. They have been great friends of Shane’s for many years and have been and will continue to be a part of many of his productions.

Paskal Lighting

We also cannot say thanks enough to our great friend David Cole of Modern VideoFilm for coming in huge for us and delivering an incredible set of color grading for this camera test and our upcoming tests that will hit the blog in the coming months. I (David talking here) had a great opportunity to sit with David and learn from his 18+ years of color timing and coloring experience. He is an incredible artist and we are all incredibly grateful for his time and efforts on this project.

Thank you also to Revolution Cinema Rentals for supplying much of the gear for these tests.

Modern VideoFilm

We would also like to thank our volunteer Shane’s Inner Circle members who donated their time to help out on the camera test. They were a rock star team!

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Hair and Makeup: Krista Jee; Camera Operators: David Weldon, Chris Herr, Matt Eidenbock, Matt Williams, Austin Lewis, Larry Pinto and Kyle Klebe.

Members of Shane’s Inner Circle who were members in September 2014 received Shanes’s in depth audio, written commentary, and camera test video as part of their membership.

If you would like to view the rest of this article, it may be purchased in Shane’s Store, as can all other educational content of interest.

Don’t miss out on another article from Shane’s Inner Circle! Sign up now.
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62 comments

Christopher H September 11, 2014 at 10:44 AM

Nice! Thanks for sharing this with us. 🙂

Any comparisons/tests with the Sony A7S?

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Ruben Fernandez September 11, 2014 at 1:06 PM

I shot a documentary for a month for the National Geographic Channel, with a mix of F5, F55, A7s and GH4. You might be doing something wrong (or maybe I am!!!) but the GH4, shot with care, can provide very cinematic images. Not videoish at all. In a real world shooting environment. As soon as I can post something, would love to share with you.

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Russ Rayburn September 11, 2014 at 8:53 PM

I agree with Ruben. I’m very impressed with the GH4.

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Shane September 12, 2014 at 7:03 PM

Russ Rayburn, Not I, this is why we do these posts to take the camera to its breaking point but with this baby it was broken before we took it out of the box.

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Mauri October 12, 2014 at 7:48 AM

Hi Shane, i´ve reading this blog since a couple years but never i commented nothing here.
Your blog is useful of amazing content for the new wave of filmakers and young D.p like me.
But i have to say that is the first time I think you have not taken the full potential of the tool, in this Case the GH4.

I think with it you can shoot images with great cinematic character and definition.
If you let me I’ll leave my own example of what can be done with this camera: https://vimeo.com/103764950
(I filmed the music video the day after purchase)

Shane Carruth shot Upstream color with the Gh2, and the gh4 is by far a way better.

I’d love to know what you think.

I leave you here a test with the new v2 firmware that allows shooting in 4: 3.
https://vimeo.com/107849749

Thank you for your time and sorry if i wrote something wrong, english is not my first lenguage.

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Shane September 12, 2014 at 7:10 PM

Ruben Fernandez, Like I have said, I put the camera in realistic environments that I would shoot all of my movies or commercials in. So if it not functioning with my round of tests than it is not going in my tool box, that’s all. Love the passion and love the commentary

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Ruben Fernandez September 13, 2014 at 5:03 PM

Hey Shane, obviously I have great respect for your work and your opinions. I think we all know gear which might be great for some, not so much for us. At least for the work I was doing, it served me well. I can totally relate to not liking a tool others people might like. By the way, I’ll be in Brooklyn for your illumination Tour 🙂

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Carlos D March 27, 2015 at 1:14 PM

Hi Ruben,

I would love to know your camera setting on the GH4.

All the best,

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Stuart Hooper September 11, 2014 at 1:14 PM

I’m not sure why the images from the test have weird blocky chroma noise all over them, but that isn’t normal for the camera at ISO 800 and I hope it’s just an upload or site issue and not what you are representing as the results of the test!

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Danny September 11, 2014 at 3:25 PM

I have the Gh4. I personally think it looks better in “NATURAL” picture style. It gives an awesome documentary look. I took it with me to a small island in the Philipines (tacloban). I used it to document our work with the locals.
Super light, great in hot jungle humid weather. I believe NATURAL and STANDARD picture style is the way to go.

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Shane September 12, 2014 at 7:09 PM

Danny, that sounds very interesting and love that this camera gives you the ability to tell your stories, it just did not grab me

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Tron September 11, 2014 at 7:55 PM

The GH4 is very capable of delivering “cinematic images” as Ruben stated above. It’s only handicap is the extra stop of light it requires to match the DOF of Super35 size sensors. That’s not much of a handicap if you consider the abundance of cheap, fast glass that is currently available (and speedboosters!). Are you guys are really shooting at 5.6 on m43 and wondering why it’s looking too videoish? God help us all!

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Shane September 12, 2014 at 7:08 PM

Tron, I love your passion for this camera you feel rocks your world but my old 5D MK II will still kick this camera’s ass. The 5D looked cinematic right out of the box, you had to do nothing, you did not need to shoot with boosters, you did not have to shoot in this Natural or that Cinema V you just turned it on and even in its worst possible picture style settings it would trounce the GH4, no sure what all the fuss is about but love the commentary.

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Dragan M September 13, 2014 at 11:11 PM

I love this comment 🙂

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ken glassing September 11, 2014 at 8:35 PM

Was iDynamic and iResolution set to on or off? Setting them both Off makes a world of difference. FYI…I don’t think 800 is the native ISO of the camera…the Panasonic rep said that the lowest Iso will produce the best image, this is where the SpeedBooster comes into play as I can comfortably shoot at 200 ASA and get perfect exposure compared to my Alexa set at 800. As with the Canons when they first came out I think people need to spend a little time with the settings to get the best image from this camera…I’m using it alongside my Alexas to shoot my new CBS Show Scorpion 🙂

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Shane September 12, 2014 at 7:04 PM

ken glassing, Hi Ken this camera did not wow me.

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Revit November 28, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Ken, can you share with us what SpeedBooster and lenses you are using? What profile and settings have you used?

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Ketzal September 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Something is seriously wrong if you can’t get the GH4 to look cinematic. What on Earth went wrong here? Speedboster and approriate lenses create a VERY cinematic image as it tones down the incredible sharpness, try using the internet. Base ISO 800? Base ISO is 200. Best dynamic range is also at 200. Disinformation is dangerous.

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Shane September 12, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Ketzal, I love your passion for the tool that you feel unlocks your soul as an artist. It does not fit my shooting style or for any application. There is nothing wrong at all here with this test. I pushed the camera to the place where other much older DSLR’s will still kick its ass, that is all I did. The proof is in the pudding. This camera fails in every way except shooting BARK on trees.

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FranT September 12, 2014 at 2:12 PM

I found that cinelikeD always gives up noise and if you put 800 even in daylight will give noise. Better Natural or cinelikeV and play with pedestal and curves a bit (really improve DR ), and of course the lower ISO as posible. Normaly I use 800-1600 as my last chance, in low light gun and run shootings, weddings and so. Normally I don´t go down to -5 apart on detail, contrast maybe -3 or so and saturation -3 on Natural gives pleasing image…hope it helps…

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Shane September 12, 2014 at 6:55 PM

FranT, I am not going to be using a camera that has these many limitations, that is why I did the test.

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FranT September 12, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Ah, and you really need ND´s to go with 2.8 or less and you will get more cinematic feel. I think the smaller sensor makes harder to get better result just out of the box.
But as Shane knows canon log is amazing and full frame gives so nice and cinematic images with so less effort….
Love the GH4, but I would love to try A7s in log and FF….

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Shane September 12, 2014 at 6:54 PM

FranT, dude, I know that, the camera did not wow me, why the uproar. The Canon 5D immediately looked cinematic, you did not have to do forty different things to it, just just turned the camera on. It was not, oh if you shoot it in Natural it will be cinematic, or if you shoot it in Cinema V it will be better, you could shoot the 5D in its worst mode and it would still kick the shit out of this GH4. Do not know what the fuss is about.

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Ron September 12, 2014 at 8:28 PM

I’m in agreement with Shane. The Canon 5D2 has a very filmic image. I initially had the 5D2, which I sold. I upped to the 1DC. Looking back at images I shot with the 5D2, it has an amazing organic look. Shane is simply stating what his tests found with the GH4 and he has graciously given his opinion. Shane is a proven professional and understands what he is talking about. So if he finds the GH4 short of his expectations then why try to convince him otherwise? Cheers to all.

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FranT September 12, 2014 at 10:39 PM

EY Shane, you are right, I´m not trying to star a war between caon panasnic. I very claer 5D out of the box ives mor organic and cinematic look.
Maybe GH4 has too much resolution and the small sensor doesn´t helps.
I understand perfectly the didn´t impress you first touh.
I wasa only trying to help with settings as regular user. I aprciate the effort on this test and wannt to say thanks!
Cheers

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ANDY LEE September 12, 2014 at 2:25 PM

GH4 + Speedbooster + Nikon 28-70mm f2.8 IF ED (as used by DP Oliver Wood on The Bourne Ultimatum) = cinematic, that lens has a very very cinematic look to it and with the speedbooster gives it a Super 35mm field of view.
You should try this combination Shane it works very well.

Andy Lee
LTI FILMS

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Johannes September 12, 2014 at 8:52 PM

I only enjoy the GH3/GH4 aesthetic when paired with the Voigtlander native M43 set 17.5/25/42.5 or the cheaper but still OK Speedbooster/Nikon combo. The Voigt M43 lenses compliment the BMPCC and BMCC very well also.

If it wasn’t for these options, I would prefer the 5D3 or A7S.

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Elisha R September 13, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Great thanks for sharing this. I guess I’m a cynic. I am not sold on this 4k thing.I guess some people rushed and bought this camera because of it’s 4k capabilities at a steal for the price . I saw a 4k resolution flatscreen in a store that was selling for $8000 and by comparison with the other 7000 thousand dollar cheaper flatscreens all of the people that came up and compared, could not tell the difference except for the sales people..lol I bet a few years down the road the buzzword will be 6k cameras and TV’s. You know it’s ironic back in the film days,the talk was not resolution because with a negative film that’s it—you got what you shot. But today in the digital area companies know they can use resolution as a selling point to sell more and new cameras. Film makers back in the day worked on their craft of telling stories because they knew they were gonna get a good professional image with the equipment they have that had a solid track record of getting fantastic images. Like Shane said “out the box” is the key. I don’t want to buy extra stuff to get an image on what another camera can do already out the box. Again Shane thanks for your sharing years of expertise and insight in this maze of digital cameras.

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Jacob September 13, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Great review. Where I work we have 3 shooters, we shoot with the 5d Mark III, bmcc, bmpcc, and Gh4. Having compared all the footage pretty extensively I don’t quite get the internet’s obsession with the GH4. There are shots where I prefer it to the 5d, it’s good at handling moire and aliasing and in the some shots the detail and amazing. But there’s just something about the color and feel. Skintones are super important, people are the life of storytelling, and there were clips where the gh4 skintones were so bad that I threw out the footage after trying to color correct for over an hour. Clips have had a baked in yellow look, and not a pleasing warm yellow but I nasty pee yellow hue. 60 percent of the times the skintones look good, but I need a camera that delivers almost 100 percent of the time. I’ve been the most impressed with the blackmagic. Each camera has shots where the shine, but I’ve never preferred a GH4 shot over a blackmagic.
Is 4k neccesary? I mean it’s handy for certain scenarios and for lots of video jobs, but for film and music video so many people are reaching for the alexa. Alexa to me has really shown how important dynamic range, color, and skintones are and I’ve been the most impressed with Blackmagic in these regards and the least impressed with the GH4.
On two occasions we’ve had a fourth shooter shoot with the A7S and I’ve been pretty impressed with the footage, although I’ve found some of that camera to skew towards purple. Dynamic range is more impressive on the A7S although I don’t think it surpasses the blackmagic when shooting raw.
Anyways, those are my two cents as someone who spends 9 hours a day looking at footage of all these cameras side by side, I hope it’s useful for someone out there.

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penny September 14, 2014 at 9:12 PM

I dont care for the GH4 but for those who are defending it
different strokes for different folks
I agree with the review but you can’t expect the test to go out of it’s way to achieve the best image for a panasonic camera when canon is a SPONSOR

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AST September 18, 2014 at 5:39 AM

Finally someone puts his finger on it: that’s the REAL QUESTION!

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Joseph Moore September 14, 2014 at 6:03 PM

You lost me once you started stating that the mkII trounces the GH4 out of the box. While I understand that many find the Canon’s warm color science pleasing, there is little else about the 5D (II or III) to compare. If a mushy and artifact riddled image is what it takes to be considered “cinematic” out of the box, then I think I’d prefer to get that look based on lighting and composition.

I also find it strange when reviews totally skip over the usability of a camera. The GH4 is so much more shooter-friendly than anything in it’s price range. Try to set the shutter angle on a 5D.

Finally, 4K isn’t about 4K delivery right now … it’s about flexibility in post.

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Dave Williams September 20, 2014 at 6:26 PM

Joseph, I couldn’t agree more!!!! At JLM we have to do so much to any canon image in post that we have taken to calling it the ” cocktail”. I would suggest that folks take a look at Sherif Motbel’s GH4 Cinematic Grading Test on Vimeo, or Belief, by Thomas Kirschner and Raoul Gorka also on Vimeo. Hardly bark on trees!!!!

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Jonas September 17, 2014 at 2:40 AM

Thanks for this really thorough test Shane! Great work as always. What Ive seen wouldn’t a bmcc be the perfect companion for a Canon 5D mark III, you both get full frame and noise free at night with a high dynamic range camera n daylight? Any comments?

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Kamil September 17, 2014 at 9:06 AM

Hi Shane! Many thanks for your tests. Any chance on doing similar test for A7S?
Thanks!

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AST September 18, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Almost all modern cameras are good! Much more important than Canon, Panasonic or any other – is the One who´s behind the gear! That really makes the difference!

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Kevin McRoberts September 18, 2014 at 4:54 PM

Thanks so much David, Shane, and everyone who helped. Excellent information.

After reading this and trying a few of the newer bodies, I went ahead and bought a GH4 anyway; while it won’t work for you and for many others, it will work fantastically well for how I need to use such a camera… basically as a sometimes-cinematic-ish, often-broadcastish ultra-flexible ultra-portable all-in-one workhorse. I agree that none of the stock settings yield ‘cinematic’ results, and simply mashing everything down to -5 doesn’t help, either… like that old pariah AF100, it takes a bit of fiddling to master and find a look I like, but can pay off very well – assuming one has the time and inclination. Some cameras I tested looked better out of the box, but were too cumbersome to work with or altogether too expensive; I’m not operating on huge budgets, and Panasonic delivers at a very convincing price point with a camera that offers a wide array of features and needs almost no accessorization to work with in the field – further savings. Yes, I’m an unapologetic “Pan-handler:” I’d rather make good images and be in business than perfect images and be in debt.

Shane, I’ll take issue with one suggestion you make… YOU can pull a 5D out of the box and shoot something cinematic. Not everyone. I’ve seen and even created some awfully lousy 5D footage over the past 6 years.

Thanks for your energy and generosity with your knowledge.

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Shane October 1, 2014 at 3:24 PM

Kevin,
This is exactly what I was looking for in a response to this post. You still saw what I saw, but understood that this camera works for your applications and that is 100% what I was going for. I wanted to show people that when I test these cameras I look for a very cinematic look and feel, because I shoot features films. My expertise and input comes from the feature film world and that is what I offer to you and everyone else and you get it my friend. You see what I saw but understand that it still serves a great purpose for your work and that is what this blog is all about.

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Sohail M October 24, 2014 at 12:38 PM

Hi Kevin. Just wondering – were you able to get a more cinematic image out of your GH4 eventually? If so, what did you have to do?

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David Hung September 24, 2014 at 1:57 AM

Shane thanks your team for excellent review.

I am using 3 cameras these days, 1DC, A7s, GH4,

GH4 have quick accurate AF and full wifi remote, together with it light weight an simple 4K camera for daily use. Excellent form factor too. It have many customisation setting that the 1DC or the other Canon cannot match. If someone have plenty of time to play around with it and do all the detail adjustments, sure it is an excellent tool for daytime use. ISO above 1600/3200 is marginally usable.

However as Shane have said GH4 cannot work out of the box. I was using 5D2 many years before switching to 1DC, I agree that the 5D2 do have the Lens and Color(+ ML) advantage over the GH4. Support for the GH4 for grading, is minimal, where as there are LUT provided by Adobe CC and Davinci Resolve for both Canon and Sony that you can do primary colour matching by a click in a second. GH make multi camera workflow a nightmare. AF for the Canons are nightmares though except for the new DPAF camera.

As for A7s it is good when you do not need 4K or AF. Is a monster at night.

For me I will use :
GH4 when I need fast AF( with tracking) during daytime,
Canon when I need great PQ even with only low light,
A7s when I need to work in total darkness.

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Roy Stevens September 28, 2014 at 3:46 PM

hi Shane,
Im a massive fan of your work and really appreciate your insights, just one thing has been bothering me and please don’t take no offence as I am most likely incredibly naive, but when you do your camera tests, whether on red epic or canon c500 etc, they all look very video-ish to me, like really well lit video, and it’s hard to explain but it’s almost more in the motion then the lighting, but when you shoot your features, like need for speed, it looks like film. I’m not talking about the illusion sound plays or composition of the shot etc, it’s purely the way motion is rendered. In a movie motion looks unreal, but with the camera tests, even at 180 degree shutter the motion looks like video? Is this some kind of secret sauce added in post?

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paul franklin September 29, 2014 at 4:09 AM

I’m also curious as to this. Motion in movies look different to any dslr motion or even red epic or alexa motion shot with a 180 degree shutter no matter the lighting or color grade. When I shoot a movie shot on my Scarlet, if the image is paused, it looks like a hollywood movie, but when I press play the motion is always too fast and realistic even at 24fps with 180 degree shutter. Maybe Shane can shine a light on this?

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raon October 10, 2014 at 6:04 AM

+! Anything on this?

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Carlos Q November 13, 2014 at 6:15 PM

Like others, I got all wound up and excited about this camera system based on the raving comments and reviews and Marketing Hype.

My hesitation with pulling the trigger was the substantial investment that would have been required in lenses or adapters or both.

It is hard not to get excited, particularly when we are presented with a product like GH4 that is widely accepted by many trendsetters that influence buying decisions.

Let’s be serious here, how or why wouldn’t we get excited about this type of camera system at this very aggressive price point, right?

There is one thing that few places ever discuss and that is the postproduction workflow.

Thanks to this gear review by Shane and his team, I now understand that should I choose to use this camera system, I may face challenges in post.

Now how many of us have deep enough pockets to cover mistakes or complete reshoots to fix a problem? My company definitely can’t afford that.

With that said, the ability to capture 4K as in real 4K internally, is tempting.

But in reality, other than on personal web, none of our projects are ever delivered in 4K – at least not yet.

I am thankful for this real life type of review as it saved me time and money.

I would have to guess that I am not the only person who has made a mistake on some gear purchase.

As tempting as the Hype and Price Point are, I am thankful that Shane and his team took the time to address this camera system as it has saved me $$$.

Sometimes we all can use the reminder of the need to stay in business vs. following trends or emotional impulses.

If anyone is interested in purchasing this camera system, they should not only read this blog post, but also watch all the videos and then rent it, use it, test it in your shooting style and scenario before you dive in head first.

Shane – Thank You for brining balance, experience and reality back, I appreciate it greatly.

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Shane November 24, 2014 at 9:59 AM

You’re very welcome.

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Kevin November 15, 2014 at 4:41 PM

Hey Shane, when are you guys going to take a look at the Sony A7s? I’ve been checking it out and I think its a FANTASTIC camera but I’d like to have a second opinion about it from an experienced DP. I should be investing in an Arri Amira soon and would like a camera that would cut well with the Arri. What’s your thoughts on the camera and do you think a Blackmagic Cinema camera or URSA would cut better with the Arri?

Thanks and love the work you’re doing

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Jason December 12, 2014 at 12:47 AM

Shane, I love your site and reviews and have learned a ton from you. I remember watching all your 5d settings video and then I went out and shot some video with my first DSLR. Some good some bad but it was a blast. I have a c100 and a gh4 and I have to agree that there are several other camera options for a better out of the box cinematic look. I think the c100 beats the pants off the gh4, but I do find myself grabbing the gh4 when I am in pinch and need some crazy run and gun. I love the gh4 when I need everything focus when shooting learning or teaching videos, and I love my c100 when I am trying to create a specific mood or create a emotion with the story I am trying to tell. Yes I know I could do this with the gh4 but their is something about the look of the c100 that is just awesome. Love them both equal, just use them very differently. 🙂

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Shane December 20, 2014 at 1:54 PM

Exactly. Different tools for different projects. Thanks for your thoughts Jason.

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Robin January 1, 2015 at 11:01 AM

There are rumors that the GH4 might get V-LOG (used by varicam 35.)
Would this make the camera more useful for removing that “broadcast look?”

I can imagine that having a small 4k camera with different lenses would be great for stunt cams over something like a GoPro.

Either way great review. Love your stuff!
Decided to buy it anyway for personal use/c cam. It’s a fun thing to play around with.

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Josh January 23, 2015 at 4:31 PM

Shane – 5D MKII is better than the GH4????? HOW? Looking at it side by side, I can’t stand the MkII anymore. Too many artifacts, so mushy like old chicken in a can… 5DMkII doesn’t even have onscreen levels, focus peaking, or zebras, etc. Screen is fixed. Rolling shutter town all over the world. so confused mr shane. so very confused.

🙁

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Josh January 23, 2015 at 4:51 PM

I think I know why you hate the GH4 so much. I mean you are a professional cinematographer. Why would you even use this camera anyway? Why would you even use a Canon DSLR? You are Shane Hurlbut. You have used so many other great cameras. Your standard is super high. You are super rich. You can just get an Alexa, or F55, or even a Red Epic if I dare say. Or even a C300/500 or FS7.

So overall, I think this camera is too under you haha. It’s like someone who is used to driving a lamborghini and then tries to drive a prius. It just feels lame. I think it works for a good amount of hobbyist or independent professionals who shoot weddings, events, shorts, music videos, smaller scale commercials.

GH4 definately has a place in this digital cinematography world. Just not your world. 🙂

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Shane January 26, 2015 at 11:16 AM

Josh,
I would have to strongly disagree with your comment. How can you say that a camera is “under me?” No camera is “under” anyone. Have you forgotten that I chose to shoot “Act of Valor” almost exclusively on the Canon 5D Mark II? I’m simply giving the 100% honest opinion of the camera, so that I can deliver the best review for all of you to understand what the camera can and cannot do, prior to making an investment.

I’m saying that there are better options out there from what I see. In my world and in the world of other ASC Cinematographers, we are still using the Canon 5D Mark III to match against Alexas and C500s, and I’m consistently using the Canon 1DC and the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and the GoPro. If it is the right tool for the job, I’ll use it.

You have to admit that in looking at these tests, that the camera does not hold up overall.

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T HuFF February 4, 2015 at 3:00 PM

I am loving the results of my first test. I plan on shooting some more than using it as a, A camera for feature. Here is the test Shooting another one in a few days. http://youtu.be/zWBo96ODO_E

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Kevin Almodovar March 1, 2015 at 7:06 AM

Shane I think the fuss is that many, like myself, respect your opinion and no one likes to be told they just bought a POS. 🙂

That being said, for those who already own this camera it would be interesting to see what everyone has done to get a better image (more cinematic) out of the GH4. Not unlike the post you did for C100 picture profiles, I think that even though it is not a tool you would use, many would love to see what you were able to get out of it once you tweaked it to your likings. That way everyone wins.

I know you may not have the time or interest in doing this but one can dream. 🙂

Thank you for everything you and Lydia do. It is greatly appreciated for those of us aspiring to be better in doing what we love to do.

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Michael Hirtzel April 2, 2015 at 12:06 PM

Shane, I’ll agree with you that you don’t get cinematic looks out of the box. It is a camera that you have to learn and work with and know to get results from. I think the main problem is people who have been working with Canon for so long coming over to try the GH4 have the opinion that they need to get the image as flat as possible. This creates a problem with noise and the footage really just falls apart. Panasonic has given us so many options that when we combine all of them to go to one extreme, it is no bueno at all. It produces extreme noise and artifacting. Another Canon to Panny problem is this camera also needs to be shot slightly to the right not left like a canon. Underexposing this camera will produce terrible results just as shooting it too flat will. You have to invest the time to play with the camera’s settings to produce the best color / DR/ and noise reduction possible. It isn’t turn key, but then again, I wouldn’t rather have a camera that can be customized than one that will give the same look as everyone else. Also, it is super sharp but as some are finding out with Leica lenses and Tiffin’s diffusion filters it can make the camera look very cinematic. That is just my 2 cents after doing a ton of research and owning multiple brands in prep for a doc I’m shooting this summer.

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David Geores June 11, 2015 at 7:44 AM

I think the main issue here is in the comparison. A Micro 4/3 camera should be compared to other Micro 4/3 cameras. There can be no doubt that a full frame, or super 35 sensor will produce a more cinematic look out of the box. As an owner of the gh4, I understand that I have to “massage” the camera a little bit to achieve a similar result to a camera with a larger sensor. Would anyone here try to make an argument comparing the Arri SR3 to the Arri 535? I suppose you could, but then it’s just a discussion about personal taste. Different formats…Apples and Oranges.

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PIERRE L September 22, 2015 at 11:01 AM

Dear Shane,
Now that VLog-L is out will you consider test it an give us an update on your thoughts about this upgrade?
Thanks in advance

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Shane September 22, 2015 at 7:53 PM

Yes, we will be testing and letting you know my thoughts.

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PIERRE L October 19, 2015 at 7:17 AM

Thanks a lot! Can’t wait! 😉

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Sergi Medina November 1, 2015 at 11:44 AM

Hello, Shane.
I’ve been reading some posts of yours on this blog, and I know you have decades of experience in cinema work. Plus, you do something that not many colleagues of yours do: demonstrate and teach things to the masses. And we all should feel grateful for that.
Having said that, I have to plainly disagree with these GH4 tests conclusions. I know you shared some other posts later trying to retract the opinions given in this post, given the amount of comments about the apparently unreliable tests performed. But it’s too late, the damage is done. For people with tight budgets, the GH4 supposed perceptible cinematic quality at an affordable price. Saying it’s not good, especially from a professional like you, further confuses many people, who were already poorly informed, and reject this great piece of gear just because its price, its formats and even something as absurd as its size. Not every production needs a $100 000 camera plus basic accessories, raw and everything. I think at least you agree with me on this one, for what I’ve been reading.
I must say I don’t agree at all about the GH4 not looking cinematic, and a 5D, for example, being more “filmic”. I can easily achieve a cinematic look using the GH4 in most situations, with an adequate postproduction, which helps greatly. Anyway, “cinematic” and “filmic” are very subjective terms in general, almost as subjective as colors are. So no point in looking for a cinematic or filmic look, what most of people really want is a high-end look anyway (a huge number of films were shot on digital, and they look perfectly “cinematic” or “filmic”). Which they often confuse with cinematic or filmic just because film (again high-end) looks so organic and natural most of the time. Digital can look natural and even better than film nowadays…
Getting the most of any camera depends on many factors, especially on that person who is using the gear and how, but the camera itself is capable of much. The GH4 footage can look as good as a Red, or better if the Red users aren’t that good. Not to talk about always is desirable to get some footage, rather than not getting anything at all. So GH4 all the way for its costs-quality-versatility relation.
Granted, no camera should be used as it is “right out of the box”, as that usually doesn’t produce good results, nor it’s desirable at all. The operator must know the more the better about it, and perform the more the better tests with it, with the more the better different situations and settings and lenses, et cetera. Especially for a camera so customizable and flexible as the GH4 is. And that’s really the “problem” here, the GH4 has some many options that most of people, simply uninformed or misinformed, just get confused, mess with things they shouldn’t mess (Master pedestal and other “flat” settings that weren’t meant to boost dynamic range or anything, they just introduce noise, help in getting an uglier picture, complicate things and reduce the already short 8-bit [or 10-bit] range, which shouldn’t be used as flat anyway, and that’s exactly why V-Log L mostly sucks), in addition to dreadful postprocessing, and the results are just awful. But don’t get it wrong, that’s not the camera’s fault, not at all. This camera is so good, especially for its price. The value is even better than the 5D achieved in its time. I would chose the GH4 over the Reds any day, just for the awesome capabilites, the versatility, the general easiness and the low costs. But the most important thing here is every moment needs one particular gear.
Panasonic just gave us all they could give us for $1 700, and even more freedom than seemed possible. But was that unusual freedom something bad? It shouldn’t, but apparently it was, sadly.
You say the 5D is good right out of the box, but it’s not. The 5D isn’t capable of producing a decent-looking picture even using the PITA and long-term costly raw through the unofficial Magic Lantern. Mostly because it’s a camera of 2012 (the mark III)…
Also, you keep repeating that the native ISO of the GH4 is 800. Where did you learn that datum? I’ve been investigating about this camera for many months, performing hundreds of tests and working with it, and I can say 800 isn’t the native ISO of the GH4. Always shooting at 800 with the GH4 just introduces unnecessary noise. ISO 800 may be the native for some Reds and Blackmagics, but not for the GH4.
I don’t think it’s necessary I keep explaining the matter as I believe I made my point already. And sorry for all this huge text… But I think it was necessary. I’m not saying the GH4 is the best camera of the world, nor it’s perfect at all, but it’s a huge step in videography and filmmaking, even greater than that of 5D’s was, and it definitely shouldn’t be underrated.
Just keep the good work… and be always careful about what you say and explain.
Thanks for your time.
Best regards,
Sergi Medina

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Shane November 8, 2015 at 6:25 PM

Hi Sergi. It seemed noisy in general across the board. 200 ISO felt usable. Not a big fan of this camera so if this fits your shooting style, run with it my friend. Panasonic color, skin, quick to the clip and general video looking image has always pushed me away.

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Zackary D January 11, 2016 at 7:33 AM

While it’s true the GH4 doesn’t capture “cinematic” pictures straight out of the box. With the proper setup the camera is very capable. I.Dynamic and I.resolution MUST be turned off. Pardon my language, but they are shit.

It isn’t fair to test this camera the same way you would an Alexa or a RED. For one it’s a smaller sensor. Of course it’s going to look broadcast, because it’s a smaller sensor! haha Of course it’s going to look like shit in low-light. It’s a smaller sensor. What this camera is is an entry-level cinelike capable camera for young DPs and operators to get their feet wet. To learn how to expose for Log, (albiet with no headroom and rather shitty falloff). I’ll give you that out of the box it looks broadcast…..but to say it isn’t capable of producing a cinematic image isn’t fair.

Throw a speedbooster on there….especially the new Metabones XL and turn that 2x crop into an effective S35 4k monster (capable of 4k 4:2:2 10 bit to external). For a camera you can now get for around $1200. Are you serious?!?

You rated this camera at ISO800. I can tell you after shooting with this camera for over a year that it is NOT rated at ISO800. I would personally rate the camera at ISO400.

Your concerns about the noise are very fair. The GH4 has horrendous noise patterns that do looks so much like broadcast video. Even in lit scenarios if you underexpose the camera by 2 stops you’ll see bad noise in the shadows. It does grade away okay, but it still isn’t perfect. If this camera has one sore thumb it’s it’s handling of ISO and sensor noise. Either way, it’s not good to let a camera dictate where you’re placing your shadows. Jordan Cronenweth probably won’t use a GH4 haha.

I implore you to redo your test. Test with a speedbooster. Test with V-log L. Test it at ISO400 and turn I.dynamic and I.resolution off. Test this camera at it’s max instead of at it’s least. Out of the box it’s a beefy broadcast camera in a super small body. But it’s a very adaptable camera.

Your users are telling you, Shane Hurlbut ASC that you’re wrong about this camera! We all respect your opinion deeply….you are a master….but judging by the tests we aren’t satisfied with this one. I don’t think this camera was given a fair go.

Send your 1st or 2nd AC out to test it on an off day and report to you!

Thanks for your time, Shane!

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