With the introduction of the GH4 Panasonic managed to both one-up Canon in the DSLR video market and made a step toward righting some wrongs that caused many people to dismiss Panasonic cameras for low-budget video projects.
The GH4 is definitely geared toward video shooters. The GH4 shoots both DCI 4K 4096×2160 at 24p and UHD 4K 3840×2160 at 30p/24p. It also shoots Full HD up to 60p and various sizes of MP4 web videos. It’s a minor ding that Panasonic stuck with that bizarre 4/3 sensor size but by using it instead of a more expensive APS-C or full frame sensor, Panny was able to keep the sticker price for the body at $1,698 retail. For the feature set and price point, we can give them a pass on the sensor. The video quality speaks for itself.
The video recorded to SD cards is 4:2:0 8-bit, but real-time 4:2:2 8-bit and 4:2:2 10-bit video can also be sent to an external monitor or recorder with an optional micro HDMI cable. To top it off Panasonic threw in a veritable toybox of awesome video features like focus peaking, time code support, and cine-like gamma options. If you really want to get crazy you can record VBR (Variable Frame Rate), time lapse, and stop motion animation videos internally. The rugged alloy frame and weather sealing are nice additions, giving the camera the ability to take some abuse.
Just coincidentally, Samyang, which also produces lenses under the Bower and Rokinon names, has just fielded a new line of Cine lenses for 4/3 cameras. Now you can get a decent DSLR video body and a couple really nice manual lenses for under $2,500. That’s a deal that’s hard to beat.
I’ll be the first to admit that I ripped on Panasonic mercilessly for years over their P2 storage cards, a storage device I still consider one of the biggest mistakes in recent video history. P2 cards singlehandedly moved Panasonic from one of the core brands filmmakers on a budget considered when contemplating a hardware purchase to a brand most people don’t even think about, like JVC.
When Panasonic biffed it with P2 cards happened to be right about the same time Canon was flying high with the success of the 5D MK II. Suddenly video pros and still photographers were showing up at events with the exact same Canon camera. Even the Panasonic faithful had a hard time stumping for P2 cards; suggesting they could hold about the same amount of footage as a roll of 16mm film was damning by faint praise.
With the video DSLR market all but locked up Canon decided to deal a blow to the video faithful with the 5D MK III, which was, by any measure, a dismal offering to DSLR video shooters. Instead of offering a DSLR with compelling video features, Canon tried to steer video shooters to the C100 and C300, with the later sporting a five digit price tag. Had Canon added half the video features in the $1,698 GH4 to the $3,400 5D MK III, the Canon DSLR video faithful would have been ecstatic.
After a long dry spell I’m happy to be able to say well done, Panasonic. The GH4 is an awesome introductory 4K camera that also takes entirely decent stills. In my mind the GH4 is far more useful than the Black Magic line of cameras and it’s priced competitively with that market.