Today we take a look at my camera of choice for a lot of the smaller shoots that I do, the Panasonic GH4. The GH4 is a great little camera because of its ability to record 4K video while costing you less than $1300AUD. If you are looking to get into the video market, this is definitely a camera that you should consider.
The GH4 is a lightweight mirror-less digital camera with a micro 4/3rds sensor. Because of the sensor size your image is going to be punched in much further than on a full frame camera and as a general rule, you double your lenses focal range (ie. A 25mm becomes a 50mm lens). Personally I don’t find this particularly limiting, but it is something to be aware of, especially when buying lenses. The positive of the four thirds sensor is that you can adapt basically any mount to this camera. The small sensor size means any EF, PL or most other mount types will fit on this camera with an adapter so dust off that old glass and get shooting!
The 4K footage that comes out of the camera is crisp and detailed but you are limited to output the video as an MP4 or MOV. The internal recording is also limited by 8-bit colour depth, however the camera can output 10-bit colour depth if you are recording to an external recorder via HDMI, however it downscales the 4K to 1080. This is a great technique to get extremely sharp downscaled 4K 1080 footage. The GH4 records to high speed SD cards, which are relatively cheap.
The onboard microphone is unusable for professional work but offers a decent reference point for syncing audio recorded on an external recorder. The onboard audio input is your standard 3.5mm jack and the sound quality in the preamp is ordinary at best. For a professional set-up a separate audio mixing and recording device is required, but this is to be expected, and some relatively cheap solutions to this are out there that I will go into in a future article.
The camera comes with a 3.5” LCD flip touch-screen which I found to be a little small when trying to find focus with manual lenses. An external monitor is almost a must with this camera as the focus peak function coupled with a relatively small screen makes it very difficult to get precise focus with manual lenses.
A lot of the drawbacks of this camera are synonymous with all DSLR’s. If you are planning to run a professional set-up with a DSLR or mirror-less camera you are going to require external audio recording and some sort of external video monitoring. For its price you will not find a camera that has the same capabilities as the GH4. Buy it knowing that you are going to need some external devices, but it will still be cheaper than buying a camera that has those functions built in. As an entry point into the market, it cannot be beaten.
Specs for the camera can be found here.