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First Impressions: Panasonic GH4

by Chris Gampat on 02/06/2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s been rumored for a while now, and Panasonic is announcing the brand new GH4 just in time for CP+. The new camera is the company’s flagship and is said to live above the GH3, but is not a direct replacement to it. On that note, the GH3 will continue to be sold. During our short briefing time with Panasonic, we learned about the heavy emphasis that the company is putting on video output with the latest offering. But overall, it so far seems like only minor improvements were added to the already pretty darned good GH3. And by minor, we’re talking about a brand new sensor and a couple of features that should have been included in the first place.

Think of this almost as the upgrade from the Canon 5D Mk II to the Mk III, but with less ergonomic changes. Except that with this one, they’re targeting it at Pros and enthusiasts.

Tech Specs

- Brand new 16.05 Micro Four Thirds sensor

- 4K Video output in MOV or MP4. Resolution is 3840 x 2160 or 4096 x 2160. 100mb/s or 200mb/s video recording

- 4:2:0 to the SD card, 4:2:2 otherwise

- NFC, Wifi capabilities

- 1/8000 shutter speed

- OLED viewfinder

- 2360K Dot viewfinder

- Splash and dust proof with a magnesium alloy body

- Venus 9 engine

- Contrast AF and a new focusing type called DFD. New focusing isn’t as fast as Olympus or Sony

- Focus peaking

- 3 inch LCD screen with 1040K Dots

- Bulb mode of up to 60 mins

- FHD 60P readout

Ergonomics

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For the most part, the Panasonic GH4 looks and acts identically to the GH3. And with that said, there are very few buttons on the front of the camera.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The top of the camera is where the user will find lots of action and control. Here is where you can see a mode dial, shutter control, function 1, and drive dial. Plus you’ll see the pop-up flash and the hot shoe.

Additionally, you can adjust ISO, white balance and exposure compensation here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The back is where you’ll find even more controls. The playback button, various functions, other control dials, menu buttons, and video record button are all here. Plus this is where you’ll find the EVF and the LCD screen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Panasonic’s LCD screen swivels as opposed to the tilting option offered by Olympus. This can be of great use to many photographers in awkward standing positions.

Build Quality

The overall build quality of the GH4 feels solid, just like the GH3. Panasonic spent maybe a good seven minutes talking about the weather sealing and durability though. There are lots of seals all over the camera, but it’s not clear if there are more than the GH3. I’d hope that there are.

Autofocus

Panasonic talked about improvements in the autofocus, and for the most part, we saw only slight improvements in the real life situation that they presented. However, we saw a pre-production unit and that may be the issue. We suspect that the algorithms will work best with Panasonic lenses.

Ease of Use

The Panasonic GH4 seems ergonomically identical to the GH3 and with that said we want to warn potential buyers that there are buttons all over the camera. While this will make it easier for you to customize it to your liking it can also make things a bit complicated. We recommend spending a lot of time with it and gaining the muscle memory.

Image Quality

Since we held a pre-production unit (and it was a very pre-production camera) we weren’t able to put a card inside to record images. But we were able to see prints and video. Both looked very good despite the fact that they were shot in auto mode. They showed us comparisons and the new sensor seems to be able to get more detail out of the highlights than the sensor in the Olympus EM1.

Again though, this was their own test. We’ll have to test that one out for ourselves.

First Impressions

In truth, we only got to spend around six minutes with the camera towards the end of the meeting until we had to run to another one. Panasonic’s GH4 seems impressive on paper, but we still don’t know the price and availability as of this post. The company expects to make an announcement in Mid-March.

Ergonomically, we’re not expecting much different than the GH3. Where we’re really going to test the camera is in the video, photo, and autofocusing abilities. But we’re still waiting on our review unit.

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