Hi, I’m Angela Nicholson, head of Future Publishing’s photography testing team and today I’m going to take a look at the Panasonic GH4.
Although it’s a compact system camera the GH4 has an SLR-like design and is about the size of an entry-level model. However, as you can see from the array of controls, this camera is really designed for experienced photographers.
On the top here there’s a mode dial with manual, shutter priority and aperture priority exposure modes along with Intelligent Auto and for less experienced photographers. This setting here is the Creative Control mode which applies digital filter effects such as Toy Camera, Bleach Bypass and Rough Monochrome to JPEG images.
Helpfully, it’s possible to shoot raw files simultaneously, so you’ll have a clean image as well as one with the effect applied. It’s also possible to shoot in aperture priority mode, but exposure control is via the screen rather than directly via the dials.
Like the GH3 before it, the GH4 has a fully articulating screen which is touch-sensitive. This is a 3-inch 1.036-million dot OLED device which gives a very clear view with lots of detail and good contrast. There’s also 2.359-million dot OLED viewfinder which has a very natural appearance.
I find the viewfinder a real pleasure to use, but the image freezes very briefly when shooting continuously and this can make it tricky to follow a moving subject.
While the GH4′s autofocus system is fast and capable of keeping up with moving subjects when the active AF point is in the correct position, Tracking AF mode still struggles to follow fast moving subjects around the frame.
In low light it’s worth investing in a faster lens like this 12-35mm f/2.8 as it speeds up focusing in comparison with the 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.
One of the unique selling points of the GH4 is that it can record 4K video as well as the more common Full HD footage. 4K video has four times the resolution of Full HD and can be recorded in Mov or MP4 format. These formats are available along with AVCHD format for full HD recording.
The GH4 has a 3.5mm microphone jack and HDMI micro and AV outputs, but anyone who’s really serious about video may want to invest in the optional Interface Unit which offers SDI and XLR outputs.
One of the nice things about the GH4 is that there are quite a few buttons to give direct access to key features. On the top, here for example, there are buttons to reach the white balance, sensitivity and exposure compensation options.
There are also four physical function buttons that can be customised to reach the most commonly used features, but I find the default settings pretty good. This one, for instance, brings up the Quick Menu – which can be customised – to reach a healthy collection of setting options and this one gives a quick route to autofocus options.
There are also two dials one on the front and the other here on the back to adjust exposure and scroll wheel around the navigation pad for scrolling through menu options.
I find the screen responds quickly to touch and it provides a speedy means of settings the AF point. I’m a fan of Panasonic’s Touch pad AF mode, which allows you to set the AF on the screen even when you’re looking through the viewfinder.
However, as a left eye user I have to swing the screen out to the side of the camera to avoid setting the AF point with my nose.
Although I used exposure compensation occasionally during my test of the GH4, it hasn’t been required when I wouldn’t expect it to be and the Multi Metering system copes very well with a wide range of conditions.
The same can also be said of the automatic white balance system which produces good results in most natural lighting conditions. As a rule the GH4′s images are well exposed and have natural, but vibrant colour.
The GH4 is capable of recording an impressive level of detail, especially at the lower sensitivity settings, and noise is controlled well in JPEGs up to around ISO 3200. Above this figure softening becomes more apparent in images viewed at 100% on-screen.
Raw files have chroma noise visible at 100% from around ISO 800, but it’s within acceptable limits. By ISO 12,800, however, the files need more careful editing to conceal noise and preserve detail. As is usually the case, recommend that ISO 25,600 is kept for emergencies only.
Panasonic has created a pretty comprehensive package with the GH4. It’s got plenty to offer enthusiast still and movie photographers with nice extras such as zebras to flag-up highlights and focus peaking to help with manual focusing.
There’s also an excellent electronic viewfinder, a superb-quality touchscreen, Wi_fi connectivity and an NFC chip built-in. Most importantly, it also delivers high quality images and video.