Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Review
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 is the current flagship Micro Four-Thirds Panasonic mirrorless. This digital camera is built around a 16 megapixels Four-Thirds sensor with a maximum ISO of 25600, a speedy 12 FPS full-resolution continuous drive and class-leading 4K Ultra-HD video capability. The GH4 is built DSLR-style with a deep hand-grip and a viewfinder hump covering an ultra-sharp 2.4 megapixels EVF.
The GH4 offers exceptional video-features to create a camera which delivers both outstanding images and video. Video is available in multiple resolutions, frames rates and codecs. There is a built-in stereo microphone, an audio-level monitor, a mini-jack to use an external stereo input and headset connector to hear audio being recorded.
This mirrorless provides a large number of buttons, including triple control-dials, to minimize interaction with the menu system. Its large 0.67X magnification EVF allows most settings be changed comfortably at eye-level. Its sturdy weathersealed body shows that the GH4 is aimed at advanced photographers.
This in-depth digital camera review analyses the features, ergonomics, usability, performance and image quality of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Features
- 16 Megapixels CMOS Four-Thirds sensor
- Micro Four-Thirds lens mount
- Built-in ultra-sonic dust-reduction
- Standard ISO 200 - 25600 range
- Expanded Low ISO 100
- Auto ISO, customizable limit 400 - 25600
- 1/8000-60s Shutter-Speeds, Bulb up to 1h
- Mechanical or ElectronicLimit 1s shutter
- PASM Exposure modes, with Program-Shift
- Multi-Segment, Center-Weighed and Spot metering
- Auto-Exposure Bracketing, 3, 5 or 7 frames, 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV increments, ordered or unordered
- Exposure-Compensation, ±5, 1/3 increments
- Flash-Compensation, ±3, 1/3 increments
- TTL, ManualAdjustable between 1 and 1/128 power. or Wireless flash control
- Off, Forced, Redeye, Slow-Sync and Slow-Sync with Redeye flash modes
- Front or rear flash-sync
- Optional flash redeye removal
- Automatic, 5 presetsSunny, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Flash, kelvin and 4 custom white-balance settings
- White-balance fine-tuning along 2 axis in 19 steps
- White-balance bracketing, 3 frames, 3 step sizes
- 5 Color and 1 B&W Photo Styles modes
- Adjustable contrast, sharpness, noise-reduction, saturation and hue, 11 steps each
- Highlight and Shadow adjustment, 11 steps each
- Controllable Tone-Curve, 3 presets, 3 custom
- sRGB or Adobe RGB color space
- Optional Long-Shutter Noise-Reduction
- Continuous drive, 12 FPS (AF-S) or 7 FPS (AF-C)
- Continuous drive, 40 FPS @ 4 MP, JPEG only
- 100 JPEG or 40 RAW buffer
- Self-timer, 2s, 10s or 3 shots @ 10 seconds
- Shutter-Delay, 1, 2, 4 or 8 seconds
- Interval Timer, 1s - 99m59s interval, 1 - 9999 shots, immediate or delayed start
- Stop-Motion, Auto (1-60s) or Manual advance
- Automatic HDR, 3 frames with Auto, ±1, ±2 or ±3 EV increments
- Optional HDR Automatic-Alignment
- Ultra-HD (4K), 3820x2160 or 4096x2160
- Full HD (1080p), HD (720p), VGA (640p)
- 4K @ 30 or 24 FPS
- 1080p @ 60, 30 or 24 FPS
- Slow/Fast Video @ 2-96 FPS
- MPEG-4Optional high-quality LPCM variant., Quicktime H.264 and AVCHDHD 1080p only codecs
- Optional 1080p All-Intra encoding @ 30p, 24p or 720p @ 60p
- Built-in stereo microphone, 20 sensitivity levels
- Audio-level meters, 2 channels
- Headphone output from microphone or recording
- Selectable Master Pedestal Level, 31 steps
- Selectable Luminance Level, 3 options
- Optional Wind-filter, 3 levels
- Optional Time-Code
- Optional Continuous AF
- AF-S, AF-C and MF focus modes
- Pinpoint, Single Area8 Area sizes around any point of frame., 9 AreaBlock of 9 (3x) areas among 49., Tracking and Face-Detect Contrast-Detect autofocus
- Optional Quick-AF
- Optional Direct Manual Focus (DMF) mode
- Optional MF-Assist magnification
- Optional Focus-Peaking
- Optional AF-Assist lamp
Display & Viewfinder
- 0.5" EVF, 2.4 Megapixels, 0.67X Magnification
- Eye-Start sensor, 2 sensitivities
- 3" LCD, 1 megapixels
- Rotating Touch-Screen LCD
- Optional Exposure-Priority Manual-Mode
- Optional Shutter-Speed Simulation-View
- Optional Composition-Guidelines, 3 types
- Optional Live-Histogram
- Optional Blinking-Highlight
- Auto, Bright and Dark display modes
- Adjustable brightness and contrast, 13 steps
- Adjustable color, 21 steps, 2 axis
- 4:3 Native aspect ratio
- 3:2, 16:9 & 1:1 cropped aspect ratios
- 16, 8 and 4 Megapixels modes
- JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG capture
- 2 JPEG Compression levels
- Multiple-Exposure mode
- Optional Auto-Gain for Multiple-Exposure
- Optional Contrast-Enhancement, 3 levels
- Optional Resolution-Enhancement, 4 levels
- Optional Vignetting Compensation
- Optional Face-Recognition
- Hot-Shoe for external lighting
- Sync-Port for off-camera lighting
- Stereo mini-jack audio input
- Stereo mini-jack audio output
- HDMI, 4K & 1080p output
- Optional 4K to 1080p down-scaling
- 4:2:2 Encoding, 10-bitsExternal only or 8-bits
- A/V (NTSC / PAL) output
- Wired-Remote connector
- USB 2.0 connector
- WiFi 802.11b/g/n
- Built-in NFC
- Triple Control-Dials
- Exposure-Mode and Drive-Mode dials
- Customizable AE-L/AF-L button
- 5 Customizable physical buttons
- 5 Customizable touchscreen buttons
- Lens Stabilization-Control, standard or panning
- Lithium-Ion battery
- SDXC memory
NOTE The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 resembles greatly its predecessor. Externally these cameras are nearly identical and most new features are related to video, most notable 4K which the GH3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 cannot capture. Those familiar with the GH3 and not inclined towards video may skip ahead to the performance page.
Capability - What can it do?
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 certainly has one of the most extensive feature-set of any digital camera to date. It may not have every possible feature, but it comes really close, particularly with regards to video. Among mirrorless cameras, the GH4 is one of the rare-few to be weather-sealed and is so built to a professional level.
The GH4 offers a complete set of manual-controls for both images and videos. With the large number of Micro Four-Third lenses available, this makes it suitable for the vast majority of photographic subjects. The weather-sealed body allows the GH4 to be used in rough weather as long as a weather-sealed lens is also used. The limitation here is that there are only a handful of such lenses available for Micro Four-Thirds mount.
Weather-sealed Four-Thirds mount lenses may be usable with a weather-sealed adapter which opens up a few more options. The only such adapter is made by Olympus which means that perfect compatibility is not assured. None of those lenses are stabilized either because Olympus relies on in-body stabilization, unlike the Panasonic GH4.
Low-light photography is possible with the GH4 given a top ISO of 25600 and shutter-speeds up to 60s. This is sufficient urban night photography, including light-trails and some light-painting. With bulb mode, shutter-speeds up to one hour can be used, giving considerably more low-light usability.
HDR capture is made easy by in-camera blending of three images taken at most 3 EVs apart and automatically aligned. This can be done by computer after taking the separate shots manually or as a bracket. The Panasonic GH4 supports AEB up to 7 frames with at most a 1 EV increment between frames, giving it exactly the same ±3 EV maximum range as built-in HDR.
This camera supports JPEG and RAW capture, or both simultaneously. It also offers extremely fine controls over the rendition of JPEG images. The tone-curve is adjustable independently for shadows and highlights, with 11 steps available for each. Contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise-reduction are also adjustable in 11 steps. All WB settings, including AWB and Custom, are fine-tunable along 2 axis in 19 steps. This lets users precisely fine-tune the look of images in-camera, instead of differing the work until later via RAW files.
The Panasonic GH4 offers an extensive set of drive-modes. The headline 12 FPS is twice its predecessor's top-speed. At that rate, focus is locked at the first frame. With continuous autofocus, the maximum drive is 7 FPS. Both of these are quite impressive. This Panasonic has a deep buffer which can hold up to 100 JPEG images or 40 RAW files.
There is both a Self-Timer and a Shutter-Delay available which are different and can be used in conjunction. To understand the distinction, it is important to know how mirrorless cameras operate. Since these cameras rely on Live-View, they must keep the shutter open for light to reach the sensor. To take a shot, the shutter must be closed first in order to discharge the sensor. It must then be opened again to capture a scene. The Self-Timer introduces a delay between the time the shutter-button is fully-pressed and the initial closing of the shutter. The Shutter-Delay introduces a delay between the initial closing of the shutter and its re-opening. This is why the preview on the LCD or EVF remains visible with the Self-Timer yet goes black with the Shutter-Delay. To best reduce vibrations, use the latter.
The Panasonic GH4 supports capturing a sequence of images for Time-Lapse and Stop-Motion. For the former, images are captured automatically at a predetermined interval and for a preset number of frames. The interval can be specified between 1 seconds and 99 minutes 59 seconds, the number of shots can be anywhere between 1 and 9999. Capture can start immediately or at the specified time within the next 24 hours. For the latter, images can be captured manually or automatically with an interval between 0 and 60 seconds.
There is an extremely well-implemented Multiple-Exposure feature that can merge up to 4 images together. As each image is taken, the total blended shot is previewed and the last image can be reshot any number of times until the user choose to advance to the next one. Once the number of desired shot is taken, the resulting image can be saved by exiting multiple-exposure mode.
This mirrorless camera has an extremely complex Contrast-Detect autofocus system. All the standard AF-Drive modes are available: AF-S, AF-C, MF and even DMF, which allows manual-focusing after autofocus has locked. Just turn the focus ring which automatically activates MF-Assist and zooms on the area around the focus-point.
There are 6 Focus-Areas to choose from: Face-Detect, Tracking, 49-Area, Custom-Multi, 1-Area and Pinpoint. Face-Detect requires an area to be selected. This area can be moved anywhere right up to the edge of the frame. It is also available in 8 sizes. Tracking starts with whichever subject is in the center of the frame and attempts to keep it in focus as along as it remains visible.
The 49-Area AF is unconventional named. It divides the frame into 49 areas, leaving a small empty border. The user is then required to select a 3x3 block among the 49 areas. The camera will then autofocus on any one area within the chosen block. On most digital cameras, this would be called 9-Area AF. This mode is very useful as it allows to choose an approximate region of autofocus.
The Custom-Multi autofocus mode really shows what Contrast-Detect AF is capable of. The basis is the same 7x7 grid of 49 areas as above from which users can select any number of those areas, contiguous or not. There are presets for contiguous horizontal and vertical bands which can be 1, 2 or 3 rows or columns. User-defined areas can be saved into one of 3 area memories.
The 1-Area AF mode works just as expected. It lets users select a single area among 49. As before, 8 area-sizes are available. Pin-Point works the same way expect that a point is selected rather than an area. Since Pin-Point AF is so precise, the GH4 automatically zooms on the area while performing autofocus. Without a doubt, this mirrorless camera offers the most sophisticated control over autofocus areas to date.
This Panasonic offers extensive video features. On top of recording 1080p video at 60 FPS, like its predecessor, the GH4 can record 4K video, also known as Ultra-HD. These videos are captured at 4X the resolution of full HD, giving 3840x2160 at the same 16:9 aspect-ratio or 4096x2160 when slightly wider. More compression is needed to record 4K to memory which we discuss in the performance page of this review.
Audio is an integral part of video. The GH4 supports both internal and external stereo sound recording. It can monitor audio by passing through the sound-track via a stereo line-out. The sound played can come directly from the microphone or from the audio-track of the video being recorded. There are 19 levels of sound-input, plus optional Wind-Cut and Lens-Cut filters to avoid recording unwanted noise.
The GH4 can also capture high-speed and low-speed video at 1080p. It can record at frame-rates between 2 and 96 FPS which are then played back at a normal 24 FPS. This gives up to 12X faster or 4X slower. As usual, there is no audio in such videos.
One of the major issue when filming on a digital camera is storage. Even large memory-cards fill-up fast. Many professionals therefore record a live-feed via HDMI. The GH4 supports this thoroughly. It offers 8-bit or 10-bit encoding with an optional 4K down-conversion in case the capture device is incompatible with such high-resolution. Video files can include a Time-Code to allow synchronization between multiple devices.
The GH4 has built-in WiFi and NFC capabilities. These make it possible to control the camera and transmit images wirelessly. Images can be played back on a compatible TV or sent as they are captured to a smartphone, personal computer, cloud storage, web service or connected A/V device.
Panasonic DMC-GH4 Highlights
Sensor-Size: 17 x 13mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|16 Megapixels Mirrorless||ISO 100-25600|
|Micro Four-Thirds Mount|
|0.50" Built-in EVF 2.4 Megapixels (0.67X)||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|Automatic Eye-Start sensor||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|2 Axis Digital Level||Spot-Metering|
|Weatherproof||Hot-Shoe & Sync-Port|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Stereo audio input|
|12 FPS Drive, 100 Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|4096x2160 @ 24 FPS Video Recording||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|3" LCD 1 Megapixels|
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