Update on March 10, 2014: Pricing and availability has been announced. The GH4 will go on sale in May. The body will cost $1,700 – more expensive than we thought, but still an attractive price. The optional Video Adapter (DMW-YAGH) interface unit that docks with the camera will cost $2,000. The older GH3 will still be available for sale.
Update on February 11, 2014: Panasonic has posted a 4K video on YouTube, shot with two Lumix GH4 cameras and various Micro Four Thirds lenses. The film was made by documentary filmmaker Bryan Harvey, and was shot in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. See the video below. (h/t SlashGear)
Panasonic has big ambitions for its new mirrorless flagship, the Lumix GH4 – Hollywood studio big. It’s calling the camera the “world’s first Digital Single Lens Mirrorless (DSLM) with 4K video recording capability.” Panasonic is targeting this high-end Micro Four Thirds camera toward pro filmmakers who utilize equipment like this for a living, as well as advanced hobbyists looking to create
The GH4 looks and feels similar to its predecessor, the GH3. But to push the GH4 to the next level, Panasonic said it had to overcome the weaknesses while pursuing quality. The areas the company concentrated on were image quality, autofocus, burst mode, live viewfinder, shutter speed, operation, and durability.
The new sensor is based on the one in the GH3, but it has been enhanced for fast readout speed for 4K.
The Venus Engine image processor has also been enhanced. Using a quad-core CPU, it can deliver the fast signal processing required for 4K. The processor also pushes ISO up to 25,600, and the burst mode to 12 frames per second. Cameras usually choke when you try to go into the high ISOs, but Panasonic says the processor was designed to handle low-noise performance. The processor also has advanced noise-reduction for a cleaner picture. “Sensitivity, gradation performance, resolution, and color reproduction are dramatically improved to achieve even higher picture quality.”
With the sensor and processor, Panasonic has turned the GH series from a still camera into a moviemaking machine (although there are many users who are already shooting movies with Lumix cameras). It can shoot in two 4K modes, Cinema
The GH4 has a 49-point contrast autofocus system, with Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus (DFD) tech that shortens the autofocusing time to a fast 0.07 seconds – demonstrating how much of an improvement the AF systems in mirrorless cameras have achieved in recent years. Panasonic has also added focus peaking to help users who prefer to focus manually (by showing the peak of focus as you adjust). In addition to the 3-inch vari-angle OLED display, the GH4 has a bright OLED viewfinder (Panasonic calls it the Live View Finder, or LVF) that’s incredibly responsive and accurate when we gave it a whirl during a press briefing. As we expected, electronic viewfinders in high-end cameras will become as responsive and useful as their optical counterparts, and the GH4’s didn’t disappoint. The GH4 has a highlight and shadow control function that lets you make those adjustments via live view.
The GH4 is completely weather sealed, including the areas around the dials and buttons.
As mentioned, we had a chance to check out an engineering sample of the GH4. Panasonic demonstrated both still and video quality of the GH4. As a photo camera, the samples we saw were great. Our colleagues were able to notice very minute details like blown highlights, coloring, etc., but for most users, the image quality should look very good. Considering that the GH4 is a major advancement over the GH3, that’s to be expected. With the GH4 in our hands, it felt like any high-end (but large) mirrorless camera we’ve played with in recent months. It had the solid DSLR-like feel, with all the buttons and controls where you’d expect it. Video quality was equally impressive: Panasonic demonstrated video on a 2K and 4K display, and you can really point out the clarity and details of the
Panasonic won’t reveal the price and availability until sometime in March. If we were to guess, based on the hints thrown around, this camera may cost less than $1,500 for the body, perhaps even lower. Panasonic is comparing the GH4 to other popular moviemaking cameras like the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, as well as new 4K cameras like the Sony FDR-AX1, so it’s pretty serious about the GH4 as a pro camera. It’d be interesting to see what the actual pros will think about using the GH4 for movie production. As for general consumers, the GH4 might be an overkill, but if the price is right, it could be an attractive still and video camera for any user.
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