Panasonic GH4 Hands-On Field Test

  By Jordan Drake

Chris and Jordan had the chance to check out an almost final version of the hugely exciting Panasonic GH4. Find out our thoughts on this beast of a camera, in 4K!

– Shot by Jordan Drake, Ryan HK and Nicole Santerre
– Edited by Jordan Drake
– Filmed on the Panasonic GH4 and Sony FS700
– Special thanks to Adam Mudry, Ryan HK and Nicole Santerre

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I see a lot of very cool photo and video gear every day, so it’s not often that something is announced that gets me really excited to field test it. The GH4, however, seemed to check every box I could think of for a stills/video hybrid. So, while I’m still waiting on a production copy of the camera, I jumped at the chance to put a pre-production unit through its paces to get a good feel for the camera.

My first experiment was designed as a standard production environment, with controlled lighting and camera movement to see how the GH4 would fare on set. Local cinematographer Ryan HK was good enough to come out, light the shoot, bring some much needed grip equipment, and shoot a few shots himself. Initially, I was planning to jump back and forth between the drum kit and operating the camera, but at the last moment one of my oldest timiest friends Adam Mudry was able to come out and fill the drum throne.

The shoot went extremely well, aside from our sample unit not having a functional headphone jack. I checked levels constantly, but I was terrified of having the mic cable come loose and having to manually sync all 16 different camera angles manually. Fortunately, the audio was captured perfectly. The shoot was lit with 3 Lumahawk 500 AVL lights, a Fiilex P360 and a Fiilex P180E. In order to film at the base ISO of 200, we used fast lenses, the Sigma 35mm F1.4, Rokinon 24mm T1.5 and old Sigma 20mm F1.8. The behind the scenes was shot on the Sony FS700 with a Tamron 24-70 F2.8. I was delighted with how the footage looks, and I was surprised at how flexible the files were in post, I was able to grade them quite a bit without the image falling apart. Here’s the video on its own for your viewing pleasure:

For the field test proper, our shooting situation was much more demanding. The light was very harsh and we had a lot of content to cover. It was also pretty intimidating for me, as I am rarely on camera, and even then, never for long periods of time. I was also trusting my coworker Nicole Santerre with filming the video, and I struggle with giving up the steering wheel to anyone else. Fortunately, Nicole did a great job and the focus and audio were never an issue.

There were plenty of things I wanted to test that were not yet functional on my unit. Panasonic was unable to get me one of their new UHS-3 cards, so I could not test any of the 200Mbps internal recording modes. Also, the HDMI and SDI out was not functioning, so I could not take a look at the 1080 10bit 4:2:2 and 4K 10 bit 4:2:2. I’m also really looking forward to testing the continuous AF, and high ISO performance in stills. Stay tuned for our follow up video where we dig into the GH4 with more detail.

I was excited when the GH4 was announced, but I feel like I underestimated it. With the Blackmagic Production Camera showing up around the same time, I feel like the GH4 has completely overshadowed it. I’m looking forward to running some more tests soon, but my initial impression is that the GH4 is the most well thought-out video package on the market.