Panasonic’s GH4: video test and review

4K cameras

Lens choices

GH4 with 12-35mm f2.8
Panasonic’s pro lens options for the GH4 include a 35-100mm and the 12-35mm f2.8 shown here

The GH4 is well-balanced both with native Micro Four Thirds prime lenses, cine-style primes, such as those from DSLR Magic and Samyang, 35mm primes and Panasonic’s pro-spec zooms.

The camera handles less well with full-frame pro zooms due to their weight and size, and the need to use an adapter. A combination such as the Metabones Speedbooster and a Canon 24-120 f4 L or 24-70 f2.8 L, or a Nikkor 24-70 f2.8, pulls the camera’s centre of gravity forward.

That, along with the loss of (effective) AF and image stabilisation, prompted us to invest in Panasonic native lenses for most day-to-day work with the GH4, leaving the Metabones and, in our case, Nikkor, combination for specialist or faster lenses. The Panasonic 35-100 f2.8 in particular is a great lens, and produces a sufficiently out of focus background for most practical video applications.

If there is a weak spot in the Micro Four Thirds system, it is the lack of a fast, wide zoom – Panasonic’s 7-14mm is f4, and Olympus has yet to ship their f2.8 pro wide zoom. The GH4’s crop is 2x – compared to 35mm full frame – for 1080p video, and 2.3x for 4K – so for now, an option such as Samyang’s 10mm, Sigma’s 10-20mm f3.5 or Tokina’s increasingly hard to find 11-16mm f2.8 are the best options, even though the last two are not available in an M43 native mount.

Another consideration is how GH4 owners want to control manual focus. The standard system for manual focus on Micro Four Thirds is a “fly by wire” electronic system. This works perfectly well for autofocus and basic focus setting, but it doesn’t allow for repeatable manual focus.

Users of follow focus gears might prefer to use a truly manual lens, such as one of the Samyang models, or the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8, which has a true clutch for true manual focus.

Next: Video settings and controls