Panasonic’s GH4: video test and review

4K cameras

Video settings and controls

GH4 video controls rear
The GH4’s touch screen controls several of the video functions including peaking, zebras and here, histograms

In this review, we will focus on video recording. There are enough other reviews that cover the stills capabilities of the GH4 in more detail than we can here. It is sufficient to say that the GH4 is better than the GH3 in all main respects for stills.

Our preference for a stills camera, or for a camera that will earn its keep shooting both stills and video, would still be a full-frame DSLR or a top-end APS-C camera, such as the Nikon D7100 or the newly-released Canon 7D mkII. That has more to do with ergonomics, lens choice and system support than the relative merits of Micro Four Thirds or other sensor sizes for pro shooting.

Instead, the GH4 is a mirrorless camera system that excels at video, and can take perfectly good stills when it is asked to, especially in good to average light.

What makes the GH4 stand out, even among cameras twice its price, is its support for pro or broadcast spec video bitrates, its variable framerates – providing a very useable HD slow and quick motion feature – and of course its 4K recording. The GH4 can record 4K in UHD resolution at 25 and 30fps, as well as cine 4K, at 23.98 fps.

The GH4 comes well equipped with controls for filming. There is focus peaking – which also works in stills mode – and peaking and a histogram for exposure. The GH4 generates timecode, and timecode (rec run or free run) can be displayed on the screen, along with audio level meters. Timecode input is only possible via the YAGH adapter, and the adapter also provides audio level read outs via coloured LEDs.

The GH4 can produce colour bars and a 1K test tone, and there are two gamma settings: Cinelike D and Cinelike V (although, as yet, no Log mode: Panasonic has said one is under development). There’s also a gauge to check the camera is level. Users can set the luminance level, and adjust sharpening – although there is no way to switch off sharpening entirely.

Bitrates and recording formats are set via the main menus, and there are several options for the HDMI output, including turning the clean output on or off, and selecting automatic downconversion to 1080p from 4K. The camera can output 4:2:2 8 bit when recording internally, or 4:2:2 10 bit without internal recording; a firmware update is due from Panasonic which will allow the GH4 to output more formats, including 1080p25 and 30 over HDMI, and PSF over the SDI sockets on the YAGH.

The GH4 can also handle multiple framerates, ranging up to four times overcranking, giving 96fps in 24p mode (and in practice, 3x for PAL 25p) for slow motion, and corresponding quick motion rates. These modes are limited to 1080p, but this still represents a leap forward from most standard broadcast camcorders, which can only record slow motion at 720p.

Next: Gearing up for 4K