My next camera? A really professional combination for still+video producers.

Panasonic GH4.

You'll probably remember that I fell for the Panasonic G6 at the Photo Expo last Fall, bought one and then subsequently bought two of its big brother, the GH3. I have been using the GH3's for video and still work since November and I am convinced that it beats the video performance of any un-hacked DSLR currently in the market. The video is wonderful. And lately I've had the opportunity to compare the video output to much more expensive, dedicated video cameras and I've found the GH3 video to be close. Certainly competitive for all but the most rigorous and technically demanding programming. According to my friend, Frank, the difference between good video cameras may be less important than the difference that good versus mediocre lighting design...

At any rate I am happy with the GH3s and they've staved off my yearning for an OMD EM-1 by virtue of their dual photo/video nature. The one feature that would be nice to have in the GH3s would be the same kind of in body image stabilization that the top Olympus cameras feature. As for image quality I'm pretty sure that when I shoot in raw I can match files pretty evenly.

But here's the deal. I don't really need the GH4 just for video. The video in the GH3 will work fine for the next year or so of production. The market is shifting to 4K video but not so rapidly that we need shift today to stay relevant. No, the real reason to add one of the new cameras to inventory is the handful of improvements and additions Panasonic have made.

The two that come to mind for me as a still shooter are the improved shutter with 1/8000th of a second top speed and a faster sync speed: 1/250th versus 1/160th. The shutter life is also rated at twice the life of the GH3 or 200,000 actuations. 

As a videographer the major reason to add a GH4 is the accessory that interfaces with the body and gives one dual XLR inputs for professional microphones. It's a usability issue more than anything else. 

One thing I like about the introduction is that the basic camera body is largely the same as its predecessor. That means the buttons are all in the same place, there's good chance they didn't screw up the menus and that means I'll know my way around the camera from the minute I pull it out of the box. Maybe they'll even keep the same battery type. 

Should you get a Panasonic GH4? I guess it all depends on what you do with your cameras and where you are in your camera buying cycle. I'm definitely on board but it's because of the shift in my business. I'll be testing the heck out the camera to see just how much good still work I can squeeze out of the sensor before I dump the FF stuff I'm using for some portraits. But all in all I think the writing is on the wall. Smaller, faster, better and more workman-like than most of the cameras I've come across. Now, if we can just keep the price point under $1500. 

on an unrelated note: I will be speaking this evening at the state capitol. My speech ending up being positive and uplifting. Most of it is true. And wouldn't you know it, the schools are closed again today because of the freezing weather. It's 30 degrees (f) and there's no snow or ice anywhere. But they closed the schools just to be safe. Amazing and, even as a Texan I'll admit====it's downright wimpy. But ATPI tweeted that the conference is totally on and the classrooms are open and ready to go. It should be fun. 


John Krumm said...

Looks like they are getting pretty serious with the camera, which I think people appreciate, even if it means they lose a few sales to regular consumers. They also mention a slight DR gain with the new sensor, and a new kind of focusing system that sounds interesting. Plus the faster read with the electronic shutter should help stills shooters in some situations. All in all, very impressive sounding, like they checked off a big wishlist.

Frank Grygier said...

My only problem with the GH4 is I can't find a pre-order button anywhere!
If you don't believe the 4K thing just watch some of the sample videos.

Gato said...

Best of luck on your presentation. We'll be wanting to hear what you tell them and how they react.

I spent several years teaching photography back in the film days and have no idea what I would tell students today -- especially about the business.

The GH4 was only mildly interesting to me before I saw the audio interface add-on. That has me taking a closer look. No way I could justify it right now, but as a beginner in video I'm finding audio pretty challenging. This could solve some of my problems.

Carl Frederick said...

"Wimpy"? More like "Sissy" or "Sissified" I'd say. Thirty degrees is near short sleeve weather in most parts.


theaterculture said...

From what I've read, the add-on unit will give you 4k uncompressed video out and the ability to independently control the 2 audio channel levels, along with a 12v jack to allow you to connect the whole rig to mains power. Which means you can mix on the fly, run the feed straight to your scratch drive, and keep doing it all damn day...plus with all the "powerzoom" lenses for this system it would be theoretically possible to run the rig directly through the capture software.

Sounds to me like this is targeted at exactly the kind of person who is a studio wizard like yourself, but still wants to be able to go mobile. Looking forward to the "studio-motion-portraits"...

Dave said...

Lord help me I love nearly everything about what Panasonic does with the GH series. I was about to bite the bullet and "upgrade" from Nikon DX to 35mm but think I'll hold off. M43 has singularly kept me from "full frame" over the past 4 years. First by the size innovation (loved the Ep1) then the EVF progression and lens line up. As a Nikon DX shooter I can only envy the M43 lens line up. Add IBIS and the current generation 16MP sensor's performance and I have to wonder why I was thinking of going full frame. The only think Panasonic has missed on is not including a neutral density filter. I'd love one even when I'm shooting stills but for outdoor video its even more valuable.

Oly is out for me despite all the EM1 kudos as they consistently miss the boat on video.

Jim said...

Reading this brought back to mind a thought I had a few years ago. When the digital wave began a lot of the hype was around how much money would be saved by not buying film and paying for processing. But, given the shorten life cycle of cameras, in terms of obsolescence if not shutter actuations and the average higher cost for digital cameras, is it really just a shift to spending money on gear rather than film and processing? Kodak probably would have avoided bankruptcy had they developed their digital cameras and backed off film production.

I sympathize on the weather. My son lives in Austin. Austin isn't set up to deal with the kind of weather you are having lately. My son tells me he's had more 'snow days' off work lately than he used to have off from high school in NNY.

Anonymous said...

"notify me when in stock" is the only thing available at BH photo

available sometime in March?

Panasonic has really, really pumped up the video in the same size package as the GH3!! and much lower expected cost than Canon's offerings

Amazing Video/still camera

Michael R

Timothy Gray said...

Kirk, did you see this vertical grip which Panasonic plans to offer alongside the GH4?


Looks like Panasonic is VERY serious about video with this release.