My friends at Texas Media Systems received their Panasonic GH4 shipment the day before I left for my trip to Budapest, Hungary, it just happened to be perfect timing. I was also lucky enough to have a few extra days before my workshop so I knew I would be able to do some testing. I’m also trying to constantly learn new techniques and improve my shooting so this was a chance to try hyperlapses.
As most of you know my main workhorse cameras are the Canon C100/300because of their image, lowlight, size and versatility. I use these cameras on 90% of our projects. I also own a GH3, Black Magic Pocket Camera and Black Magic 4k that I use on some projects
To be honest the reason I purchased the GH4was to put on my DJI EVO S800 hexacopter. I’m currently using the GH3 since that is the camera my gimbal takes, with the GH4 being the same size I knew it would be a worthwhile upgrade. So in order to prepare to use it I wanted to test out various settings to see how to get the best image out of this little beast. I packed the GH4 along with my Panasonic 12-35 f/ 2.8 IS lens, this is my go to lens with my GH3. One thing that I have always enjoyed about Panasonic cameras is the color pallet as it has a shift towards yellow/orange and produces nice landscape colors as well as skin tones.
Before I get to far into this I want to say that this is not a scientific test, no charts were setup, no calculated DR test done. This is me using my eye as a DP and opinions on what I like. Everyone has different likes/dislikes, needs and purpose for their cameras. So take this as an experienced users thoughts.
The first thing I did was to test out various codecs and frame rates. I knew that I was only looking to use the 24p 4k setting as well as the high-speed 96fps, so that is where I started. I immediately noticed that 96fps was really soft in comparison to the 24p 1080, and especially soft to 4K. I tested this shooting wide scenery from my hotel balcony, as these scenes are the hardest to resolve, here is the short little test of my findings –
My first thought was that the GH4’s 1080 footage looked the same as my GH3. It was a bit soft as most DSLRs are, but the 4K footage looked amazing! It was sharp and resolved all the fine detail in the scene, the only other DSLR that currently does this is the Canon 1DC.
The next thing I wanted to do was test the color profile’s to see what would work best. I prefer to have flat image that will give me as much dynamic range as possible and then color in post. This allows me to capture high contrast scenes as well as have lots of post color grading options. I found that the Cinelike D looked best for me, I adjusted a few of the Cinelike D settings to fine-tune the look. Contrast to – 5, sharpness to -3, saturation to -2, now it was looking pretty nice but I was still not getting the dynamic range I wanted.
This is when I discovered the “Highlight Shadow” setting; this setting is basically a curves function then gives you additional control over the highlights and shadows. I played with a few different options until I settled on -5 highlights and +2 shadows.
The last setting I adjusted was the “Luminance Level” it comes set at 16-235 and I wanted more range so I changed it to 0-255.
Once I had made these adjustments the look of the camera was really feeling great. The DR of the log setting I created looked the same as my C100 so I was ready to set out and do some filming. I packed my Lowerpro backpack with the camera and attached my Benro carbon tripod and my Freefly Systems MoVi 10 to the outside. Over the next 3 days I walked around Budapest filming lots of different things that caught my eye. It was a lot of fun to put the GH4 though the paces while at the same time seeing many of this beautiful cities landmarks. The MoVi was awesome for getting those flying shots as I was walking around, I even had a few people ask me if it was a MoVi which was cool. But a lot of people looked at me as if I was crazy haha. The MoVi is such a versatile tool because you can use it for moving shots or even just hold it still to create a monopod/tripod style shot. I used the tripod mostly for doing the Hyperlapses, this was my first attempt and I learned a lot quickly. They are not perfect but I’ll be ready to improve for the next time I do them. I will do a separate how-to write up about those later.
So before I give my final thoughts on the camera, check out the short film “Budapest Cityscape” I created. Everything was filmed with the GH4 and Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 lens.
Music – marmosetmusic.com – “Dusk” by Marmoset
While using the camera I noticed lots of things, and I thought it would be best to create a pros and cons list. Every camera is a tool, and each of them has a place. Although this camera does create a great image, it does have its issues.
– Beautiful 4K image, rivals the look of Canon C100, 1DC, Black Magic 4K
– Great resolution, sharpness and image texture
– Small and light
– Great DR
– Lots of fine tuning profile adjustments
– 100/200 mbit codec
– Did not have banding issues with blue skies or gradients
– No aliasing or moiré in 4k
– AF function is quick, has face detection
– Built in timelapse function
– HDR function that combines photos
– 1080 is soft and resolves little detail
– 96fps is soft, but works well in MED/CU scenes
– Micro 4/3 sensor, hard to get shallow DOF, extreme wide lenses, bad in low light
– Low light is terrible, anything over 1600 iso is unusable, too noisy and blocky
– LCD screen isn’t too sharp, hard to manual focus
So what do I think about this camera? I think it creates amazing images, is it perfect, no. Personally for me I will use it mostly for my aerial rig because the image will cut in nicely with the C100/300. But it will also make a great B/C camera for shoots as well as a great travel camera when I need to pack light. The GH4is pretty freaking amazing for how small it is, I can’t wait to shoot more with it and get it on my DJI EVO S800 this weekend. Thanks for checking out the video and my thoughts.