The GH4 – Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

It’s may seem odd that a big reason I ordered a Panasonic’s new GH4 unseen that it is not so different to my present GH3!

It’s easily explained in my case. I made no secret in my review of the GH3 that it was among best designed and most comfortable cameras I’d ever used, arguably the best. That’s high praise from me because I rate ease and pleasure of use of a camera just as highly as performance and in a long career I have always had access to the best equipment available.

So when I read that Panasonic were bringing out a new GH, it was a relief to see that they’d refrained from change for changes sake. And, lo and behold, when I picked up the GH4 in Jessup’s in London’s Oxford Street, it felt just the same as the GH3 I’d taken with me. In fact it is the same apart from a larger eyecup and a locking mode dial – and the GH4 logo, of course. It will even take exactly the same battery grip.
GH40001

Beneath the skin, there are many changes and almost everything has been upgraded. The new EVF is sharper and cleaner looking, the monitor is better, the drive mode is faster, the sensor is better, there is focus peaking, it uses the better Image App for remote control rather than the GH3s Lumix Link, so now the GH has the same remote control capabilities as the GX7 and GM1, namely live and full control of video.

Panasonic’s representative (whose name I should have but didn’t note) showing off the camera was very enthusiastic about it both on the video and the stills side and he knew the camera inside out. Which was just as well since all three of us in the shop looking at the camera at the time were professionals, two video and me for stills, and we were asking questions that would have had anyone with less than encyclopedic knowledge of the thing floundering.
GH40002

We all three had expected the camera to come in closer to the £2,000 mark, I thought probably £1,800 so the actual price of just under £1,300 was a welcome surprise. The video man thought that for a camera with 8k capability, it was a bargain. I’ll take his word for it, since the extent of my video knowledge is my YouTube channel. What I’m glad about is that the 8k video hasn’t pushed the price up to make the GH4 too expensive for a stills photographer.

One of the video people had a Canon full frame DSLR with a standard f2.8~f4 lens and it was enlightening for me. I had forgotten the sheer bulk of those things. There’s me thinking of this as a big camera and for him it feels like a compact! I did think it was interesting that there was so much interest from professionals in the camera, though. The professional market will never be big enough to make a camera’s fortune but it does act as a powerful marketing tool for a maker’s other cameras. If it’s good enough for the pros it’s good enough for me is the mantra of many an amateur. In reality, I have met amateurs who give their cameras a much harder time than most pros. Off topic but I do hate the pejorative way that ‘amateur’ can be used in English. I always use it in the sense of someone who takes pictures for the love of it. Competance and talent are not only invested in those who do it for a living.
GH40003

The decision to order a GH4 wasn’t a foregone conclusion for me at all. There is nothing about my GH3 that I feel needs to be better or holds me back. The IQ was plenty good enough for my purposes, I don’t particularly need faster sequence shooting, I had no problems with the viewfinder. What made it a slam dunk was that the body remained the same while almost everything else was improved, the electronic shutter readout and EVF refresh rate sped up, that kind of thing. Even so, if the price had been £2,000 or even £1,800 I’d have stuck with my GH3.

As it is, gimme, gimme, gimme!

14 thoughts on “The GH4 – Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

  1. Martyn

    Hi David,

    Please can you let me know how you find the DFD focussing system, in particular how well it tracks moving subjects. My hope is that the GH4 can track moving subjects, such as the Red Arrows, at least as fast as a Canon 6D (using the centre point). I nearly bought a GH3 last year but bought an E-M1 which turned out to be faulty, then bought a 6D which I find a cumbersome.

    Kind regards,

    Martyn

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Hi Martyn

      I’ve used the DfD system for a while now and it seems a good improvement on the GH3. Not perfect, though and seems to need to gather itself every 5 or 6 frames. That’s at 7fps. which is pretty fast. I’s expect it to track something like the Red Arrows easily. It’s just so hard to test these things! I’ve tried it on the birds around here bit they are swifts and fly so fast and erratically that I can’t even get them in the viewfinder, let alone have the camera focus!

      Reply
  2. Mark Rychel

    I felt slightly abandoned with my GH3. I thought that Panasonic could have added a feature or two through firmware updates. Which they did not. They always seem to be off to the next big thing
    Most of the video I do is limited to web presentations and I am not sure that 4k video will catch on due to file size and bandwidth.
    I was surprised you jumped so early as I felt and enjoy you reviews to be very practical. I will be interested in your review of the GH4

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      There’s various of reasons I ordered the GH4 – all more or less practical.

      First is that GH4 is coming with a free battery grip and spare battery, which since I like to have both these items is more or less a £300 discount. It means I can sell my GH3 and battery pack separately, so costs me less to buy the new one.

      Second, I write a book on the menu systems of the new Panasonic cameras, which I could do, I suppose, from a download of the manual but I think it is unfair on anyone who buys the book if I haven’t tried and fully understood all the new items myself.

      Third, I need hands on time with the camera to get to know it before I do a review. It takes time and although I know there are reviewers who can do what they do after a few days with a camera, I really need to take it out and not so much test it but actually use it. That way I find what I use and what I don’t sort of organically. For example, in the shop the Panasonic guy showed me the new face mode that tracks the face and within that their nearest eye to the camera. I haven’t used face mode in the past because it was clunky but because the new camera has such a large chunk of 4 core processing power, it appeared to work very well. But until I try it under various practical conditions, I can’t be sure. I find I need about a month to feel familiar and confident enough to do the review entirely on my own thoughts.

      Fourth, they haven’t changed the camera physically so in terms of buying something I might not like, I was taking no risk.

      Neither Panasonic or Olympus acknowledge my emails let alone answer them. I really hate these big anonymous corporate monsters but they do produce great cameras. So, in the end, I either pay for the things and use them…..or no more reviews.

      I know what you mean about feeling abandoned but the beasts have to be fed and we fund their food. Plus, I suppose they’d say tha the GH3 doesn’t work any less well when a new model comes. In the end, though, we don’t justy feel abandoned, we are abandoned.

      Reply
  3. Roy Norris

    Hi David,
    As you say, the GH3 is an amazing camera to hold and use. I still get amazed at some of the shots I pull off with it through the (arguably) not the best of the bunch 100-300 lens. With the 2 pro lens there is nothing to complete with it.
    I will have to stick with the GH3 for quite a while as I doubt that my ‘Accountant’ {:)) will approve at this stage.
    I to am looking forward to your Youtube review on the GH4 hope some of the images and background include views from the Languedoc, (although no bare knees please).

    Reply
  4. pete

    IF Panny had put decent continuous autofocus in it I’d have been on it 🙂

    Hope you enjoy it!

    Reply
    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Hi Pete I’ll be interested to try the DFD focus system. The autofocus on the GH3 and GX7 are so fast that it seems instantaneous, so any improvement on that is welcome but not exciting. Whether the new system will have any influence on the continuous focusing I don’t know but it’ll be interesting to see. I like with the GX7 how it will focus in absurdly low light by slowing down the focusing and thus avoiding all the hunting in and out. It does seem that continuous focus will be the Achilles heel of the sytemm for a while yet, though. I fooled around with an E-M1 the other day and it didn’t strike me as being noticeably better than my E-Pl5 or Panasonics.

      Yes, I’m sure I’ll enjoy the camera. As I said in the blog, if the camera had been as expensive as I thought it would be, I’d have not bothered but as it is, with selling the GH3 and a few other bits and bobs it won’t cost that much.

      Reply
      1. Pete

        i’ve used a Nikon V1 and for continuous auto focus it is much faster…….

        i have no problem with how quick the gx7 it is on single focus.

        The camera I want is a G7 with the GX7 sensor and the continuous AF of the Nikon 🙂 don’t want much. I have a G6 purely because when I bought the new 14-140 the cash back offer made the body lens combo the same price as lens only…. go figure!

        Reply
        1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

          I love those deals! I bought an Olympus body with a deal and sold the three inducements (one was the 140-150 for £50) and an old GF body, giving me a free E-PL5.

          Why is the continuous autofocus of the Nikon better? What does it do to be faster?

          Reply
          1. Pete

            well it tracks focus of a bird like a dSLR didn’t seem to miss. the pannies don’t follow back and forth motion that well…..

          2. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

            Interesting piece, Frank, thanks. It says that the Nikon 1 is good in good light so it should be possible to do the same thing with MFT. It gets so complicated at certain points that just can’t really follow. I understand the gist of what it all means but the detail is something else. If Nikon can do it, why can’t MFT makers? And why (according to the piece) can’t Canon?

  5. G Gudmundsson

    Very interesting. I’m also thinking about this camera to complement my ‘small’ camera the GX7.

    I had the GM1 but sold it, because there comes a point where small is too small. The GM1, a wonderful camera, fits in that category, IMO. Also, it’s small, but not really in the pocket small, so you need a bag, and if you need a bag, why not use the GX7 that has an EVF and better controls to change settings. (The Sony RX100 is still the only small camera. Had it, and sold it. Too small. 🙂

    Anyway, thanks for the writeup… look forward to your video-review … I’m currently saving for the 35-100 f/2.8 and then the GH4 and then the 12-35 f/2.8… …

    love this hobby…

    Cheers!

    Reply

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