Please Sir, My Brain Is Full!

There’s a Gary Larson cartoon showing a kid in class with his hand up and he’s simply stating as a matter of fact to his teacher the title I’ve used on this blog. ‘Please, sir, my brain is full’.

I know how he feels. I’ve just taken delivery of my Panasonic GH4. It looks just like my GH3. But when I go to change the mode dial it won’t move. Well, you locked it, dummy! I did? You pushed that button in the middle didn’t you?  Well that locked it. Obviously. No not obviously. The GH3 didn’t have one of those. I never missed not having a lock there but  this must be better because they wouldn’t have put it there otherwise, would they? Must remember it’s there.

OK, Let’s have a look at that 4k video everyone’s talking about. Oh, it’s greyed out in AVCHD. MP4 then? No, not there. Aaah! of course. MP4(LPCM), that must be it. Whatever LPCM is. Maybe it’s Latin for 4k. No, no luck! MOV? No, still greyed out. Must be USA only. I’ll try switching to NTSC. No, not there either.

Actually, I never wanted 4k anyway. It’s a really stupid idea. I’ll use MP4 1920×1080, 50.00p image sensor output 50.00p 200Mbps, ALL INTRA LPCM. I bet that’s good. Anything with a name that long must be good. I wonder what it means?

Never mind the video. I’ll take a look at the highlight/ shadow, iDynamic and iResolution.  Should I have the AF/AE Lock as  AE Lock, AF Lock, AF/AE Lock or AF-ON and shall I have AF/AE Lock Hold on or off?

That’s all for one – yes one –  button on the back of the camera in the middle of a 3 way switch which itself has  4 settings with each setting having up to 6 settings of its own. By  my calculations that is something  in the order of…….well I can’t work it out but it must be thousands of possibilities. For one 3 way switch on the back of the camera!

The menu has 32 pages with 5 items on most pages. Each item may have sub menus of its own. The GH4  – or any other equally sophisticated competitor has  configuration possibilties running into millons. I’m writing for effect here of course but I’m making a serious point. The choices available are overwhelming.

I write books on the Panasonic menus which means I have to mug up on and use every item Yet even so, when using the camera myself I have to look things up. If someone like me, handling the camera extensively on a day to day basis can’t remember or understand what  everything is for and does, what hope for someone who only gets the chance for a few hours every weekend?

The reality is, no-one will get to grips – or need to – with every parameter available. Like Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop, no individual user will need many more than 10% of the myriad options.

I have certain basic scenarios for which I use my camera so the first thing I do is go through the menus and  set it up for each in turn, saving it to Custom 1, 2 and 3. For example, Custom 1 is my main shooting mode, RAW only, 4:3 aspect, Aperture priority f4, Electronic Shutter, ISO 200,  Adobe RGB.

Custom 2 is similar but 16:9, JPG, Small, sRGB, for stills for my YouTube videos. Other parameters like AF modes, burst rate, self timer I set to my most used settings and alter on the fly, having set them to function buttons.

There are some functions I ignore, Highlight Shadow, for example because I prefer to alter curves in Lightroom. However, for a woman friend who buys and sells jewellery and needs pictures for her web site, the Highlight Shadow  item is ideal and I have set it for a light highlight boost to spice up the sparkle of the stones and the white of the backing paper. Since she rarely uses the camera for anything else I set this to Custom 1 for her and advised her to use Intelligent Auto otherwise.

One way and another as I gain experience with these cameras, I more and more respect the designers and engineers. Far from being over-complicated, something like the GH4 is as complicated as it needs to be to fulfill the varied needs of different photographers. Where in film days we bent ourselves to fit the camera, now we can bend the camera to fit our needs.

A luxury, yes. Unnecessary? Perhaps. But in the day of the mobile phone it’s what we are used to and expect. When I’ve finished setting it up, my GH4 will be my video camera, my YouTube camera, my stock photography camera and my product shot camera.

Oh yes, and  when I’m at my aunty’s birthday party and ask the waiter to snap a picture of us all, it’s my modern day box brownie, all at the turn of a knob.



As long as I can remember to unlock the knob, of course.


19 thoughts on “Please Sir, My Brain Is Full!

  1. Randy Heinsman

    I got the GH4 several months ago and have spent a great deal of time searching through the menus but continue to learn new things every day. But I recently encountered a problem I can’t find an answer for. I have the Panasonic Image App and have used the remote control function some, but what I would really like is to be able to simply view the image on my iPad as I am taking them. The Playback mode in the Image App is ok for viewing pictures after a shoot but I would like to be able to see a larger image on my iPad as I take the pictures. I was able to do this with my G5 and a wireless SD card so I figured there must be a simple way to do the same thing with the GH4’s wi-fi function. Can you help me out?

    1. Post author

      Hi Randy. The Image App is designed to give you full control over the camera in both still and video shooting from the pad or phone. When the App opens up, it sometimes starts in playback mode but on the bottom left of the app on screen you should see Live Control. Touch that and you will see the camera image and all the controls.
      One thought – have you got the newest Image App, the one for the GX7 and GH4? The old one let you control the GH3 but only view the GH4. The new one is designed for the latest cameras. Let me know how you get on.

    1. Post author

      You can only have 4K when the mode dial is set to Creative Movie. It can’t be set in a Custom Mode (it can be written to a Custom mode from CM, of course). 4K is only available in MP4 and MOV, not AVHCD and the full cinema mode 4K is only available in 24fps Cinema mode.

  2. Matt

    Thanks alot! That works! Im an ex canon user so still getting to grips. Youd be amazed how many people ive asked who doesn’t know. Cheers!!

    1. Post author

      I’m glad that worked. Cameras now are getting like Photoshop or Word, where any given user only uses about 10% of the settings on offer.

  3. Matt

    Hi. I’m really stumped with this. I want to set C1 to shoot 4k. C2 to shoot 96fps. But these two options seem to not be available in the custom dial menu? Do you know what im doing wrong?

    1. Post author

      Hi Matt. You are probably trying to set 4k with the Mode Dial set to C1 etc. That’s the problem. You should set the camera up how you want it with the Mode Dial set to Movie (beside C1). Then go to the Custom Menu and record it to the C setting you want. That’s the proper way to record all custom settings, actually.
      96fps is only available at certain quality settings. You just need to scroll through the quality settings in the two MP4 formats and Mov until VFR available appears at the bottom of the technical data list.

  4. paul stuart

    hello david a good intro to gh4 ,i hope you do a quick guide manual for this one as well ,i have recently purchased a gh4 a brilliant camera everything my gh3 should of been ,better everything almost other than the body which is essentially the same ,a good thing in my view .yes 4k is there but cinema 4k must be selected in the frequency ,and camera has to be turned off and on again select pal/ntsc or 24.00hz cinema for 4k boy this camera is going to be confusing also check out the video variable frame rate 96fps for slow motion ,i think its brilliant ,oh your correct to use 50p mp4 its very good i use this setting on my gx7 and at least you can edit it to slow motion if required ,4k 25/24p looks horrible in slow motion .

    1. Post author

      Hi Paul – yes, at the moment I feel the GH4 is a step up all round on the GH3 but conversely one of the best things about it is that it is physically so similar to the GH3, which I felt couldn’t easily bettered. I did actually sus out that 4k was cinema mode only but I was writing for effect so didn’t let on. It certainly confused me at first, though!
      I use the 50p MP4 because it is a good compromise setting but I’m glad to hear you use it too since video is not my area of expertise, much as I enjoy shooting it. Yes, I’ll do a book on the GH4. It must be very daunting for someone with little experience of photography. Having said that, the iAuto is frighteningly good.
      The thing that has struck me most about the GH4 is the focusing. It’s not so much that it is faster since the GX7 and GH3 are lighting fast already. But the GH4 feels much more confident or sure-footed, I can’t exactly describe it but it just goes ch! and it’s locked.

      1. Pete

        yep I agree it feels a tadge more “confident” than the GX7. it just does it.

        it also feels better balanced with the majority of the zooms 7-14 12-35 14-140 and 100-300 for instance than any other m4/3 i’ve used (not used GH3) and the viewfinder is lovely

        Curiously the other day I decided to do one of those one camera one focal length days. and I realised how much fun the GX7 and 20 f1.7 were. For street photography for me the Gx7 and 15 and 25 would be better than the GH4. Horses for courses

        1. Post author

          Funnily enough, I went out with the GX7, 17 f1.8 and 45 f1.8 lenses yesterday, having hammered the GH4 for the past month to get a review together. The GX felt really good, light, handy and as you say, fun to use. What’s nice is that smaller or not, you have the same image quality.

  5. Robby

    Thanks for the insight. I have the GH2 and the menus and settings took a while. I have been browsing the GH4 menu for 2 weeks as I wait patiently for the GH4 to arrive. I couldn’t see the benefit in the locked wheel as I have never moved it accidentally. I have had it on the wrong setting but never moved it while using it.

    1. Post author

      The GH4 will take a bit of getting used to from the GH2 because a lot has changed but it’s all within Panasonic’s usual approach to their cameras and there is a GH2 embedded in the GH4, as it were. I like that because it means that your previous learning curves contribute to the new camera.

      I never felt the need for a locking knob on the GH2/ GH3 either but given that I use the same basic settings most of the time, set to Custom 1, locking it on and knowing that it will be there when I take it out of the bag is OK with me. I presume that Panasonic must have had feedback that a lock was necessary which means there must be quite a few ham-fisted photographers out there!

      1. Rob H

        Hi David

        When using the Panasonic Image App what is the actual resolution of the remotely displayed camera image?

        With an iPad Retina display (or equivalent on a larger android tablet) the resolution easily exceeds that of the camera’s own screen but other factors, such as lag and data rate over WI-FI, may limit this potential. The image is scaled to fit the larger device but does it do this by replicating/interpolating camera pixels (as displayed on the camera screen) making them physically larger/blockier, can it use the highest native remote display device resolution or something between these 2 limits?

        Thanks in advance – I own a Panasonic G6 but haven’t bought an iPad or tablet yet and this could shape my decision.

        1. Post author

          Hi Rob
          The camera puts out a VGA 640px480 image which displays at that resolution on my iPad 2, ie covers around half the screen width since the ipad 2 has 1024px768 res. The retina iPad will simply double the pixels, so the image app will look the same on both screens. it won’t look blockier because the displayed image will be the same 1/2 screen size. Basically, the camera and image app remain the same whatever platform they re run on and the leave it to the device’s operating system to sort out how it will be displayed.

          I find that the simple fact that the image is physically bigger makes the difference even if it is less resolution than the camera monitor or EVF. There must be a limitation due to the wifi speeds and I guess it is better to put out a reliable lower res images than a less reliable 1024×768. In actual fact, it streams video as it is being shot quite smoothly and plays it back from the camera seamlessly. The app does warn you each time that the qulality of video playback is dependent upon your device.

          1. Rob H

            Thanks David

            I had a feeling that it would be too good to be true; that the remotely displayed image could be rendered at far higher resolution (than on the camera/in the EVF) using a larger tablet/iPad. I was toying with the idea of using one of the devices below:

            iPad mini Retina display – 7.9″ diagonal , 1536 x 2048 resolution, 326 PPI

            Kindle HDX 8.9 display – 8.9″ diagonal, 1600 X 2560 resolution, 339 PPI

            Just imagine not needing to use the magnify function, for critical focus applications, if the image was being rendered at 1600 X 2400, on the latter device! However, it is still amazing that wireless tethering, for viewing and control, is actually available as a free app.

          2. Post author

            You have a great attitude, Rob, one I try to cultivate. Don’t let what you can’t have blind you to what you do have. Keep in touch.

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