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.