Reviewing The GH4

My Panasonic GH4 review was about the most difficult one I’ve ever done and I confess to feeling a sense of relief when I finally uploaded it to my channel.

I was tempted to review the 4 as an upgrade to the 3 but that wouldn’t mean much to someone who hadn’t owned a GH3.  On the other hand, much of what the camera offered was in the nature of an upgrade.  After a couple of weeks using the camera day in and day out, the temptation went. The camera looked the same, yes. But it didn’t feel the same in use. The tweaks and additions that on the surface were mere updates, when added together made the whole more than the sum of its parts and I started to view the GH4 as a new camera. A start, at least!

Most of what I had read about the GH4 was highly technical in nature, the 4k video and Depth from Defocus, the faster sensor readout. The trouble is, I can’t read the techs and specs, test what they do and write a review based on how sharp  4k video is and how much faster DfD is. I can’t force a review. All I can do is keep using the camera until I get a feeling for it at which point a review seems to start writing itself.

It took a bit longer than usual with the GH4 because in the hand it felt physically so similar – identical, in fact – to the GH3.  But the similarities served eventually to highlight the differences, not mask them. Not only does the GH4 incorporate just about every facility known to modern MFT camera technology in both stills and video, it has them in state of the art form. (What it lacks it lacks because it can’t be done. For example, You cannot have top quality video with a largish sensor without generating heat. That means a big heat sink behind the sensor. That means no superb Olympus 5 way image stabilization which requires a lightweight sensor assembly for obvious reasons).

Technical excellence isn’t enough to make a camera desirable, though. The beauty of the GH4 is that by putting it in the  GH3 body they’ve combined what nowadays qualifies as the ‘old’ (less than 2 years!) with the new.  My personal opinion was that the GH3 was the best handling camera I’d ever owned. That opinion is passed on to GH4 since it’s the same body.

But now, the viewfinder image is crisper and more detailed, when I press the shutter button, the focusing is more urgent. The whole camera feels more glossy and confident. At that point my review was writing itself for me.

I can only write a review as I see it but as the Micro four Thirds system marches on  and Olympus and Panasonic continue to improve their cameras  and lenses in their different (thank goodness) ways I find myself again and again faced with sounding like a fanboy in my reviews.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I probably am, not for either of the makers but for the system itself. Take a look at the flagship MFTs, the E-M1 and now GH4. Put side for a moment the intrinsic minuses of a smaller sensor and any personal peccadilloes. What could they have done better? E-M10? GX7? Major faults?

I can only think of shutter shock which occurs under certain circumstances and which is only a problem for for photographers working to exacting standards. Olympus have upgraded their firmware and with the Panasonic I rarely use the mechanical shutter anyway. Nonetheless, a good reminder that it isn’t perfect.

By the way, I said in my review that 4k video was not of great interest to me. Then I read about a stills use for it. Since each frame in 4k is 4000 odd pixels across that makes a decent sized still image. At 50fps, you can shoot 4k for minutes at a time!

Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment is now open to all. Just stand and 4k video your street scene for 20 minutes. Get back to the computer, go through the video frame by frame and look for the decisive moment. Output it as a still.

Mind you, you will  have 60,000 frames to go through. If you can find it among those thousands you are likely capable of seeing it on the street anyway.

Technology only goes so far!






7 thoughts on “Reviewing The GH4

  1. Post author

    Thanks, Bob. If you are truly unable to decide and video isn’t a priority I’d probably base it on what lenses I had. Mainly Panasonic with stabilization, the GH4. Mainly unstabilized, the E-M1.

    I prefer the feel of the Panasonic and most definitely its menu system but I could live happily with either camera. I do want stabilization, though.

    1. Bob Fairbairn

      I agree on the lens idea so I did a little look at what lenses I used in my Aperture Library:
      I am surprised at how many I have taken with the Panasonic 7-14mm zoom. The use of the 60mm Macro reflects some of the work I do and the fact that in the studio it is a great lens to shoot with. I do not intend to draw any conclusions with this data at this point. I am just happy to note that I am using all of the lenses. Note that I cannot simply count the Canon FD 400mm I have, I know the count is low as I have not used it much at all since I got it.

      227 Olympus 12mm F2.0
      706 Panasonic g 20mm F1.7
      959 Olympus 45mm F1.8
      1900 Olympus 60mm F2.8 (a lot of images from Two Studio classes. This is a great studio lens)
      736 Panasonic 7-14mm F4.0
      2436 Panasonic 12-35mm F2.8
      756 Panasonic 35-100 F2.8
      461 Panasonic 100-300mm F4.0 F5.6


      1. Post author

        Looks to me like the GH4 would be your camera. The unstabilized lenses are wide angles so don’t really need it and the 60m used in the studio probably doesn’t need it.

        You seem to like the 12-35 as much as me! I have six of the same lenses as you, the 4 Panasonic zooms, the 45mm and 60mm Olympuses. I don’t have the 12mm – sold it when I bought the 12-35 zoom and found I rarely used it after that but I do have the 17mm f1.8 which is why i sold the 20mm. I also have the 14-140 zoom which, to my annoyance, I seem to take more pictures on that than any other single lens. I don’t know why but I feel the super zooms are sort of unfair, cheating somehow…ridiculous.

        1. Bob Fairbairn

          You would be amazed at how much the macro work I do needs stabilization. Now in the studio on a tripod not so much, or at all. But in the field for sure! I also find that I use stabilization on all of the wide angles, really helps in low light, but you are right in general not needs as much. I almost always have some sort of small tripod with me, just in case. Remote control of my GX-7 has really shown me how nice that is to have also….

          1. Post author

            Yes, I use the 60mm on my GX7 mostly for the stabilization. I use the 17mm and 45mm mostly on the GX7 too partly for that but partly because they make the GX7 feel like my old Leicas in intent.

            I have a Manfrotto camera clamp and a Manfrotto table top tripod for carrying around, both very handy and solid. The clamp is great because with a ball head fitted it turns any railings, my bicycle, a tree branch into a solid camera mount.

            Actually, the logic of your situation is strongly for the GH4 – you already know the menu system and they both use the same image app plus you already have the best Panasonic lenses available.

  2. Bob Fairbairn


    Thank you for the thoughtful review. I am totally torn between the EM1 and the GH-4. Olympus still has me in its grip. When I compare the my EM5 and my GX7 they are amazingly close. There is something great about both of them, each slightly different. The upgrade need and path are fogged in like Heathrow on a spring day!

    I do not think anyone can go wrong with either camera. My main desires are the improvements in Auto-focus and handling that both seem to give, over my existing gear. I think you are right in that the GH-4 does win the handling battle pretty well. I had not seen the differences in the eyepiece, that is really great. Both cameras are shall we say overloaded with digital goodness / features / complexity.

    Thank you again for the fine effort in your review. Your videos are getting better and better



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *