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!