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Gear Reviews

Panasonic GH4 For Photography Review

By Christopher Lin on September 17th 2015

It’s been pretty well established that the Panasonic GH4 is brilliant when it comes to video. A 4K camera at under $1.5K gives filmmakers a great deal of flexibility at a decent price point. My two favorite reviews are by Dave Dugdale and Phillip Bloom. If you’re interested in using the GH4 for video, I highly recommend checking out those two in-depth videos.

panasonic-gh4-stills-review-02

As a full-time photographer, I was more interested in how that camera performed in terms of still photographs. Every review seems to quickly, and almost dismissively say that the image quality is “great” before moving on to more raves about 4k or video comparisons.

So I took the GH4, along with the Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 Lens, around a few countries in Europe for this practical, hands-on review.

panasonic-gh4-stills-review-01

Basic GH4 Specs:

  • 16.05 MP Digital Live MOS Sensor
  • DCI 4K 4096×2160 at 24p, UHD 4K 3840×2160 at 30p/24p
  • Full HD up to 60p
  • 3.0″ 1,036k-Dot OLED Touchscreen Monitor
  • 2,359K-Dot OLED Live View Finder
  • High-Speed 49-Point Autofocus
  • Magnesium Alloy, Weather-Sealed Body
  • Wireless connectivity

Panasonic GH4 Image Quality

Let’s start with the most important aspect of any camera, the image quality. The power of Panasonic’s proprietary “Venus Engine” image processor is on full display with the GH4, responsible for the beautiful 4K video, solid high-ISO performance, and overall image quality.

Here are a few sample images. All images were shot in full RAW and processed with the SLR Lounge Lightroom Presets 2015

florence-italy

gaudi

monaco

popes-palace-france

rome

sagrada-familia

sagrada-familia-barcelona

 

Panasonic GH4 ISO Performance

I’ve never been a fan of testing ISOs at their maximums levels, as few people would ever go all the way up to 25600 and expect a usable image. In my style (and the styles of 99% of us), I almost always keep the ISO at 3200 and below; and at that level, I was very impressed with the image quality and lack of grain. Here are a few examples:

eiffel-tower-night

Panasonic GH4 Focusing

Focusing on the GH4 is fast and accurate, with a digital signal exchange max of 240fps. The number of focus points has increased from 23 points in its predecessor, the GH3, to 49 points on the GH4 . Focus peaking adds an additional dimension of flexibility, available in live view and in remote shooting mode via wi-fi.

Focus Peaking is a Convenient Feature in the GH4

Focus Peaking is a Convenient Feature in the GH4

LVF & Monitor

The GH4‘s touchscreen monitor swivels so that you can view your compositions at odd angles. This allows you to stay off of the ground when shooting low to the ground and gives you full view of your screen when raising it above your head.

gh4-panasonic

The following image was made much easier with the swivel functionality, as it allowed me to raise the camera far above my head to avoid distracting elements and still find my desired composition.

eifel-tower

However, despite the “high-speed dual OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) displays” the playback of the images on the rear monitor lacks contrast and the images seem muted and even soft. In fact, during my entire experience with the camera, I was fairly certain that the images were not turning out well. When I loaded them into Lightroom, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. To be fair, I have been spoiled in my professional career with the amazing display of the 5D Mark III, but even compared to the Olympus OMD EM-1 that I previously reviewed, the LCD did not do the actual images justice.

Build – Magnesium Alloy Body & Rugged Design

The GH4 feels solid and durable, with a magnesium alloy frame, responsive, and well-built buttons and knobs. It’s also splash and dustproof. The major con is its size, which at 5.2 x 3.7 x 3.3 in. and 20.1 ounces is larger than some of its competitors like the Fuji X-T1 (15.52 oz) and the Olympus OMD EM-1 (17.44 oz). In fact, it’s not much bigger than a small DSLR like the Canon T6s at 19.93 oz.

lumix-gh4

Simultaneous 8.8 MP Photo Capture

If, for some reason, you need to record stills and video at the same time, the GH4 offers a unique feature that allows for 4K video recording and simultaneous photo capture at 8.8 megapixels. While 8.8 Megapixels probably isn’t enough for professional wedding, fashion, or portrait work, I can see that functionality being very useful for photojournalists and hobbyists at recitals, graduations and other everyday moments.

Usability

Mixed feelings surface when thinking about the usability of the GH4. On one hand, the external buttons are intuitive and accessible. Below is a shot of the buttons and knobs on the top of the camera.

panasonic-gh4-review

On the other hand, some of the functionality is not as intuitive, and some of the options are buried deep in the menu. Some menu options become unavailable in specific modes without any explanation, as you see the following image:

electronic-shutter

In Conclusion

Pros:

  • Image Quality
  • Price
  • Pop-up Flash
  • Swivel LCD
  • 1/8000th seconds and syncs with flashes at up to 1/250th of a second.
  • Continuous shooting is boosted to 12 frames per second, 7.5fps with continuous focus.
  • Focus Peaking
  • Continuous shooting 12fps, 7pfs with focus tracking
  • Touch Screen

Cons:

  • Size & Weight
  • Usability/Menu – Touch to Focus, Focus Options

panasonic-gh4-stills-review-04

The GH4 was released about a year and a half after the GH3, and it’s been a solid performer ever since. The GH4 has been around for just over a year now, and if it follows the refresh cycle of its predecessor then a new model should be released in Q1 of 2016. That being said, if you’re looking for a camera that shoots excellent stills as well as 4k video, the GH4 will be a capable option even after the GH5 is released.

Co-Founder of SLR Lounge and Photographer with Lin and Jirsa Photography, I’m based in Southern California but you can find me traveling the world. Click here to connect on Google +

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Martin Fir

    In my experience the flash can only be used, if the gh-4 is paired with a Lumix lens. If using adapters, the flash won’t work.

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  2. adam sanford

    Christopher, those are some lovely Sagrada Familia shots. That’s a vexing place to shoot from a dynamic range perspective. For that first shot down the nave of the church, was that a single exposure or was that an HDR composite?

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    • Christopher

      thanks for the comment Adam…. that’s one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever been in … all images shown are single exposures

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  3. Dave Haynie

    Make no mistake, the GH4 is a great camera. If I was still doing lots of video, I would have one.

    On the other hand, I think Panasonic’s been a little too focused on video to deliver the camera I’d choose for still shooting. My cameras are basically at the borders of the GH4. The m43 lens collection is fantastic, I don’t actually believe today I need much more than 16-20Mpixel for the shooting I do, no real objections here. But my OM-D E-M5II is just a better overall still shooter: much smaller, the world’s best IBIS system, the option of the hires mode for [very] still shots, all kinds of weird “Live” modes for low-light shooting. No comparison on video, but Olympus has largely been thinking about still photography, and it shows. They’re both fast at still shooting, but I love the fact that, with a UHS-II card, the OM-D does 5fps shooting forever (well, until the memory card fills), never a buffer overflow. And did I mention how much smaller it is? But still weather sealed…

    On the other hand, for not all THAT much more weight and size, there’s my Canon EOS 6D. That’s 4x the sensor area — 35mm full frame — and a few more megapickels, There are only a handful of cameras better in low light, and they’re all more than twice the price.

    I agree with Lauchlan that the GH4 is a classic… but mostly because it had the practical 4K market to itself for a year, and really helped establish m43 as a serious videography platform. I’d be fine shooting stills on a GH4, but if I were shopping for a stills-only camera, I’d look elsewhere.

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    • Aidan Morgan

      Agreed. I’d use the GH4 if I were primarily a video shooter who said “Hmm, think I’ll take some stills today” from time to time.

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  4. Lauchlan Toal

    Great review Christopher. I have a feeling that the GH4 will be a modern classic, one of the cameras people remember many years from now – it’s really made a difference in the video world, and as your excellent shots demonstrate it’s more than capable enough for stills as well.

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  5. Cha

    Some of these product shots are beautiful

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