When it comes to content creation, the equipment you use can either make or break you. Here are some of the products we choose, and why we can’t live without them.
By: Mike Windley – Director of Video Services, Colonial Athletic Association
The Panasonic GH4 was my next step up from a typical DSLR. In my case, the Canon 70D. The price range is somewhere between an entry-level DSLR, and an entry-level professional cinema-style camera. While I knew that this was a great camera for the money before I started using it, the GH4 really over-delivered based on my expectations. Here’s why.
1. Image quality:
The picture you get with this camera is exceptional. When you pair it with the right lenses in the right environment, you are going to get an image that is far better than any other camera in this price range. One of the main reasons is its dynamic range. If you don’t know what that is, definitely check out this article here. The range of this camera will give you a lot more wiggle room when it comes to exposure. Unless you are in seriously harsh sunlight, or a low-light situation, you are going to get cinema-quality footage.
A lot of people think that they should not be shooting in 4K because they are not delivering in 4K. That idea is misguided for a couple of reasons:
•Even if you are uploading video to be viewed at 1080p resolution, shooting in 4K and downsizing will always give you better detail than shooting natively in 1080p.
•Shooting 4K gives you the flexibility to zoom in up to 200% without losing any image quality, (assuming you are delivering in 1080p).
•Ability to shoot at higher ISO. Whenever you raise your ISO, you are obviously going to get more noise and artifacts. By doubling the width of the picture size to 4K, those little dots and artifacts are going to be half of the size when viewed on the same screen as a 1080p picture. They will still be there, but less noticeable. This means that you are going to get grain when you crank up ISO, but it will be far less unattractive than if you are shooting in 1080p or 720p. I always shoot in the highest resolution possible, unless there is a particular shot I want in slow motion.
•Lastly, when you are shooting in 4K, you are going to be shooting at a much higher bit rate, which means you will have a lot more latitude when you are correcting exposure and white balance. It’s sort of like shooting stills in RAW vs. JPEG.
I have been using the Panasonic GH4 for about 7 months now. And I have to say that there is no other camera on the market right now that will do what this one will for your money. At roughly $1200. you are getting a camera that can out perform others that cost five times more. It is also the prime time to get on board with the GH4 because the price has gone down significantly since the announcement of its big brother, the GH5.
The GH4 also offers a micro four-thirds mount, meaning you will be able to use smaller, and in some cases, more affordable lenses than a camera with an EF mount.
4. Features you won’t see on any other device in this category:
My first impressions when I got the GH4 were that this was not your typical DSLR. (Technically it actually is not a DSLR, since it is mirrorless.) But what I mean is this is essentially a full size ENG camera in the body of a DSLR. It has all of the features you would expect to have in a broadcast camera, plus the fantastic image quality as I explained earlier.
Some features include…
•Up to 96 fps recording at 1080p
•Cinema Picture profiles, including V-Log for an additional $100
•Customizable function buttons
•Advanced, (like really advanced), picture settings
These are just features that I really like for my workflow, but there are several more that push this far beyond your typical DSLR/Mirrorless system. You will not see a lot of these perks in systems like the Canon 70D for a very simple reason. Canon reserves these features for their higher end cameras like the 5D and 1DX. In other words, they could put these features in their entry-level devices, but they don’t because they do not want to take away sales from the big money-makers.
5. Battery Life
I would first like to add that battery life is largely dependent on the brand you choose to buy. If you pay more for the Panasonic brand batteries, you will certainly get more life. However, the average battery life I have had across all of the brands I have used is quite remarkable. I usually keep 4-6 batteries on hand on any given day. My longest day of shooting this year was six high school basketball games, and I only went through two complete batteries. This is while shooting in high-speed and even some 4K.
1. Poor low-light performance
This is a common gripe among GH4 users. Since I shoot mostly sports, I rarely have situations where I do not have enough light. However, when I am in a low light situation, the image gets very noisy, regardless of ISO, and you do lose some color accuracy. So while I do agree that this has poor low-light performance, you are going to have the same problem with any camera that is comparable in price. If you want a camera that will handle low light, I would highly recommend the Sony A7S, or AS7 II. It simply doesn’t get better with those two. However, you are going to have to pay between two to three times more for them.
2. Processing Speed
One minor complaint I have is the response time of the recording button. I am not sure if it is just my camera, but I do find that there is a noticeable lag between pressing the button and the time to start ticking. This can be somewhat problematic when you are shooting sports and marking clips, especially basketball.
3. No way to adjust audio while recording.
I wouldn’t recommend hooking up a microphone straight into the GH4. The gain control is buried inside the menu, and not accessible while recording. Not to mention most DSLR/Mirrorless cameras have terrible preamps. This problem can easily be solved by attaching an external interface. I really like the Kopul Mini Mixer. It’s cheap, get’s the job done, and attaches right to the hot shoe.
This camera is a workhorse, plain and simple. I have shot dozens of interviews and sporting events with it and I have never had a problem. I bought this after having tons of trouble with my Canon 70D, and I’m honestly not sure if I will ever use it again. The image quality is stunning in comparison, the features are great, and that is enough for me to stick with the GH4 for a while. If you want to step up the look of your videos from a DSLR, and you want to maintain the small form-factor, this is for you.