The Panasonic Lumix GH4 includes a well-deserved reputation as a good camera for video. With 4K resolution, top-notch lenses, great handling, recording up to an extraordinary 200Mbps bitrate, and choices where video codec to use, it has turned into a favorite as the core of a light-weight video rig.
I wanted to learn how it organized for stills. Had the engineers sacrificed still image features to give attention to video? How does it build up as an all-round, take-anywhere, image and video camera?
I’ve always been impressed by the Lumix selection of mirrorless cameras. The Panasonic Lumix GF1-which I still have and use as a backup-is an excellent little camera. Lightweight, with retro sensibilities, yet with a real focus on detail regarding quality, it’s simply a fun camera to use. And the photographs it released are too shabby-I’ve had a couple taken with the GF1 that finished up full-page in magazines.
The GH4 is among a surprisingly busy selection of cameras from the Panasonic-Leica collaboration that’s beneath the Lumix brand. Without technically in the same series as the GF1 (that series is currently up to the GF7) there is definite synergy between your models. They’re mirrorless, small, and utilize the same Micro Four Thirds lenses.
I tested the camera with the Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 Aspherical contact lens. While not necessarily the tiniest lens, it’s focal range is pretty versatile for general shooting, being equal to 24-70mm on a full-frame DSLR.
As always, my focus is on real-world consumption instead of clinical tests. If you’re following the latter, have a look at DPReview’s GH4 review.
The GH4 is styled like a tiny DSLR. Despite the fact that there’s no mirror chamber, the popup flash at the top occupies some space and helps it be look like a far more traditional DSLR shape. It doesn’t have the retro styling of the FujiFilm X-T1 or Lumix’s own GF7. The handgrip feels good (assuming you’re right-handed, because so many cameras are). I don’t have especially large hands-if you do, it could feel just a little cramped, but that’s likely to be true of all smaller cameras.
The controls are logically organized, and it feels good in the hand. It feels solid and responsive.
I love that the rotator dial for selecting the shooting mode (P, A, Manual, etc) can be an old-fashioned dial and locks if you don’t push down the guts button. Among my pet peeves on some cameras is that it’s too simple to accidentally change the shooting mode when you put a camera in a bag or take it out of a pocket and not know that it has changed.
Performance and Handling
The buttons and controls are usually logically organized. There’s a combo of digital-style buttons and also retro-style, tactile dials for shooting mode and burst/timer modes. There’s a touch too much focus on cryptic labels like “Fn2” and “Fn3” for my tastes. I understand it’s made to be flexible for assigning functions to them, but it’s just confusing initially. THEREFORE I found it took some time to get to a spot where I wasn’t stumbling over those.
The electronic viewfinder is bright. It has computerized eye detection, this means it switches automatically from the trunk LCD screen when you put your eye up to the viewfinder. I’m not usually a fan of electronic viewfinders. That one is good but nonetheless is suffering from the same issues as the existing generation of electronic viewfinders. It’s still a lttle bit like watching through a TV. Having said that, it’s quite crisp, bright, and responsive, with reduced lag.
And among the advantages of an electric viewfinder is you could add a variety of overlays. Even optical viewfinders nowadays add things such as guide lines, but with an electric viewfinder you can include real-time data. I particularly just like the histogram option that overlays a little histogram in the heart of the screen. And another feature I like on the GH4, as a long-time black and white film shooter, may be the monochrome live view that can help you better visualize the way the composition works in black and white. As any black and white shooter knows well, visualizing for black and white is quite unique of shooting for color.
Surprisingly, silent mode is really silent. At least in a few shutter speeds. The longer shutter speeds you get an ever-so-slight indication that the shutter has truly gone off. But it’s remarkably quiet. It’d be very helpful for wildlife shooting or in other scenarios where you don’t want to draw focus on yourself.
Autofocus is normally a concern with mirrorless cameras. But I came across the GH4’s to be very smooth without much searching. It’s still much less good as a pro-level DSLR, but that’s a limitation (for the present time) of contrast detection autofocus.
LCD Screen & Menus
It’s a completely articulating LCD screen, so that it flips out and rotates. That’s useful not merely for shooting with different perspectives also for folding away the LCD screen to avoid it from getting scratched or bumped.
Not only is it bright and clear for both image and video playback together with menu options, it’s also a touchscreen. That’s useful for navigating menus without resorting to dials and buttons, but it’s a lot more useful when shooting for choosing precise focus points that aren’t dead center.
Also you can disable the touchscreen option in the event that you plan on getting the screen rotated fully around and don’t want to risk bumping it and accidentally changing modes.
There’s the usual range of overlays which come pretty standard on the existing generation of cameras, but the one which I particularly I love may be the histogram overlay. It’s a lot more useful than eyeballing it if you’re trying to avoid blowing out highlights or blocking shadows.