Lumix GH4’s 4K Photo Mode Publishable Stills From Video is Finally Here
Lumix GH4’s 4K Photo Mode. Panasonic is steamrolling the competition with their new 4K Photo Mode that’s available on three different Lumix cameras, GH4, LX100, and FZ1000. I’ve dreamed of this idea since the $50,000 Red One was announced nearly ten years ago and I first blogged about my prediction of the convergence of Video and Stills in a post from April 30th, 2009 titled Daniel’s First Film – A New Face in Town. Panasonic’s introduction of their new 4K Photo Mode finally makes this capability available to the masses. 4K Photo Mode gives the photographer the ability to shoot video at 3o Frames Per Second and pull individual 8-megapixel still images from the video clip. I tried it for the first time this past week while working with Polar Bears International and the Arctic Documentary Project in Churchill and it is nothing short of incredible.
The video above was captured using a Lumix GH4 in 4K Video Mode. The lens was a 100-300mm zoom and it was NOT on a tripod. That’s the reason you see less than smooth video panning. Ideally I would have liked to have been on tripod but this opportunity came quickly and was a simple trial in my mind. The test was impressive, even more so due to no tripod.
Below are two frames I captured from the video above using Apple’s Aperture. A post detailing how to grab a specific frame from Aperture will be coming in the future. But for now, notice how in the first image I’ve selected, the bear’s breath is highlighted in the shadow. I was able to scrub through the video clip to capture the exact moment the breath was exhaled and even the best frame from that one second opportunity that the camera caught 30 frames of.
The second photo is again from the same video and I chose a frame where the bear’s head was at the top of the arc. A polar bear swings its head up and down as it walks which could make it difficult to get a razor sharp, still frame. By shooting at 1/500th of a second shutter speed and choosing a frame from when the bear’s head was at the top of the arc, where it’s perfectly still for a split second, I was able to obtain a very sharp image.
The ability to shoot at a higher shutter speed than is typical for video gave me the ability to capture sharp still photos. Generally, when shooting video, you are shooting at a shutter speed of 1/30th, 1/50th, or 1/60th. of a second. These shutter speeds are actually essential when capturing video to be shown specifically as video and not still capture. The video I shot above was captured with the GH4 attached to a 100-300mm zoom and the lens was at about the 250mm range. That being the case, those who travel with us know that I regularly talk about the need to get your shutter speed up, equal to or greater than the length of the lens you are shooting. Higher shutter speeds provide sharper images which is essential when shooting in the 4K Video Mode.
Understanding 4K Photo Mode
Panasonic’s 2014 digital still camera lineup now includes three models that offer 4K video recording capability; the DMC-GH4, DMC-LX100, and DMC-FZ1000. Unfortunately, to a dedicated still photographer, 4K video may not initially seem like a feature that could compliment their still photography. To demonstrate “the power of 4K,” Panasonic created the 4K Photo Mode, a unique feature that allows 4K video to enhance still photography.
So What Is 4K Video?
With high definition video (FHD) we normally shoot at 30 frames per second. Each frame, which is exposed for 1/30th of a second, is equivalent to a 2 MP still photo. The aspect ratio is usually fixed to 16:9 to conform to today’s TV’s. With 4K video, we still shoot at 30 frames per second, however, each frame is now equivalent to an 8 MP photo; four times the resolution hence the name “4K.” Soon after Panasonic released our first 4K camera we introduced the idea of extracting one frame from a 4K video clip and using it as a still photo. While the idea worked, we quickly realized that any rapid motion could blur the still image because each frame is only exposed for 1/30th of a second. This limitation gave birth to 4K Photo Mode.
4K Photo Mode
Using 4K video, Panasonic created the 4K Photo Mode that now allows the user to set the aperture, shutter speed, aspect ratio, and several other settings just as they would with still photography. Allowing a faster shutter speed to be set, the camera still captures video at 30 frames per second but now with virtually no motion blur. Next, using either the in-camera feature or software such as Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop CS on your PC, the user can review the video, frame by frame, and extract the image that captures the true mood of that magical moment! Just consider that shooting just three seconds of 4K video in the 4K Photo Mode gives the user 90 images to select from!
Here’s a few examples of how 4K Photo Mode can enhance your still photography:
- Young children seldom sit still for a photo. Capture some 4K video while talking to the child can allow you to capture those rare nuisances that traditional still photography might miss!
- Nature photographers trying to capture a bird taking off or an industrial photographer who is trying to do some motion analysis will find 4K Photo Mode a welcomed feature!
- Golfers can use 4K video mode to capture and analyze their swing.
- Macro photographers can more easily deal with the extremely shallow depth of field by capturing a few seconds of 4K video while manually focusing across the depth of their subject. Extracting a few images from the 4K video and combining (stacking) them in Photoshop produces an end result with much more depth of field.
The cat is definitely out of the bag with 4K Video Mode. Competitors not offering something similar are going to be sucking wind in the near future if they don’t get moving. This is just one example of the emerging technological advantages a company the size of Panasonic can bring to our industry. Panasonic is on a roll and I predict it’s just the beginning. Now if they would just give us an updated 100-300mm F/4 in the same league as the wonderful 35-100mm F/2.8.
What are your thoughts on this new technology? Do you see any use for it? Does it make you rethink the still photographers lack of interest in video? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.