Panasonic announces new Lumix 4k GH4

Posted Feb. 7th, 2014 by Daniel J. Cox

Panasonic announces new Lumix 4k GH4. In between our two Japan Winter Wildlife photo tours we’ve had a chance to enjoy the amazing city of Tokyo. The past two days we’ve visited two of the worlds largest camera stores, rode the most efficient and clean subway I’ve ever been on and met some great folks from Panasonic who were interested in showing me their latest Lumix camera, the GH4.

Tanya and I at the Panasonic Center in Tokyo, Japan.

Tanya and I at the Panasonic Center in Tokyo, Japan.

Panasonic announced the camera in an official Press Release today, February 7th, but I still wasn’t allowed to photograph the camera itself. I was able to put my hands on it however and these are my thoughts.

I had a chance to present the children's book Portia Polar Bears Birthday Wish to members of the Lumix camera team Mr. Hideki Katayama and Mr. Toyotaro Hiraish

I had a chance to present the children’s book Portia Polar Bears Birthday Wish to members of the Lumix camera team Mr. Hideki Katayama and Mr. Toyotaro Hiraish

Panasonic is getting serious about competing in the professional market in both stills and video. I’ve been shooting the GH3 for over a year now and though it’s been a very good camera, it just hasn’t been able to match my Nikon’s when it comes to capturing fast moving subjects or photos taking place in very low light. Except for those two situations, it’s preformed beautifully and in many ways better than any others cameras I currently own. Without a doubt, Panasonic has taken the lead in ergonomics which in my book means the placement of the controls, the ease of use of the camera and the layout of the Menu system.

This shot shows the lock on top of the Main dial.

This shot shows the lock on top of the Main dial.

The first thing I noticed on the GH4 is a larger dial for changing different programable settings such as P, A, S, and M. It’s raised higher than the GH3 and thus is considerably larger. Additionally it has a locking mechanism on the top that is better than any other locking system I’ve seen on other cameras. Lumix has put a spring loaded button on the middle of the dial that locks when pushed down and stops the wheel from turning. To unlock the dial you just push the button down again and the spring releases the lock which allows the dial to turn in a similar manner as the GH3. I  personally never did have any issue with this dial turning inadvertently but I know both Canon and Nikon were criticized profusely for not having a lock on their respective Program dials on the D700 and 7D. At least I think it was the Canon 7D. Panasonic did the right thing and added a lock that is extremely easy to use and just as easy to ignore if you don’t have issues with the dial moving.  I think Canon and Nikon had issues due to the dial being on the left side, outer edge of each of their respective cameras. The Lumix dial is protected in the middle of the camera and thus I think this lock might be overkill but it’s still a good idea.

The Panasonic Lumix 4k GH4.

The Panasonic Lumix 4k GH4.

In today’s Panasonic Press Release it stated the new GH4 is capable if 7 FPS. Even though I had read the specs it was still a glorious surprise to hear that shutter take off at a clip similar to the frames per second from my Nikons. The GH4 actually is capable of an astounding 12 FPS, but more importantly it is rated at 7 FPS in Predictive, continues focus mode. I had no chance to test that out but I can only hope that it’s better at 7 FPS than the GH3 was at 4 FPS for following fast moving subjects like flying birds. I have to say I’m a bit skeptical but I hope they surprise the heck out of me and make me a believer. It’s a solid feeling camera and the AF looks to be considerably faster than the GH3. The GH4’s AF is rocket fast. For those that use manual focus, the EVF is bright, sharp and easy to see exactly what is and isn’t in sharp focus. It’s the first Lumix EVF that I felt was exceptionally easy to use for manual focus. It was as good or better than what I’m used to seeing in a traditional DSLR. At least it was in a setting that had even lighting and noncontrasty subjects to test it on.  Extremely contrasty lighting is a problem for my GH3 as far as the EVF is concerned. I’m hopeful the GH4’s new and improved EVF will solve this problem.

The XLR base for the GH4 allows for professional sound production

The XLR base for the GH4 allows for professional sound production

To make the GH4 a truly professional video production tool, Panasonic has designed an add on XLR Mic device that allows professional quality sound to be produced onboard the camera. To be honest the add on XLR base looks a bit clunky and is not easy to hold. But for the kind of professional production that needs XLR connections this is a fabulous option that most serious videographers will be grateful to have.  Most serious shooters I’m guessing will put the GH4 with this larger XLR setup on a tripod or shoulder mounted system.

The Lumix 42.5 Nocticron F/1.2 lens.

The Lumix 42.5 Nocticron F/1.2 lens.

Along with the GH4 I was also shown the new Panasonic/Leica Noctiron 42.5 F/1.2 lens. It’s a hunk of glass like none other I’ve held made for the Micro 4/3’s system. It’s feels well built and to that end it’s heavy. Not sure this will ever be a lens I purchase due to the large size and heavy weight. Larger and heavier takes away from what I love about Micro 4/3’s, small and light. That said, it was impressive to hold and beautiful to look through. Here’s a short list of what was in the Lumix Press Release.

  • 4K Video capture
  • Beefed up shutter with a life span of at least 200,000 actuations
  • New larger wireless flash
  • Better low light performance.
  • New 1/8000th of a second shutter speed option.
  • High-speed dual OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) displays for 2,359K-dot LVF (Live View Finder) and 1,036K-dot rear monitor.
  • Full- HD video with ultra high bitrate at 200 Mbps (ALL-Intra) or 100 Mbps (IPB) without recording time limit
  • Panasonic’s integration of DFD (Depth from Defocus) technology which even shortens the time to set focus to achieve ultra high speed AF of approx.0.07 sec
  • Splash/dustproof construction thanks to the sealing on every joint, dial, and button.
  • Real-time image output to the external monitor in 4:2:2 / 8-bit*3 via an optional micro HDMI cable
  • Focus peaking
  • Better low light, high ISO characteristics.
  • Eye Detection AF which automatically sets focus right on the eye of human face

That’s all there is for now. It was great to talk with the folks at Panasonic to see what they’re up to and to get my hands on this beautiful new camera. Now I have to wait to get one to test. Will fill you in on that at a later date.

Update:  I forgot to mention, in the original post below, that in our discussions Panasoinc showed me a flowchart highlighting the segments of the photo world they hope to attract with this camera. At the top of the list was Nature and Documentary shooters.  When I heard that I did a very respectful, full court press on encouraging them to update the 100-300mm zoom to include the quality of glass and build as we currently have in the the new 12-35 and 35-100 F/2.8 lenses. They were actually taking notes. I can only hope they follow through on something similar.

 

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