I was trained on professional camcorders and if I’m doing a shoot I always take something like a Panasonic HPX250 – it’s familiar, easy to use and produces wonderful results. My DSLR shoots HD, but has always seemed unnatural to use for video. The controls are all in the wrong place, the settings are buried deep in menus, and the aliasing and moiré are simply nasty.
I was concerned that the GH4 might be more of the same. It’s not. All the video controls and settings are exactly where you need them to be. Changing aperture, white balance, and ISO quickly becomes something you can do without taking your eye off the viewfinder. (I’ve barely had to look at the manual).
Talking about the OLED viewfinder, like the OLED back screen, it is incredibly good in terms of resolution and contrast. You can really see proper blacks really clearly and 2 settings of Zebra aid exposure. Focusing is so much easier thanks to both expanded focus and peaking, and shot framing seems totally accurate. The Auto Focus is scarily fast and accurate and if I was a focus puller I might start considering other employment options having tried the touch focus pulling on the back screen.
I’ve shot 29 minute sequences of cinematic 4K at 24fps and UltraHD at 25fps (slightly smaller with a more familiar aspect ratio) and at 100Mb/s I’m very impressed. The dynamic range may not be in the Alexa class, but it’s really good (don’t ask me for a figure yet!) and the colour rendition is excellent. Because of Panasonic’s heritage in video, the GH4 lets you adjust gamma curves, master pedestal and other professional camera settings which will help you get the right look straight out of the camera and save time in post. If you get a chance, play with the 96fps HD mode: silky smooth slow-motion, with replay on the camera!
It won’t be until we get the DMW-YAGHE interface unit and record externally at 10-bit until we can see what the sensor can really achieve. But even at 8-bit, it’s looking very impressive.
We’ve successfully imported and edited footage in EDIUS 7.2 Pro, Sony Vegas and Adobe Premiere Pro CC. One of the advantages of shooting in production codecs (AVCHD and AVC-Intra) is that the files are so much smaller than RAW or intermediate codec. On location it means far less swapping, changing and misplacing memory cards and in the edit suite, it means that I don’t have to invest in lots of new RAID storage.
Note : The GH4 files will also import into FCPX.
I think Panasonic have cleverly avoided a lot of the aliasing issues so common with DSLRs. I’m going to ask the developers how they’ve done it at NAB. It’s my guess that it’s capturing 4K and HD using the sensor in different ways – I want to know if that’s the case and whether that will make a difference to picture quality at different frame sizes. Finally, it struck me that the crop factor is not the same in HD as it is for 4K… Bloggers say it’s 2x for 1080 and 2.3 for 4K. I think we need to have some clarity on this one.
Richard works for Holdan in Technical Development.
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