I REALLY wanted to love the Panasonic GH4. I REALLY wanted to play with the latest.
In fact, I was at EVS in Burbank, credit card out, 40 seconds away from throwing down and I remembered what I tell my filmmakers, “Rent before you buy.”
So, I rented the GH4 for a week. Learned the menus. ran tests in studio and on location.
I decided to pass for now.
I don't REALLY have to have 4K this instant, so I just wanted to see if the Panasonic GH4 might possibly replace my 2K cameras – the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the Canon EOS 70D. Or maybe just the 70D. Here's how it went.
DISCLAIMER: I have filmed a lot of documentaries and won two Emmy's but I don't know everything. I just know what I need to gear up for filming what I love the cinema verite /documentary style. That's where this review is coming from.
Every filmmaker has their priorities. I have filmed commercials in studios with a dolly grip and the luxury of a focus puller, but my first love is the cinema verite/documentary genre.
How Does Panasonic GH4 Fit into My Style of Filmmaking?
Here are my top ten priorities and comments about how well the GH4 fit into my style of filmmaking, I'm pulling focus and no rehearsals.
1) Focus is the most important thing. Quick focus…catch it as it happens. Change angles quickly. Find focus while rolling….etc.
When Canon rolled out the dual sensor focusing technology on the Canon EOS 70D that can grab focus while rolling without brightening the shot, it was a foundational, game changer for my kind of filmmaker.
2) I'm not worried about not having 4K right now because I can shoot Magic Lantern with my 5DM3 which equals or surpasses the RED One MX in the 2k world.
5D RAW versus RED One MX
3) 4K isn't here yet. By the time it is HERE, there'll be updated and improvements on the workflow.
4) If my clients do demand 4K right now, I can rent the GH4 from LensRentals with two lens for under $200. for four days.
6) The Panasonic GH4's low light (high ISO) performance was disappointing. The dark greys blocking up to black way too soon.
8) I can keep all my full-frame Canon glass and not have to buy adapters and “dumb” (non EF) lenses that can't be controlled by the GH4's computer, thus making it a dumb camera just a sensor.
9) I always remember what my senior class teacher said, “Be not the first on whom the new is tried, nor the last to lay the old aside.” This advice has never been wrong.
10) By the end of the week I was convinced that as good as it is, the GH4 doesn't perform what I need – fast focus while rolling and ability to “see” in dark scenarios on the street at night. Both are the key in cinema verite/documentary style of filming. Here's a link to the fast focusing capabilities in handheld situations of the 70D. That's why I'm sitting tight with Canon, waiting for their next announcement and passing on the Panasonic GH4.
(cover photo credit: snap from the video)