When new owners of the Panasonic GH4 in the US reported audio buzzing problems earlier this year, fear and doubt arose about this otherwise remarkable camera’s audio recording capabilities. Would GH4 owners be dogged with that most common failing of indie movies, mediocre audio?
Turns out the fix was easy enough, involving a slight and free hardware modification done by Panasonic’s engineers on a one day turnaround. It appears that GH4s made since no longer have the audio buzz problem and the quick way to check if yours is one of those is by checking whether it arrived with version 1.1 already installed. If it did, you are fine, according to reports.
To sweeten the comfort level, Canadian audio equipment maker BeachTek put the GH4 thoroughly to the test with their Audio Precision 515 Audio Analyzer and were impressed, stating that “the GH4 has the best specs of any DSLR [sic] we have ever tested.”
I am by no means an audio expert and am still learning the terminology and its implications, so I recommend that you click on the link below to the article on the BeachTek website and read further.
The final paragraph of the BeachTek news item mentions the company’s recently released DXA-SLR ULTRA audio adapter. The DXA-SLR ULTRA enables connecting phantom-powered XLR-output microphones to your GH4 and has a number of other attractive audio-specific features as well.
I am impressed at how BeachTek’s designers have thought behind audio and have added a detachable rod system to support matte box, follow focus and other gear. BeachTek’s hardware solutions like this adapter and their KAMKIT may eliminate the need for other rigging systems like cages and so on. If you have not been the BeachTek website lately it is well worth a look.
The rig illustrated at the base of the DXA-SLR ULTRA page may be an effective solution for solo operators needing to wirelessly mic up interview subjects while maintaining tight follow focus while not overloading themselves with excess baggage.
Panasonic GH4 Audio Performance
We tested it with the camera gain at the lowest setting of -12dB with the limiter off. It has excellent low THD+N and a very high signal to noise ratio of 78dB at the maximum -29dBu input level. What is even more impressive is the frequency response of 70Hz to 20kHz (-3dB down points). This is where most DSLR cameras suffer – usually dropping off at 140Hz or so. The limiter works remarkably well at avoiding clipping with hot inputs. With the limiter on the S/N ratio drops a bit to 72dB but is still excellent. However, the frequency response improves to 30Hz to 20kHz which is remarkable for a DSLR camera. Careful listening tests confirmed the very clean, wide bandwidth sound. This makes the GH4 suitable for recording not only voice but music and sound effects as well where capturing low frequencies is important.
It is refreshing to see such great results in a DSLR camera. The high quality front end on the GH4 allows you to record professional audio directly to the camera without having to use external audio recording gear and then having to sync everything in post. Our DXA-SLR ULTRA adapter makes this very easy. We recommend that the camera be set to -12dB with the limiter on. This will calibrate the camera to the DXA-SLR ULTRA and provide exceptional audio performance.
Via Vimeo Description:
The BeachTek DXA-SLR ULTRA is our newest and best adapter ever. Superb operation and ease of use make capturing professional audio directly to your DSLR camera a snap.
New, powerful preamplifiers give you exceptionally clean audio with plenty of punch. Your audio will always be recorded in sync with the video. Direct audio recording eliminates the need to have a separate audio recording device and syncing the audio in post.
The DXA-SLR ULTRA is very easy to set up and use. The Neutrik brand combo XLR / ¼” inputs makes it easy to attach a variety of audio gear including wireless systems, mixers, sound boards and professional condenser microphones that require phantom power to operate.
The inputs are transformer balanced for isolation and enhanced circuit protection. Built-in VU meters makes it easy to verify the proper input levels at a glance, while the level controls allow you to adjust the output signal for optimum recording. Built-in fast acting limiters prevent distortion from overly hot inputs for worry free operation. The phone jack lets you monitor the audio from the adapter during recording, or camera during playback.
Learn more about the DXA-SLR ULTRA
(cover photo credit: snap from BeachTek)