Out Of The Gate – Panasonic Launches The 4K LUMIX GH4 DSLM – Another Landmark Camera (On Paper At Least)
On the filmmaking front, Panasonic has released a number of disruptive indie filmmaking cameras in the past, including the landmark 24p DVX100 and the large sensor AF100. But at the past couple NAB shows, it appeared as if Panasonic had been focusing more on ENG shooters than indie filmmakers. The AF100 was a great release but let’s face it – that was nearly four years ago! (Hopefully we’ll see a new 4K Varicam from Panasonic ProAV at this year’s show.)
In the meantime, Panasonic’s LUMIX division has been hitting it out of the park, in particular their GH series of mirrorless micro four thirds cameras. Due to their compact size and its high bit-rate codec, the GH2 and GH3 have been a huge hit with low-budget filmmakers. (Shane Carruth’s indie art house hit, Upstream Color, was shot with a GH2.)
Today, Panasonic takes a giant leap forward by announcing the new LUMIX DMC-GH4 – the first DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) with 4K capture. The hybrid stills/video camera is targeted at both photographers and filmmakers.
With a solid magnesium alloy full die cast front/rear frame, the GH4 contains a new 16.05-megapixel Digital Live MOS Sensor that offers great low-light sensitivity (up to 25,600 ISO) while cutting down on negative rolling shutter effects. The Venus Engine image processor is also new and helps boost performance with a new quad-core CPU, which allows high speed signal processing necessary for 4K.
In terms of its 4K capture, the GH4 isn’t limited to just UHD, capturing cinema 4K (4096 x 2160 at 24-fps) and Quad HD (3840 x 2160 at up to 30-fps) in MOV/MP4. If you’re not ready for 4K yet, you can also record full-HD video with an ultra high bit rate at 200-Mb/s (ALL-Intra) or 100-Mb/s (IPB) with no recording cap. You can also select a variety of formats, including MOV, MP4, AVCHD Progressive and AVCHD.
For viewing on an external monitor, the GH4 is capable of real-time output via an optional micro HDMI cable. There’s also VFR (Variable Frame Rate) or Time Lapse/Stop Motion Animation with no post processing.
With micro four thirds’ small lenses, achieving proper focus can definitely be an issue. To help with this, Panasonic has further enhanced the GH4′s Contrast AF system with the integration of DFD (Depth from Defocus), which shortens the focus time down to roughly .07 seconds. Also, the AF is helped with the addition of Face/Eye Detection AF or 49-point AF with Custom Multi AF mode. Oh, did I mention that the GH4 contains Peaking? This is an essential feature for manual focus and is not a common feature on DSLRs or mirror less systems. For viewing, the GH4 contains an OLEC 2,359K-dot LVF (Live View Finder), as well as a 1,063K-dot rear monitor. The OLED has 10,000:1 high contrast for excellent color reproduction.
Another rare feature that Panasonic has added to the GH4 are Zebras, which help you monitor exposure and prevent blown-out highlights.
Amazed yet? Wait, there’s more.
Like many of their professional broadcast cameras, the GH4 has a Master Pedestal Adjustment with 15 steps and gamma presets for video modes. The CINELIKE D and CINELIKE V gamma settings are what most cinematographers use.
For synchronous video recording, the GH4 contains 1KHz Test Tone and Color Bars (SMPTE / EBU / ARIB Standard) and the camera can embed SMPTE-compliant Time Code either in Rec Run or Free Run count-up methods.
Perhaps one of the most exciting accessories for the GH4 is an optional and exclusive Interface Unit (DMW-YAGH) that offers better video capture than to the camera’s internal SDXC/SDHC cards. The unit can do Full HD (4:2:2 / 10-bit) offering four parallel outputs and these can be used for 4K (4:2:2 / 10-bit) output – both with time code.
Say goodbye to dual system sound because the DMW-YAGH also contains 2ch XLR inputs to connect professional quality microphones. When an XLR mic is connected, you can control your volume for L and R separately, and your sound is monitored via an LED audio level display. (The camera by itself contains a 3.5mm mic and headphone jack for audio recording.)
The unit’s 12V DC IN is highly compliant with large-capacity industrial battery and can power the GH4 as well.
Although it looks a bit clunky and AF100-like, the DMW-YAGH will be an essential accessory. It’s hard to believe no other camera company has thought of this accessory before.
In the GH4, Panasonic seems to have given the indie filmmaking community exactly what it has been asking for in a compact digital motion picture camera. And on paper, it looks as if they can make the DSLR/DSLM camera hacks obsolete as well.
Pricing and availability are still unknown and design and specs are subject to change without notice. How much would you pay for this system?
For more information on Panasonic’s LUMIX line of digital cameras, please visit www.shop.panasonic.com.
Can’t wait to get my hands on this one!