A Nearly Perfect Camera for the Modern Artist
I've posted about mirrorless cameras before, and how much excitement I have for them. Not everyone is quite ready to embrace the modern camera just yet, and I get that. It's new, and historically, new hasn't always meant better. Apple for instance is great at inventing new ideas into their pro level software packages, and putting them into our hands, only to take away important features we love with each so called "upgrade". So, new can be a scary thing in some ways as none of us have money to waste.
I wanted to wait a while before I posted about some of the new cameras I've been working with just to be sure that they truly could live up to my expectations, and the expectations of others. Now that I've been working with the Panasonic Lumix GH4 for several months in a wide variety of situations both on the personal and professional level, I feel I can talk about it with confidence and tell it like it is.
First I want to point out that we are not in the Lumix Luminary program, although Panasonic was kind enough to sponsor a recent Master Class that we gave at WPPI in Las Vegas. As seen in the video above, we were also happy to share some thoughts on the camera and how we are using this technology with Frederick Van Johnson of This Week In Photo. However, I haven't gotten any free gear. Rather I myself paid full price for everything at B&H, and took a gamble on this new technology because I had a gut feeling that it had the potential to change the way I think about imaging. I use the term imaging because it's not just about still photography. Rather this post is more in tune with what every modern camera should be. In my opinion, the modern camera shouldn't dictate how I am going to tell a story. It should just be there for me and let me decide what's best.
The fact is I just love cameras. So, I won't be bashing other brands in my posts because I think each brand brings something unique to the table that we can all be inspired by. Whether you choose to shoot Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Leica, Hasselblad, Sony, or Lumix, is entirely up to you. I am personally impressed by them all on some front. I should admit that I am a multi-passionate entrepreneur. Which means that I just want to make a living with my cameras and I am just as happy doing so shooting stills as I am video, or time lapse for that matter. All that really matters to me is that the camera performs, and makes my life easier.
In my professional opinion today's professional imaging work horse should be capable of gorgeous stills, detailed video, slow motion, time lapse, stop motion, and more. That is exactly what the GH4 has proven to me that it is, and I am proud to say that it has become my go-to camera for the majority of my work at the moment. This will be a rave review. Not a perfect review, but certainly one that praises the camera. As professional artists we always want more, and there are a few improvements I will look forward to in future models, but for now I want to focus on what I love about the Lumix GH4.
Here are the top 5 things I love about the Panasonic GH4
1. Size and Weight
I work out everyday so certainly I am not a whimp:) But, I have found that I prefer working with lighter gear a lot of times because I spend long hours behind the camera at weddings or events, and I also bounce around Manhattan all day sometimes going from shoot to shoot. The size and weight of the GH4 is just perfect for my style of shooting. I also find that working with a smaller system gives me access to shoot in places that would otherwise be frowned upon. No permit is required with this little gem!
I can still hear the sound of my old Hasselblad shutters just from memory. When I think about them it still warms my heart. However, the GH4 has an electronic shutter option which is completely silent. Not only is that better on a film or TV set, but it is also better at weddings. Never again will I be harassed by the church lady:) I love being able to see exact color and exposure in the viewfinder as well. Finally, unlike a DSLR, I don't have to look at the back of my camera constantly to see the image I just took. Color and exposure are already dialed in and visible.
3. 40 FPS
Yes, this is no joke, and it does so at High Resolution when you access the electronic shutter. I use this far more than I thought I would as it's ideal for sports activities like swim meets where swimmers are in and out of the water or in a diving competition. Just hold down the shutter and pull the best images later. It's also SWEET for stop motion fashion films. You can check lots of these out in the Together In Style Fashion and Beauty Section.
4. 4K Video
Why you ask? Broadcast TV and 4K TV sets is the furthest thing from my mind when I think about 4K video. Rather I think about the gorgeous high resolution stills I can pull during weddings. This allows us to offer creative new products such as cinema-albums with 100% fine art photojournalism stories, interactive iPad albums with stills and video, create still and video content ideal for retina displays, and more. 4K video is big time at our studio, and clients love it! 4K impacts the number of high quality stills we provide of moments at weddings, and allows us to produce gorgeous films at the same time. A win/win for our clients!
5. Time Lapse
Built in flicker free time lapse is a winner in this camera. We get a lot of paid time lapse assignments throughout the year, and we need a camera that can do it all without having to twist the lens half way off like on some cameras we own. The GH4 makes time lapse a pain free experience with results we can trust.
What I hope for in future models and other thoughts...
There are a couple of things I would love to see in future models. I shoot up to ISO 1600 on the GH4 with confidence and will push video or stills to 3200 ISO if I must. With fast primes this fits the bill for 85% of our work. However a two stop increase in ISO would be ideal just for those unusually dark unlit weddings. We have Canon 5D Mark III DSLR's in a second gear bag, which we also adore, but we really only pull them out if we have to push beyond the 1600 threshold.
M43 Pros and Cons
I love the M43 format because it keeps lens size and weight at bay. There are pros and cons to the DOF it offers. On the plus side we shoot a lot of video on a Gimbal, which means we can't focus and shoot at the same time. Having f/2.0 lighting conditions with f/4 DOF is a plus on that front. On the down side it doesn't look as filmic as super 35 or full frame.
Super 35 Solution for M43
There is a solution to that Super 35 filmic look mentioned above however, Pick up a Metabones Speedbooster and you can use all your Canon or Nikon lenses with the GH4 giving it a crop and DOF that looks virtually just like Super 35. Also, the adapter miraculously adds a stop of light to many your lenses. This makes my Sigma 120-300 2.8 very close to a 450mm f/2.0 on the long side, and you won't notice any decrease in sharpness either. However it only works in manual focus mode, which is ideal for video anyway.
The GH4 while not perfect in every way is the closest thing to perfect compared to any other stills/video hybrid camera on the market for "what we do". I am excited to see what debuts at NAB from all camera makers because I can't remember a more exciting time in camera innovation!
Below are a few photographs in action as we put the GH4 through the paces...
Photographs by Maring Visuals