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Panasonic GH4 Digital Camera: 4K Capture, New Sensor, and Ultra Slow Motion Among New Features

First Posted: Feb 17, 2014 03:05 PM EST
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The Panasonic GH4 DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) camera was previewed at CES 2014 and officially announced by the Japanese-based company last week. The GH4 is the fourth camera to be released in the GH line. Unlike previous iterations which mainly focused on improving still image quality, Panasonic has positioned the GH4 as a professional video camera.

The GH4 won't break the bank. It will be priced under $2,000 and perhaps closer to $1,500. What do you get for your money? A plethora of features of course, including an all-new, quad-core Venus CPU. The high-powered Venus CPU allows the GH4 to fire away at 12 frames per second. A larger image buffer (when compared to the previous models) can process up to 40 RAW or 100 JPEG photos at one time. Sports and nature photographers will love these features because every second counts.

The micro four-thirds sensor in this camera is roughly equivalent to old-school Super 16mm film. That's markedly smaller than Canon and Nikon's full-frame and APS sized sensors. But smaller sensor's have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. The GH4's sensor is capable of capturing exceptionally clean images even in drastic lighting conditions.

Sensor size is an important consideration when it comes to camera body weight. Since the GH4 uses a micro four-thirds sensor it's around half the weight of traditional Nikon and Canon DSLRs. The lenses are also lighter and less bulky.

What are the limitations? Well, the GH4's smaller sensor does limit photographic and video capture in two significant ways. Wide-angle shots aren't as easy to get and out-of-focus, depth-of-field effects won't be as dramatic. Yet, workarounds are available including the ability to shoot with ultra wide angle Lumix G lenses. Focal adaptors such as the Metabones Speed Booster also help to make the GH4 sensor a bit sharper, wider and brighter.

The improved sensor and CPU also play a part in making the GH4 a professional grade video camera. The procession power enables the camera to record 4K in 8-bit 4:2:0 color space. An optional add-on, called the DMC-YAGH Interface Unit, bumps up the color space to 10-bit 4:2:2. 10-bit color offers the following advantages: less banding (less choppy color gradients) and more accurate chroma-keying (i.e. green screen work.) File sizes will of course be larger.

The Full HD 1080p image in this camera is also great. You can record at up to 200 mbps with the interface unit or at 100 mbps in camera. Most cameras in this price range only record a max of 50-75 mbps. The higher the bit-rate, the better the image will appear after you edit it. In 1080p mode you can also capture super slow motion (up to 96fps). When you playback that 96fps footage in a traditional 24fps timeline you will see the video play back four times slower.

Amazing stuff, right?

Do you think 4K video is the future? Let me know in the comments section below.

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