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Panasonic Lumix GH4: a hybrid camera with 4K video features

Elias Plastiras | April 21, 2014
Panasonic's new Lumix G series camera is the DMC-GH4, and it packs features that make it more than just a camera for still photographs. It's presented as a ‘hybrid' model, meaning it can be used just as effectively for video (in particular, 4K video) in addition to regular photography. Not only that, its video features are touted as being broadcast quality, so you can get yourself a camera with professional features, without having to shell out a typical professional price.

Some of the more consumer-friendly features include the ability to 'paint' your own focus areas on the screen (there are 49 focus points compared to 23 on the Lumix GH3). This is the camera's new 'Custom Multi mode' focusing feature, in which you can tap on the touchscreen on any square that coincides with a part of the frame that you want to focus on. It's quite fun to use, but there is a temptation to go overboard and paint ridiculous focus patterns that the camera might not be able to handle properly.

You can tap on multiple focus points to easily bring an area of interest into focus.

An example of the effect of selecting a row of focus points on the screen.

Another feature is focus peaking, which is something we've seen before on other cameras (the Olympus OM-D E-M1 has it, for example), and this puts a colourful, shimmer-like effect on parts of an image that are in focus. It's useful when you are in manual mode and want to make sure that the focal point of your image actually is in focus. There is a focus mode for detecting eyes and making sure that they are always in focus in your shots, and even this can be customised to the point of selecting the left or right eye.

Other focus features are available for shooting video, such as the ability of the camera to detect faces and keep them in focus as they track around the frame. Panasonic says that this feature in particular can be of use during interviews when your subject is not keeping completely still.

The camera's firmware has information stored on the specifics of Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds lenses. These lens profiles allow the camera to know the exact blur characteristics of each lens and how much it needs to move to achieve a perfect focus. It helps speed things up while focusing, and especially during continuous focus operations.

The 4K video feature is perhaps the most interesting overall, and it's what sets this camera apart from the competition. The higher video resolution comes in handy for many purposes, such as offering more extensive editing abilities. For example, shooting in 4K provides enough information about a shot to allow for edits like tilting, and cropping, and even motion stabilisation, while still keeping a high video quality. Stills can also be isolated and extracted from 4K video within the camera, and the end result is an 8-megapixel photo that can be printed with good definition at a size up to A3.

For Full HD shooting, there is an option to use higher quality bit rates such as 200Mbps, which is said to be an advantage especially during editing processes, and professionals can choose a bitrate suitable for the production type they need.


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