A generic monitor not specifically designed for photography isn’t going to deliver the colour quality we seek. Processing images on the BenQ SW271 gives the user a stunningly vivid colour range.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 camera
An interchangeable lens camera that’s suitable for high-end camera nuts and professionals
- Great build quality and user comfort
- High calibre stills and video capturing
- Packed with features
- Can take a while to get used to all its buttons and settings, but that's the case with all high-end cameras
The Lumix DMC-GH4 is a great overall unit that we enjoyed using, primarily because of its build quality and performance. It’s a top model to consider if you’re looking for a new high-end shooter with advanced hybrid (stills and video) abilities.
Price$ 1,999.00 (AUD)
Panasonic’s DMC-GH4 is a serious camera that’s designed for the most creative of minds. It’s a Micro Four Thirds-based, interchangeable lens camera that packs not only an excellent ability to capture stills, but also the ability to record ultra-high definition, 4K video. Basically, you can call it a photo/video hybrid. Furthermore, it has broadcast quality features for video recording, so it can be carried around in a professional’s shooting kit.
The magnesium alloy, weather sealed body of the Lumix GH4 isn’t as bulky as a high-end digital SLR, and this is one of its many drawcards, for it’s still packed with loads of manual features despite its smaller stature. You get two control dials for tinkering with the aperture and shutter speed on-the-fly, there are numerous function buttons so that you can access common settings with a quickness, and you even get dedicated buttons for rapid access to the ISO, exposure compensation and white balance settings.
You get a mode dial with a spring-loaded lock, so that it can’t accidentally deviate from the setting to which you’ve parked it, while the drive mode also gets its own dial on the left side of the body. For all intents and purposes, it’s a pro’s body, and it’s a pleasure to use. The spread of buttons, switches and dials puts pretty much every facet of the camera in your face, and while it can feel overwhelming at first, Panasonic’s on-screen settings (and the menu system itself) are intuitive.
We used the Lumix GH4 while a 12-35mm lens was attached to it, and we can say for certain that with this lens stuck on, the camera feels magnificently sturdy. The lens has a good amount of weight, its focus ring is smooth and possesses just the right amount of resistance as you turn it, and the zoom (albeit short) feels silky in its operation and accurate in its positioning when using values in between the wide 12mm and closer-up 35mm. Stabilisation is built in to this lens, rather than the body, and it enabled us to shoot acceptably clear handheld shots down to 1/4th of a second shutter speed.
Taking pictures with this camera is definitely a pleasure, and this is a combination of the way the camera feels, the way it handles, the way it performs, and the way it captures images. It’s a total package that can’t be ignored. We particularly love the balance of the camera and the depth of the handgrip, which make for comfortable holding.
Next up, the shutter button has a crisp and wonderfully noticeable two-step operation so that you can focus on your subjects with certainty before you press all the way down. Lastly, the OLED-based electronic viewfinder (EVF) offers a large, crisp view of the entire scene you’re about to capture, and it’s perfect for usage in bright outdoor scenarios (or anywhere really).
You can also use the touch-enabled 3in OLED screen to frame your photos, and even set it so that you can tap on the screen to focus or outright take a photo. The screen is on a hinge, so you can more easily take photos from low-down, high-up, and off-to-the-side angles, though you might have to adjust the auto-sensor that switches between the EVF and the screen. If you shoot too close to your body while using the screen, the sensor might mistake your body for being your eye and switch off the screen to enable the EVF. You can set its sensitivity to ‘low’, or even set it to keep the OLED screen on only.
Focus can be manipulated from the switch that’s located near the EVF, and it can be turned from single autofocus to continuous autofocus, and manual. Manual mode gives you the benefit of focus peaking so that you can get a visual reference of the parts of your image that are in focus before committing to a shot. Another neat feature is Custom Multi Mode, with which you can paint a focus zone on the OLED screen, which can come in handy if you want specific areas of an image to be in focus. Of course, you can always just select a single-point of focus anywhere on the screen, too.
As for picture quality, the Lumix GH4 didn’t disappoint (it’s much better at capturing pictures than we are at taking them). Images were captured with a vibrant quality in standard JPEG mode, with saturation mostly reflecting what we saw in real life, and with a clarity that was high, even when we scrutinised the photos at their native 16-megapixel size. The traits of the 12-35mm lens also defined our shots in a good way, especially the round bokeh background patterning of out of focus elements.
It proved to be a quick camera, with focus operations barely taking any time at all when we selected the point manually, though using the multi-point autofocus did often lead to the camera choosing some off-centre point to focus on. We preferred using single-point focus and pointing at the screen to tell the camera where to aim.
Capturing speed also proved to be fast. Using a SanDisk Extreme Pro card with a U3 speed rating, the Lumix GH4’s high-speed burst mode (and single-point focus) allowed us to capture up to 10 frames per second (100 shots in one 10sec burst) without slowing down at all. The fastest shutter speed on the camera is 1/8000 of a second, which gives you great control, especially in overly bright conditions when you want to use a shallow depth of field.
You’ll need an SD card with a fast write speed (and plenty of capacity) if you want to capture 4K video with this camera. To set 4K mode, you have to move the dial to the video icon, and then go into the settings to select 4K. It’s not something that you can just invoke at any time. Panasonic has included some features to help pros shoot broadcast quality video, and this includes zebra patterning to indicate washed out areas of a scene, colour output bars and test tones, and really, these are beyond the scope this writer to discuss. Just know that if you’re a pro, and you want a lightweight camera for shooting video (both Full HD and 4K), then you can consider this model.
As is usual for modern cameras, the GH4 comes with Wi-Fi, and there is NFC and QR code support for easing the connection routine. The Wi-Fi can be started by pressing the function button that’s at the top of the camera, but you might want to move this to another button if you won’t be using it regularly. With Wi-Fi, you can display and transfer pictures to a mobile device, as well as use a mobile device as a viewfinder to take photos remotely.
There is a stack more to this camera than what we’ve mentioned here, including creative modes, and other helpful shooting features, such as an on-screen level, and even built-in curve adjustment, as well as the ability to process RAW files within the camera. It really is a great overall unit that we enjoyed using, primarily because of its build quality and performance, and think it’s a top model to consider if you’re looking for a new high-end shooter with advanced hybrid (stills and video) abilities.
The cost for the body is $1999 (DMC-GH4GN-K). It costs $2999 with the 12-35mm f/2.8 lens (DMC-GH4AGN-K).
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