Panasonic GH4 in a professional setting – FAQ

Above: interview with Illya Friedman of Hot Rod Cameras, by Dan Chung

The GH4 is a consumer camera but one which has the most pro-camera leanings I’ve ever seen from a consumer or even prosumer model.

Because of that many professional shooters are considering the GH4.

Here then are some of the remaining questions from pros on the EOSHD forum answered…

1. Does the GH4 output 4K over the micro-HDMI port?

When the camera is set to record in 4K internally the onboard HDMI output is down-converted automatically to 1080p. In playback mode the HDMI output is 4K capable (relaying the 8bit 4:2:0 footage from SD card). Only the DMW-YAGH add-on base can output 4K (uncompressed, 10bit 4:2:2) from the GH4. However the micro-HDMI port is 8bit / 10bit switchable and can deliver impressive 1080p in 10bit 4:2:2 format, uncompressed to an external recorder.

2. How would you recommend rigging the YAGH external box?

The two screw threads on the front of the box according to Panasonic are there to add rails and support for PL mount lenses. The box has to sit under the camera in its current guise so you won’t be able to mount it anywhere on the rig on the end of a cable. The add-on is not heavy but it does raise the centre of gravity of the camera and lens a little bit. HD-SDI, XLR and power connectors exit on the right of the box, so that’s a positive as the cables face outwards from your shoulder and not inwards towards your neck when the camera is on a shoulder rig. The full size HDMI port and fan outlet is on the left of the box. The rear of the box needs to be unobstructed if you want to use the XLR audio controls. The GH4′s articled screen cannot be fully flipped out and rotated while the box is attached.

gh4-base

3. Many broadcasters require 4:2:2 colour sampling as a minimum standard, what’s the best way of doing this with the GH4?

The GH4 does not shoot 4:2:2 internally as it’s likely to be a compatibility issue for consumers. Some computer software players, TVs and set top boxes are only designed to decode 4:2:0 video. The Convergent Deisgn Odyssey 7Q and Atomos Samurai Blade will support 4K and 1080p 10bit 4:2:2 recording with the GH4.

Note the Samurai Blade is HD-SDI only and does not have an HDMI input for 1080p 4:2:2 (10bit) direct from the GH4 so you will have to add the cost of the YAGH and an external battery to the price. A cheapest solutions for 1080p 4:2:2 (10bit) are the Atomos Ninja 2 and Odyssey 7 – I recommend the Odyssey 7 because it has the better screen but it’s double the price. Neither of the cheaper models can record 4K.

If you need to record 1080/60p or 50p, only the Odyssey recorders will allow this. Atomos recorders do not support higher than 30p… yet.

4. Which external recorders and monitors are suitable for 4K recording?

Only the Odyssey 7Q and Ki Pro Quad but wait until NAB 2014 – there will be many more options by April.

5. Which field monitors are suitable for 4K monitoring?

The Atomos Ninja 2 and older Samurai (non-Blade) have lower resolution 840 x 480 LCDs. At this resolution slight focus shifts in 4K are invisible.

If you’re recording 4K in any guise I recommend avoiding the lower resolution monitors. Focus in 4K is very critical and this is where the higher resolution 720p HD displays come in useful.

The Odyssey 7, 7Q, Atomos Samurai Blade and dedicated field monitors like the Small DP6 / AC7 all have 1280 x 720 displays.

6. What do the external recording solutions cost?

  • Ki Pro Quad – $3995 (4K recording, 320×240 control display, not to be used for monitoring)
  • Odyssey 7Q – $2295 (4K recording with extra codec licenses* on top of the base price, 720p OLED monitor)
  • Atomos Samurai Blade – $1295 (1080p recording, 720p IPS-LCD monitor) **
  • Atomos Samurai – $995 (1080p recording, 720p monitor) **
  • Atomos Ninja 2 – $695 (1080p recording, 480p monitor) **

* It’s not yet confirmed how much the Odyssey 7Q license(s) will cost for the GH4′s uncompressed 4K output.
** The Atomos solutions record on cheaper non-proprietary SSDs from any electronics retailer.

Odyssey 7

6. Does the YAGH external box output raw over 3G-HD-SDI like the FS700?

No, the output is uncompressed and doesn’t come ‘direct from the sensor’ as many manufacturers claim. Only raw is a direct tap on the sensor. With raw, the data comes straight from the sensor to the memory buffer, where it written to the media by the recorder. With uncompressed video the raw sensor data is internally processed by the camera first (debayered) so aspects like white balance and the exposure curve are baked-into the image.

7. What frame rates can 96fps slow-motion be conformed to by the GH4?

30p, 25p, 24p and 23.98p.

8. What format is the HDMI output when shooting slow-mo?

Unknown. When this question is answered I’ll update the FAQ.

Slow-mo is recorded in 1080p, there’s no 4K slow-mo mode.

9. What are the SD memory card options for 4K?

4K on the GH4 requires at least 30MB/s sustained write speeds. Cards using the new UHS I class III standard are suitable. Panasonic and Kingston (just announced – see 43rumors) will definitely have SD cards available in this spec. As for SanDisk, According to Eduardo Angel who is shooting with a prototype GH4, their current top end consumer card (Sandisk Extreme 95Mb/s) didn’t take the 4K. It isn’t clear whether this was an issue with the card or prototype. Eduardo took no chances and used SanDisk Pro cards (rated an enormous 280Mb/s) to record 4K with. Panasonic P2 media is likely to be a robust option too, though expensive.

gh4-proto

10. When is the release date?

It is currently expected to ship in April, though nothing official has yet been confirmed. Some retailers say pre-orders will open in March. When NAB begins in early April 2014 (5th-10th) I’m expecting the camera to be in its final state and ship shortly after.

11. What’s the dynamic range?

No controlled tests have been done yet but for 4K we’re talking DSLR photo standard here rather than video camera. Take a crop of a JPEG from a top of the range APS-C camera as the benchmark for 4K video on the GH4. For reference the Canon 5D Mark III full frame sensor has 11.5 stops dynamic range.

The only major difference between the internal 4K video and 4.6K JPEG aside from the crop factor is that the JPEG uses 4:2:2 colour sampling and video 4:2:0, but that increases to 10bit 4:2:2 with the YAGH and a suitable external recorder.

YouTube Preview Image

12. Is it a suitable replacement for a 1D X as a “behind the scenes” stills camera on set?

Yes because it has something the DSLRs-lack – an entirely silent electronic shutter at full 16MP resolution delivering raw and JPEG stills, with no shutter actuation sound. On a film set you can snap away and nobody will notice.

13. Can the zoomed focus assist be activated while recording?

No, but I really want Panasonic will enable this in the final firmware as well as an instant-on crop mode in 1080p (like the Olympus OM-D E-M1). Peaking remains active while recording and is said to perform well.

14. Is low light performance improved from the GH3.

I’ve shot with the GM1 which features a similar Panasonic sensor to the GH4. This showed a marked increase in low light performance over the GH3 with a much cleaner image at ISO 3200. Reducing 4K to 1080p in post and applying light noise reduction will also greatly improve low light performance. So – TBC – but it bodes well.

15. Can I edit GH4 4K material off a laptop?

A MacBook Pro or PC laptop with at least an Intel 2.4ghz i7 (quad-core) has been proven to work with 4K footage from the GH4 (editing in Adobe Premiere, with 16GB RAM). The iMac at 3.2ghz i7 or above is also suitable. You may however need to edit from a fast drive. Suitable drives are internal SSDs (though limited capacities), latest generation 7200RPM hard drives, external RAID storage devices via Thunderbolt (i.e. G-Tech).

16. Is the onboard HDMI port full sized, micro or mini?

The GH3 had mini-HDMI port like on most video capable DSLRs but this standard has been superseded by an even smaller and wimpier connector. On the GH4 it’s a micro-HDMI port, similar to the one found on the Sony A7R. The YAGH offers a full sized HDMI port.

16. Does it have a robot arm that extends into the kitchen to do the dishes?

No.

Any more questions? Pitch them to me on the forum and I’ll update the FAQ.

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