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Best micro 4/3 lens for shooting 4K video on GH4


Neil Anderson

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Obviously it's nice to have multiple lenses for different situations. However, if you had to choose one (micro 4/3) lens for shooting narrative films on the GH4 (without a speedbooster) in 4k what would you choose? Thanks in advance for any assistance with this question.

I was thinking about these options: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1134184-REG/veydra_v1_25t22m43i_m..., or https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1044065-REG/voigtlander_ba259m2_n... but is a jack of all trades like one of these the better option: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/968587-REG/panasonic_14_140mm_f_3_5_5_6_ois_micro.html or https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/768816-REG/Panasonic_H_X025_Leica_DG_Summilux_25.html.

but...I was reccomnded these: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1003635-REG/olympus_v314060bu000_m_zuiko_digital_ed.html

,https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/855215-REG/Voigtlander_BA175M_Nokton_17_5mm_f_0_95_Lens.html

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

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If I had to choose just one of the lenses from your list, I'd go with one of the Noktons - they're fast, built like tanks (solid metal, no cheap plastic, no electronics and no motors to fail) and optically superb. Not many camera lenses are being built like this nowadays. You probably won't need autofocus for your work.  I personally own the Nokton 17.5 and it's hard to remove from my camera, I love the way it handles. I set the function buttons on my GH4 to control peaking (orange/yellow is best), AF mode/MF (magnifying assist) and Monochrome View (to make peaking more visible in dim light). I would avoid slowish 2.8 lenses or variable aperture zooms. 

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SLR Magic primes get my absolute highest recommendation. I use them for almost every project and they produce beautiful results every time.

If I had to choose one single lens, I'd go with the Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 for a prime and the C/Y Zeiss 28-85mm f/3.3-4 on a Speed Booster XL for a zoom.

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Simple advice: for 4K, only buy lenses (a) that are optically corrected and don't rely on software/firmware distortion compensation, (b) whose resolution is rated at 12 MP on dxomark.com or comparable review sites.

These two criteria rule out most Panasonic and Olympus zooms, and most of their wideangle primes.

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@cantsin I've been pretty harsh on Panasonic and PanLeica lenses recently, for several reasons: I don't think variable aperture zooms are practical for video; slow lenses like f/2.8 don't allow much room before diffraction rears its ugly head (at around f/5.6 and beyond, depending...). And because micro 4/3 sensors aren't phenomenal in dim lighting, fast lenses are highly desirable; and even if they must use plastics, there are other, more solid-feeling plastic lenses on the market (Sigma, for one). But I also realize that people already consider some of Panasonic's lenses prohibitively expensive (although some, like the 20mm, 25mm, and 42.5mm f/1.7 are almost bargains), and faster non-variable aperture zooms, and primes made of durable materials made in Japan instead of China would certainly raise manufacturing costs and reduce profit margins. As far as the Leica lenses go, I think they're way overpriced (one of the reasons why, over at LensTip.com, the founder regrets that Panasonic chose the German manufacturer rather than Sigma to design their premium lenses). But, even though I don't see myself buying any more Panasonic lenses, I don't see how, in the final result, software-corrected lenses are inferior (again, a cost-cutting measure, as it is less expensive to fix aberrations with software than to design a perfect lens), and, while I also prefer lenses with high resolution, there are so many other factors to consider, both tangible and intangible, that no single tester can even begin to measure them all. And at the moment, while I don't count myself among them (that could change tomorrow), many filmmakers seem to prefer vintage lenses precisely because they find modern optics designed for digital sensors too clinically sharp and videoish. In all fairness, many of my issues with Panasonic could easily be leveled at other lens manufacturers as well. 

Edit: I now see why it would be best to avoid software corrected lenses - aberrations would not be corrected for on another manufacturer's body, compelling video shooters to use them with nothing but Panasonic cameras. So, in a very real sense, a complete waste of money.

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If I have to buy new lenses, I'll go with Samyang video lenses. I used the 85mm and 8mm  (eos mount) in the past, and got the 12mm (m4/3 mount) for my AF100. Samyang are a joy to use and have integrated gears, which is a must for follow focusing.

SLR magic are great, don't get me wrong, but I would prefer a nice vintage prime to the SLR Magic if I want imperfections :)

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4 minutes ago, fuzzynormal said:

Well, regarding that "woman" video: whatever gains are accomplished with using the lens are destroyed by the inability of the shooter to properly control the shutter speed. 

That was a bit odd. 

I'll try to be more careful about the videos I share next time.

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14 hours ago, Justin Bacle said:

If I have to buy new lenses, I'll go with Samyang video lenses. I used the 85mm and 8mm  (eos mount) in the past, and got the 12mm (m4/3 mount) for my AF100. Samyang are a joy to use and have integrated gears, which is a must for follow focusing.

SLR magic are great, don't get me wrong, but I would prefer a nice vintage prime to the SLR Magic if I want imperfections :)

Ehhh... SLR Magic creates some magic stuff! It's perfect. Yeah, not wide open, then again, don't start claiming Samyang lenses are. Atleast the SLR Magic is nice 'n dreamy wide open, whereas imho Samyang just shows a lack of quality. I went with the 25mm T0.95 because it seemed to outshine the competition in just about every single way. Sharper stopped down. Creamier bokeh. Work of art really. Got nothing to do with imperfections or a vintage feel? I found 'em pretty modern with a twist.

Voigtländers seem a great alternative if you were looking at all manual solid lenses, but I'm digging the SLR Magic CINE approach personally.

Also the Veydras are a superb option. Just... you can't squeeze out more light and it has a fairly tame character. But it means you get results after results everytime. If you want to get the most out of 4K, like resolving wise, that's probably where it's at.

The Lumix lenses (the older ones especially) tend to be very poppy and modern. Saturated colors, contrasty, sharp. The 14-140mm was nice combined with the softish 1080p GH2, but I probably haven't used it since. It's very videoey because of its characteristics and I'm someone who likes the possibility of shooting at f/4 or faster as well. Especially on this crop sensor format, you've got to let the light in, so I've turned to f/2.8 or faster zooms and sometimes even brighter primes. Added bonus is the ability to increase the subject isolation and really pull your subject from the background. And primes really excel at their focal length, a zoom is always kind of a consession between convenience and performance. If you forget about the Lumix glass and leave the pricey Leica glass alone, you'll find the Olympus glass is a little more classy and more middleground. You can't really fault most of their lenses. And the outstanding PRO zooms could be everything you'd ever need. 7-14mm, 12-40mm and 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO with 1.4x teleconverter option. Wowzahs. Non-PRO primes have been solid too. Think everyone here must have or have had the 45mm f/1.8 at some point. The 60mm f/2.8 is probably the best macro in the system line-up and the 75mm f/1.8 is like the holy grail portrait lens. Heard great things about the 17 and 25mm too. But... these really shine on Olympus bodies, on Panasonic, especially the non-sensor-stabilized GH4, less ideal.

Sigma had some EX DN lenses dirt cheap back in the day. 19mm and 30mm f/2.8, optically brilliant (built wise maybe not so great), cool for shooting 4K on the GH4. Earlier editions had a grippy ring. The 60mm and the newer ones had a gripless finish for some dumb reason.

In the end though, it all depends. You need the 4K for its crispness and resolving power? Do you need it for flexibility? What do you need the lenses to do? To be flexible as well? To be compact? Be close to perfection without any quirks? To nail focus? To give you a nice base image? To give you moody looks? You pick a certain camera for a reason, you pick certain glass for a reason. Needs and wants. And then there's just personal taste and preference. But atleast we live in a day and age where we get to have all these options! There isn't one lens to rule them all. That's why many of us have vast collections of different lenses, even with same focal length, just because they handle or render so differently. That's not just between modern and vintage, but as well between Panasonic Leica VS Olympus PRO and Canon FD VS Nikon AI for example.

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I like the Panasonic Leica 12mm f/1.4.  This makes the GH4 a low light camera with incredible sharpness.  It provides very shallow DOF for things at chose proximity.  It addresses 2 of mft's biggest weaknesses.  It's also wide enough to shoot in any environment.  The crop mode can be relied on for 2x zoom.  I've heard great things about Voigtlander f/0.95 but I like the better integration with the Panasonic bodies and autofocus.  The 12mm doesn't have the stabilization though.

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On 10/24/2016 at 6:54 AM, Neil Anderson said:

Obviously it's nice to have multiple lenses for different situations. However, if you had to choose one (micro 4/3) lens for shooting narrative films on the GH4 (without a speedbooster) in 4k what would you choose? Thanks in advance for any assistance with this question.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Any particular reason why you're going with the GH4? Have you already bought one? Or are you planning to buy both lens and body together? Because there might be better options out there now for the money, like the G7, the GX85 or the recently released G80/85. Or else, I'd wait for the GH5 early 2017, unless you need to start your project immediately. IBIS on the newer Lumix bodies is a real benefit that you should consider. 

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1 hour ago, Michael Ma said:

I like the Panasonic Leica 12mm f/1.4.  This makes the GH4 a low light camera with incredible sharpness.  It provides very shallow DOF for things at chose proximity.  It addresses 2 of mft's biggest weaknesses.  It's also wide enough to shoot in any environment.  The crop mode can be relied on for 2x zoom.  I've heard great things about Voigtlander f/0.95 but I like the better integration with the Panasonic bodies and autofocus.  The 12mm doesn't have the stabilization though.

1389 EUR. I mean, cool focal length & quality, but that's like a whole set of Contax Zeiss primes (25, 28, 35, 50 (f/1.4), 85, 135mm f/2.8) and a focal reducer though (Hollywood f/2). That much for one lens is something you really need to think twice about. But if it's worth it to you, it's worth it. The wide end spectrum doesn't offer that much selection and you make solid arguments behind your purchase.

There's some psychological limiter in my head though that doesn't allow me to purchase lenses that are more expensive than the top body in the system, even with the knowledge that what really makes or breaks an image has got more to do with a lens than with the camera body. But... it's just one focal length. If that's all you shoot. Great! But like the Veydras a 12mm, 16mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm and maybe 85mm are pretty much must have focal lengths in my book. If you are willing to spend good money on top notch lenses, how are you going to approach that financially? If money is no problem, then no problem! And again, you only shoot one focal length, awesome! But a couple of times 1250+ EUR for a consistent set adds up quite considerably. If you're mixing and matching... won't it be tough matching mix branded lenses or just lenses of such different stature? Dunno, for me personally the Leica would be a tricky option. But it sure is an incredible one.

24 minutes ago, jonpais said:

Any particular reason why you're going with the GH4? Have you already bought one? Or are you planning to buy both lens and body together? Because there might be better options out there now for the money, like the G7, the GX85 or the recently released G80/85. Or else, I'd wait for the GH5 early 2017, unless you need to start your project immediately. IBIS on the newer Lumix bodies is a real benefit that you should consider. 

Quoted for truth! The sensor performance itself and the stabilization thereof are quite attractive! Purely on imaging results, those might be the more interesting options to explore. Yet... until the GH5 comes out, the GH4 remains a great production friendly tool with all its bells and whistles of course. If I were to be in a position where I'd have to pick a camera to stick to for the next year (or two, maybe three) and could wait it out... I'd definitely would wait to see what the Olympus E-M1 Mark II and GH5 were going to be all about. If only, because it might cause a drop in price of the GH4 and other cameras and see the 2nd hand market getting flood with camera bodies from people who are upgraden from camera X to that GH5.

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I can't wait around, and I'm only paying 930$ for a new GH4 won't be able to afford the GH5 when it comes out anyway. Are there image-related reasons for choosing a different 4K shooter? I've considered the G7, but I live in Florida and I don't like the non-weather sealed plastic body and the short batter life (in 4K) and the lack of true cine 4K and the Vlog option. but I'm not as familiar with the G80 or G85. What are the benefits of either one of those versus the GH4? 

Thanks for all the responses by the way. I think I'm going to pull the trigger on the Voigtlander 17.5 

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3 hours ago, Cinegain said:

1389 EUR. I mean, cool focal length & quality, but that's like a whole set of Contax Zeiss primes (25, 28, 35, 50 (f/1.4), 85, 135mm f/2.8) and a focal reducer though (Hollywood f/2). That much for one lens is something you really need to think twice about. But if it's worth it to you, it's worth it. The wide end spectrum doesn't offer that much selection and you make solid arguments behind your purchase.

There's some psychological limiter in my head though that doesn't allow me to purchase lenses that are more expensive than the top body in the system, even with the knowledge that what really makes or breaks an image has got more to do with a lens than with the camera body. But... it's just one focal length. If that's all you shoot. Great! But like the Veydras a 12mm, 16mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm and maybe 85mm are pretty much must have focal lengths in my book. If you are willing to spend good money on top notch lenses, how are you going to approach that financially? If money is no problem, then no problem! And again, you only shoot one focal length, awesome! But a couple of times 1250+ EUR for a consistent set adds up quite considerably. If you're mixing and matching... won't it be tough matching mix branded lenses or just lenses of such different stature? Dunno, for me personally the Leica would be a tricky option. But it sure is an incredible one.

It all depends if you have access to walk up to your subject.  So with a 12mm (24mm equiv), you don't need the equivalent 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm if you can get closer.  If it's people's faces, you'd have to shoot the subject in the center directly perpendicular to the sensor.  But at an arm's length from the camera you can get a beautiful portrait shot.  Yes it's a workaround, but I'd rather have the option to shoot wide, and work the shot when shooting closeups.

Another benefit is that it's sharp at 1.4.  You never have to worry about stopping down for sharpness, and then compromising for sharpness for better low light.  It's just always sharp.  

Since the scenario is one lens, I'm going to guess you won't be carrying lighting equipment either.  With a f/1.4, you can work with even a single source of moderately dim light, expose people's faces properly (+2/3 EV), stay at 1/50 shutter with 24p, and go home with usable, virtually noise-free shots.

My vote is for the versatility and reliable sharpness of the 12mm f/1.4.  You sometimes have to work around with some compromises, but overall, you have more shots available to you than carrying a slower or farther reaching lens.

1 hour ago, Neil Anderson said:

I can't wait around, and I'm only paying 930$ for a new GH4 won't be able to afford the GH5 when it comes out anyway. Are there image-related reasons for choosing a different 4K shooter? I've considered the G7, but I live in Florida and I don't like the non-weather sealed plastic body and the short batter life (in 4K) and the lack of true cine 4K and the Vlog option. but I'm not as familiar with the G80 or G85. What are the benefits of either one of those versus the GH4? 

Thanks for all the responses by the way. I think I'm going to pull the trigger on the Voigtlander 17.5 

I just preordered a G85 myself to use instead of the GH4 for 5-axis dual stabilization.  Not gonna perform well as a gimbal, but depending on your genre, can provide usable footage while panning and even walking.  It doesn't have an AA filter unlike the GH4, so moire may be more prevalent, but it should also be sharper for photos.  GH4 has amazing battery life.  G80/G85 has a smaller battery, smaller body, no earphone jack for audio monitoring.  Probably the G85 has better noise performance, but the bitrate and codec is higher and will have less issues with compression on the GH4.  GH4 is also log capable with $100 software upgrade.  But if you're not planning on getting a GH5 anytime soon, the GH4 is probably a safer bet.  I only got the G85 because I'm stopping by the US right around the launch date, and I'll be heading back to Korea where I am sure I can use it for 6 months and sell it used for about what I paid for the kit..

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I agree, one of the selling points of the GH4 and the pair of zooms I purchased was the weather sealing (and magnesium alloy camera body) - but in all actuality, neither the body nor the zooms could withstand the torrential downpours we get here in Vietnam. And even if they could, my slider, Rode microphones, Metabones Speedbooster, audio recorder, adapted lenses, etc. are not water resistant. Battery life and swivel screen are two things I like the most on the GH4. But - the lack of IBIS is probably the single thing I miss the most, as I adapt a lot of lenses, and even the OIS in the Panasonic glass I do own is virtually worthless. Some of their other lenses have better stabilization apparently. Although you will never want to part with the Nokton once you've held one, it will still require some sort of rig to keep steady. 

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