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Andrew Reid

Which 4K camera for the masses? GH4 vs Blackmagic Production Camera

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GH4 vs BMPC

Already we have 2 affordable 4K interchangeable lens cinema cameras due and we're only a month into 2014. Red shipped the first professional 4K cameras in 2007 but since then the rate of progress needed to commercialise such powerful hardware and sell it to consumers for $2000 in the case of the GH4 and $4000 in the case of the Blackmagic Production Camera has been relatively speedy. Quicker than the time taken for full frame DSLRs to break the $2000 price barrier.

Neither camera is entirely finished yet but I've seen footage from both the new cameras and shot with their predecessors for much of 2013. Here's my opinion on how their strengths and weaknesses are going to work out...

Read the full article here

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

Great summary! Nice to know you are confident in good low light performance in the gh4, hope you are right!

 

Seconded. If this with the speedbooster can give performance like or a stop lower than the 5D mk3 (non RAW) I'll buy TWO!

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Interesting review. But I feel the analysis leaves out some important points. You talk about the size advantages of the GH4 but fail to mention that if you want to shoot 4:2:2 which for many of us is required by clients, the GH4 becomes a different beast. Either you use an Atomos Samurai for 1200.00 or a Convergent Design Odyssey for 2200.00. Ninja wouldn't be a good idea for focus at 4k. With the BMC add a small HD for 600.00. If the GH4 could record 4:2:2 internally, it would be a huge hit. That omission really is a deal breaker for pro users because HDMI connections are dicey. Adding the unwieldy break out box along with 12 volt power now has me looking at renting a C300. This break out dock will require some seriously redesigned cages because of its non standard height and the jutting forward past the lens mount will make rigging follow focus and other rod accessories a pain.

 

Also, did Panasonic change the horrible placement of the HDMI out? This makes using the LCD in flipped out to the side most difficult as any owners of Gh3 know by now. From the pics it still looks the same. 

 

Could you please give more information on your DR specs? I've seen no tests or official literature that verifies 12 stops on the GH4. This is important to me as the DR on the Gh2 and 3 was much less than that (9-10 at most). You also mention using PL mount on the GH4. Did the reinforce it? The MFT mount on the GH2 and 3 was not designed for that kind of weight. I've bent a few.

 

Saying a smaller sensor size is better for 4k because of added DOF needs some clarification? This doesn't quite make sense. What would be the point of Dragon chip, IMAX or shooting Full Frame? Would 4k  be ideal on 1/3" chip and put it on autofocus? Anyone who's been shooting Red for the past five years or film for God knows how long, isn't bothered by this and surely wouldn't trade in a super 35 size chip for MFT size.

 

Which brings me to glass. MFT lens choices still have much to be desired. EF mount offers loads more choices both cine and stills.

 

Regarding ergonomics your criticism doesn't consider that anyone owner of BMC knows it'll be with a cage in which you have numerous choices out there. From there, you tailor your ergonomics.

 

I'd love to see an analysis between the two if recording 4:2:2 is imperative and rigged out how people would actually use them in a professional setting.

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"The reason 4:2:2 is left out of the compressed internal recording on the GH4, is to maintain manageable file sizes in 4K and 1080p." 

Is that the reason? Canon figured out how to do this at 50mb and the GH4 is touted to record 200mb, they could've have offered 1080p / 200mb at 4:2:2. Since few clients if any ask for a 4k deliverable these days this would have made this camera a must have in any DP's pocket. I'm thinking they don't want to cannibalize the sales of their 4:2:2 video cameras. Canon knows this strategy well. Hopefully the Russians will hack into it and release 4:2:2 beast. 

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Excellent post Andrew.  I think for those of us who are more concerned about getting the best 1080p it will be interesting to see tests around how well the different cameras scale down to 1080p look.  Also there hasn't yet been any comparison of the GH4 4k scaled down to 1080p versus GH4 - 10bit 4:2:2 1080p.    10bit 4k on GH4 sounds too pricey but the biggest IMO will be if we can just as good as an image from 10bit 1080p as we do from 8bit 4k scaled down to 1080p then this is a HUGE win with less gear and getting pristine 1080p right out of the box.  Just a suggestion for any future tests you may have for us.  

 

 

 

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Jeroen,

 

You're very right. I changed up the tone. I admit, I got carried away as I so wanted Panasonic to make a camera I can use for work and they literally came a codec short. I'm sure the camera will be a hit in certain segments but virtually all my clients (mostly TV work) require 4:2:2  and that the one feature I look forward to, a pro camera I could pull out of my bag and look as innocuous as a tourist, must now have an external recorder attached to the cage, attached to the shoulder mount,..... They came so close. Back to the BMCPC.

 

My apologies.

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For DR probably wait for proper samples to come out before making judgement.

 

The thing is 4K will be here and will be staying unlike 3D gimmick, it really widens our eye just like how Apple's Retina  display start the high resolution race, now if you see other screen they look pixelated.

 

2MP is just too low IMHO, why people shoot full resolution photos nowaday even though you can only see them on 2MP display and mostly at even reduced size on web.

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Someone is yet to answer me what should be - in theory - the differeces for the GH4 in terms of IQ between:

 

1) GH4's 1080p (@100mbps IPB or @200mbps All-I)

2) 1080p via external recorder ProRes 10-bit 4:2:2

3) 1080p resized from GH4's 4K footage (post)

4) 1080p crop from GH4's 4K footage (post)

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Oh and it seems that E-M1's sensor is from Panasonic, I wonder if it's the same as the GX7/GM1 and if that's why the video looks better as well. Quite interesting, huh?

 

Talking about sensors, it seems that Panasonic doesn't really have the money to run some stuff. They didn't have their own sensor when they made the GH3 so they had to go with the Sony sensor. This time I don't understand why didn't Panasonic have a proper sensor so they didn't have to crop it for 4K? Or why didn't they make a multi-aspect sensor like they did for the GH1 and GH2?

 

Did they need the extra space for the heat issue and that's why it's not a multi-aspect one?

 

The best solution would had been a multi-aspect sensor with 2:1 pixels for 4K and that would also allow you to shoot 4:3 aspect-ratio for anamorphic lenses.

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Cool. And I do agree with your point on having the need to use an external recorder on the GH4 is silly. Also I think Andrew may know some things we don't yet, plus he sometimes writes things based on gut feeling :-) I use different sources for scientific comparisons.

I own a BMPCC and if that thing allows me to record ProRes 4:2:2 and even RAW (albeit 1080p), why not the GH4?
I would gladly accept the battery drain :-) maybe they have internal design rules they need to follow, something Blackmagic doesn't have to obey?

If I would have designed the GH4, this would have been my choice:

- Canon C100 like body and ergonomics
- ND filters built in
- Simplified codecs. Just H264 (standard quality) and ProRes (for high quality)
- LOG flat look. Monitor with this look and/or record setting
- Photo as secondary mode. If the dial is on movie recording, change the entire design and layout to serve movie recording. Don't try to cram both in a unified interface.
- Olympus 5-axis stabilizer.

We can all dream ;-)

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There's a lot more to a camera than specs alone, the GH4 sounds great on paper but what I'm more curious about is the intangible, something the Blackmagic Cameras excel at. I'm quite fond of the aesthetic produced by the Blackmagic sensors, its often described as "filmic" but I prefer the term organic. Many digital cameras suffer from looking 'too' digital and while you can certainly grade that out to a large degree it's impossible to recover from it entirely. Noise pattern is a big factor in this, appealing noise can make it's existence entirely more tolerable often even desired, something the Alexa is often lauded for. When it comes to narrative work atleast I would personally rather have a 1080p image with excellent tonality, noise pattern and highlight roll-off than a 4K image with with little or none of the above. 

 

Another point that bothers me a bit about this camera and I suppose the market in general is the lack of innovation on the lower end in regard to ergonomics. As we all know DSLR's weren't designed for video, video was just an afterthought, yet manufacturers (Canon, Sony, Panasonic) seem to have no interest in providing the product the market is obviously yearning for. Panasonic surprises me especially in this regard, they have been known for their ergonomics in the past and still are (hvx100, af100, etc...) so why couldn't they create a sub $3K camera in a proper video oriented form factor with these specs? I can't believe that a camera with ergonomics even half as good as the C series from Canon couldn't exist for under $3K with these specs or better. I don't know, I guess I just miss the days when you could just pick up your camera and go shoot, no fancy rigs and add-ons just plain old comfortable ergonomics with a decent evf at your eye. 

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Cool. And I do agree with your point on having the need to use an external recorder on the GH4 is silly. Also I think Andrew may know some things we don't yet, plus he sometimes writes things based on gut feeling :-) I use different sources for scientific comparisons.

I own a BMPCC and if that thing allows me to record ProRes 4:2:2 and even RAW (albeit 1080p), why not the GH4?
I would gladly accept the battery drain :-) maybe they have internal design rules they need to follow, something Blackmagic doesn't have to obey?
 

 

It's likely due to bussiness reasons. Pushing more ppl to buy very higly profittable extension box is good moneys if they manage to sell alot of them.  There likely are no real reasons why it cannot be done in camera. Like add two memory cards slots 1xSD-slot 1xthe new CARD-slot (that fuji has)

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I’ve shot uncompressed raw for around a year now and it’s not so much the added expense of storage space that bothers me (prices have come so low) but how to organise all the damn data. Having so much data spread across so many hard drives is a bit of a headache. You can of course delete the raw files and keep the compressed versions or ProRes. In practice I find it very hard to delete the master files. It just doesn’t feel “rightâ€, especially if it was an artistic endeavour. It’s a bit like photocopying your painting and throwing away the original.

I have to say I'm very much in agreement here.  I've gone back to my original RAW footage I shot a year ago and what a difference it makes.  From Davinci 9 to 10 is a huge difference.  RAW footage does take so much space, but it's hard to get rid of the master files.  With technology moving so fast there's always new software on the horizon.  I wonder if it's just like the processed film.  Once you have it cut and finalized, you could never really destroy the masters can you?  I feel RAW footage is the same. 

 

As for all the compressed footage, I wonder how long we can stay on 8bit before we seriously move to 10bit.  I too wish Panasonic moved to 10bit internally, but then again why don't they just forget about SD cards and move straight to SSD drives?  We'll have to see when all of the 4K cameras come out before we make too many judgements. 

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- Olympus 5-axis stabilizer.

We can all dream ;-)

 

My guess guess is that IBIS is not feasible with high bit rates sensors at this point since the latter shall require solid attachment to the heat sink. But maybe I am wrong...   

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Interesting review. But I feel the analysis leaves out some important points. You talk about the size advantages of the GH4 but fail to mention that if you want to shoot 4:2:2 which for many of us is required by clients, the GH4 becomes a different beast. Either you use an Atomos Samurai for 1200.00 or a Convergent Design Odyssey for 2200.00. Ninja wouldn't be a good idea for focus at 4k. With the BMC add a small HD for 600.00. If the GH4 could record 4:2:2 internally, it would be a huge hit. That omission really is a deal breaker for pro users because HDMI connections are dicey. Adding the unwieldy break out box along with 12 volt power now has me looking at renting a C300. This break out dock will require some seriously redesigned cages because of its non standard height and the jutting forward past the lens mount will make rigging follow focus and other rod accessories a pain.

 

Also, did Panasonic change the horrible placement of the HDMI out? This makes using the LCD in flipped out to the side most difficult as any owners of Gh3 know by now. From the pics it still looks the same. 

 

Could you please give more information on your DR specs? I've seen no tests or official literature that verifies 12 stops on the GH4. This is important to me as the DR on the Gh2 and 3 was much less than that (9-10 at most). You also mention using PL mount on the GH4. Did the reinforce it? The MFT mount on the GH2 and 3 was not designed for that kind of weight. I've bent a few.

 

Saying a smaller sensor size is better for 4k because of added DOF needs some clarification? This doesn't quite make sense. What would be the point of Dragon chip, IMAX or shooting Full Frame? Would 4k  be ideal on 1/3" chip and put it on autofocus? Anyone who's been shooting Red for the past five years or film for God knows how long, isn't bothered by this and surely wouldn't trade in a super 35 size chip for MFT size.

 

Which brings me to glass. MFT lens choices still have much to be desired. EF mount offers loads more choices both cine and stills.

 

Regarding ergonomics your criticism doesn't consider that anyone owner of BMC knows it'll be with a cage in which you have numerous choices out there. From there, you tailor your ergonomics.

 

I'd love to see an analysis between the two if recording 4:2:2 is imperative and rigged out how people would actually use them in a professional setting.

 

Some very good points in here Tim.

 

Seemingly you're coming at this from the perspective of a professional and you want a broadcast ready 4:2:2 camera. The article wasn't quite aimed at you, more towards the affordable camera / DSLR crowd. That's why I don't mark down the GH4 very harshly for the lack of internal 4:2:2. Most shooters don't give a rats ass about whether their camera is BBC accredited or not. You're right on the placement of the HDMI port though. It's not ideal. Would rather see it on the right and full sized. As for WHY the internal codec lacks 4:2:2 sampling despite it being in the imaging pipeline right up until the final compression stages, it may or may not be a product segmentation issue. I expect Atomos and Convergent Design probably had a large say in it if they've been involved in product feedback with Panasonic. It's absolutely in their interest to see the spec of HDMI come up a bit, because it's been poor so far. It's also in their interests to see internal codecs stay relatively basic. Anyway enough speculation...

 

PL and native MFT lenses on the GH4 I see as an advantage, because neither go on the Blackmagic EF mount. Yes Canon glass is great but you will at some point be able to put it on the GH4 with full electronic functionality.

 

For DR specs I am going off what I am told by Panasonic and Blackmagic plus a visual evaluation of the footage based on my experience with other cameras. You're right, this can't be independantly verified until the cameras ship and are tested. I'd be very surprised if the GH4 doesn't have similar dynamic range to the C300.

 

In a professional setting what lets down the Blackmagic is audio. Sucks!

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, a pro camera I could pull out of my bag and look as innocuous as a tourist, must now have an external recorder attached to the cage, attached to the shoulder mount,..... They came so close. Back to the BMCPC.

My apologies.

This is how I feel dammit. I don't buy that they did it because the file size was too big either, that does not quite make sense. Anyway speculation on a web forum will get me nowhere. So close dammit.

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