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Panasonic GH4 vs Sony A7S compared - who wins the 4K battle on paper?


Andrew Reid
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I can't see the A7S (or some variant) not having internal 4K recording for long.  It seems like an interim product to me, as if they felt compelled to come out with a 4K camera, but didn't have time to finish it.

 

Michael

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Something tells me that if you buy a 4k recorder now for a A7S, you're gonna be very sorry in 2015.

 

Planned obsolescence. It gets hapless consumers every year.

However, thanks to hackers, the hardware doesn't get relegated to paper weight status quite so soon.

If there is a hack that enables onboard recording for the a7s, it might keep the camera relevant beyond 2015.

We'll know that's the case when we see all those used atmos recorders flood the ebay market.  

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Nice article, you have, Andrew. This is far to be infotainment as most severe criticism can illude. This is pure information and even dedicated education or online news at best. I am glad to see your reaction. People say crisis can make us stronger when we learn and extract the only positive side they can bring: insight from an external POV to ours and brighter side of our goodwill and skills : )

 

Kudos to your hard work with a much personal touch... isn't this the mass the arts are made from?

 

E :-)

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Both are interesting in their own ways. But the advantage of the A7S is when you don't want a shallow DOF, you can bump the ISO up.

 

4k is nice, but both are 8bit for most people who aren't going to shell out for a recorder. To me, FF and low light has a greater narrative advantage.

 

For as much as the BMCC is an incomplete product, neither can do what it does.

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Right now most of us we are going to shoot 1080p for a great many projects and the A7S wins this battle hands down. On paper it looks like the most complete 1080p DSLM ever made, it offers almost everything we have ever asked for... So many, real world, filmmaking capabilities such as full-frame, APS-C, extreme low light, no nonsense decent codec (50mb/sec for 8bit 4:2:0), S-log picture profile, no need for expensive adapters, even 120frames slomo in 720p(by now obsolete...) and uncompressed output (yet only!)8bit 4:2:2.

However, most people argue about the lack of internal 4K recording!

Obviously 4K is the future but untill our workflow gets properly 4K with respective monitors, PCs, GPUs, TV sets etc. this camera is going to be king for the budget, indie filmmaker. I believe 4K needs a couple of years before it gets industry standard, yet people are already sold to it before they have or can even use it. We've already seen cameras that promise the future and do not deliver now(Blackmagic anyone?) and when the future comes they are already out of specs.

Don't forget that next year GH4(another excellent offer) is going to look so... well, last year. Such a shame really!

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Right now most of us we are going to shoot 1080p for a great many projects and the A7S wins this battle hands down. On paper it looks like the most complete 1080p DSLM ever made, it offers almost everything we have ever asked for... So many, real world, filmmaking capabilities such as full-frame, APS-C, extreme low light, no nonsense decent codec (50mb/sec for 8bit 4:2:0 is enough for me 200mb/sec is overkill), S-log picture profile, no need for expensive adapters, even 120frames slomo in 720p(by now obsolete...) and uncompressed output (yet only!)8bit 4:2:2.

However, most people argue about the lack of internal 4K recording!

Obviously 4K is the future but untill our workflow gets properly 4K with equivalent monitors, PCs, GPUs, TV sets etc. this camera is going to be king for the budget, indie filmmaker. I believe 4K needs a couple of years before it gets industry standard, yet people are already sold to it before they have or can even use it. We've already seen cameras that promise the future and do not deliver now(Blackmagic anyone?) and when the future comes they are already out of specs.

Don't forget that, with this mindset, next year GH4(another excellent offer) is going to look so... well, last year. Such a shame really!

 

Believe me, A7s isn't "everything we ever asked for". If it was, it'd have 10-bit at the least. Have you ever worked with a true 10-bit video image as opposed to 8-bit? It's a world of difference. Anyone that tells you otherwise simply doesn't understand colour-science, colour-precision, dynamic-range preservation, nor colour-grading.

Further, every one that goes on and on about "the benefits of full-frame" either doesn't realise that full-frame is very hard for precise focus-pulling, nor do they understand that, when shooting 4K, your focusing better be on point. Full-frame is actually very unfriendly for filmmakers - especially "one-man-army" type filmmakers. In indie filmmaking, a small sensor is actually your friend.

F4 is very shallow on full-frame - usually one has to stop down to F5.6 to even make the focusing manageable (and by doing so, you'll be pumping up the ISO to compensate for closing your aperture down), let alone viewable. For some strange reason, shallow depth-of-field has become synonymous with "cinematic". For me, when I see ultra shallow depth-of-field, especially the overuse and abuse of it, it simply screams "amateur", "novice". Especially when it is accompanied by God-awful jitters and micro-shakes.

People need to concentrate on composition more than shallow DoF - and in my humble opinion, light and shadow gives a sense of depth far more than shallow DoF, or the Z-Axis benefit that comes with full-frame sensors (which is a concept I've never really agreed with). Light and shadow is far more important when creating the illusion of three-dimensions through a two-dimensional medium such as film.

But to each there own. For me, tha A7s will be something I buy more for my street photography than video. I'll throw my old Canon FD and Nikon-F glass on there. I don't need auto-focus. In fact, I detest the hell out of auto-focus.

For those that go A7s, be sensible in your composition. The last thing anyone wants to see is 95% bokeh like we did during the 5DMKII days.

In my opinion, A7s is probably the more "fun" camera. I think it benefits still photography more than it does video. The GH4 is by far the more sensible video/film camera - 4K 10-bit at up to 30FPS, 1080P 10-bit at up to 60FPS, a sensor-size with manageable DoF - especially for "one-many-army" type filmmakers.

But like I said, to each their own.

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I don't really see the big concern about the lack of internal 4K on the Sony.

 

Surely if you have something worth shooting in 4K, you will want to use an external recorder with the Gh4 too? And you will certainly need a large monitor to focus, so having a monitor/recorder bolted on will make little difference.

 

I guess an argument can be made for recording 4K internally and then using it to create 1080p final output. But then you have to weigh up the convenience of that with what is likely to be a pretty big difference in low light and DR.

 

Sacrfices, sacrifices. I think I will stick with the BMPCC and Canon 5D-RAW and see how all this pans out.

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Believe me, A7s isn't "everything we ever asked for". If it was, it'd have 10-bit at the least. Have you ever worked with a true 10-bit video image as opposed to 8-bit? It's a world of difference. Anyone that tells you otherwise simply doesn't understand colour-science, colour-precision, dynamic-range preservation, nor colour-grading.

Further, every one that goes on and on about "the benefits of full-frame" either doesn't realise that full-frame is very hard for precise focus-pulling, nor do they understand that, when shooting 4K, your focusing better be on point. Full-frame is actually very unfriendly for filmmakers - especially "one-man-army" type filmmakers. In indie filmmaking, a small sensor is actually your friend.

F4 is very shallow on full-frame - usually one has to stop down to F5.6 to even make the focusing manageable (and by doing so, you'll be pumping up the ISO to compensate for closing your aperture down), let alone viewable. For some strange reason, shallow depth-of-field has become synonymous with "cinematic". For me, when I see ultra shallow depth-of-field, especially the overuse and abuse of it, it simply screams "amateur", "novice". Especially when it is accompanied by God-awful jitters and micro-shakes.

People need to concentrate on composition more than shallow DoF - and in my humble opinion, light and shadow gives a sense of depth far more than shallow DoF, or the Z-Axis benefit that comes with full-frame sensors (which is a concept I've never really agreed with). Light and shadow is far more important when creating the illusion of three-dimensions through a two-dimensional medium such as film.

But to each there own. For me, tha A7s will be something I buy more for my street photography than video. I'll throw my old Canon FD and Nikon-F glass on there. I don't need auto-focus. In fact, I detest the hell out of auto-focus.

For those that go A7s, be sensible in your composition. The last thing anyone wants to see is 95% bokeh like we did during the 5DMKII days.

In my opinion, A7s is probably the more "fun" camera. I think it benefits still photography more than it does video. The GH4 is by far the more sensible video/film camera - 4K 10-bit at up to 30FPS, 1080P 10-bit at up to 60FPS, a sensor-size with manageable DoF - especially for "one-many-army" type filmmakers.

But like I said, to each their own.

 

I didn't elaborate about the benefits of full frame or the shallow depth of field but unfortunately you didn't get the point...

I was talking about the A7s 1080p capabilities that apply to present day filmmaking.

Please understand that this is an APS-C camera as well in 1080p, so that makes your comment irrelevant about shallow depth of field. APS-C is equivalent to Super35mm the filmmaking industry standard.

Regarding 8bit 4:2:2, have you ever worked with C300? Do you think it is not adequate for broadcast?

or have you ever seen any FS100 S-log 8bit 4:2:0 in 24Mb/s AVCHD footage? Is it not good enough for most video work?

People need to concentrate on what they can properly use right now.

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As an astrophotography hobbyist, we always laughed at high megapixel obsession. But that's because we work in low light, and large pixels are king. Anyway, I'm no PhD, but Mr. Clark has one in physics (from MIT) and he has great article about pixel size, in case anyone is obsessed with low noise footage:

http://www.clarkvision.com/articles/does.pixel.size.matter/

 

part 2:

 

http://www.clarkvision.com/articles/does.pixel.size.matter2/index.html

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Interesting that the 1080P in the A7 S is APS-C. So, you could add a metabones adapter designed for the Nex, use a full frame lens, and get a faster lens for doing 1080P work. In low light for 1080P, I'd have thought it would be better than the GH4. Perhaps even if the GH-4 got its 1080P from downsampling 4000K.

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I didn't elaborate about the benefits of full frame or the shallow depth of field but unfortunately you didn't get the point...

I was talking about the A7s 1080p capabilities that apply to present day filmmaking.

Please understand that this is an APS-C camera as well in 1080p, so that makes your comment irrelevant about shallow depth of field. APS-C is equivalent to Super35mm the filmmaking industry standard.

Regarding 8bit 4:2:2, have you ever worked with C300? Do you think it is not adequate for broadcast?

or have you ever seen any FS100 S-log 8bit 4:2:0 in 24Mb/s AVCHD footage? Is it not good enough for most video work?

People need to concentrate on what they can properly use right now.

 

APS-C is plenty capable of shallow DoF. What I was saying was how a lot of things filmed on full-frame often abuse shallow DoF to the point where it's disorientating. Regardless, go to any film set that is shooting on an APS-C sized sensor and ask the focus-puller or cinematographer what aperture they're at for most of the film - any money says they'll tell you between F5.6 to F8.

I've worked with C300. Not a fan to be honest. Found the skin-tones very "crayon" like. If that makes sense? The 1DC even more so.

The FS100 I rented every week for the good half of a year - too electronic for my liking. Something I put down to the 8-bit and highlight roll-off. Not to mention the motion cadence.

Anyway, it's all trivial :) Like I said - to each their own :)

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For me, I'm sticking with my GH4 preorder for a number of reasons.
- Articulating screen
- Touch screen
- better grip/more comfortable to hold
- established lineup of lenses (Nocticron looks amazing, as does the new 15 f/1.7)
- internal 4k
- cheaper most likely

Sony does this to us with every release. They come so close to making a complete, breathtaking product but leave something out of it that makes you scratch your head. Almost makes you wonder if they're purposely holding back to get you with the next product. It started with the NEX line (molasses slow lens release), went to the RX1 (sluggish AF, external EVF), then to the a7 line (slowish AF, no touch screen, loud shutter, limited lens release). Not everyone adapts manual glass and some rely on fast AF since it's not all about landscapes and architecture.

Another thing that I haven't seen brought up us ergonomics. Yes the a7s is more compact but look at the layout, it's the same as the other a7's. What I mean is by all reports the video record button is in an odd place, offset to the side like that. People either comment how it's too easy to press and they end up accidentally recording a bunch of grass and the inside of the camera bag or it's too difficult to reach comfortably for the times that you want to shoot video. The GH4 like the 5DM3 seem to have it in the right place, not somewhere where you would accidentally press, but easy enough to reach when you want to.

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I will never get the argument that FF is harder to focus.... Just stop down. Sure, you will need to push up the ISO, but you would on the 4/3 anyway, as the sensor doesn't gather as much light.

 

With FF, you can easily match any DOF/Focal length of a m34 sensor. The opposite is not so easy.

 

The only plus point for smaller sensors is getting a longer zoom, but then FF can go alot wider

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Also if you watch this YouTube video

with I think one of the designers of the 4k recorder made with the a7s in ind and skip to around the 4:30 mark, he expects the recorder/camera combo to cost around $5,000. The recorder is expected to retail for around $2,000, so if he's right then the camera will be in the $3,000 range. And then possibly expect the a7 early adopter tax to kick in, if the camera comes out for say... $2,798 then within 6 months expect it to drop anywhere from 15-20% in price.
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Simon has a very good point, full frame is harder to focus and bluring everything isn't professional.

When is it hard to focus ? well, let's take a wedding for example :), you have the first dance and the bride and groom have an energetic dance, believe me, no one in the industry managed to keep this kind of dances in focus on a FF.

Conditions are bad for first dance, very low light, you need to be wide open, you have to estimate where they are going in order to keep them in focus, it's impossible not to miss them a few times.

People exclusive to FF do these with multiple cameras, 2 is not enough, sometimes the static FF shooter who misses most of the dance can't give much footage, most footage come from glidecam which has an absurd 14mm set to infinity, no bokeh there.

So yeah, gh4 sensor  is the workhorse for everything, but if you have the money, a7s is not a bad choice for a second camera and it is a must if you do high end weddings.

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