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


Andrew Reid
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I felt that the a7s was a little rushed product, maybe Sony has in works for a new fs100 generation (low light monster) until GH4 was appeared at CES, so Sony in a hurry put this sensor on the a7 and that is it.

No internal 4k recording is a downer also the 4K hdmi output at 8bit; sure the FF sensor will give us a lovely image, but i feel that a DSLR form factor as the GH4 make more sense for prolonged video recording, and Sony maybe never could resolve the overheating due to the size of the body and maybe that is the explanation of why we don't have XAVC 4k recording in body.

Personally for video the GH4 is a much more complete package and i'm sure it will be cheaper too.

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

$2,798 then within 6 months expect it to drop anywhere from 15-20% in price.


That's the exact price I was told by my bird (Biggest video equipment retailer in Africa&themiddleeast, with no mentioning of names. :)

It's nowhere near 1699$ claimed here. Wish We're wrong though! For 1699 I would get 5 for our Prod. Company. These would our work SO much easier than our current gear! At 2800 I would shift towards a better investment-wise solution like the GH4. Will still get one for personal fun though!
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For my particular needs, which is amateur film making, I find the look of GH3, GH4, A7S too sterile. You can add Sony's F range in there too. Now, I know we can pop these through something like FilmConvert at the end of the workflow, but I still find having it done in post doesn't quite beat done in acquisition.

 

Aside from Blackmagic, I've not seen a single camera that rivals the hacked GH2 in terms of what I deem mojo. Mojo being intra cadence and tight noise (grain like) structure. Oh it'll clip all right, so you have to be careful, and neither is it a low light monster. I tell a lie actually, the ML 5DIII RAW has the same look. But nothing else does.

 

So for me, there's only a few cameras on my list. Canon 5DIII, Panasonic GH2 and BMPC/BMCC.

 

I really want this A7S to be able to give us that look, but I think it's going to be sterile like the F5. Wonderful ground breaking technology, clean and accurate, but....ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz. At least full frame has an interesting look of its own. For me it makes great emotional cinema, with the subject completely knocked out of any clutter. For a whole movie though? No. Unless it's some kind of 2 hour dream sequence.

 

Sony. Gimme some mojo please :)

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There still just isn't the perfect stills/video camera.  In my mind the Canon 5d3 w/raw still wins as the closest to the perfect camera though - for stills it easily beats these two for AF tracking, continuous burst and resolution.  I can't see myself shooting indoor sports with either the GH4 or the A7s.

For video, I prefer wider angle, full frame and raw.  I shoot mostly people and prefer the skin tones of the Canon.  If I was interested in 4k I might look at one of these cameras, but I'm too heavily invested in Canon glass to make a switch.  I shoot about 50/50 stills and video.

The downsides/frustrations for me are:

GH4:  Why no in body IS?  Even the GX7 has it.  Where's a really good adapter for micro-four thirds to EF mount?  Why have the headphone/microphone jacks on the left side so they get in the way when you fold out the screen?  The low light will never touch a modern FF camera, and the stills are just "meh".  Never been in love with the skin colors from my multiple GH2's.  Great resolution and fun camera to shoot video with though.

A7s: Not really impressed with having to purchase an external recorder.  Very slow 2.5 FPS for stills with 1/2 the resolution of the 5d3, and just a handful of native FE lenses (no 2.8 zooms or fast primes other than a medium speed 55/1.8.  I realize the whole point is to be small.  I wouldn't be surprised if this thing overheats shooting 1080p internally, and Sony is known to have pretty lousy customer service and pretty much no "professional" services for still cameras.

 

Since I'm not interested in 4k, I'm not sure either of these cameras are anywhere close to a great all-arounder like my 5d3 + raw, especially now that the MLV format the onboard audio syncs up perfectly.

Might pick one up for a 2nd body but there's no way to get fast stills AF with my EF glass with either of these.

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It looks fine to me on the dynamic range front. Very little of it is blown out. The actual shooting could do with a bit more imagination but I'm not seeing any glaring problems.

 

Dynamic range does not look like LOG or CineStyle BTW... Nor does it look like the horrible HDR sick. Dynamic range for cinema really is how much of the shadows and highlights remain while keeping a ton of contrast in the image. Alexa and BMCC are good examples.

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A clue is in the body. It is A7 based with same shutter. It doesn't have the more expensive trimmings of the A7R body.

 

Therefore I am expecting the price to be around about the A7 level, which would be a steal.

 

The recorder is likely to be the more expensive part... but still considering the end spec you are getting - full frame 4K ProRes 4:2:2 with 14 stop dynamic range... it ain't bad.

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Isn't it possible to convert the HDMI signal to SDI and use one of the existing 4K capable recorders or am I missing something here?
To me 14 stops of dynamic range (yet to be confirmed by Sony) and amazingly good low light sensitivity is to me more important than internal 4K recording. 

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It looks fine to me on the dynamic range front. Very little of it is blown out. The actual shooting could do with a bit more imagination but I'm not seeing any glaring problems.

 

Dynamic range does not look like LOG or CineStyle BTW... Nor does it look like the horrible HDR sick. Dynamic range for cinema really is how much of the shadows and highlights remain while keeping a ton of contrast in the image. Alexa and BMCC are good examples.

It looks like it has too many crushed blacks and some strange purple noise on some of them, maybe it was badly graded or badly compressed?
Overall it doesn't impress, not bad but it seems far from the "unprecedent dynamic range". Let's wait for more footage and tests.

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Both Cameras are awesome and wish i could own both. Main difference for me is the cost of 4K acquisition. GH4 does it for $2000.00 where as Sony for  $ 5000.00. I love the quality and  flexibility of 4K and want it right now, not 6 months down the road. 

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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.

 

 

Well, Sony, as usual protect their pro line. They obviously did not want to offer 4K out of the box, or 10-bit output for just this reason. I am a happy m43 owner myself, but I know technically, Sony could easily match Panasonic on the electronics end - IF THEY WANTED TO. 

 

I bought into Nex before m43, hoping that Sony would either open up the codec a bit themselves, or someone would hack it, but no such luck, so my 5n is relegated to my more bizarre hobbies of infrared and ultraviolet photography (had the hotmirror removed), while my GH3 does all the normal photography and video.

 

I really want the GH4 down the line, though disappointed in lack of IBIS, but I do believe Panasonic actually had a problem getting a stable system that will not overheat if they included this. I don't think they did it to leave something out.

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Hopefully Canon will react to A7S and GH4 with a 5DC / 4D with 1D C sensor (and image quality) - just not the pro photography features or as high build quality. Ideally it would be more up to date on the 4K side with more space efficient 4K codec than MJPEG. 10bit via HDMI would also be useful.

 

Price no more than $3k.

 

What would be the point in that? What would be the point of stuffing yet another (4K) movie camera inside a dSLR? 

I think it would make much more sense to take their existing Cx00 mirrorless design and build a new version of the C100, for example, and call it C4K or whatever. 

 

Nevertheless, keeping in mind we're talking about Canon, they might just do yet another 5D mk whatever, with or without 4K capabilities.  But not as a reaction to the A7s, which Canon will not see as a threat to their business. Nor do they apparently bother about the GH4, either. It'll be more like a reaction to whatever Nikon is squirting out.

 

 

I think either we'll see a a99 successor that records 4k internally for double the price of this camera, or we'll see a A7S successor next year with 4k internal recording, depending on how the competition goes. Or maybe something in between? Small body, 4k internal, same HDMI options from A7S for US$2500? They can't depend on external recording forever if they wanna sell those 4k tv sets, right? 

 

I wonder how well would such an A7s successor with internal 4K work? A full frame sensor and internal processing inside a mFT-sized body, where would they fit all the excess heat? I believe the heat excuse may well be a valid one, for the A7s not having internal 4K. 

 

Therefore it would be logical that a much bulkier a99 successor or another A-mount (perhaps even a Z-axis, multi-mount one?) camera to be released later (late 2014, early 2015?) might come up with internal 4K and other goodies, too. Or maybe they'll come up with a new, slightly bulkier flagship model, an A9 with all the goodies next year? We'll have plenty of time to speculate and spec-ulate, or just pick either of these two, as soon as they hit the shelves.

 

Speaking of goodies, it was nice to read that the A7s has some rare (in its class) goodies like the gamma profiles (like S-Log2) and zebras, but I didn't see any mention of internal ND filters, which is a bit of a bummer. It would be a nice feature to have, á la RX10, which is no doubt cheaper than the A7s will be. But it still looks like the most interesting hybrid option these days. If only they let us know the price. 

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