Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 at a glance:

  • 16.05-million-pixel, micro four thirds Live MOS sensor
  • Venus Engine IX
  • ISO 200-25600 (ISO 100 as extended setting)
  • 4K video recording
  • Weather-sealed magnesium-alloy construction
  • 2.36-million-dot OLED EVF
  • 3in, 1,036,000-dot LCD screen
  • Street price £1,299 body only, or £1,749 with 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 lens

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review – Introduction

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3, the predecessor of the Lumix DMC-GH4, was a popular micro four thirds camera among videographers and bloggers in particular, thanks to its class-leading video-recording capabilities; it was even the camera of choice for AP’s own videographer for some time. However, theGH3’s photographic credentials, while good, didn’t quite match the impressive standard of its video capabilities.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 has addressed this but faces some very stiff competition in the form of the Sony Alpha 6000, Olympus’s OM-D E-M1 and the Fujifilm X-T1. All are very good compact system cameras with strong feature sets that give DSLRs with larger sensors a fair run for their money.

Although it carries the same resolution as the camera it replaces, Panasonic has completely revisited its 16.05-million-pixel Live MOS sensor for the GH4, as well as including a new quad-core Venus Engine IX image processor that is claimed to boost sensitivity, edge sharpness and colour reproduction. Autofocus accuracy and acquisition, processing speed and resolution are other areas that are said to benefit from the improvements Panasonic has made, with the GH4 boasting a high-speed signal readout almost twice that of the GH3.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review – Features

Retaining its familiar DSLR styling, it is clear that Panasonic still wants this model to be attractive as a camera first and foremost, but the company has created a portable do-it-all device, making it one of the most feature-heavy devices on the market. Until now, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 was the firm’s best camera for capturing quality stills and one of the best compact system cameras released in 2013, but the GH4 has been designed to surpass it in every area.

The all-new sensor and processing combination gives the GH4 a significantly larger native ISO sensitivity range of 200-25,600 with ISO 100 available in an extended setting, signalling high confidence from Panasonic regarding this camera’s noise-handling capabilities and low-light performance compared to its predecessors.

Still-picture resolution has benefited from the improvements needed to accommodate 4K video recording, as Panasonic has implemented a new processing routine that can do a better job of detecting, with greater accuracy, fine details such has hair and feathers.

The GH4 utilises Panasonic’s own Depth from Defocus (DFD) technology, which analyses two out-of-focus areas, one from the foreground and one from the background, to hone in on the correct focus more rapidly. Under optimum conditions, focus can be achieved in approximately 0.07sec, which is a fraction faster than the popular Fujifilm X-T1. However, this method only works with compatible Lumix lenses. Forty-nine precision contrast-detection AF areas can be selected either individually or in groups, while custom multi-mode allows for the selection of two separate areas.

One additional feature that answers a criticism of the GH3 is focus peaking, which highlights the in-focus high-contrast areas. This feature, along with focus assist, which magnifies the focus area when using the manual focus ring, will be particularly useful for those shooting macro subjects and video and focusing manually.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 is capable of burst-mode shooting during continuous AF at 7.5 frames per second and up to as fast as 12 frames per second in AF-S mode, for 40 raw images or 100 JPEGs at full resolution. Couple that with its speedy AF and maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec, and the GH4 is a camera that should be able to freeze fast-moving subjects with ease.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review – Motion pictures

By offering superior video performance in the compact system camera sector, Panasonic has attracted a lot of admirers among hybrid photographers and filmmakers with its GH-series cameras. The addition of ultra-high-definition (UHD) 4K video recording will only bolster Panasonic’s position in this class.

Inside the Lumix DMC-GH4, Panasonic has included technology and features from its professional video camera division, such as focusing peaking, master pedestal adjustment, zebra patterning and a raft of bit rate, resolution and codec options, including cinema-grade 4K video (4096×2160 pixels) at 24p with a bit rate of 100Mbps. It’s also capable of recording 1080p full HD video with a maximum bit rate of 200Mbps, which is a big step up from the GH3’s 73Mbps and significantly more impressive than the Canon EOS 5D Mark III’s 91Mbps. The higher bit rate reduces compression artefacts recorded during filming, meaning the GH4 is better equipped for shooting motion and capturing more dynamic shots.

Although 4K displays are still a while away from replacing HD, the ability to record in UHD opens up a number of possibilities in post-production, particularly in low-light and high-contrast situations. With four times as many pixels as full HD, 4K video footage delivers crisper footage with a high dynamic range when it is down-converted to full HD. I found it is also possible to crop into 4K footage as much as 200% to either recompose a shot or simulate camera motion from stationary shots.

For high-contrast scenes, I was pleased to see that Panasonic has included its Cinelike Gamma D and V presets, also featured in its broadcast-quality camcorders. Cinelike D is a flat profile that is ideal for film grading in post-production due to its flexibility, as the codec from the GH4 can withstand a lot of correction without losing quality. Cinelike V, meanwhile, contains greater contrast and has a smooth cinematic feel that looks good without grading.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review – Build and handling

The water and dust-resistant magnesium-alloy body of the GH4 shares similar physical dimensions with the GH3, but is slightly larger and heavier at 132.9×93.4×83.9mm and 560g body only. The camera fits like a mid-range DSLR in the hand, but I’d argue that it feels a little more solid due to its metallic chassis and quality build. Panasonic has sealed every single joint, button and dial to make the GH4 splash-proof, which meant I didn’t have to think twice about taking the camera out to capture shots in a wet environment, or simply keeping it around my neck on long walks while the weather was changeable.

The rubberised grip is the perfect size for medium and large hands, resting comfortably in the palm and allowing fingers to fall in almost precisely the right place to access the camera’s controls. There are five customisable function buttons, although two of these could be placed in better positions. Fn1 on the camera’s top-plate would have been better positioned closer to the edge where your thumb rests, and Fn4 (delete/return) is uncomfortable to use while holding the camera in a natural shooting position – it is only easily accessed during picture reviewing. Five customisable functions buttons are perhaps too many and will intimidate the less experienced user, especially considering that there are dedicated buttons, switches and dials for almost every shooting function one could expect to use on a regular basis, including ISO, white balance, drive, exposure compensation, AF/AE lock, focus mode and more.

There is definitely something to be said for allowing users to tailor their devices to their own specific needs, but there’s also something to be said for a manufacturer telling users exactly what is what and letting them love or loathe those decisions. It feels like Panasonic is trying too hard to cover all bases, leaving this relatively small camera looking a little cluttered.

One of my favourite improvements is the speckled finish that has been given to the GH4’s metal frame, bestowing a level of sophistication on this camera that the GH3 lacked. The GH4 looks and feels special. Another pleasant touch is the addition of a locking mechanism on the shooting dial, which can be pushed in to prevent accidental mode switching.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review – Metering

I was quite impressed with the Sony Alpha 6000’s 1,200-zone evaluative metering system, but Panasonic has gone further and packed into the GH4 the 1,728-zone multi-pattern system featured in its popular Lumix DMC-GX7, and it performs very well indeed.

In the majority of shooting scenarios, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 chose exposures that gave a good balanced representation of the scene or subject that I was trying to capture. I only noticed a tendency for the camera to underexpose images during overcast or dim conditions, but this isn’t uncommon. The dedicated exposure-compensation button, positioned close to the shutter, allowed me to swiftly make any minor adjustments when needed without having to take my eye from the frame.

Centreweighted and spot-metering modes are also available, both linked to the camera’s autofocusing system and displayed in real-time on either the EVF and rear screen, which is useful as it helped me to ensure I had the correct exposure before wasting a shot.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review – Dynamic range

Image: A lot of recoverable detail remained in the shadow areas of this image, even in the JPEG files

Cameras with smaller sensors tend to struggle to capture a great deal of dynamic range information, when compared with large-sensor cameras such as APS-C and full-frame DSLRs. However, the GH4 scored very well during our lab testing, managing a dynamic range score of 12.09EV at ISO 100, which is higher than the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II and comparable to the Canon EOS 1200D and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

Panasonic has included intelligent dynamic and iHDR (available during iAuto+ mode) options in the settings menu that will automatically make adjustments to the exposure settings, depending on the meter reading, to produce greater detail in shadow and highlight areas. Three strengths of assistance are available in intelligent dynamic: high, standard and low. These are particularly useful when shooting subjects in high-contrast scenes where the camera may struggle to balance highlights and shadows.

However, even without utilising those additional options, I was surprised by the amount of highlight and shadow detail that this camera is able to capture. In shots where the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 appeared to have blown some highlights, detail information was recoverable, even from JPEGs, when using processing software such as Adobe Lightroom.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review- Autofocus

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 features a host of focusing options that maximise its functionality for video and photographic use. Using a precision contrast AF system, it speeds up the focus processing with Panasonic’s proprietary Depth from Defocus (DFD) method, taking readings from the foreground and background of the subject area to hone in to the correct target in as little as 0.07sec.

A large portion of the GH4’s screen is covered by the 49 AF areas. This is more than double the 23 points available on the GH3 and are divided into groups of either four, six or nine. Face/eye detection works well and can detect up to 15 people. Tracking AF gave me some mixed results: the GH4 was capable of finding the right subject, but it occasionally dropped focus, which I noticed particularly during burst mode shooting where the camera lost focus every five or so frames before quickly snapping back onto the moving subject. Pinpoint AF mode allows you to focus on subjects smaller than the individual AF area. But for me, the most useful and interesting features in the GH4’s AF menu are the custom AF options.

The size of single-area AF can be adjusted using the wheel or the pinch and zoom touch functions you would use on a smear device, while custom AF allows for the user to freely set AF areas to better suit a variety of subjects, including areas not linked and are situated in different parts of the frame. Up to four custom AF grids can be created and stored in the custom AF menu, and setting them is easy as grids can be switched on or off by running your finger across the screen or tapping one of the 49 areas.

Image: Being able to shoot at 12 frames per second and the GH4’s quick continuous auto focus make it possible to freeze fast-moving subjects

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review – Noise, resolution and sensitivity

Considering that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4’s 16.05-million-pixel sensor seems to have been modelled largely on that used in the Lumix DMC-GX7, the new materials and processing algorithms used by Panasonic seem to have boosted this new camera’s resolving power, after we found that it resolved 28 lines per mm at ISO 100 on our resolution chart.

The GH4’s standard sensitivity range of ISO 200-25,600 during stills mode is a significant step up from the range of its predecessor. ISO 100 is available in an extended setting, while sensitivity is limited to ISO 6400 during movie recording.

JPEG images were surprisingly detailed straight out of the camera, producing smooth lines with very little noise-handling degradation affecting the images right up to ISO 3200. I did notice some colour noise at high sensitivities, but this can be eliminated easily from the JPEG and raw files. The sensitivity can be pushed beyond ISO 3200, but past ISO 6400 details become smudged due to aggressive smoothing, particularly in darker areas.

These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using the 14-140mm lens set to 35mm and f/5.6 . We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review – White balance and colour

Auto white balance on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 has a tendency to carry a slight cool blue cast under cloudy or dim light, but adjusting for the conditions definitely helped the camera produce more accurate results. There is not much in the way of white balance presets compared to some other cameras we have reviewed recently. Panasonic is keeping it simple with just five options, colour temperature and four custom settings. It is also possible to bracket the white balance using three exposures in the blue/amber or magenta/green axes.

For the most part, I like the colours produced by this camera, but in the standard colour setting they lacked a little punch and were perhaps too faithful to what we see in the real world. It is straightforward to add some saturation to give the images a little more of a kick, so this is not a big issue, and those who appreciate the more natural/faithful look will be pleased with the GH4’s colours without needing to make adjustments.

Creative control, which is accessible through the camera’s exposure-mode dial, provides a good range of filter modes to add some effects to your images, such as retro, low key, sepia, dynamic monochrome, toy effect and one-point colour. Some of these creative filters are available in movie-record mode. All these effects can be tweaked to preference and work well, although I prefer to make these kinds of adjustments in dedicated editing software once I have got the images out of the camera.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review – Live view, viewfinder, LCD screen and video

Panasonic has produced two high-quality displays for the GH4: a brand-new 2.36-million-dot OLED live viewfinder, which offers a 1.34x (0.67x equivalent) magnification providing a 100% field of view; and a bright 3in, 1.04-million-dot vari-angle touchscreen OLED monitor with a 3:2 aspect ratio.

Looking through the EVF of the GH4 is an experience that is close to looking through an optical viewfinder, with the added benefit of additional information and enhancements clearly displayed around the frame. A speedy refresh rate on both screens ensures that there is barely any lag between what you see in front of you and what is displayed on the screen. The level gauge featured in the GH3, powered by acceleration sensors, returns to provide assistance when trying to take images with a correctly balanced horizontal, as well as vertical orientation, and it works reliably.

Composing images and video that need precision focus on the GH4 is made much easier thanks to manual focus assist and focus-peaking features, which magnify and amplify surface and edge highlights. There’s also the option to touch focus and shoot using the rear screen – a rapid alternative to cycling through AF points using a wheel or D-pad.

The bright rear screen can be rotated 180° and 270° to face up, down or outwards for group or self-portraits, or even for filming pieces to camera unassisted. One of the best things about its various angles, however, is the ability to fold the screen closed inwards for protection, leaving a rugged plastic back facing outwards. Articulated screens are a common feature on many modern enthusiast cameras, but few provide this extra security, so Panasonic has done well to go a step further and provide a little additional life-proofing. This should reduce accidental scratches and prevent ruining the display.

Image: I found using the GH4’s articulated screen was a great help when composing shots at low angles 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review – The competition

As far as competition goes, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 is pretty much in a league of its own, as there is no other standalone device currently on the market that matches its features, portability and functionality. That said, being a true hybrid device, it will face strong competition on many fronts.

For anyone who is looking for a great stills camera in a compact form, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 is largely the mould from which the photographic technology featured in the GH4 was cast, and it still performs well and can now be picked up for almost half the price of the GH4. Then there is competition from the increasing number of hybrid DSLRs from other manufacturers at a similar or lower price point, with the distinct advantage of carrying larger sensors – the Nikon D7100, Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Sony’s recently announced Alpha 77 II, for example.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review – Our verdict

Panasonic’s Lumix creators are keen to appeal to professionals as well as enthusiast image-makers with this camera, so with those aims in mind they’ve developed a camera that really tries to do it all. The GH4 carries a host of pro-level video features and can capture stunning images with good detail and tone. The GH series has been a big hit with videographers especially, but now Panasonic has created a camera that photographers will be wise to pay attention to as well.

I would have liked to see the GH4 packed with a higher-resolution sensor than 16.05 million pixels, but rugged build quality, weather-sealing, and good low-light and great AF performance make this a compelling choice. Finally, although the market isn’t quite there yet, making the GH4 future-proof by including professional 4K video-recording capabilities in a compact camera may prove to be a very shrewd move from the Japanese firm.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review – Key features

Connect easily to smart devices via Wi-Fi or NFC to control the camera, or use an external monitor
Slow or fast motion
Create captivating slow or fast-motion footage using a frame rate of between 2fps and 96fps
Record and monitor audio professionally using an external mic and the provided 3.5mm head jack
Shutter life
The camera has been given a professional-grade shutter, rated to 200,000 actuations, which is 50,000 more than the Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Professional video
Using the optional DMW-YAGH interface, it is possible to output uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 4K footage via micro HDMI – broadcast news is typically recorded using 4:2:0 colour sampling
Rugged build
Full die-cast magnesium-alloy front and rear frames, with splash and dust-proofing, make the GH4 ideal for in-the-field use

Hands-on review

With a Panasonic G-system camera with a 4K designation tucked safely away behind glass at the CES expo in January, the launch of the Lumix DMC-GH4 perhaps comes as no surprise. Of course, the ability to shoot 4K video footage is the camera’s key feature, which is impressive given its size. However, this doesn’t mean that the small micro four thirds CSC is only for videographers, and Panasonic was keen to tell us more about the GH4’s still imaging capabilities.

Key features

Although the GH4 has the same 16.05-million-pixel resolution as its predecessor, the Lumix DMX-GH3, it does in fact house a brand-new sensor. According to Panasonic technical representatives, new semi-conductor production technology introduced since the GH3’s launch has helped to improve imaging sensors, resulting in less image noise and a wider dynamic range. With many APS-C sensors now offering resolutions in excess of 20 million pixels, the resolution of the GH4 seems to be a little low; however, in practice, the improvements made to the sensor to increase dynamic range and reduce noise should help to compensate for the slightly lower resolution. It is also worth remembering that 16.05 million pixels is still more than enough resolution to produce a good A3-sized print.

Also helping to improve image quality, and required to handle the processing of 4K video footage, is a new quad-core processor that forms part of the Venus engine image-processing system. This new system enables a 1EV increase in sensitivity from ISO 12,800 in the GH3 to ISO 25,600 in the GH4.

The faster processing engine also helps to improve the speed of the camera, enabling it to capture bursts at 12fps, or 7.5fps with continuous focusing. Speaking of AF, the GH4 has a new system, named DFD (Depth from Defocus). The GH4 firmware contains a built-in database of all existing Panasonic lenses, and the camera will be able to estimate how out of focus the lens is and thus focus it accordingly. Contrast detection then fine-tunes the precise focus. All of this happens at a maximum speed of just 0.07secs – at least, that is what Panasonic is hoping when the GH4 receives its final firmware.

The autofocus has also received an upgrade in the number of focus areas, with the GH4 now having a 49-area system compared to 23 areas on the GH3. Again, this should enable more precise focusing across the frame, benefitting those shooting both photos and video.

Build and handling

The magnesium-alloy body of the GH4 is almost identical to that of the GH3. It feels very comfortable to hold; in fact, I’d go so far as to say that, for my hands at least, the grip is as close to perfect as it could possibly be.

For more demanding users, the body of the GH4 is weather and dust-resistant, and the shutter life has now been tested to 200,000 actuations, which is about the same as you would expect from a professional DSLR. Battery life is now rated at 500 shots.


The Panasonic GH series has proved extremely popular for both amateur and professional videographers, and with the GH4’s ability to shoot 4K video footage, this popularity looks set to continue. High-definition 4K video is captured at a resolution of 4096×2160 pixels.

The video capabilities are too much to go into fully in this overview, but the key points are all to do with the quality of the footage that can be captured. Not only is it of a 4k resolution, but video can have a bit-rate of either 100Mbps or 200Mbps, which is far in excess of the 73Mbps maximum bit rate of the GH3. This level of quality is actually in excess of what most television companies are setting as the standard for 4K video capture, so we could see footage from the GH4 used by broadcasters.

For professional users, there is also an optional Interface Unit for the GH4. Think of it as being like a giant grip that attaches to the bottom of the camera. Attaching this unit provides the GH4 with 2x XLR microphone sockets, as well as providing phantom power for microphones, microphone level control and sound level monitors. It also adds four SDI terminals, Micro HDMI output, a colour bar signal and an audio reference signal, as well as external time control so that a number of cameras can be linked together and their time codes synchronised.

It really is an extremely comprehensive video-recording camera kit, and I can see many photojournalists opting to use the camera to combine both still images and video capture in a single, small, lightweight camera. This is, of course, made possible by the four thirds sensor used in the GH4, which allows both the camera and, importantly, the lenses to be smaller and thus more travel-friendly.

New SD cards

Naturally, the quality of the 4K footage requires extremely fast recording to ensure that dropped frames don’t become an issue. As such, the GH4 is to be the first camera that will uses the new UHS I class III SD card format. These SD cards are capable of saving data at a rate of 30MB/s, which is around 240Mbps, and therefore so capable of capturing footage produced by the GH4

Mr Uematsu of Panasonic with the new Lumix GH4

Initial thoughts

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be too much that is new in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 for the enthusiast photographer. However, the camera has seen a number of refinements over its predecessor, notably the faster shooting rates and improved AF. Quite whether these changes alone will be enough to warrant an upgrade for those who currently use the GH3 for photography, will depend on what the image quality is like on the final version of the camera.

We will have to wait until we test a full-production model of the camera to see exactly how much the new semi-conductor production has improved the image sensor, and the images that it produces, although the sample images we were shown did look impressive. Panasonic is still currently working on the final firmware, which will be loaded onto the camera for its launch.