The first thing which strikes you about Panasonic's Lumix DMC-GH4 is its price tag. At $2,199 (body only), the GH4 is pricey for a Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera. By comparison, Sony's full-frame mirrorless camera, the a7 II, costs $2,149 (body only).
However, the GH4, Panasonic's flagship successor to the GH3, remains the only mirrorless camera on the market able to shoot 4K (4,096 x 2,160 pixels) and UHD (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) videos at a high bitrate of up to 200Mbps.
The a7 II cannot shoot 4K or UHD videos. And even the feature-packed Samsung NX1 can shoot 4K videos at a bit rate of only 100Mbps.
The GH4 shares the same magnesium alloy body and design elements as the GH3. It looks like a conventional DSLR, but it is much lighter, at 560g.
With the 12-35mm f/2.8 kit lens used for this review, the whole package weighs about 870g. It has a more compact build than Olympus' OM-D E-M1 or Samsung's NX1.
However, the GH4 handles like a DSLR. For starters, it has a useful rubberised contoured grip and an impeccable button layout, with a dedicated video-recording button, autofocusing (AF) mode lever and AF/AE Lock near the thumb rest.
A command dial, along with three buttons for white balance, ISO and exposure compensation, are situated near the shutter release for quick changing of settings. There is also a lockable mode dial on the top right and shooting drive mode dial on the top left. It also has no fewer than five customisable function buttons.
The only irritant is that you need to turn the mode dial to video mode to shoot 4K videos, although you can shoot full high-definition (FHD) video whether you are in Program or Aperture Priority mode.
The camera's electronic viewfinder offers a big, sharp view with great details, while the 3-inch 270-degree swivelling touchscreen lets you take selfies, compose photos and shoot videos at creative angles.
The GH4 is a speedy beast. It starts up in only 0.6sec and shuts down in 1.6sec. Using an SD card with a writing speed rated at 30MB per second, the GH4 shot an impressive 45 RAW images in 3.9sec before the buffer ran out. Not every DSLR can match such a shooting performance.
AF is ultra-responsive and instantaneous in bright sunlight. In dim light, it takes only 1sec to get the scene sharp with the aid of AF-assist light.
The 4K, UHD and FHD videos which the GH4 takes are simply stunning. The videos are razor-sharp with very little ambient or wind audio.
You can hardly hear the sound of the AF doing its work, but it does pick up the sound of the zooming of the lens. The AF refocuses in less than 2sec when you pan or zoom to a new scene.
The image quality is top-notch. Pictures exhibit nice contrast and great details. The auto white balance works fine under most lighting conditions.
Noise artefacts are absent all the way through to ISO 400. They start to appear at ISO 800. Even at ISO 1,600, there is only slight loss of details, but forget about using the camera of ISO 3,200 or above.
For a mirrorless camera, the GH4's battery life is above average. It gets 500 still images on a full charge.
If you want a lightweight mirrorless camera capable of shooting fantastic stills and superb videos, look no further than Panasonic's Lumix DMC-GH4.
Price: $3,399 (with 12-35mm f/2.8 kit lens)
Image sensor: 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds
Display: Tiltable 3-inch touchscreen with 1,036,000 dots; electronic viewfinder with 2,359,000 dots
Sensitivity: ISO 200 to 25,600
Shooting speed: Up to 12 frames per second
Weight: 560g (body only, with battery and memory card)
Value for money: 4/5
Battery life: 4/5
This article was first published on Jan 07, 2015. Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.