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Panasonic GH4: My New Go-To Camera for Travel

panasonic gh4 metabones speedbooster

I've been working exclusively with Canon DSLR's for the last 4 years. I had a T2i when they first came out, and was excited to get my hands on a 5D Mark iii when they hit the shelves. I still think the 5D is a great camera, but I finally decided that I needed a different camera to take on my travels.

When I got home from my trip and was editing my footage, I really hated the look of the 720p 60fps slow-motion (the 5D doesn't have 1080 60fps). I felt like it really degraded the quality of my video. I also filmed a lot of slow-mo with my iPhone 5s (720 @120fps) and ended up using those shots in my edit instead of the ones from my 5D.

(That either says a lot about the amazing quality of camera phone technology, or is an embarrassing shortcoming of an otherwise amazing camera. No camera is perfect, unfortunately.)

At the same time, I kept seeing more and more videos from filmmakers using cheap mirrorless 4k cameras (like the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7s) and the quality looked amazing. It got me thinking that it was time for a new camera to document my travels.

*Note: this isn't an in-depth review of the GH4, there are plenty of reviews that get into the nitty-gritty details. This is just my experience with this camera and how it works for my specific needs.

SPECS

I chose to buy the GH4 because of its internal 4k and 1080 variable frame rate options (60 & 96fps). I also knew I could buy a lens adapter and be able to use my Canon lenses (I bought the Metabones Speedbooster adapter because it minimizes the crop-factor of the lenses on a micro four-thirds camera).

My initial intention was to bring both cameras on my next trip. GH4 for slow mo and big landscapes with lots of detail, and the 5D for timelapses and night filming. But the more I play with the GH4, the more I realize that it makes sense to just leave the 5D at home.

It's no secret that the GH4 doesn't perform terribly well in low light when shooting video. It has prominent grain, but in my experience it's tolerable. Plus, I very rarely film at night without at least one good light source (and 9 times out of 10 I prefer to shoot nighttime timelapses instead).

freeze-frame of raw 4k video

freeze-frame of raw 4k video

freeze-frame of raw 1080 96fps video

freeze-frame of raw 1080 96fps video

I've also been pleasantly surprised with the image quality of the photos in low light. Not a ton of noticeable grain, and I've exclusively photographed handheld (so I could definitely get even cleaner images if I used a slower shutter with a tripod).

panasonic gh4 photo
panasonic gh4 photo
panasonic gh4 photo
panasonic gh4 photo

OTHER ADVANTAGES

It's lighter. Which, as a filmmaker, most would say is a downside. It makes handheld footage more shaky, requiring some sort of support. But because I'll be hiking, backpacking and carrying everything on my back for one month, every ounce of weight I can remove is a bonus.

So my way to combat the lightweight body is to either:

  • A - shoot in slow-mo, making camera shake tolerable, or
  • B - use my travel tripod as a monopod when wanting to shoot 24p

Another advantage is the built-in Wifi (I seriously didn't know about this when I made the purchase), meaning I can send my favorite photos straight to my iPhone for easy editing and uploading to social media.

That's such a luxury! I didn't realize how awesome that feature was until it was in the palm of my hands.

In the past, I've simply taken screenshots of my videos for photos, or I would take a picture with my iPhone for ease. Having the ability to seamlessly transfer images from camera to phone will definitely encourage me to take more photos while traveling, which I'm looking forward to.


photo

photo

photo

photo

freeze-frame of raw 4k video

freeze-frame of raw 4k video

freeze-frame of raw 4k video

freeze-frame of raw 4k video

Yes, my cat is adorable.

So am I going to get rid of my Canon 5D Mark iii? Definitely not. It's an amazing camera (especially for interviews) with beautiful depth of field. Plus, I'm so familiar with the camera that it will probably be my go-to camera for high-pressure shoots where I don't have time to fiddle through the menus.

Hopefully after 5 1/2 weeks of traveling with the GH4 it will feel like an extension of my arm (like the 5D does now). I'm really excited to put it through its trials. 

Once I get home I'll write a final review to let you all know how it held up. So stay tuned! In the meantime, follow me on Instagram where I'll be regularly uploading photos from my trip.

 

Have you toyed around with the GH4? What are your first impressions when looking at the photo quality and freeze-frames?