Last year, when the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera arrived, I made a video to break it in, and laid down a commentary to share some insights. I challenged the camera to known weaknesses, while crafting a fully-formed lyrical piece beyond the abundance of rough tests and demo clips.

With the launch of the Panasonic GH4, we’re back to that same moment, seeing no shortage of test runs, but few large-scale works. Getting my early GH4 coincided with a trip to Chicago for a film festival I was in, so after a couple of days getting-to-know, I spent my last day running around the city before the evening flight home. This time, I was interested in the wider focal lengths that play to 4k’s strengths, thinking that Chicago’s unparalleled concentration of art and architecture would be an opportune subject. Also, I got stuck in my head a Duke Ellington composition, matching what I saw. The combined result is grandiose and over-the-top, but so is Chicago (“my kind of town”)…

Most of the shots are hand-held, with occasional application of Adobe Warp stabilization in post. A couple of shots used a cheap skater dolly too, but everything fit into a small backpack, including my Panasonic 12-35mm/35-100mm/45-200mm and Rokinon 7.5mm lenses. I balanced luminance and color on a clip-by-clip basis, then applied Kodak Vision 3 250D 5207 FilmConvert stock onto the GH4’s flat Cine-D profile, at defaults. Due to the GH4’s variable-speed limitations, the slow-motion 2 fps shots are in 1080p (upscaled to UHD), and this is also true for the time-lapse shots which actually needn’t have been restricted to 1080p (a flaw in the GH4, as under-cranked footage is even less demanding to capture). To keep the aperture open wide in daylight, I used Light Craft Workshop’s new variable RapidND filter, with visible vignetting at wide focal lengths, but overall sharpness and minimal color cast.

Challenges that I posed this time around included rolling shutter, which you’ll see in those lateral shots from the L train; pointing at the sun for black holes or blooming sensor; playing with depth of field for focus isolation; and aliased patterns which barely appear because there is no de-bayering from the sensor in UHD mode. Highlight protection and color depth is fair but not great: the GH4 still can’t beat the Blackmagic Cinema Cameras that have more dynamic range, and record internally to 10-bit 4:2:2 at a much higher bitrate.

Panasonic Lumix GH4
Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8
Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8
Panasonic 45-200mm f/4-5.6
Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye
Light Craft Workshop RapidND (use my coupon code LC-1308 for 10% off)