Panasonic Gh4

Dec 302013
 
Panasonic Gh4 with optional YAGH unit.

Panasonic Gh4 with optional YAGH unit

In terms of pure DSLRs nothing interesting came out in 2013. Canon released the T5i (700D) and the 70D, and that was pretty much it. Aside from DIGIC5 processors, these cameras don’t offer much benefit over previous generation cameras for shooting video. With the 70D you get a higher video bitrate, which means your video look better because they are compressed less. We did get a cool little camera with the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera, a $1,000 prosumer camera that shoots extremely high quality footage (the video quality is similar to RAW photos). Lets find out what the top cameras for April 2014 are:

The Top Professional Cameras for 2014

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1. Panasonic GH4 ($1,699)

2014 is without question the year of 4K. Who knew that 4K would be so cheap? The GH4 is without question the top camera for 2014. It is rugged, it shoot very high bitrate video (higher than any other camera on this list), it can output 4:2:2 10bit RAW for external recording (a feature found on $3,000+ cameras), it has focus peaking and zebra (allowing you to get perfectly sharp footage). The GH4 shoots slow motion at 96 frames per second at 1080p resolution. And it has a faster processor which minimize rolling shutter. Priced at under $1,700, this is without question the best bang for your buck.

  • Pros: shoots 4K, RAW, costs only $1,700, can use Canon lenses
  • Cons: None

2. Canon 5D mkIII ($3,399)

It is the best option that Canon has at the moment for shooting cheap RAW (uncompressed) video. The 5D mkIII allows you to shoot RAW uncompressed 24p @ 1080p continuously and has a a built in aliasing and moire filter. If you decide to hack your Canon 5D mkIII with Magic Lantern, you won’t get a better combination of video quality, camera software, and professional photo capabilities out of a DSLR. The GH4 video quality is better, but the 5D MkIII will preform better in low light due to its larger sensor. If all you care about is shooting high quality video, and low light performance is not absolutely crucial, save yourself a couple hundred bucks and buy a Panasonic GH4 instead. The Gh4 is flat out the best video quality you will find under $3,000.

  • Pros: Amazing camera for photography, can shoot uncompressed video, excellent low light capabilities, professional build quality, long battery life, magic lantern compatible
  • Cons: Expensive, cannot shoot 4K video

3. BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera ($995)

The amazing $1,000 camera that might drive you crazy!

The amazing $1,000 camera that might drive you crazy!

If you have a budget of $1,000 for a body, and maybe $1,000 more for additional gear and want to shoot very good video for under ~$2000 you might rationalize getting a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC). The GH4 smokes the BMPCC in terms of ease of use, functionality, and possibly even picture quality. The Blackmagic pocket camera is not as practical as shooting on a DSLR: the software is not as intuitive as Canon or Panasonic software, the battery life is poor, it only likes certain SD cards, the LCD screen sucks, and the crop factor is extreme for most users. However… if you want the best image quality available for under $1,000, this is the camera for you. This is the best HD footage you will get under $1,700. Personally, If I really wanted to drop money on a camera with excellent picture quality, I would pony up and buy a Panasonic GH4 or use a Canon 5D MKIII in RAW mode via Magic Lantern. But if you can’t afford a GH4 or 5D the Black Magic Pocket is the best alternative.

  • Pros: The best video quality you will find under $1,700, small,
  • Cons: Poor battery life, clunky software, poor LCD screen.

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The Top Prosumer Cameras for 2014:

1. Canon 6D ($1,899)

Like the Canon 5D series, you get a full frame sensor in the 6D! This means that you have more resolution, shallower depth of field and better low light performance. And best of all? The Canon 6D can be hacked with Magic Lantern to shoot RAW video. The Canon 6D is much cheaper than the Canon 5D mkIII, because the build quality is not as professional, the video is more compressed and there is no built in anti aliasing filter. Other than that you are getting almost professional quality stills and videos from this camera. No wonder this is one of Canon’s best sellers. The only bummer for video shooters is that the 6D has no headphone jack for monitoring audio (the 6D obviously has a microphone jack, as do all Canon DSLRs in this article).

  • Pros: Full frame sensor, excellent low light performance, shoot RAW video (with Magic Lantern)
  • Cons: No headphone jack, mediocre build quality

2. Panasonic GH3 ($999)

This is the prosumer weapon of choice for people who shoot videos. Generally, if you only care about video you get a Panasonic or BlackMagic . If you care about video AND stills photography you get a Canon. If you don’t care about RAW or 4K or fancy 3rd party hacks, I think the GH3 is the best video camera you can get for around $1,000 (yes, I would get it over a BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera). It shoots at a much higher bitrate¬†(up to 72Mbps) than most Canon DSLRs, it has less rolling shutter, has minimal moire and aliasing, 1080p monitoring, headphone jack, and a bunch of small features that are awesome. Though, low light and high ISO performance is worse than on full frame Canon DSLRs. If you need to shoot 1080p at 60fps the GH3 can do it! The GH3′s big competitor is the Canon 70D. The GH3 is better for video, and the Canon 70D is better for photos.

  • Pros: High bitrate video recording, 1080p monitoring, headphone jack, low rolling shutter, solid build quality.
  • Cons: Micro four thirds sensor means low light performance is not stellar.

3. Canon 70D ($1,099)

Not to be confused with the 7D, the 70D is Canon’s latest prosumer addition. The Canon 70D shoots at a higher bitrate (about 90 Mbps) than your typical Canon DSLR, so it will show less compression artifacts than a GH3 or a T3i, 60D etc… The 70D does not feature a headphone jack, so you will not be able to monitor your audio levels. Also, if you are into auto focus, the Dual Pixel CMOS auto focus system allows you to use autofocus for video with decent results. Personally if I was willing to spend ~$1,000 on a camera and all I cared about was shooting video, I would buy a Panasonic GH3. It has a headphone jack, amazing video quality, and a better build quality. Get the 70D if you care about still photography or if you love Canon. I personally own the 70D predecessor: the Canon 60D. I love my 60D, its solid, has great battery life, and has a rotary display, along with a secondary illuminated display on top of the camera. And the 70D is better than the 60D! So if You get a 70D you’ll be even happier than I am!

  • Pros: Higher bitrate than 60D, 7D, T3i, HG2, etc…, Dual Pixel CMOS auto focus, not much else…
  • Cons: No Magic Lantern thus far, a bit overpriced

Entry Level Cameras: Canon T5i vs T4i vs T3i

All the Canon rebel cameras are great for videos and photos. The video quality on these cameras is as good (or even better)  than older prosumer cameras such as the 7D. Basically you will be able to shoot professional looking videos with the T3i, T4i and T5i.

1. Canon T5i (700D) ($599)

T5i Ad

Thus far it’s the latest Canon rebel, but I have a feeling we will see a Canon T6i soon. What is so great about the T5i? Nothing really, it’s almost exactly identical to the T4i. The T5i mode dial rotates all the way around and it supposedly has a longer battery life. So you can switch to video mode quicker (big deal :P), and use your camera for slightly longer durations (obviously nice). If I were you, I’d save money and get a Canon T4i or a Canon T3i.

2. Canon T4i(650D) ($599)

T4i Ad

The T4i introduces a touch screen feature which I would personally never dare to use (I don’t want smudges or scratches on my LCD, thank you very much!), an updated DIGIC 5 processor (this does not have a significant impact on image quality), and it uses contrast detection for auto focusing in video mode (you should not use auto focus for video, so to me this features is not a big deal). Other than that, it’s basically a T3i.

3. Canon T3i (600D) ($499)

T3i Ad

This powerful little DSLR features manual audio levels, a swivel LCD screen, and long continuous video recording length (over an hour). Other than that, it’s basically a T2i.

As you may notice, Canon churns out rebel series cameras at a high frequency but does not add very many useful features. You basically just get a slight upgrades. The swivel screen was a big deal on the T3i, and in my opinion the best bang for your buck in terms of entry level cameras is the T3i. But hell, if I had a little extra cash I would get the T5i. After all, the T5i does come with a new and improved 18-55mm EF-S IS STM (or you can just buy the body and pair it with the sweet Canon 50mm 1.8).

What Camera Should You Buy in 2014?

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  • If you have $2,000 and only care about video, buy a Panasonic GH4.
  • If you have $1,000 and only care about video, buy a Panasonic GH3.
  • If you have $2,000 and care about video and stills buy a used Canon 5D mkII or a new Canon 6D.
  • If you need a DSLR for professional video and professional photography buy a Canon 5D mkIII.
  • If you have very little money and care about video AND stills, buy a Canon T3i.
  • If you have very little money and care only about video, get a Canon T3i, or a Panasonic GH2 or a Panasonic GH3 (depending on your budget).
  • If you already have a main camera body and want to mess around with an annoying (but awesome) camera that shoots amazing footage, buy a Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera.
  • If you want the best deals shop on eBay. I have saved tons of money buying used gear on eBay. There is virtually no risk in buying a tried and true DSLR on eBay.
  • If you want the best bang for your buck, buy a used Canon T3i or even a trusty old Canon T2i. Both have great video and photo capabilities.

Basically, you can’t go wrong with any camera on this list. From the T3i to the GH4 you can shoot great looking footage no matter what your budget is. The only question is how amazing do you want your footage to look? Super amazing? Really amazing? Pretty amazing?

Panasonic Gh4 with optional YAGH unit.

Panasonic Gh4 with optional YAGH unit.

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