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Panasonic G7 topic, 4K castrate monster or GH4 for poor
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  • FYI, Clipwrap can merge files together.

    For the GH4 I just lay all the 4k .mov files it generated into a plural eye and sync it with my ext. audio recorder. Then I export the timeline to premierePro. Sometimes there is a 1 farm gap between the GH4 files, as if the clock in the Gh4 is not exactly the same as the clock in the Zoom H4n. If its a problem I will duplicate a GH4 frame to plug the hole in the timeline, if there's no extreme motion, it's not noticeable on the "small screen" i.e.: TV, 27" monitor, etc.

    For MTS GH2 files I had the same problem, but using MTSmerger or clip wrap there was no problem with a missing frame, as if the info is in there just PremierePro can see it. This is a program someone on DVBXuser wrote and shared. There is a way to do it in thermal manually too.

    All of this I am referencing is on a Mac, 24p, 48 KHz files.

    YMMV

  • Thanks for the info slowly figuring a workflow. Always did short videos in HD so was blissfully ignorant of the 4GB limit. I still need some help on photo fun studio and the conversion from 4k to FHD always converts my 24 fps files to 30 fps it seems????

  • Quick question for G7 owners. When the electronic/silent shutter mode is enabled, does the camera limit the max ISO setting (like on GX7)? Thanks v much.

  • Does not appear to I get 25600 on or off.

  • Thanks Scot - much appreciated.

  • I just purchased this cam through PV deals (thanks, Vitaliy), and this thing totally rocks. My cam did not have the recording limit, and the quality IMHO slightly better than the GH4 for the kind of video I do which often has wide, flat or partially curved shadow areas or areas of uniform color. Awesome cam.

  • Panasonic G7 minireview

    This review has two parts. In the first part, we imagine a world in which the GH4 had yet to be invented. In the second part, we compare the G7 to the GH4.

    Part One: A budget filmmaker's dream

    I purchased the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 in the form of an NTSC body through the Personal View deals. My camera was shipped the next day DHL and arrived without a hitch two days later. This camera is sold as a kit, so my box was opened and the kit lens removed. This is a common practice: for example, I bought my Panasonic 14mm lens as part of such a split-kit for a substantial discount. The box says "International" version. That's good, because I expect to go places. My camera arrived unlocked. So if you compare a camera to a cellphone, you can see that there are typically different models with different features, and some of these can be unlocked, In this case, the main difference is that there is no time limit on recording: you hit the button, come back later and it is still rolling. The camera records a succession of MP4 files each of which, in 4K, is six minutes long. Incidentally, I used a basic, though fast, SDXC card with no issues. If you buy the locked version of the cam, you will get the same video, but you will be time limited. Importantly, unlike the GH4 this came is (so far) not switchable between 24p and 25p recording. My cam is NTSC, and the 24p comes up as 23.976 frames per second. Note that there is no 4096 version of 4K, just the 2160p (3840x2160). This camera has been thoroughly reviewed on many sites, so I'm going to focus only on what is important for my main use, which is 80 percent video 20 percent photos.

    First of all, the camera produces a rock solid video image with a fine, filmic grain with minimal clumping. The difference in the grain may be described as the difference between a biscuit and a scone. Previous versions of the GH series (and this cam is really a GH3 should-have-been) always had noticeable clumping in dark, shaded and uniform surfaces. The term filmic is thrown about quite a bit, and the term has no standard definition, let me just simply say the the grain in this case is like dither in an audio recording--you need a tiny bit of non-intrusive grain to reveal low level detail and to make the video look less digital. An awful lot of video nowadays looks fake, and that's due in part to the way the grain is either not present or removed as part of the streaming process. Stream any recent vid on Netflix or Amazon; it's squeaky clean. For me, this cam has a reasonable, usable & easily removable grain (if need be).

    Let's talk about heat for a moment. Many cams now have a warning that the cam will power down if it overheats. Again, this is similar to a cellphone. For example, my rooted and modded Samsung S5 (Prime version) will record way beyond the stock 5 minutes, but it gets super hot, This phone, and, notably, the Sony phones and some cameras (Sony makes a lot of sensors) will power down in a hot environment. OTOH, a Pro cam (which might have a noisy fan) is less susceptible to heat shutdown. After one hour of recording at ambient 70 degrees, my G7 was warm, but not hot. It was less warm than my GM1, GH2, GH1, etc, by a small difference. But, the cam outdoors in the sun, or indoors under lights, might overheat, and I've been on some pretty hot sets. FWIW.

    Just as you can fit an aluminum back to the S5 prime to act as a heat sink, you could add an aluminum grip to this cam, but the heat source is buried pretty deep withing the armature of the cam. Summary--no heat issues so far, and Panasonics do this better than many others.

    Let's talk about the construction, grip and dials.

    Many reviewers have noted that this cam is fairly solid but relies on plastic as opposed to the finely-milled magnesium of the high tech shell of cameras like the GM1. Reviewers have also noted that the G7 is very light. Both of these evaluations are not really accurate. Just for fun, I put the camera on the postal scale. With a battery and a flash card, the G7 clocks in at 15 ounces, or just under a pound. The GH2 is 16 ounces, or one pound--again, not the similarities between the GH2 and the G7. With the lightweight, supper cheap (and pretty sharp) Olly zoom this is a pound and a half. So, the cam basically weighs the same as the GH2. Owing to the balance and grip of the cam (the grip is excellent), in the hand it feels not light but solid. My magnesium GM1 weighs 7 ounces, or less than half of these "lightweight" cams. You want light--this is light. Despite using a polycarbonate-hybrid material, this is a solid camera with metal dials. Looking at this camera from the top down, it looks just like the GH2 except the dials are different--lots of dials; the main difference is the extended grip. Many reviewers have commented on how well the grip works, and this is true: this is really a good grip. I read in a few online reviews that the G7 features an "innovative viewfinder and new body design." Actually, it looks just like the GH2 (see photo, below).

    Speaking of dials, this is where the cam really shines. There are dials and buttons everywhere, so, suffice it to say that all your dials and button wishes have been granted, and then some. Also, you can think of this as a camera, with the drive train dial on the left, or a video cam, with all the dials you need on the right. As far as "hybrid" goes, this is a very clever layout, your brain can sort this out in a way that seems like you have two cams, left and right. Similarly, you can operate the shutter and aperture both independently and simultaneously with dedicated wheels. This is a serious upgrade for both photographers and videographers. There's a number of other pro features on this cam as far as the fine points of focus, exposure and so on. Plenty to chew on.

    The last thing in the world you want during filming is to be trapped in a menu system when you need to change the basic food groups of ISO, white balance, shutter, aperture, etc. This finally fixes that issue, and adds a layer of lateral integration between the physical dials and the software menus.

    Let's take a moment here to reflect that if the GH4 and, to a lesser degree the GX8 had yet to be invented, this would be a revolutionary camera at a ridiculously cheap price and everyone would want one. But life is not so simple, so read on.

    Many of the Pro features of the G7 have already been discussed. There are dual Zebra settings, multiple custom white balance settings, focus peaking, and so on. There's an innovative focus pull mechanism which might come in handy for B roll. Suffice it to say, there's a lot to choose from. Had the GH4 not come along, this would all be hailed as revolutionary. And the GH4 has a few more options. But the G7 has most of what you need. And this leads us to the subject of V-log, Cine, Cinelike and blah blah blah. And part two.

    Part Deux: they meet; the GH4 and the G7.

    Spoiler alert--chance are, you are going to want the G7 because the image is better. If you want a better image, you need read no further.

    Beginning with the GH4, Panasonic offered a real Log upgrade. In short, the log curve allows you to dial down the contrast and a few other items, and gain a bit of dynamic range. Let's see if this is really valuable, and to do this, let's go back in time a bit.

    All technologies create a temporary fix to overcome a shortcoming. DBX and Dolby were invented to increase the dynamic range of tape recorders, and reduce noise--age old problems. When Digital audio was invented, the dynamic range was so huge that these "fixes" disappeared. In fact, compression reduce dynamic range, so as far as audio goes, we not only don't need it, we don't want it. We work hard to get rid of it.

    Similarly, if you look at TV from a few decades ago, you will notice that the shows have a different color curve. We now "compress" color into the saturation bands, so that everything looks like candy. We lose the full range of color. So wide range is not all you might imagine, but OTOH no one want a blown highlight, no one want a peak overload on audio, and no one want to underexpose so that the colors and details are beyond repair.

    But what about video? Well, with video--similar to "TV"--we still are back in the 70s in a way. We want a bit more dynamic range, and, for sure, in a year or two, we will have that owing to improved sensor tech. So D-Log, V-Log, X-Log, whatever, this is a temporary fix which will disappear soon. It is really important to consider that on the G7, you can really dial the contrast, NR, saturation and sharpness way, way back. Plus, hidden in the menus is basically a custom log curve where you can create your own, custom Log. Pretty fancy stuff.

    There's a lot of hype around all these Logs and Luts, and it is basically BS. Instead of trying to squeeze dynamic range from a 4/3 sensor, if you want dynamic range, go out and get a real cam that has actual, real dynamic range. Because fake dynamic range pales in comparison. It isn't "pro", it is "pseudo-pro." Log is a useful tool, but it isn't a substitute for better technology.

    In fact, there is little or no difference between making your own Log curve by tweaking the myriad settings in the Cam, and using the color by number Log curve that cost $99. Several creative types have produced better images in this way. So forget the log, go with slog. Remember, you can buy an old lens, like the Rokkor 58mm, and gain dynamic range that way, and this has been well-known for years. In addition, your custom curve will give you a custom look. Why look like everyone else? The HDR mode on my S5 cellphone gives better results.

    Crop factors and the strange case of ETC mode and noise.

    You will read online that many of these cameras have "the same sensor". Well, maybe, but maybe not. Right off, the G7 is about one stop better than the GH4. And, again, if you are a typical videographer, you might want to stop reading right here. Because one stop is a huge difference, and this fact has been seriously underplayed. So if you gain a stop with some weird looking log curve, you can almost get to where the G7 is, except the grain will still be worse, especially because log curves can mess with the grain.

    The fact is, when you look at shadows and flat, uniform surfaces, the G7 is simply better. And that means that without going into any arcane BS, you simply have a better image, right out of the Box, with the same headroom to tweak the Log curves if you so desire. That really is the end of the story, but lets look at some minor issues.

    All these cams have ever-so-slightly different crop factors. This is probably due to the balance of pixels that are read and sampled from the sensor. So if the G7 uses a few more pixels, you get a nicer crop fact, but you run the risk of aliasing and moiré. First off, the G7 is really about the same as the GH4 for aliasing and moiré; I figure Panasonic just incrementally improved their smoothing software. So the G7 gives you better noise and a wider image, but, you may get a tiny bit more moiré etc. Going back to my top point, this seems like we are talking about the ETC effect, to a degree. When Panasonic rolled out the ETC effect, everyone was really excited about it, But not a lot of people used it, because it was noisy. But, there is another reason. The fact is, when you have ETC mode and regular mode in one cam, you can easily do an AB comparison with the same light, same scene, same lens groups, and so on. So anyone could instantly see that one was noisier than the other, and that differences in aliasing were minimal. In this case, even though the comparison has been done by well-respected reviewers, the differences don't stare you in the face. But, they are there.

    Another thing to think about in this regard, the GH2 makes a 12mm lens look like magic. We lose a lot of that magic with 4K in the GH4, and we gain some of that magic back in the G7. Add on a metabooster, even more goodness. Do not underestimate the powerful effect of the crop factor on your lens collection. Obviously, if you want super-telephoto, it's a different story.

    I'm going to take moment to say that even with a 20mm Panasonic on this cam, forget about the on-paper specs, you get a really nice transition from the sharp areas to the out-of-focus areas. You can't quantify it, it's a look and this camera has more than a hint of it--there's a synergy between the grain and the bokeh.

    Other factors To argue the other side for a moment, the GH4 has more than a few gizmos that you might want. For example, you get real Cinematic 4K with a few extra pixels. Of course, you get those extra pixels through the crop factor on the G7, and they are better pixels--in other words, you could upsample the image a few pixels and still have a better image.

    The GH4 also is a world camera, and has switchable frame rates, and it also has "real" 24p, that is, 24 actual no-hideous-fraction 24.000 fps, as opposed to 23.976. OK, handy but immaterial.

    Auto focus and manual focus

    You have some nice new autofocus tech here, both the GH4 and the G7 uses lens info to help focus. Note that this really works best with newer lenses. But even the Olly 45mm focused fast, smooth, and silent. The Panasonic 20mm sounded like an egg beater and was slower. There are several enhancements like PIP (Picture in Picture), and so on, overall, the built in autofocus is a big winner.

    Image stabilization

    Surprisingly, The G7 will work even with my first generation Panasonic image stabilized lenses. The manual has some CYA stuff about newer lenses, and maybe these newer lenses work better. The GX8 has IS built in, but less effective at 4K. A good camcorder will trump the IS in these cams, and the IS will not work with legacy lenses in 4K.

    Audio: all these cams have crappy audio. The G7 has a mic input which will allow you to hook up your crappy mic to a crappy preamp and record 128 bitrate crappy audio to go with your 4K video. If you think in-cam audio is the way to go, think again.

    Automatic 180 degree shutter The G4 has a handy feature, the 180 degree shutter, which just locks down the shutter and aperture in the best fit. I lived without this feature years and never noticed it, but it is handy, for sure. It also tends to exclude an artistic choice for the shutter.

    HDMI: the G7 has one of those horrible mini-HDMI cables. You can record from it if the cam is not recording to disk, and so the GH4 has a real, tangible advantage here. But, you still have a stop of noise on top of all this, so remember that you are recording a worse picture over a fancier connector. Still, nothing to sneeze about. If external recording is your thing, do consider the now heavily discounted Sony A7S--it's an awesome cam.

    Other thoughts: notes on the photo capabilities

    NB: This section appears in the next comment, owing to the length limitation on posts. Panasonic cameras have slowly and surely made improvements to the JPEG engine and overall image quality. First off, you will see that you can graze serenely up the ISO scale a bit more, but nothing like the Sony cams: repeat: nothing like the Sony cams. You can take very good photos with this cam if you use RAW and develop the RAW with the powerful DxO RAW engine that combines lens, camera and RAW info. Similarly, noise can be well managed with DxO prime NR filter. You can also use any of a number of excellent NR plugins for Photoshop. Basically, the out-of-camera image quality is the same as the GM1, but a tiny bit softer. This cam is clearly optimized for video, not photos.

    Lastly, if you like the hacked GH2, you will love this cam. Gone is the clumping, ugly grain, it has glorious 4K video and a whole set of cool-yet-practical features. And it looks just the same, with a better grip and a ton of extra dials.

    Summary and image quality

    It should come as no surprise at this point that the G7 is a better buy, and is also the better camera because it has almost a stop difference in the way the pixels are sampled (or incremental improvements to the "same" sensor). It is cheaper and has better image quality. Strip away all the BS and just ask yourself the opposite of this: Do I want to pay more for worse image quality?

    As I say this, I am well aware that this is a "minority report." And most people will buy the GH4 because it is more expensive and because they have heard a litany of reviewers state en masse (like Sunday morning TV) that if you are a "Pro" you want the GH4. As an artist, it's a good rule of thumb to disbelieve what the majority is saying, but only up to a point. There's some valid arguments on both sides. But there is a punchline here: sorry to shock you but neither the GH4 nor the G7 is as good as the Sony FDR-ax100 camcorder, The Sony simply outresolves Panasonic, and the color and log of the Sony grades beautifully. However, the G7 is a bit closer to the Sony, and has the extreme virtues of being way less expensive and also allows you the window into the world of a full complement of world-class, interchangeable lenses.

    That's all for now, see you on the set!

  • (See comments above) In addition, there are some cool ways to extract stills from 4K. If you have tried to extract a still from a video, you will immediately realize that you have way to much to choose from and you can spend hours clicking and wading through the video to find the still. But, of course, this is a revolutionary tool because the fact is, the dream still is there, you just have to find it. Panasonic has devised a system where you film a small scene in 4K mode, then you have a scrollable interface that looks like a fan of playing cards that you can zip through to find your dream image. An image, I might add, that was created just as much through random luck as skill; whatever, we will take it! What this does is force you to focus on a scene, and it also provides you a way to deal with the enormous haystack to find the proverbial needle.

    At this point I would add that if you are primarily a photographer, you should buy a different camera. There are any number of good reasons to buy the G7, the GX8, the GH4 or other Panasonic cams with fixed lenses: there's a silent shutter for event photography, there's an intuitive set of dials and menus, accurate white balance, and so on. But Olympus takes ever-so-slightly better photos and has good, well -proven image stabilization, and Sony of course wipes the floor with these cams in low light. Enough said. You can buy a Samsung cheap. Then there's the new Leica......

  • @DrDave Big thanks for the write up :-)

  • Photo from the top, showing the "innovative design" of the body and viewfinder of the G7 is really just a GH2 with a bigger grip.

    G7 GH2.jpg
    3175 x 2019 - 746K
  • When I was looking around for info on why the crop factor might be different, I came across this thoughtful and insightful review by Cameralabs (which is well worth reading) and has this nice photo showing the differences in the crop factor (I didn't test the exact difference but this certainly looks about right):

    http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Panasonic_Lumix_G7/images/results/Brighton-Video-Coverage-745.jpg

  • @DrDave. You've got me thinking about a G7 as a 'tide me over' cam till the GH5 comes along. I'm still using my good old GH3. One thing that worried me when I first saw the specs on the G7 was the low VBR for 1080/60. How do the 1080p @ 60 fps clips hold up with a VBR limited to 28 Mbps? Any thoughts?

  • @jjj-ri-usa I can assure you that the best way to get awesome 1080p is to downsample 4K in post, and it doesn't really add much time to the workflow. There really is no comparison. If you really want 60p,the low bitrate will look "OK", but you can't push it in post. It's not the ideal 60p solution.

  • Thanks, DrDave. Yes, the 4K is the reason I would consider the G7. I once rented the GH4 for one of my daughter's year-end Championship swim meets. I loved the ability to crop,stabilize, or zoom the 4K and still obtain crisp 1080p. But, I often shoot at 1080/60 and interpret the clips as 24p to obtain clean 2.5x slowmo. I wish the GH3 had ETC at 1080/60, but..it does not.

    The G7 is intriguing. Since renting the GH4, I know what I am missing by shooting in 'only' 1080. But, I think I may just stick with the GH3 and save the $$$ till the GH5 comes out? My hope is for 4K @ 60fps, but...that's a huge data stream to process, so, I wonder if my old PC would be up for such a data rate?

    Hmmmm. THe G7="budget" 4K. Hmmmmm. :-)

    Thanks again for the interesting review.

  • @DrDave, Great review! I'm targeting the G7 myself. I am still using your old GH1 EVERY WEEK doing local TV Shows and Commercials :) I also use a couple of G5's. The G7 sounds like my perfect upgrade.

  • That G1 had a particularly good sensor. Less noise than my GH2!

  • Does the G7 show exposure numbers (aperture, shutter, iso) when shooting video in A, S or P mode? My GH4 does not show and it is not funny guessing what the camera is doing.

  • @Vesku If you're not in Manual Movie then it shoots in Program Auto regardless which mode you're in. And no it doesn't display exposure info but unlike the GH4 (I believe) it does have Flkr Decrease which allows you to lock in a shutter of 1/50, 1/60, 1/100 or 1/120.

  • @fahrenheit

    Is there S, A, P modes in manual movie mode via menus like in GH2,3 and 4. I ment those modes.

  • @Vesku @Fahrenheit Short answer: it all works.

    On my G7, when you turn the Mode dial to Movie, you can easily touch the icon in the upper left hand corner for an instant menu for PASM. If you select, for example A for Aperture, the screen changes so only aperture and ISO etc are visible, that is, the shutter speed indicator disappears.

    Either before recording or even during recording, operating the thumb wheel changes the aperture, and, depending on how you set your screen (eg, real preview, not automatic brightness) the screen briefly goes darker and lighter as you roll the aperture, or, in S mode, if you roll the shutter, then the exposure equalizes. At a certain point the camera will not balance the exposure, presumably owing to an ISO limit.

    In manual mode, you can change both aperture and shutter, and you can even change them simultaneously by using your thumb and finger on the two wheels.

    Another way to look at it: if you use the PASM icon whilst in M mode to change to A or S, one of the indicators disappears, so in A mode the S disappears, and vice versa. In P mode they both disappear. But everything else, histogram, exposure +/- ISO color mode, battery, remaining time, focus type, etc, everything else that was on the screen in M mode just stays right where it was. So, very easy in all respects.

    If you are shooting under challenging lighting, you can also set the ISO to auto in A & S mode. This allows you to dial in exposure compensation, for example in theatrical lighting. Auto ISO is not, however available in M mode.

    Note that if you set ISO to "AUTO", the camera will not display the ISO. Ideally, the display should go from 200 down to "AUTO, but of course if you hit the ISO button it pops right up. Once you set the number of the ISO, the number appears, and stays on the screen.

    Note also that if you tap the display button a few times, the live view is replaced by a nice big black and white screen that shows all the settings, and you can change several of these even while recording. On this screen, the numerical displays turns black for the mode which is unavailable, so, for example you can't see the aperture.

    If, for example, you stop the aperture all the way down so the iris is almost closed, then flip the cam into S mode, you can see (and hear) the iris opening until it reaches the proper exposure. So, in S mode, the cam changes the iris automatically, just like it should.

    Ideally, the actual iris variable could be displayed as a greyed out info bar, but most people who want that are going to use full manual. I actually find it helpful to just see the one number I need to change in S or A mode in the very few times I use it (where I need exposure comp).

  • @DrDave

    Thanks for complete explanation. It works just like the GH4.

    So the camera is not telling me which automatic value it is using and that is an issue. I use S or A for video because it is very quick and reliable way to get right exposure fast. It is still dangerous because the camera may choose very bad automatic value and I cant know it. Iso may run to 6400 or aperture to f22 or shutter speed 1/30s which ruins post stabilization etc. It would be nicer if I could monitor automatic values and react if needed.

  • Yup. If you set the ISO you will know the missing figure, but if Auto ISO is engaged, I suppose it would be hard to predict.

  • @DrDave

    If you set the ISO you will know the missing figure

    I can not see the missing aperture or shutter if I set iso.

  • You won't see it on the display, but it's straightforward to figure. Ideally, you could push a dedicated button and see all the data--I often set the aperture then just flip over to M.

  • Ideally all the 3 basic exposure numbers (iso,SS,A) should be visible all the time. It is so basic thing in photography that I was surprised when I got my first GF1 not showing exposure numbers. Why hide them anyway because the camera knows them already and all the time? Many cameras shows all the 3 basic exposure values. Why not Panasonic?

    P.S. I can add a smart phone to hot shoe and use wifi app to see exposure or I can check these values later at home from exif but that is usually too late. All that sounds odd.