September 13, 2015 at 12:34PM

11

GH4 vs A7s

Hey Guys,

My name is Diogo and I'm a videographer from Lisbon, Portugal.

For the past 4 years I have been shooting with a Canon 7D and I must say I loved every second ... except for maybe the past year. With the release of the GH series and Sony A7 series, it made me realize how out of date the 7D was. The image it delivers just isn't enough for me anymore. This been said, the time has arrived in which I need to change my body.

I've been saving some money and I will be buying a new body (and respective adapters if needed), as well as a DJI Ronin and a DJI Phantom 3. I might buy a new lens, depending on the body I end up going with. This been said, I have around 8K/9K euros to invest.

I think it's relevant to also say that besides my 7D, I have a Canon 50mm f/1.8, a Samyang 35mm f/1.4 and a Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 (APS-C Lens). I also use a Glidecam HD-2000 and a Slider.

It's also quite relevant to mention that I shoot a lot of action sports such as Parkour. I also shoot videoclips, documentary and events. So the body I will be buying will be mainly focused for this kind of work.

Even before I started my quest, for obvious reasons, I excluded Canon cameras. This is quite unfortunate, as I'm very used to my 7D and would gladly continue to use Canon cameras, but the Canon 5D MKIII and the Canon 7D MKII are just miles away from Sony and Panasonic in almost every aspect as far as videography features go.

After reading many reviews and investigating, I'm currently between 3 cameras: The Panasonic GH4, Sony A7s and Sony A7RII.

I was quite anxious about the release of the new Sony A7RII, as all its amazing new features, especially the internal 4K and 5 axis stabilization, seemed very interesting and appeared to fill in some gaps in which the A7s didn't perform so well. However, now that I came across with the first reviews, I'm not too excited about it anymore. I heard it has some overheating problems, the 4K isn't that impressive, lowlight appears to be worst than the A7s (as well as overall image quality) and the truth is that the 5 axis stabilization isn't that important if you have a Ronin and a Glidecam. For all these motives and for almost 2K more, I decided to forget the A7R II.

Now, with the Sony A7R II out of the way (if you disagree with this, please let me know why!) I am now left with the GH4 and the A7s and to be completely honest, it's driving me crazy! I can't decide which one to go with.

As far as the GH4 goes, it seems it would be the obvious choice, as it costs almost half the price of the A7s (allowing me to invest in a new lens), has internal 4K, the image is surprisingly good, it's features are great and well thought for videographers and with a Metabones Speedbooster, I believe I could survive when shooting in lowlight conditions. I heard battery life is also very good too. However, there are a few things that drive me away from it:

1 - The GH4 was released almost a year and a half a go, meaning Panasonic might be releasing the GH5 in 2016, a few months from now. So in terms of an investment it's not very smart and I don't want to be salivating for a GH5 a few months after.

2 - Sensor Size. Although it's not really that much of an issue, I would prefer to have a full-frame body as it would allow me to have better DOF and more light.

3 - Although internal 4K is good to have, even if only to downsample to 1080, I believe that by the time 4K becomes standard and clients start to ask for it, the 4K the GH4 delivers won't be that impressive anymore.

3 - I will probably be buying the Metabones Speedbooster, and if I go with the Sony it would probably come in handy if I decided to one day upgrade to an FS7 or even when it released newer cameras. However, if Panasonic decides to change the sensor size to say, APS-C, I will have spent 800€ on an adapter that will be then useless.

4 - Although it's awesome for a camera to be light and portable, I have to say that the GH4 seems way too light for me. I was able to test it for a few days and it feels like a compact camera, almost as if I have a toy in my hands. I just missed a more heavy and robust body (yes, I love my 7D!).

As far as the Sony A7s goes, what's really making me consider it is it's overall image (which seems better than the GH4) and lowlight capabilities (which would come in handy for some events and night shots). Although the GH4 has all these amazing extras, the truth is that it all comes down to image quality and in this area, the Sony seems to have a better dynamic range and a much nicer image. Having APS-C mode also comes in handy as I basically end up doubling my lenses. Lastly, investing in Sony gear just seems more interesting, as it has been making major statements regarding videography and I believe there is more to come. However, it also has some disadvantages:

1 - Rolling Shutter. This is probably one of the biggest blockers for me. I shoot a lot of action sports and having rolling shutter issues is not what I'm looking for. And from what I've seen it's pretty bad. I know that it gets better in APS-C mode but still it appears as a big issue for me.

2 - Internal 4K. As I mentioned earlier, not having internal 4K isn't that much of an issue but it counts when deciding which body to buy.

3 - Price. The truth is that the A7s costs almost twice as much as the GH4.

4 - Battery Life. I heard it's pretty bad compared to the GH4.

This is my analysis at the moment. I might have forgotten to point out some things, but I think the main idea is there.

I had a crazy idea last week, in which I would forget the Ronin and the Phantom 3 and invest the money in an FS7 and a Speedbooster, but I'm not sure if 5K more is a good investment as the GH4 and A7s are enough in terms of image quality for now. But the truth is that probably a year from now I will be salivating for a new body, as if I went with the FS7 I believe it would probably suit me for the next 4 or 5 years. Any thoughts on this? Do you think it's worth it?

As far as the Phantom 3 goes, I'm also kind of worried because I believe they will create some sort of legislation in the next year for drones and I would hate to invest almost 2K and then not be able to fly with it. Do you think it's worth it? It certainly makes the difference to have some drone shots in a video, especially with the kind of subjects I normally shoot.

Regarding the Ronin, I'm not sure if I should go with the Ronin or Ronin M. I heard the original Ronin is quite heavy, but once again if I decide to one day buy a heavier camera it wouldn't fit the Ronin M. What do you think?

I would really appreciate it you could give me your advice, as it's driving me nuts and I really can't decide what to go with. I'm aware that ultimately it will be my decision but hopefully I can get some important feedback from you.

Thanks!

Diogo

17 Comments

>>>1 - The GH4 was released almost a year and a half a go

I expect the GH5 to be shown at NAB 2016, and be available in stores by early Summer 2016.

>>>2 - Sensor Size.

With fast lenses it's not that much of an issue, though the A7S / A7S II are the best low-light cameras made, so if you shoot a lot of low-light then these are the cameras to buy.

When not shooting low-light, you want a "workable" DOF when shooting which for me means f/2.0 - f/2.8 for the GH4 and f/4.0 - f/5.6 for a Full Frame camera.

>>>3 - It will be a long time before clients ask for 4K

4K is a great acquistion format that you use to deliver 1080 HD finished footage. There are too many advantages to ignore 4K right now, and it's only going to become a bigger deal down the road.

>>>4 - If Panasonic decides to change the sensor size...

This will never happen. Too much has been invested in the Micro 4/3 format, and Panasonic has killer new sensor tech that still hasn't seen the light of day yet, so I expect Micro 4/3 to become a bigger deal over the next 2-3 years. DJI has just announced a Micro 4/3 drone system, including a camera that shoots RAW.

>>>5 - I have to say that the GH4 seems way too light for me.

This is a DSLR thing, as all of the new mirror-less cameras and lenses are light weight. ( including the Sony A7S )

It's simply something you get used to. ( I was a long term Canon shooter 6 years ago, then switched to the Panasonic GH2 which definitely felt like a toy )

>>>As far as the Sony A7s goes, what's really making me consider it is it's overall image

I'm seeing better color from GH4 V-log than Sony S-log. The A7S is better in low-light and it is better when it comes to dynamic range, but we are talking only 1+ F-stops difference in dynamic range when shooting LOG.

>>>1 - Rolling Shutter. This is probably one of the biggest blockers for me.

The new A7S II has much better rolling shutter when shooting Full Frame, and much worse rolling shutter when shooting A7S crop. ( it's the reverse with the older A7S )

I don't think this is a big issue if you buy the model that matches the format you want to shoot.
( i.e. low-light Full Frame = A7S II )

>>>2 - Internal 4K.

This has been taken care of with the new A7S II model. ( still waiting for comfirmation that it doesn't overheat )

>>>3 - Price. The truth is that the A7s costs almost twice as much as the GH4.

...But if you're going to keep the camera for a long time, then this does not matter as much.

>>>4 - Battery Life. I heard it's pretty bad compared to the GH4.

GH4 has 3x the battery life of the A7S and A7S II cameras, which is kind of unique for a large sensor camera.

The GH4 ( or GH4R in Europe ) has no time limit when shooting, so it's possible to record one 6 hour long 4K video using the GH4 and it's battery grip. This is very handy when shooting live events and not using multiple cameras.

...It sounds like the Sony A7S II might be the camera for you. It shoots Full Frame in low-light with good rolling-shutter performance, but I would wait to see if it has the same 4K overheating problem the Sony A7R II camera has. ( the older A7S camera does not have this problem, but you have to use an external recorder for 4K )

Now that DJI has announced a Micro 4/3 drone that shoots RAW footage, I am wondering what next year's GH5 will bring to the table. RAW would be amazing, but I'm doubtful that Panasonic will do this because they tend to be a conservative company. I would be equally happy if the GH5 had 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording, but who knows...

September 14, 2015 at 1:25PM, Edited September 14, 1:28PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30849

Thanks for your answer Guy!

It's funny, I wasn't aware that they had announced the new A7s. Sounds like it brings a lot to the table. I think I'll wait for some reviews, but I will probably end up going with the GH4.

Any feedback on the DJI Phantom 3 and Ronin?

Thanks once again.

Diogo Antas da Cunha

September 17, 2015 at 6:47AM, Edited September 17, 6:47AM

I just can't handle the terrible image the GH4 has. Was DP on a shoot last week, had a C300, A7S and GH4. The A7S looked similar to the c300 in terms of dynamic range, resolution and color. The GH4 just got too mushy shooting at 800 ISO in a prelit area, terrible picture quality. Looks very similar to mushy 7D footage at 1250 ISO.

NinjaMonkey

September 21, 2015 at 7:58AM

I had the chance to use the GH4 during the past week and was actually surprised by the image quality (except in lowlight conditions, even 800 ISO was a bit unbearable). Of course I don't have a C300 and A7s to make a comparison but other than lowlight shots I found it to be surprisingly good!

Diogo Antas da Cunha

September 26, 2015 at 7:50PM

Perhaps the A7s II would be a good choice with internal 4k? Shipping in October

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1186034-REG/sony_ilce7sm2_b_alpha_...

I went from 5D to Red Scarlet as my A-cam, then got an a7s as a low-light/ replacement of the 5D for 1080p material and a B-cam. It's a great camera, sharp 1080p. Bad rolling shutter but for most of what we use it for it is fine and it's quite nice being able to shoot full frame and super35 (which reduces the rolling shutter).

I can't speak for the GH4 but with the a7s in every way it is better than the 5D and 7D except for weather sealing and color IMO. Sony skin tones are not as nice out of the box

September 20, 2015 at 10:04PM

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Dean Butler
Writer Director Shooter Editor
473

Thanks a lot for your answer Dean!

I will probably wait for next month in order to check some reviews. If Sony managed to solve overheating and rolling shutter issues I guess I'm going with the A7s II, even though I find the price difference to be quite upseting.

Diogo Antas da Cunha

September 26, 2015 at 7:59PM

If you can afford it, get an fs700, it's selling for $4k (4k cheaper than fs7) and I personally love the image quality!

September 21, 2015 at 12:45PM

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Dave
115

Thanks for your answer Dave!

The problem for me with the FS700 is that I don't see it as a good investment. It might have some edge towards the A7s II in terms of overall image quality but apart from that it's just an older, heavier and external recorder dependent camera.

Diogo Antas da Cunha

September 26, 2015 at 8:48PM

>>>I just can't handle the terrible image the GH4 has

It all comes down to who is operating the GH4 camera. The GH4 can look like crap with the wrong settings.

September 21, 2015 at 5:39PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30849

True. I was able to use the GH4 for the past week and am quite surprised with the results.

I did a short video in order to test the 1080P - 96fps. I'll leave you the link: https://vimeo.com/139667650.

I'm currently doing some 4K downsampling tests, will post as soon as I finish :).

Diogo Antas da Cunha

September 26, 2015 at 8:53PM

I have both GH4 and A7s and only use A7s for low light or FF shallow DOF shots which isn't often. The ergonomics are horrible, it's just so much harder to use in all aspects (both physical and software). I feel GH4 is just perfectly sized and perfect weight, you get used to it very quickly and never look back. A7s is smaller, more difficult to handle and unbalanced because of the big and heavy FE or adapted Canon/Nikon lenses. However GH4 really sucks in the low light (I don't have speedbooster though), there is some noise at 800 but it's still usable -- anything above that and you're fucked. On A7s there is the rolling shutter issue as well, it's much worse than GH4. Generally, I feel GH4 is more rounded, thought out camera. The image might be less pleasing but it's a true workhorse that you can achieve great results with.

September 21, 2015 at 6:56PM, Edited September 21, 6:58PM

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zetty
Filmmaker
799

Thanks for your answer Zetty!

Do you happen to have any footage of both cameras online?

Almost everything's pointing me to the GH4 but once I had the opportunity to shoot with it last week and shot at 800 ISO, it was a serious disappointment. I'll have the same problem with the Canon lenses, as I'm planning on buying the MB Speedbooster and using my Canon lenses on the GH4.

Diogo Antas da Cunha

September 26, 2015 at 9:09PM

I have both cameras and I think you've got the pros and cons of each pretty well nailed in your assessment. I've been using the GH4 since it first came out and its been a real workhorse for me. However I got the A7s in the summer and I have to say that I just like the image better. I think that little bit of extra dynamic range makes quite a big difference (although I haven't tried v-log yet) and the GH4 is really mediocre in low light compared to the sony (low light might not be important to you if you're mostly shooting action sports in the day). I'm not that fussy about the extra noise/grain you get at 1600 or even 3200, its just that the image gets really soft (you also have to open up the lens fully which doesn't help either). In the end you're covering quite a range of filming (sports to events) so you want the most versatile camera you can get. The GH4 is probably a little more versatile and if you like the v-log stuff thats out then the only thing you'll lose is the low light performance. You might also want to consider a used C100 Mark 1 which can be found for not much more than a new A7s. Fantastic image, great doc camera and good in low light. Also much better ergonomics and you can easily rent it out to cover its cost. Plus you'll look more "pro" if you're pitching for commercial doc/event stuff.

September 21, 2015 at 11:33PM

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Mark Relf
Director, Editor
308

Thanks for the feedback Mark!

The image quality isn't the factor that will make choose the A7s. I think the GH4 has quite a lot of advantages in comparison to the A7s and that slight edge the A7s has in terms of dynamic range and overall image quality isn't what's bothering me. It all comes down to lowlight. The GH4 is the most complete camera EXCEPT for lowlight and that really sucks, as the workarounds available aren't good enough.

I don't see the C100 as a valid option at the moment, I would much rather go with an FS700, but even that doesn't seem valid at this time. Thanks for the tip nontheless!

Diogo Antas da Cunha

September 26, 2015 at 9:26PM

I have the ronin-m and love it. As long as you're not doing anything bigger than an URSA mini or stripped down RED epic than you should be okay. Otherwise Ronin.

September 23, 2015 at 6:25PM

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Clark McCauley
Spaceman
1677

Thanks for the feedback Clark!

Do you happen to have any footage online?

Diogo Antas da Cunha

September 26, 2015 at 9:18PM

guys, ive been shooting paid gigs with my gh4 for over a year now and i can say unequivocally, the image quality is definitely NOT crap. just look on youtube or vimeo at examples. in fact with the right settings, it offers stunningly good results. the 1080 internally processed slowmo and timelapse are awesome. no its not great at low light, but with a speedbooster and a fast lens its perfectly fine. the gh5 will offer 422 10-bit internally, 5axis sensor stabilization, better autofocus in video mode (very anxious to see how good this will be mainly for gimbal work), 180fps 1080 slowmo, much better low light performans and dynamic range and much more. battery life is much better and sensor doesnt overheat like the sonys. the only reasons i see now to go with sony are the extreme low light performance and the greater depth of field - the full frame look is still great, although u can get a nice super-35 look with the gh4/5 and speedbooster.

January 7, 2017 at 9:22AM

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aubrey jackson
director of photography
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