Why I chose the Panasonic GH4 over the Sony A7S?

Posted by Valentina Vee on

The big debate rages on: which camera is better: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 or the Sony Alpha 7s? A simple Google fill-in poll will show you that this question weighs heavily on the mind of those who are searching for either camera:

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“But why is this even a question?” – any novice photographer or videographer may ask. Simply look at the prices and you’ll see that the Sony A7s (coming in at $2,498.99 at the time of writing) is a solid $800 more expensive than the Panasonic GH4 (currently $1,697.99).

And damn right it should be. The A7s is widely touted as the first mirrorless camera with a full-frame sensor (though, actually it is equal to a 35mm film sensor, not a standard full-frame like that of the Canon 5DMk2). It is also the world’s best low-light camera, thanks to its relatively low megapixel count (less pixels = bigger pixels = bigger “pools” of light).

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Even looking at these two screenshots from B&H makes me wonder why anyone who can afford to purchase a $2,500 full-frame sensor would settle for one that is half that size.

The devil, of course, is in the details.

Personally – I’ve only owned a Canon T3i. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: why? Well – living in Los Angeles and working in the film industry means I can get a 5D or a C300 any time I want. For free. I can crew up and shoot with friends who own everything from their own grip trucks to their own Red Epic packages. I never had a need for using anything more robust than a T3i – which, with the right glass, I mainly utilized for headshot photography and family events. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t shot with every other major camera out there.

Now that I’ve decided to upgrade, here are the main reasons why I chose the GH4 over the A7s:

1. The GH4 records 4K internally. 

Yes – this is a big deal. I’m not about to purchase a $2,000 recorder like the Atomos Shogun just to make my camera export in 4K. And having worked with 5K Red footage before, I have been spoiled by the ability to crop into and re-frame a 4K image for a 1080 timeline or stabilize my footage in Premiere Pro or Aftereffects. I need 4K, even if I’m never going to finish in 4K.

2. The A7s has terrible rolling shutter. 

I, as every gear-lover out there, have watched Philip Bloom’s review of the A7s. The unsightly rolling shutter problems completely turned me off. You just cannot have a camera that bends every horizontal line with any shake. Those who want to use this camera’s low light capabilities for wedding receptions and other mostly-dark events will have a rude awakening when they find that not only can they not cut in and stabilize their footage but they cannot get rid of rolling shutter.

3. The GH4 has a flip out screen. 

This is one of the reasons I’ve loved my T3i so much over the years. I self-tape myself a lot, and with the A7s, an external monitor is 100% necessary (thanks both to its non-rotational screen and the fact that it’s LED, not OLED, like the GH4). Now, having a monitor like Aputure’s VS-3 as part of my camera package is crucial – regardless of which camera I use. But if I’m running and gunning, video blogging while on the go, or simply do not have room in my backpack – I will leave the monitor at home. Never underestimate the convenience of being able to see your image from any angle.

4. I can increase the field of view of the GH4 with a Metabones Speed Booster

While I haven’t gotten it yet (because it doesn’t exist), the minute the Canon EF to MFT Metabones Speedbooster goes on sale, I’m purchasing it. In the meantime, I bought an inexpensive adapter from Fotodiox, because I’m not about to risk damaging my sensor with the Canon EF to BMPCC Speedbooster, like many GH4 shooters already have. Remember: a speedbooster increases your field of view. It does not increase the size of your sensor. It does not increase your “crop factor,” because “crop factor” has a direct correlation to “sensor size.” But this is another blog entirely.

5. The GH4 is decent in low light. 

Sure – it doesn’t reach over 409,000 ISO and can’t compete with the A7s in low light. But for my purposes, I usually bring in my own lighting. I do not need a camera that can see in the dark.

6. I need my overcranking in 1080.

Yes, the A7s can record at 120fps. But only in 720p. The highest it does at 1080 is 60fps, and that does not hold a candle to the GH4’s 96fps. Whether I’m shooting an event or a film – everything looks better in slow motion.

7. A million other reasons. 

The GH4 has a 10-bit HDMI output. Astounding! The A7s only does 8 bits internally. The GH4 has a touchscreen. The A7s does not. The GH4 has highly customizable picture styles. The A7s has a few – and its flattest profile only kicks in at 3200 ISO (not ideal at all while shooting in daylight, when you probably most need that dynamic range).


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