in filmmaking, photography, videos

Five Things I Miss: Switching to a Panasonic GH4 from a Canon 5D Mark III

When the Panasonic GH4 was first announced, I heard numerous reports that there were filmmakers who’d be selling their 5D Mark III’s and going with the GH4 exclusively. I was a bit stunned at all the positive buzz, just because I love my 5D Mark III and think the image quality is fantastic, even if the video codec is pretty terrible. Could anything possibly serve as a full replacement for the Mark III?

I recently purchased a Panasonic GH4, and while I’m kind of in love with this thing, I’ve already decided I won’t be selling my Canon 5D Mark III anytime soon.

The Panasonic GH4 has some really awesome selling points. It is the only camera that can shoot at 4K for under $2,000, and it does a pretty great job of it, with insane amounts of detail. It has video features that DSLR video users have been longing for for quite sometime, including zebras and focus peaking. And it does it all in a really small, light package, that’s extremely easy to handle.

That being said, as someone who’s shot exclusively with Canon for the past 5 years, there were a lot of thing I missed about my Mark III when I picked up the GH4 and started trying to use it. Here are the top five things I miss about my Canon:

1) The bokeh – It’s a scientific fact: it’s harder to get shallow depth of field on a smaller Micro 4/3rds sensor than it is on a full frame sensor. The shorter focal lengths mean that your aperture needs to be wider to achieve the same creamy bokeh you’re used to. That’s not to say you can’t still achieve great results with lenses like Voigtlander Noktons or the Nocticron. But it can still be a challenge. On that note…

2) The lenses – Canon now has a ridiculously large assortment of EF lenses to use from, a truly mature system that has pretty much every focal length and quality level one is looking for. Don’t get me wrong, there are some awesome Micro 4/3rds lenses out there, but they’re simply not as many to choose from (a difficulty which I ran into when I was first kitting out my Blackmagic Pocket). So you may not get the exact focal length you’re looking for, or it may not have the preferred build quality. Of course, for Canon, you can probably get the exact thing you’re looking for, but it’ll cost an arm and a leg, and the lens itself could be really, really heavy.

3) The buttons – One thing that’s annoying: On the Canon 5D Mark III, the aperture dial is in the back, and the shutter speed button is in the front. These crucial positions are switched on the GH4, and that is definitely going to take me some time to get used to. I also love that huge gigantic wheel on the Canon – nothing is really going to beat how easy that is to use, and the GH4’s equivalent wheel, which feels pretty flimsy, certainly doesn’t match up. UPDATE: Apparently, you CAN switch these buttons via the GH4 menus.

4) The viewfinder – I never thought I’d miss the viewfinder on my Canon, but it’s really hard to get used to a digital viewfinder/EVF on the GH4. I was fine doing it on my Fuji X100, because that was more of a “leisure camera,” but on the GH4, which I’m considering using for professional applications, I find the experience unsatisfying. There’s just no substitute for being able to look through a viewfinder and see, through a prism/mirror, the exact thing that you’re going to take a picture of. The software and screens on the GH4 are great, but software will take awhile to be perfect in this regard, and show us what we’re looking at with perfect fidelity.

5) The top display panel – I realize this is a gripe that is specific to people switching from a Mark III, but I really have grown to love the panel at the top of the camera, which the GH4 doesn’t have. It displays basic settings like aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and drive mode, and if I’m in a situation where I need to be discreet, it makes it really easy to change my settings without putting the camera up to my face. Not a big deal, but just something I missed when I was shooting my first video on the GH4.

UPDATE: One more thing that really grinds my gears – there is very little third-party RAW support for the GH4’s .RW2 files, and it will likely be weeks/months until programs like Aperture and Lightroom release updates with GH4 RAW compatibility. I can’t believe we are still living in an age when one of the world’s most anticipated cameras can be released without an easy way to manipulate the files.

The Panasonic GH4 is essentially useless for professional photography jobs until RAW support arrives.


Those are just a few of my thoughts on making the switch, but overall I’m a huge fan of the GH4 and plan to use it far into the future. Just sometimes, a few things bother me about it. But for the amazing video features, incredible lightweight, and hyper-competitive price, the GH4 is still a formidable camera and one that I’m really enjoying using.

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    You can easily switch the dials in the menu settings…

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    and you can adapt basically 95% of the lenses in existence to the micro43 mount, even gaining performance with certain adapters like the speed booster.

  • AE: Good remark on the dials. I'll have to fix that.

    As for adapting the lenses: sure it's possible, but it requires the purchase of additional accessories. Plus the whole reason I wanted to get into MFT was BECAUSE of how light it is. If I want to shoot with an EF lens, I'll likely just use my Mark III.

  • Hey David, Scott from KEXP. I know how you feel. I recently sold my 5DMK2 which was the camera that really launched KEXP video. We've been using GH3's exclusively for awhile and looking to upgrade to GH4's. I have to say though, I miss that FF look everyday. Maybe Metabones can ease the pain 😉

  • JW

    FYI, it's REALLY easy to customize the dials and buttons on this camera. You can swap the front and rear dial functions just by going into the "Dial Set" menu and picking the option you want.

    Also, you can control what information is visible on the LCD and EVF. Once you get used to having all the information about your shot right on the same screen as the image, you will start wondering what on earth you need a top screen for at all….

    And, last, but not least, give the EVF a chance. Once you get used to actually seeing what the sensor sees, not what you THINK the sensor sees, and adjust your usage to that, you will find that going back to an OVF feels like you are shooting blind.

    I came to M43 from a Nikon setup about three years ago, and now when I pick up a DSLR, I feel really hampered by the lack of information that I have about what the camera actually "sees" when I use it. Live view on most DSLRs still feels like an afterthought (at least for stills shooters), and the OVF feels, well, primitive, even if it's a large and bright one.

    My suggestion: Go through the owner's manual with the camera in front of you and work through all the menus so you can really customize the thing to meet your needs. You may be very surprised at how much it can adapt to your shooting style once you get it set up just right.

  • Thanks for the comments, JW. I've already updated the dials, as I point out in the post.

    I'm planning on going through the user's manual in its entirety (I made a bunch of headway this weekend!). It just take time, and I thought it'd be useful to get some quick reactions up.

    As for EVF vs. OVF: I enjoyed using the EVF on my Fuji X100 a lot, so it's not like I'm categorically against EVF's. I think I just need some time to get used to the ergonomics of this setup.

  • Really interesting Dave. I shoot video (mainly) and I had all my gear for sale after purchasing the GH4. Then, I had a major wobble! Whilst I LOVE the video quality (4k, detail), battery life, features, etc etc.. I simply cannot turn up to a professional job with this alone. It sounds very shallow, but unfortunately my client (some weddings) perception would be "whoa.. is that a toy?!"… I miss all the things you miss, but would add the ISO / low light performance to that. I will be buying this camera again for sure, but only when I can afford BOTH 😉

  • RAW support:
    Obviously this is no longer an issue, but for future reference: there's no need to rely on Lightroom or Aperture. Free programs like FastStone and RawTherapee (to name but two) do a much better job of keeping current. As does Adobe's stand-alone DNG Converter.
    So really, your five points have been reduced to maybe three points (the dial issue was previously dealt with).
    And after that, consider the points made way back in May by JW, about the EVF. It's great seeing all the info right there so you can adjust settings on the fly.
    Finally, there's the issue of video. Unless you enjoy peering at an LCD in glaring outdoor light, or using an unwieldy Rube Goldberg contraption so you can see what your camera sees, there is no substitute for mirrorless (or Sony SLT) for video.
    I've had Canon, Pentax and Nikon, and although I loved the IQ, there were too many other issues (can Canon shoot stills at 7fps, let alone 12fps?)
    On the other side, the lens issue is a big one (I'm not a fan of adapters), but they are working through it.
    If Panasonic ever makes an APS-C mirrorless with all the features of the GH4, that will be a show-stopper.