Since the Panasonic GH4 was released earlier this year there have been countless reviews and shootouts.
And that’s not surprising as the GH4 is kickass little camera, which was the first affordable mirrorless camera or DSLR-sized one if you will to shoot 4K video and do a pretty good job at it.
Then things heated up significantly as the Sony A7s started hitting the streets earlier in July. GH4 vs Sony A7s Shootouts and comparison reviews were imminent.
With a plethora of such reviews sometimes it can be a bit difficult to sift through them find the really good ones.
Today, we’ve got a truly Epic Panasonic GH4 vs Sony A7s Epic Shootout courtesy of freelance photography instructor & tech innovator Michael Andrews.
The review is epic in both length and content, and we couldn’t resist the urge to share it with you guys, so get a cup of tea or coffee and check out this very informative shootout between the more affordable GH4 and the low light king – the Sony A7s. Select 4K 2160p from the options below for highest quality.
– Sony A7s 4K video was recorded to the Aja Ki Pro Quad Recorder, we used the same recorder for the 10-Bit GH4 4K video and were unsuccessful recording 10-Bit through the HDMI port.
– GH4 was a joy to use. The internal 4K recording and $800 less-in-price are really what made it stand out. Whatever magic is happening inside that little camera is special. The A7s takes more time to learn to navigate.
In the review above, Michael tests both photography features as well as video features, which I’ve summarised below and divided into a Photography/Video section.
Summary of Features on both cameras:
- Panasonic GH4 – 16MP Micro four thirds sensor, Internal 4K video 100mbps IPB recording in both 17:9 DCI 4K at 4096x2160p and 16:9 UHD at 3840 x 2160p, 96fps slow-motion, Flip-out touch screen, 12/7fps burst, Built-in Wi-fi/HDR, $1,700
- Sony A7s – 12.2MP Full Frame 35mm sensor, 4K – external only via 3rd party recorder (Atomos Shogun 4K due this Fall, or tethered with Blackmagic Design’s UltraStudio 4K); ISO up to 409,600; Slog2 Gamma curve for video mode; $2,500
Micro Four Thirds vs Full-frame sensor photosites (pixels) comparison: the larger photosites and the much larger surface area of the 12.2MP full-frame sensor on the A7s contributes to its impressive low-light performance and sensitivity and colour reproduction.
Burst mode AF Accuracy – Per specs on both cameras the GH4 – 7fps; Sony A7s – 2.5fps. Michael took out the out of focus shots out of the total number of shots to arrive at a total percentage of “in-focus” shots. Higher percentage – better.
- Subject moving Side-to-Side test results: GH4 – 77% / Sony A7s – 68%
- Forward moving subject servo test (same methodology as above): GH4 – 82% / Sony A7s – 59%
- Subject moving away from camera (strong backlight): GH4 – 76% / Sony A7s – 39% – this tests stressed the cameras the most and showed the A7s struggling to keep up due to its full-frame sensor
- Low-light focus test – focusing on two subjects placed at different distances from the camera and at different exposure values (6.5 EV further object and – 0.5 EV closer) for 30 actuations. The faster a camera reaches 30 in-focus actuations, the better it performs in this test. Lower number in seconds is better – GH4 & A7s did it in 43 seconds. Then he repeated the test in – 2 EV to -3 EV to stress the cameras and later to -2 EV / -3.7 EV: GH4 – 105 sec / A7s – 90 sec. The Sony A7s is the winner here.
Results of the low-light focus test are represented below:
- Portrait test – blind test, in which you have to guess the camera. GH4 surprises here as with the proper glass its images can look like they were shot on a full-frame sensor.
4K / 1080p VIDEO TESTS:
- ISO Chart Test – visible grain starts to show on the GH4 at ISO 1,600 and above; A7s clean until 6,400
- ISO Test with Mixed Lighting Conditions – Incandescent/Fluorescent/Candle lights – A7s more forgiving and colour accurate in mixed lighting conditions at high ISO values due to large photosites compared to the GH4 micro four thirds sensor. Sony A7s is the clear winner here.
- Moire 4K/1080p – The GH4 shows less moire in 4K, and the Sony A7s has less moire at 1080p. GH4 winner here as it exhibits less moire in 4K video mode.
- Rolling Shutter – The GH4 exhibits less “rolling shutter jello effect” than the full-frame A7s.
- 4K 10bit vs 8bit Video Test – The A7s in S-Log2 captures much more detail even at 8bit than the 10 bit 422 from the GH4. Keep in mind the Sony A7s S-log2 gamma curve requires a minimum ISO of 3,200.
- Lenses – limited AF range of Sony E mount lenses at the moment, can use adapters (Metabones / Fotodiox and others) to adapt Canon EF or other manufacturer’s lenses. More lens options for the GH4
In summary, Michael recommends the GH4 as the winner in the above shootout/review test due to the following:
- All-in one practical solution
- 4K in-camera video mode
- Multitude of professional features both in stills and video mode
- light-weight – for easier travel
- Run-and-gun solution for videographers and photographers
- Excellent price
- Faster much more enjoyable shooting experience, easy to start
His thoughts on the Sony A7s:
- Great for portrait/landscape photographers
- Incredible low-light performer
In the conclusion of his review above, he mentions some of the drawbacks according to him of each camera – the GH4 has a large DOF, which although useful in most cases, requires faster lenses to achieve more shallower DOF and ISO performance leave something to be desired; The Sony A7s is more of a low-light specialist camera – however it lacks internal 4K video capabilities, it is more expensive and struggles in shooting sports where a fast AF is required.
I personally, would have loved to a Speed booster comparison for example between the GH4 and the APS-C mode on the A7s, as the GH4 can really shine with the added extra stop of light and wider lenses. Also maybe a bit more detailed 4K moire & aliasing tests on brick walls, and thin grid patterns in a real world situation might be a nice addition to this test.
However, overall for both photographers and videographers alike, this massively helpful review, which is indeed extremely informative and a great aid for those who are one the fence on which camera they’d want to buy.
For more tutorials and gear reviews head over to Michael Andrew’s YouTube channel and visit his blog for more.