Posted By:
Craig Newman
May 16, 2014
Filed Under:
Film & Video Equipment Reviews
4 comments

The battle of the compact cameras: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera vs Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

BMPCC vs GH4

I have a predicament.

The technology in the video production world is undergoing an exciting revolution, similar to the rapid growth of technology for still photographers with the digital SLR revolution that took off in 1999 with the Nikon D1.

I have written blogs in the past about the Magic Lantern for Canon 5D and the Blackmagic Production Camera and the way that they have changed the game for high-end video production by allowing 3.5K & 4K video production with amazing dynamic range in RAW video, with price points under $4000.

But what about smaller projects? When operating as a cinematographer for film or television commercials, I’ve used the Red Epic and Alexa cameras and they are stunning… but it takes a 3 person crew just to run the camera effectively. In doing corporate shoots and music videos I have used the Canon C300 and Blackmagic Production Camera, and although these cameras are easily managed by a single camera operator, they are very bulky and heavy with all the required attachments.

A large portion of what we do here at Entendre Productions is in the area of real estate video and by far the best camera option so far, is the Canon 5D mkII or mkIII running Magic Lantern. It’s small, relatively light weight and it’s price point is not something to cry about. However, to shoot raw requires a 2 step ingesting process that is a pain in the proverbial.

But now, there are two cameras on the market that have caught my interest: the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4.

Both of these cameras have a price point below $2000 and they both have very sexy features… however neither has all the features I want.

Firstly, let’s have a look at the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.

pocketcine

This camera can be bought from Lemac for $1,235 making it extremely affordable.

The camera is a true Super-16 mm digital cinema camera  with a sexy 13 stops of dynamic range when recording to raw Cinema DNG with a maximum resolution of 1080p at a frame rate of 24 or 25 fps (or 30 fps for those of you shooting NTSC). The camera can also shoot a flat profile to Apple Prores 422 if you want to save space and you don’t need the dynamic range.

When I last played with this camera, I found the user interface a bit annoying with even simple features like white balance hidden away in menus making this camera not-so-great for run-and-gun shoots like event coverage and weddings. The maximum frame rate of 25 is a wee bit irritating as well since it would be good to be able to shoot 50 or 60 fps, even if it is only in Prores and not DNG.

That said, it is so light! At only 355 grams (not including the lens) it weighs only 100 g more than my phone and considerably less than the Canon 5D mk III at 1.3 kg. This makes is great for any work where you want to use a slider as you don’t need two tripods / lighting stands to keep the slider from bowing. With a Micro 4/3 lens mount, there are also a great range of lenses that are useable.

Here is a blog I did previously with the “first look” at the footage from the BMPCC.

Here is another clip showing what the BMPCC can do.

Next, let’s have a look at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4.

gh4-sales

This camera is available from Lemac for $1,999 which is more that the BMPCC, but still really bloody good considering it’s features.

I haven’t had a chance to use this camera yet, but I’m hoping to very soon.

One of the coolest features of this camera is that it records 4K video, which is in such a small package. If recording to the onboard SD card, you can record 4K Prores 410 or if you use the AG-YAGHG interface you can export  422 to an external recording device via Quad Link 4K (SDI x4, Square Division). Another cool feature of this camera is that you can shoot HD up to 96 fps! This camera has far more recording and format options than I will go into here so please feel free to look it all up here. It also has lots of awesome professional functions that you would be used to using professional camera systems, and if you are looking to replace your Professional Camcorder, this is a great low-price option.

Particularly when you add the super  AG-YAGHG interface which costs $2,649 from Lemac. This add-on, adds XLR inputs, those four SDI connections and sync options for multi-camera shoots.

The camera, without the interface is 560 grams which is still half the weight of the 5D mkIII. If you add the interface, the weight comes to 1.3 kilograms and then you need to add a battery as the YAGHG does not have an internal power supply.

As far as dynamic range goes, Panasonic are reluctant to say (see this review / blatant advertisement) but they say it might do 11 stops.

Here is some sexy footage of what the GH4 can do:

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera vs Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

So… Which one should I invest in? Remember that predicament?

In this year’s equipment budget, after all the other necessary upgrades / purchases, there is enough to get one of these two cameras. I have been switching between the two on a daily basis and… I really don’t know.

If I needed a production camera, the Panasonic would win hands down, but that’s not my need.

I need a small, lightweight camera for Real Estate Video shoots and B-roll, that is all.

Here is a video made by Amadeusz Andrzejewski who compared their image performance side by side.

Here is another cool review from Cammon Randle:

Let’s summarise the features and benefits below:

BMPCC GH4
Maximum Resolution 1080 4K
Maximum Framerate 30 96
Dynamic Range 13 stops ~11 stops
In camera format Cinema DNG or
Prores 422
Prores 410
or MP4
Weight 355 grams 560 grams
Lens mount MFT MFT
Price $1,235 $1,999

I will surly take a trip to check out the GH4 before I make a decision but at the moment, I’m leaning towards the BMPCC.

Please comment…

What are your thoughts? I’d love to get your feedback before I make a purchase.

4 Comments

DylanMay 21st, 2014

I have both, I plan to use the blackmagic pcc for non audio stuff that I want higher quality with, and the GH4 for stuff with audio that I need best focus on and movement, plus it has wifi live monitoring so I don’t have to have a cameraman doing my focusing if I am interviewing someone, I can just hold my ipad in my lap and make sure the focus hasn’t gone off, and I don’t have to sit behind the camera to interview anyone which is what I always wanted. Plus it has 422 hdmi out so later in the year I may get near blackmagic color levels to an external recorder just with the gh4 alone, but until then bmpcc for the unbelievable quality factor of landscapes and non audio shots.

LeeMay 23rd, 2014

I have a GH3. I was considering the BMPCC then. I think that it is a great little camcorder. But I was swayed to the GH3 for two reasons: 1) still photo versatility and 2) the chief advantages of the BMPCC over the GH3 was RAW footage (DR) and focus peaking.
With the GH4′s ability to shoot 4K, you have the flexibility in 1080 post to down sample footage to 1080 and/or crop/pan to 100% 1080…simulating a two-camera shoot from one file. The GH4 closes the DR gap and adds focus peaking.
I haven’t shot with the GH4 yet, but everything appears to be better than the GH3. Same form factor is a plus for me (accessories). And lesser crop factor, means that my lens options are,literally, wider than with the BMPCC. And as much as I thought the form factor of the BMPCC was superb (smaller and lighter), my GH3 (and hence a GH4) handles better with my manual Minolta lenses (which comprises the majority of my glass).

JimMay 24th, 2014

Both great cameras, both for very different requirements. But both, for me, simply impressive milestones along the road to affordable budget filmmaking.

BMPCC is great as a C-cam/Crash-cam on larger shoots, GH4 is great for pro-sumer videos (especially useful for cropping to 2:35 AR for example, or re-framing in post when you were shooting under pressure and may have missed the perfect composition). I wouldn’t use either as the main camera on a professional narrative shoot (at least not without the GH4′s AG-YAGHG interface, but if I was paying those kind of prices I’d buy a 2nd hand RED 4K, an FS700 with 4k raw or the new URSA from BM).

Lack of SDI connectors and proper audio monitoring, poorly designed menus, awkward form factors, limited frame rates, limited shutter angles etc etc, make both of these very high-end consumer cameras IMO, for people who want to take ‘cinematic’ holiday videos or film a friend’s wedding/kids school play etc. A quick look on Vimeo/Youtube confirms there is a market for this. As I say, the BMPCC is very useful as a C-cam and the GH4 is very useful for those jobs we used to shoot on the 5d (corporates, events, the odd music video), but as your one and only camera on paid jobs, I wouldn’t touch either.

BMPCC’s ‘missing’ ISO steps is insane for me, not such a problem with the colour temp unless shooting prores, since in raw it’s just metadata anyway. But for me, the DR from the BMPCC wins hands down for non-audio, non-A-cam work. GH4 for one-man-band corporates and events (larger sensor – less rolling shutter, higher sensitivity, better resolution obviously, more compatability with full frame stills lenses etc), and the wifi monitoring option is fantastic. But for controlled, image-only B-cam stuff, the BMPCC is pretty awesome at that price.

Your requirement for real estate shooting seems to me ideal for the BMPCC. That’s the one I’d go for. But Panny have done wonders for this market too. I had a GH1 & 2 (both hacked) and loved the images they produced.

@Lee, regarding your comment about ‘crop-factor’, have you considered c-mount lenses on the BMPCC, opens up a huge world of wide angle options. Or even better old Arri S16 lenses. I have a set of S16 Zeiss Superspeeds that I picked up for less than the price of a Canon L-series zoom. They are simply stunning on the BMPCC.
I hate the term ‘crop-factor’ anyway, as it’s essentially meaningless. There are simply wides, standards and teles for each format. I shoot on S35 sensor cams or, occasionally if I’m lucky, 35mm film cameras, and to me a 50mm lens is just a 50mm lens. I know the FOV I will get on S35, I know how it will look on S16 or on a full-frame DSLR. It’s only really an issue for people who have only ever shot on full-frame stills glass and therefore would typically have a 24mm, 25mm or 28mm as their ‘wide-angle’ option.

MagnusJune 24th, 2014

One other consideration if battery life. The GH4 is supposed to be spectacular.

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