Which is better at 4K, the Sony α7s or the Panasonic GH4?

YouTubers seek to settle the debate

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Ever since both the Sony α7s and the Panasonic GH4 hit the market, filmmakers, cinematographers, and the runners & gunners have been listing their 5D Mk. IIIs on eBay in the hopes of making the switch to a low-cost, high performing 4K camera to future proof their work. But in doing so, the debate has started to rage over which one is better. And YouTubers are doing the work for us, with camera testing that seeks to settle the debate.

There are two really good comparison videos on YouTube right now, one from Michael Andrew (aka Michael the Mentor on YouTube), and Dan Watson of Grace Elisabeth Photography (aka LearningCameras.com). Both look at the highlights on shooting 4K with both the α7s and the GH4. Andrew not only tests both cameras head-to-head, but uses the WiFi capability of the Panasonic GH4 to record his audio. He also offers a 4K workaround with the α7s so that he can do onboard recording in 4K. And he warns of “equivalence,” which is trying to use different sensor cameras to get the same results.

The bottom line is that the GH4 is micro four thirds, while the α7s is full frame. That affects depth of field and aspect ratio, which is important for comparison purposes.

There’s also the issue of pixels. The α7s Exmor sensor has far more “wiggle room,” thanks to its gapless design. The α7s has a larger micro meter size… roughly 5x the surface area. This gives the α7s the advantage for color accuracy, and noise reduction. In bright light, Andrew said that the α7s had focus issues in not only backlight conditions, but also in strong ambient light. But in low light, the α7s begins to shine, thanks to that large surface area.

And side-by-side, he concludes that the α7s is far more forgiving, and he says that the GH4 tends to look underexposed. So in ISO performance, the win goes to the Sony, but at lower ISOs, the GH4 holds its ground. “The GH4 does an amazing job at lower ISOs, but the α7s does a btter job at higher ISOs,” Andrew concludes.

Color sampling? ISO buys you far more dynamic range than the GH4, and overall, Andrew gives the edge to the α7s. And the S-Log feature of the α7s provides a phenomenal advantage to details. But the downside, Andrew says, is that it requires an ISO of 3200 and above, and as such, in bright light, users will have to use ND filters to adjust for it.

Andrew also offers tutorial training on both for those who are looking forward to diving into 4K on either platform. You can check that out at michaelthemaven.com.

Two cameras going head to head is always a ton of fun. – Dan Watson

At Learning Cameras, Watson says that his experience was specifically designed to determine which camera he was going to buy. Both cameras are designed for videography, and there’s a ton of advanced options for that purpose. Watson says that GH4 can shoot up to 120fps at 1080p and 4K interally, while the α7s can only record in 4K with an external recorder, and 120fps is only achievable at 720p.

Andrew, however, points out that even though it can record at a faster fps, the GH4 also can’t record in sound and you lose auto focus. So while you get far greater high speed advantage, it’s fairly limited.

Watson found that while the GH4’s 4K files are nice to work with, the ISO can only peak out to a 6400, while he says the α7s is only getting started. ” The GH4 loses the high ISO battle for sure,” says Watson, “but there are other ways of bringing that ISO down on the GH4 that we don’t have on the α7s.”

But it starts to peak out at f4 for lenses, while the Panasonic can go lower and wider, and thanks to the speedbooster, you can get even faster, down to f1.2. Andrew also says that rather than invest in external recorders to do 10-bit recording on the GH4, he says it makes far more sense to invest in better glass to achieve similar results. “The external recorder makes far more sense for the α7s,” Andrew says.

At the end of the day, it’s the on-board ability to record in 4K that is winning it for the GH4 according to Watson, and as such, he thinks it’s hard for him to ever go back to 1080p.  So what’s the bottom line for these two tests? Surprisingly, Andrew recommends the Panasonic GH4 for run-and-gun videography that’s an all-in-one solution. It’s more affordable and has greater lens options. But for the higher end video shooter who has more time to set up, he gives the edge to the α7s, but only if you have deeper pockets to afford it.

Watson says that the cost considerations, the availability of faster lenses and speed booster options, more than made up for the higher ISO capability of the α7s. “For 4K, the α7s is really a $4500 camera, since you have to buy the external recorder,” Watson says. “The price really takes the wind out of the Sony sail.” Watson goes on to conclude that since he shoots mostly at lower ISOs, that the GH4 is going to be his choice.

The video’s are very informative and worth watching. And either way, I think Canon is in trouble. So what do you guys think?

About doddle 16509 Articles
Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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