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Red Epic vs. GH4 – Camera Comparisons

The Red Epic and the Panasonic GH4. How do they compare?

A (now) $20,000ish Red body against a $1700 newly released Panasonic mirrorless camera that fits in your hand…

Dave Dugdale over at learningdslrvideo.com posted a comparison he was doing with the GH4 and my thought was, “is this a good B-camera for the Red.” So, with my simple “real world run and gun” methodology, we tested. (In case you’re wondering, Dave and I have done a few other Red camera tests together)

Before we jump into some tests I think it’s worth mentioning that the Mysterium-X sensor is 3 or 4 years old now, which is ANCIENT in technology and computer terms (which sadly cameras basically are wrapped into now). 

Resolution

We’ve been marketed resolution details from every camera company East to West. It was a big factor in helping the newly formed Red Digital Cinema company get established in the industry, so we’ll start here.

The Panasonic is very impressive. At 24 fps, it appears to be the same amount of resolution as the Red 5k downrezed to 4k with a touch of sharpening. It’s almost impossible to see aliasing on the GH4, which is a big plus! It is very sharp with no modifications. In fact, we had the sharpness dialed down to -5 on the camera to appear being “too crispy”. The image below was shot in color but posted in black in white to draw the eye to the actual image detail. Trees are often a nightmare to shoot at small apertures, so naturally this was a good test for us to challenge the cameras.

Gh4 and Red epic sharpness resolution

Gh4 and Red Epic Resolution and Sharpness Test. Desaturated in post, no sharpening added.

You can click on the image above for a full 4096×2160 look. The Epic was down sampled from 4800×2700 to match the 4096 frame. This was intentional, in that I believe this to be Red’s intent in giving “more” resolution with their system in the first place. Providing a “5k” resolution system with the ability to sample down to 4k was the standard method to increase overall resolution, that’s my reasoning behind downsampling the Epic footage to match.

To my eye, the image above, the GH4 looks sharper. For the next look, with the same image, I applied sharpening in Adobe Premiere CC to the Red footage (as we tend to do a lot on Red footage anyway).

gh4 and red epic sharpness resolution test

GH4 and Red Epic, Sharpness added to Epic

Now, it appears the Epic is sharper. When dealing with such high resolution, the computer has enough information to make some very intelligent decisions on how and what to sharpen.

Out of pixel peeping mode and into the real world for a moment… Resolution-wise, the GH4 definitely meets the spec of running as a B-cam for the Red.

Look

Now, onto a pseudo run and gun interview setup to see how they’d match color and look wise. For these tests, the Red was matched to the GH4 look out of camera. We tried 2 looks out of the GH4, the CineD look and the Natural look.

GH4 cineD interview look

GH4 cineD interview look straight out of camera

GH4 Natural Look

GH4 Natural Look straight out of camera

Between the two, the best looking option is definitely the natural setting. The cineD setting makes skin look plastic, and the color shifts seems unnatural. With limited knowledge on setting up the profiles of this camera, there could be a setting we missed but it seems like Dave really covered his bases when looking into the profiles. His intent all along was to shoot natural, but I wanted to test the cineD profile in tandem to double check.

Below is the two cameras stacked next to each other in “A” and B” setups. The tonality differences of the camera come out mildly, but straight out of camera it isn’t a huge leap between the two. Notice the depth of field difference on the “b-setup” with same aperture and focal length.

Red and Gh4 interview setup

Red and Gh4 interview setup

B camera Gh4 Red Epic depth of field look

Gh4 and Epic B camera angle. notice the depth of field

Slow Motion

Anything 24fps the Panasonic GH4 handles quite well. However when switching to 96fps at 1080p, we found there to be a sudden quality drop. There seems to be too much motion blur in the GH4 96 fps, as you can see below in the video and still.

GH4 96fps 1080p and Red Epic 5k

GH4 96fps 1080p and Red Epic 5k 96fps. Notice the motion blur difference

Takeaways

From our basic tests, I think it’s pretty conclusive… as a general B-camera, the GH4 can really step in as a nice sub-$2000 addition to a Red users kit, under a few conditions. It seemed from our tests very easy to match the Red to the GH4, but there are looks that you can pull in the Redcode that are difficult to match exactly on the GH4. Don’t go out shooting without testing… as always. But it seems the natural profile on the GH4 is a good “HD” look match to the Red Epic. The GH4 wins in that it is a tiny tiny camera. For covert or ultra-light shoots, it wins. For big travel, it wins for sure. On top of that, with the myriad of cheap handheld gimbal systems coming to market, the lightweight GH4 will take great advantage of these. I’d say, if you’re in need of a B-Cam, this is a great system.

However…. it’s probably worth waiting to see the Sony A7S in action. That comparison will be coming very soon. Stay tuned!

Dave Dugdale will be posting his extensive review of the GH4 soon, keep your eyes out for it!

A huge special thank you to Caleb Kohl of chlorofil.biz and Ian Chisolm for helping us with these tests!

Update: Dave and I tested the GH4 with a metabones speedbooster, which essentially transforms the micro 4/3 sensor into the size of a s35 sensor. There’s an EF version of this speedbooster coming out soon, so it looks like we will be able to easily swap EF glass on shoots with Red’s and GH4, yet another factor to consider for those mini 2nd unit pieces!

 Behind the Scenes

Dave Dugdale, Gh4 tests Red Epic stacked Gh4 photo 3


One Response to "Red Epic vs. GH4 – Camera Comparisons"

  1. Nice work, James! Thanks for letting us know all of this! So far, it looks like my dream cam setup for video could be RED with GH4; and for photography A7r and A7s for the high mp and the low light, respectively! Of course, there is that A7s external recording bonus…

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