This article has been updated based on recent developments, as of 13th February 2013
This article is a comparison of the specifications of the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K (BMPC4K) and Panasonic GH4 cameras, with currently available information.
Important: The information is unverified. At least half of it are just rumors. Therefore, don’t take this comparison seriously. Don’t take the prices or the specifications seriously either.
Let’s start with the camera bodies:
|Price of Camera body||$2,995||$1,699?|
|Included Accessories||Turret Dust Cap, 12V AC Adapter, Camera Strap, Sun shield||Battery pack, Battery Charger with AC Cable, Body Cap, USB Cable, Shoulder Strap|
|Lens Mount||Active EF mount||Active Micro Four Thirds|
The list of accessories is based on what’s being shipped with the GH3.
The GH4 is cheaper by more than a $1,000. This is excluding the DMW-YAGH interface unit that is rumored to cost $2K!
Comparison of sensors
The Blackmagic Production Camera 4K has a larger sensor:
|Sensor||21.12mm x 11.88mm||17.3mm x 13 mm|
|Horizontal Crop Factor based on FF 35mm||1.7||2.3x (for 4K video)|
|Required lens resolution||182 lpmm||237 lpmm|
The difference is not insignificant. You would need excellent lenses on the Production Camera. You would need world-class top quality lenses on the GH4. Both of these types of lenses are already available in the marketplace based on still camera resolutions.
The ISO range of the GH4 should be at least usable till 6400 ISO, and this would give it a leg up over the Production Camera. On the other hand, due to the larger pixel pitch, in theory, the Production Camera should have lower noise levels. But we’re splitting hairs here.
Check out the crop factor. There’s not much difference between 1.7 and 2.3. E.g., to get a full frame 24-70mm equivalent, you’d need:
- 14-42mm on the Production Camera 4K
- 10-30mm on the GH4
To get an 18mm wide angle equivalent, you’d need:
- 11mm on the Production Camera 4K
- 8mm on the GH4
All of these focal lengths are already available (at least with the Metabones Speed Booster), so none of this is a problem for either camera. The difference in crop factors is really not significant, but it will be noticeable in depth of field and bokeh. The GH4 will have the advantage when it comes to the weight of lenses, and its ability to interface with the Metabones Speed Booster.
What about Blackmagic Design’s claim that the Production Camera 4K is Super35mm? It’s not entirely accurate, or maybe it is, because nobody knows what Super 35mm is anyway. To compare, a Super 35mm 3-perf frame is 24.89mm x 14mm, with a crop factor of 1.45.
The point is, the difference in crop factors between a Production Camera 4K and Super 35mm 3-perf is roughly the same as the difference in crop factors between the Production Camera 4K and the GH4! If the first is okay, the second should be okay too!
Nevertheless, the Production Camera 4K does have the larger sensor, and is arguably closer to Super 35mm than the Micro Four Thirds sensor. Secondly, it has a global shutter. Thirdly, it does not demand the best lenses. For these reasons I must say the Production Camera 4K is a more exciting prospect, on paper.
Comparison of video features
Two cameras with totally different ‘video’ philosophies:
|Frame rates at max. resolution||23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p, 30p||23.98p, 25p, 29.97p|
|Claimed Dynamic Range||12 stops (11?**)||11 stops (rumored)|
|Recording Format/Codec||Lossy CinemaDNG RAW and Apple ProRes 422 (HQ)||Interframe H.264 (IPB) (1080p can be recorded in Intraframe H.264 (All-I))|
|Data rate||RAW (120 MB/s*), 880 Mbps for Prores HQ||100 Mbps|
|Color information||12-bit RAW, 10-bit 4:2:2 in Prores||8-bit 4:2:0 (HDMI is 10-bit 4:2:2)|
|SDI||6G-SDI x 1||3G-SDI x 4***|
*Uncompressed 3840×2160 RAW at 30 fps would have a data rate of about 360 MB/s. The fact that Blackmagic Design claims the codec is ‘visually lossless’ implies that the CinemaDNG compression is indeed lossy. If the Pocket Camera has an approximate compression ration of 2:1, I suspect the Production Camera 4K will have a compression ratio of about 3:1. This will equate it to the compression setting on a Red Epic (3:1 being the smallest setting for Redcode R3D). The data rate at 3:1 would be about 120 MB/s at 30p. Even if you’re shooting Prores, the data rate is 110 MB/s. This would also place it below the 150 MB/s data rate of the BMCC, so you can use the same kinds of SSDs.
On the other hand, the best data rate from the GH4 is 100 Mbps at 30p. That’s a lot of compression for 4K. It’s the equivalent of 25 Mbps AVCHD for 1080p!
**Some rumors say, due to the global shutter, you lose about 1-2 stops of light. This means you might only end up getting about 10-11 stops instead of 12.
***With an adapter. Limited to 10-bit 4:2:2, uncompressed.
In any case, even if the Production Camera 4K ends up with the same dynamic range as the GH4, everything else is simply better. Prores is a much better codec to shoot with, and you don’t need an adapter to monitor video via SDI.
Here are two quick videos that compare the video quality of these two cameras:
I have to give this to the Production Camera 4K.
Comparison of audio features
Here’s a look at the audio features:
|3.5mm TRS headphone jack||1||1|
|Microphone inputs||1/4″ TRS x 2||3.5mm stereo, 2xXLR^|
|Audio Specs||LPCM 2 channels 48 kHz and 24 bit||LPCM/Dolby Digital AC-3 16-bit 48 KHz, 2 channels|
^With the interface.
Even though the Production Camera 4K looks okay on paper, the experiences recording audio with it tell a different story. It might be for this reason that no mention is made of the audio specifications on the official specs page.
This one goes to the GH4.
Comparison of miscellaneous features
Of course, there is much more to a camera than its audio and video features. Here are a few important things that affect usage:
|Connectors||USB 2.0 Mini-B, Thunderbolt^^||USB 2.0 Mini-B|
|Monitor||5″ (800 x 480) LCD Touchscreen||3″ OLED (1.04M dots)|
|LANC inputs||2.5mm LANC for Rec Start/Stop, Iris Control and Focus||No|
|Battery life||90 minutes, internal||2.5 hours|
|Viewfinder||No||100% OLED EVF|
|Still image shooting||No, max 4 MP RAW||Yes, 16 MP RAW|
|Dimensions||166 x 126 x 133 mm||132.1 x 94.0 x 81.3 mm|
|Weight with card and battery||1700g||550g|
^^Thunderbolt can only capture HD video, and not 4K.
The Production Camera is the larger and heavier camera, no doubt. It has the bigger LCD touchscreen. On the other hand, its screen is worse than the smaller 3″ OLED screen on the GH4 for outdoors shooting and judgement of color.
The LANC port could be an important feature for some users, and so is the Thunderbolt port. Since it cannot output 4K, forget monitoring 4K via it on a laptop. However, you can monitor 1080p, assuming the camera downsamples 4K in real-time. The GH4 works similarly. If you’re recording 4K internally, you can only output 1080p via HDMI.
On the other hand, the battery life on the Production Camera is poor to say the least, and you are stuck with an internal battery that cannot be charged separately. For professional shoots, you will be forced to opt for external battery solutions and this will add to the weight of the rig. Depending on your production, this might be a good thing or a bad thing!
The GH4 has full weather sealing, which could be important as well. It also has an EVF, but the position makes it impractical for video use. To monitor 4K I’m figuring you’ll need the additional adapter with four 3G-SDI outputs. The question is: How many of them will you need to use and which monitors will be able to read this unconfirmed standard?
No winner here, because these are totally project-related features – all having utility at some point. However, if I had to look at the overall setup for a full professional shoot, I’d give it to the Production Camera 4K, for the following reasons:
- Metadata support
- SDI monitoring of 4K content on a single cable
- LANC control
- Thunderbolt backup monitoring and scoping
- Mounting threads on the camera body itself
- Free DaVinci Resolve
- Free Ultrascope software
- Easier Prores workflow
Which is cheaper to own?
The Production Camera will shoot on 2.5″ SSDs, and will probably demand the best SSDs. The GH4 will record to UHS Speed Class 3 (U3) SDXC cards. On a cost/GB basis, a fast SDXC card is twice the price of an SSD. In absolute terms though, you’d be spending more on SSDs than SDXC cards.
Secondly, you will need a proper battery solution for the Production Camera 4K. On the other hand, you will need to purchase an adapter to get SDI and XLR on the GH4, and who knows how many third-party manufacturers will be ready to supply compatible gear?
All in all, I’d say the Production Camera 4K would be more expensive to own and operate, unless you buy the DMW-YAGH interface for the GH4. In that case, it’s neck and neck. Even if you don’t buy the interface, to get the best 4K quality and audio, you’ll need an external recorder and an audio interface. This one’s a draw.
Who wins? Here’s a recap:
|Sensor size and ISO||Production Camera 4K|
|Video||Production Camera 4K|
|Features||Production Camera 4K|
Well, if you can live with the cost, the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K looks like the camera to own. The GH4 might offer excellent image quality, but I really can’t see it being much better than 880 Mbps Prores. Even if the image quality is exactly the same, the Production Camera 4K has way more advantages.
Don’t agree? Think about it in this way: If you wanted to add any functionality from the GH4 to a Production Camera 4K (except for shooting 16 MP stills), you can, as long as you are ready to pay extra for accessories. On the other hand, the GH4 can never shoot RAW or Prores, even if you were willing to pay for the privilege.
What do you think?