Monday, March 10, 2014

Panasonic GH4: to pre-order or not at US$1699.99

Apparently, the floodgates have opened, and pre-orders on the Panasonic GH4 are available at roughly US$1699.99, the full retail pricing.  I continue to think about the Olympus E-5 that was introduced in 2010 at the same price.  The extra US$400 over the GH3 full retail pricing probably isn't enough to offset the research and development work, but I think that the company will sell enough to business users to make a profit eventually.

If things are good, the first people ordering it should see their camera bodies around the end of April.  If it's as it was with the GH3, it could be longer--a few minutes delay in ordering could mean months.  I'm not sure Panasonic anticipated the demand for the GH3, though I'm not sure that demand that strong exists for the GH4.

I'm ready but cautious.  My GH3 may be flawed but I haven't seen anything about a production-firmware-laden GH4 yet.  Panasonic certainly isn't talking to me about it.

I was reading the marketing blurbs on the Panasonic web site.  Any time I see the word "professional" in marketing these days, I laugh.  It seems to be the way around actually committing yourself to dangerous comparisons that may get you a lawsuit.  I've seen people use an iPhone as a professional camera, so what exactly does that mean to the GH4 or the D4 or 1D x?

Can I use the GH4 instead of a US$3000 (5DMkIII or D800) body and get nearly the same results?  How does it hold up against a US$6000 body?

The answer is a qualified "yes", of course.  Yes, the video functionality will do well.  My question is all about the still photography functionality.  I'm impressed with the numbers but I really need to know how it really works in real world situations because I don't photograph test charts.   I photograph sports.

I'm looking to wait a while anyway.  I need to sell my GH3 or trade it for the GH4.  I want the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens that will be available later this year, so I may wait for the combination of the two and add my Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 and 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 lenses to the trade-in list.  I don't care about the image stabilization, if I can't get a good, clear shot anyway.  (Just ask me about all the years with the Olympus E-1 and 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5.  I did fine.  It could make sense to go with the E-M1 but I might as well wait for the replacement to see if they put a bigger battery in it and therefore, fix the grip.)

Happy shopping!

Update 2014.04.06: The GH4 should be arriving for some people at the end of April.  Hopefully, their production will be strong enough to meet demand.  I'm still hesitating until I can trade my GH3 but then, I'm packing in order to move across the country.  I think I want to trade the GH3 here, where the people at the store know me.  I could get a few dollars more.

Hopefully, the firmware upgrades to the inevitable minor issues will be quickly and accurately written and dispensed.  Of course, the camera body has more intense processing than the GH3, so the little problems could be magnified a bit.

I wonder if any of the newer options from the AG-AF100/AG-AF105 will present new problems.

I hope that Panasonic has a rock-solid version 1.0 firmware release but I won't hold my breath.

Update 2014.04.09: I've seen the initial reports on the Sony A7s 4K camera body.  I'd like to be impressed but it still sounds like checklist engineering.  I see far too many complaints about the lack of responsiveness with the A7/A7R and can't imagine that the A7s will be better.  Yes, it can do the things they list, but can it do them well?  My money will be on the GH4.

Update 2014.04.14: Tweeted at Roberts Camera concerning a GH4 in stock.  No such thing available.  Do I want to be added to the list when I will probably be gone in three weeks?  I don't believe so, but I want to trade the GH3, while I can do it in person.  I'm not sure why, but mail order and waiting just isn't for me.  Selling my house has filled me with anxiety already.  Maybe, I should buy/trade for that Olympus E-M1 while I'm waiting.  :-D

Update 2014.05.19: Over the weekend, I sent a message to Mike's Camera in Dublin, California asking if they did trade-ins.  They have both Olympus and Panasonic, supposedly.  They responded that they don't handle trade-ins, unfortunately.

I'm thinking of a mad, mad solution: trade for the Olympus E-M1, which Roberts easily has in stock.  Then, later, when the GH4 is in stock and properly updated to reliable firmware, I'll buy one outright, probably through Adorama, although I might buy it locally at Mike's Camera.  (I'd rather buy locally but there are times when it's just a bad idea.  Mike's is a company from Colorado with a few California locations, for some reason, and one is reasonably close to where I'll be.)

If for some reason when/if I go to Roberts they have an extra GH4 in stock, I could just go the shorter path, though I'm thinking that the E-M1's 5 axis IS will help on certain nights.  I'd rather have the successor to it, but I suspect that will take some time.  Olympus isn't even replacing the E-M5 yet.

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