One of the first thing I tried when i received my Panasonic Lumix GH4 last summer was to grab a frame from a 4K video. For those who don't know this camera, the GH4 can shoot 4K video and record it on an SD card. A frame from that is roughly 8 megapixels.

It was a hot day. My kids and my wife were playing with water guns in our backyard. I wanted to test the slow motion capabilities of the GH4 and the 4K video so I made this little movie.

When I was editing the footage, I grabbed that frame out of it.

Frame grabbed from a 4k Video on the Panasonic GH4

The quality was very good but I wanted to see how it would be once printed. My printer can print up to a maximum size of 13" x 19". Here is the result.

All I can say is I am really impressed. The photo is sharp, the colors vivid and overall, the resulting print is beautiful.

4K Photo Mode

4K Photo Mode in 1:1 Aspect Ratio

In their last firmware update to the GH4, Panasonic introduced a shooting mode for video named 4K Photo. It is a mode specifically designed to take advantage of the 4K video to grab a frame and save it as a photo. One difference using this mode is you will have all the Exif infos embedded in the file. Another is you can do it in-camera instead of inside your video editing software.

The biggest benefit of this mode is you chose your aspect ratio instead of being stuck to 16:9. You can set your aspect ratio to either 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or 1:1. You will then get bigger files than if you would take a 16:9 and crop it to 4:3. On this photo of an Espresso, I used the 1:1 aspect ratio and got a photo of 2880 x 2880 pixels. For a standard 16:9 ratio, you get a 3840 x 2160 pixels so my cropped image would have been 2160 x 2160 pixels. The 4K Photo Mode gives me 33% more pixels in height in this case.

Here are the resolutions you get:

  • 4:3 : 3328 x 2496 pixels
  • 3:2 : 3504 x 2336 pixels
  • 16:9 : 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • 1:1 : 2880 x 2880 pixels

So whatever aspect ratio you chose, you get 8 MP photos at 30 frames per second. This mode is also available on the new Panasonic FZ1000 and LX100.


New Era?

Is this the beginning of a new era of photography? A new way to shoot? Even if I love the result, I am not convinced. Clicking the shutter at the right time is still satisfying. I can see the applications for that though, like sports photography. It is like shooting in burst mode at 24 or 30 images per second. You can then pick the perfect shot out of those. But you have to shoot with the photo in mind and not the video because the settings will be a lot different.

In video, you use a slower shutter speed to get some motion in your sequence. For an action photo, you need a fast shutter speed. So either your photo from the 4K video won't be usable because it won't be sharp, either your video will look jerky. For your video to be usable, you need to stabilize your shot. That means you give up some mobility for it. When I photograph a kid, I'm constantly moving.

You also have to get it right in the camera. You will get JPEG files with the 4K Photo Mode so be sure to get the perfect exposure and the proper white balance because it is a lot harder to work with a JPEG than a RAW file.


Pros

  • Very high burst speed of 24 to 30 frames per second
  • Great for sports or fast action
  • Pick exactly the frame you want

Cons

  • No RAW
  • Can be long to pick the frame you want, especially if you did not add markers when you took the clip
  • Fill up the card faster

So? Is it something you plan to use? Do you think it will replace the way photographers are shooting in some fields? Let me know what you think about it in the comments below.

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