In January I purchased a Panasonic GH4 as my primary camera for shooting both stills and video after doing my research and shooting with a variety of full-frame, APS-C, and MFT (Micro Four Thirds) cameras. I decided that the full-frame lenses and cameras are simply too heavy for a lightweight kit. The Sony Alpha series of mirrorless full-frame cameras offers a lighter weight option compared to the Canon full-frame D-SLRs, and it was tempting, however, in the end, I decided to go with the GH4. This MFT camera is light, compact, and affordable for what it provides in terms of image quality, and lenses for MFT cameras are smaller and lighter than their full-frame counterparts. Right now the G4 can be had at a very good price since Panasonic will start shipping its successor, the GH5 sometime next year.
I chose the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 lens as my primary shooting lens. It’s fast and I like that it has a manual focus ring with a clutch that allows you to quickly go between manual and auto focus without removing your hands from the focus ring. This lens works for me, but there are a lot of options to consider depending on your shooting requirements.
Sometimes I need the full-frame look, so what do I do? I mount my Canon EF lenses on the GH4 using the Metabones T Speed Booster Ultra 0.71x Adapter. This provides me the best of both worlds. For shots for which I want shallow depth of field I shoot with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens (which becomes the equivalent of a 70mm full-frame lens when mounted on the GH4 with this adapter). In addition, I like that the adapter increases the speed of my 50mm f/1.4 lens to f/1.0. The shallow depth-of field look is mine when I need it, and the rest of the time I get the MFT look, in other words, my shots have a little more depth of field than if I had shot them with a camera with a Super 35 or Full Frame sensor, but that’s actually a plus for the work I do. If I did not already have a collection of Canon lenses I might have opted for the Voigtlander Nokton f/0.95 MFT manual focus prime lenses available in 17.5mm, 25mm, and 42.5mm, which produce gorgeous shallow-depth of field images when shooting wide open.
Here are the components of this kit:
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 MFT Digital Camera Body
- Panasonic DMW-BLF19 Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery for GH4 (avoid third-party batteries)
- 2 SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO UHS-I SDXC Memory Cards
- Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens (this lens works for me, but there are a lot of options to consider depending on your shooting requirements)
- B+W 62mm UV Haze Filter
- B+W 62mm Circular Polarizer MRC Filter
- Sunpak Pro 724m Carbon Fiber 4 Section Monopod
- Roland R-05 Portable Sound Recorder
- Sennheiser ew 112-p G3 Wireless Mic System w/ ME 2 Lav Mic
- 2 Rycote Lavalier Windjammers
- Giant Squid Audio Lab Omni Stereo Microphone w/ Right-Angle connector (these can be custom ordered with any length you want)
- Sennheiser CX 300-II Stereo In-Ear Headphones
- Zeiss Lens Cleaning Kit
- Tiffen Cordura Six Filter Pouch
- 2 Eagle Creek Pack-It Quarter Cube (for sound kit and wireless mic kit)
- Lowepro Slingshot Edge 150 AW Sling Bag
This kit comes in around $3,400. complete. Adding the Metabones T Speed Booster Ultra 0.71x Adapter and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens along with a Heliopan 58mm Variable Gray ND Filter, along with a UV filter and Circular Polarizer Filter for the 50mm lens, all this adds about $1,200 to the kit price. If you already have Canon lenses, this makes sense. It might also makes sense if you plan to purchase used lenses, since the Canon EF mount is ubiquitous. When considering the cost of a collection, then the Metabones adapter begins to “pay for itself.”
Another lens to consider if you often need a longer lens is the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 Lens that sells for around $900. I swap between that and the Canon 50mm f/1.4 (or another Canon lens) with the Metabones adapter depending on what I’m shooting. And then there’s the MeFOTO GlobeTrotter Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod ($389) that I take with me instead of the monopod when I need a tripod on the shoot (and it converts into a monopod which is really handy). The total kit with these additional items (including UV and polarizing filters for each lens) comes in around $6,000. in total.
You have to consider all of the accessories you need when pricing out a system, the camera itself is only a starting point, a good rule of thumb is expect to spend at least triple the camera price for a decent kit when you add lenses, basic sound gear, and essential accessories.