Panasonic GH4 vs Pentax K-3 II
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 and the Pentax K-3 II are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2014 and April 2015. The GH4 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the K-3 II is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (GH4) and an APS-C (K-3 II) sensor. The Panasonic has a resolution of 15.9 megapixels, whereas the Pentax provides 24.1 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 and the Pentax K-3 II? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The physical size and weight of the Panasonic GH4 and the Pentax K-3 II are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The K-3 II can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the GH4 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax K-3 II is notably larger (6 percent) than the Panasonic GH4. Moreover, the K-3 II is substantially heavier (43 percent) than the GH4. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|Panasonic GH4||133 mm||93 mm||84 mm||560 g||500||Y||Feb 2014||1,499|
|Pentax K-3 II||131 mm||100 mm||77 mm||800 g||720||Y||Apr 2015||1,099|
|Canon 80D||139 mm||105 mm||79 mm||730 g||960||Y||Feb 2016||1,199|
|Olympus E-M5 II||124 mm||85 mm||45 mm||469 g||310||Y||Feb 2015||1,099|
|Olympus E-M1||130 mm||94 mm||63 mm||497 g||350||Y||Sep 2013||1,399|
|Panasonic GH5||139 mm||98 mm||87 mm||725 g||410||Y||Jan 2017||1,999|
|Panasonic G80||128 mm||89 mm||74 mm||505 g||330||Y||Sep 2016||899|
|Panasonic GX8||133 mm||78 mm||63 mm||487 g||330||Y||Jul 2015||1,199|
|Panasonic GM5||99 mm||60 mm||36 mm||211 g||220||n||Sep 2014||749|
|Panasonic G6||122 mm||85 mm||71 mm||390 g||340||n||Apr 2013||599|
|Panasonic GM1||99 mm||55 mm||30 mm||204 g||230||n||Oct 2013||749|
|Panasonic GH3||133 mm||93 mm||82 mm||550 g||540||Y||Sep 2012||1,299|
|Pentax KP||132 mm||101 mm||76 mm||703 g||390||Y||Jan 2017||1,099|
|Pentax K-70||126 mm||93 mm||74 mm||688 g||410||Y||Jun 2016||649|
|Pentax K-3||131 mm||100 mm||77 mm||800 g||560||Y||Oct 2013||1,299|
|Pentax K-5||131 mm||97 mm||73 mm||760 g||740||Y||Sep 2010||1,099|
|Sony A7||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||474 g||340||Y||Oct 2013||1,699|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The K-3 II was launched at a markedly lower price (by 27 percent) than the GH4, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Panasonic GH4 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Pentax K-3 II an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the K-3 II is 63 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.5. The sensor in the GH4 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the K-3 II offers a 3:2 aspect.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 24.1MP, the K-3 II offers a higher resolution than the GH4 (15.9MP), but the K-3 II nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.90μm versus 3.76μm for the GH4) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the K-3 II is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 2 months) than the GH4, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the K-3 II has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Pentax K-3 II implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the K-3 II for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.1 x 20 inches or 76.4 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.1 x 16 inches or 61.1 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.1 x 13.3 inches or 50.9 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Panasonic GH4 are 23 x 17.3 inches or 58.5 x 43.9 cm for good quality, 18.4 x 13.8 inches or 46.8 x 35.1 cm for very good quality, and 15.4 x 11.5 inches or 39 x 29.3 cm for excellent quality prints.
Unlike the GH4, the K-3 II has the capacity to capture high quality composite images by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 25600, which can be extended to ISO 100-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Pentax K-3 II are ISO 100 to ISO 51200 (no boost).
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the K-3 II has a markedly higher DXO score than the GH4 (overall score 6 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.4 bits higher color depth, 0.8 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|Panasonic GH4||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||4K/30p||23.2||12.8||791||74|
|Pentax K-3 II||APS-C||24.1||6016||4000||1080/60i||23.6||13.6||1106||80|
|Olympus E-M5 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.0||12.5||842||73|
|Olympus E-M1||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||23.0||12.7||757||73|
|Panasonic GH5||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/60p||23.9||13.0||807||77|
|Panasonic G80||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||4K/30p||22.8||12.5||656||71|
|Panasonic GX8||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.5||12.6||806||75|
|Panasonic GM5||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60p||22.1||11.7||721||66|
|Panasonic G6||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||21.3||11.5||639||61|
|Panasonic GM1||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60i||22.3||11.7||660||66|
|Panasonic GH3||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||22.7||12.4||812||71|
|Sony A7||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||14.2||2248||90|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the GH4 provides a higher video resolution than the K-3 II. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Pentax is limited to 1080/60i.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the GH4 has an electronic viewfinder (2359k dots), while the K-3 II has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the GH4 has a higher magnification than the one of the K-3 II (0.67x vs 0.63x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Panasonic GH4 and Pentax K-3 II in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|Pentax K-3 II||optical||Y||3.2||1037||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.3||n||Y|
|Olympus E-M5 II||2360||n||3.0||1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The GH4 has one, while the K-3 II does not. While the built-in flash of the GH4 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The GH4 has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the K-3 II does not have a selfie-screen.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the GH4 is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The Panasonic GH4 and the Pentax K-3 II both have an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the GH4 and the K-3 II write their files to SDXC cards. The K-3 II features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the GH4 only has one slot. Both cameras can use UHS-I cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 and Pentax K-3 II and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|Pentax K-3 II||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Olympus E-M5 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
It is notable that the GH4 offers wifi support, while the K-3 II does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Travel and landscape photographers will find it useful that the K-3 II has an internal geolocalization sensor and can record GPS coordinates in its EXIF data.
The K-3 II is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Pentax. In contrast, the GH4 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the GH4 was succeeded by the Panasonic GH5. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Panasonic and Pentax websites.
So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Panasonic GH4 or the Pentax K-3 II – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60i).
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.67x vs 0.63x).
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12 vs 8.3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 240g or 30 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in February 2014).
Reasons to prefer the Pentax K-3 II:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24.1 vs 15.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 25%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.8 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (720 versus 500) out of a single battery charge.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (27 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 2 months) more recently.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the K-3 II comes out slightly ahead of the GH4 (16 : 15 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Panasonic GH4 and the Pentax K-3 II place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the GH4 or the K-3 II. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|Panasonic GH4||+ +||85/100||5/5||5/5||5/5||Feb 2014||1,499|
|Pentax K-3 II||..||..||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Apr 2015||1,099|
|Canon 80D||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||1,199|
|Olympus E-M5 II||+ +||81/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2015||1,099|
|Olympus E-M1||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2013||1,399|
|Panasonic GH5||+ +||85/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2017||1,999|
|Panasonic G80||+ +||84/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||899|
|Panasonic GX8||+||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2015||1,199|
|Panasonic GM5||+||77/100||5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||749|
|Panasonic G6||+ +||..||5/5||..||4.5/5||Apr 2013||599|
|Panasonic GM1||+||78/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||749|
|Panasonic GH3||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||1,299|
|Pentax KP||..||82/100||5/5||..||4.5/5||Jan 2017||1,099|
|Pentax K-70||..||79/100||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2016||649|
|Pentax K-3||..||83/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||1,299|
|Pentax K-5||..||83/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,099|
|Sony A7||+ +||80/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||1,699|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Panasonic GH4 vs Pentax K-3 II
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Panasonic GH4||Pentax K-3 II|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Micro Four Thirds lenses||Pentax K mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2014||April 2015|
|Launch Price||USD 1,499||USD 1,099|
|Sensor Specs||Panasonic GH4||Pentax K-3 II|
|Sensor Format||Four Thirds Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||17.3 x 13.0 mm||23.5 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||224.9 mm2||366.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||21.6 mm||28.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||15.9 Megapixels||24.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4608 x 3456 pixels||6016 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||3.76 μm||3.90 μm|
|Pixel Density||7.08 MP/cm2||6.56 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 25,600 ISO||100 - 51,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 25,600 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||Venus IX||PRIME III|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||74||80|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||23.2||23.6|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.8||13.6|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||791||1106|
|Screen Specs||Panasonic GH4||Pentax K-3 II|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2359k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||1036k dots||1037k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Swivel screen||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Panasonic GH4||Pentax K-3 II|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||12 shutter flaps/s||8.3 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||200 000 actuations||200 000 actuations|
|Electronic Shutter||up to 1/8000s||no E-Shutter|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Panasonic GH4||Pentax K-3 II|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 3.0|
|HDMI Port||micro HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Near-Field Communication||NFC built-in||no NFC|
|Geotagging||no internal GPS||GPS built-in|
|Body Specs||Panasonic GH4||Pentax K-3 II|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||500 shots per charge||720 shots per charge|
133 x 93 x 84 mm
(5.2 x 3.7 x 3.3 in)
131 x 100 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 3.9 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||560 g (19.8 oz)||800 g (28.2 oz)|
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