The 1st Lumix GH4 in Saigon

It’s almost a year to the day that I waltzed into a shop in Kuala Lumpur and purchased my very first micro four-thirds camera, the Panasonic Lumix GH3. At the time, I’d been researching for the best video camera for the money and was still struggling between the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera and the Canon HF G30 camcorder. It was as a result of reading Andrew Reid’s glowing review that I settled on the Panasonic. As you might already be aware, in Vietnam, you can’t just traipse into the nearest Best Buy and pick up the camera of your choice. Much of what is sold here is grey market, and you can be certain that that Canon battery or SanDisk Extreme SD card you just bought for ten dollars is a cheap Chinese knock-off. Strangely enough though, it’s much simpler to find basic necessities like shaving cream and deodorant here than in a shopper’s paradise like Korea, where, if you can find them at all, they are twice as expensive as back home. Likewise, you’d be sorely mistaken thinking that you could find a Samsung television or an LG DVD player for less in the Land of the Morning Calm, as Koreans happily pay far more than their American counterparts for identical goods. Yet, many of the electronics these clever and resourceful people do manufacture are curiously unavailable domestically. For instance, I recall wanting to upgrade my MacBook Pro with a Samsung 840 SSD and having to ask a friend to bring one back from California because the hottest new drive on the planet was unavailable in stores locally!

Anyway, unlike Canon, Nikon and Sony, who aggressively promote their products in this rapidly developing economy, Panasonic hasn’t bothered to establish a presence in Vietnam: so buying one of their products usually means booking a flight with a budget airline and dashing off to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore or Malaysia: nevertheless, it affords me an excuse to travel. Moreover, even taking into account airfare and hotel rates, it works out cheaper than having goods shipped here: Vietnamese customs can and does impose arbitrarily high duties on merchandise. So, it came as a shock to discover that Khanh Long, a tiny upper-tier camera shop in Saigon, was carrying a brand-new Lumix GH3 and an assortment of Panasonic lenses in their showcase, a mere two years after their release. Naturally, I asked one of the sales staff if they were expecting to carry the GH4. You’d think I’d asked if they could get a 4D 8K camera or something. Anyhow, she took down my name and number and said they’d get back with me. This was on a Friday afternoon. That same day, I received a message, saying that they’d ordered the camera and it would be available the following week. Of course, I was skeptical – so you can imagine my surprise when I received another message Monday morning saying I could come pick up my camera. ‘How can this be?’, I wondered. It was no less startling than if motorcyclists had suddenly begun to yield for pedestrians at crosswalks, or Vietnamese office workers had taken a course in basic elevator etiqette. Was this the harbinger of some great social upheaval?

Many are wondering whether it pays to to upgrade to the GH4 if they have no intention of delivering in 4K. The answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ If you shoot in 4K and downscale the image to 1080p, noise levels will be lower, dynamic range will be greater, there is greater freedom with editing, resolution will be marginally better and the dreaded moire will be all but absent. And 43rumors reports that Panasonic will be adding a firmware upgrade for log, which could mean more latitude in color correction. Finally, of all the reviews I’ve read, watched or listened to, Dave Dugdale’s above gives by far some of the most persuasive reasons for upgrading to the Lumix GH4.

4 thoughts on “The 1st Lumix GH4 in Saigon

  1. Hi, once I read your article I became crazy. I called nearly 2 weeks ago the same shop many times, sent an email enquiry as well…no reply. After a last try on Thursday 19th, I finally reached a staff by phone. The guy informed me that they do not have it (Panasonic GH4 body only) in stock. He offered me to take my phone number in order to call me back later, once his brother will confirm him when they will receive a new one. Until today I still have no news from them. More over, after read your article I went to check their website, I saw that they increased the price from 36M to 41M VND, which is nearly the same price than in France (1,499euros with 3 years warranty). For your information I am living in Hanoi and unfortunately I could not find it here. I will go to Bangkok in middle of next to buy a new one, 2 weeks more to wait.

  2. Sorry to hear about that, Claude. I guess there are a couple more inconveniences I ought to have mentioned: many businesses in this part of the world don’t seem to know how to respond to email inquiries; and they hire staff who know little or nothing about the products they’re selling. Camera shops sell lenses costing thousands of dollars, yet they carry fake batteries, counterfeit SD cards and cheap filters that are little better than window glass. You would think that a small boutique shop like Khanh Long (to the best of my knowledge the only one in Saigon that deals in merchandise like Voigtlander lenses) would offer more personalized service, but I guess they dropped the ball on this one. I don’t want to give the impression that all stores here are like that: in fact, the Doremi shop, where I purchased my Rode Stereo VideoMic Pro microphone and accessories, has some of the best customer service I’ve ever experienced. So will you be getting your camera from Pix-One at Fortune Mall? You should be able to find the camera there for the same price or even less than it sells for in the States, plus you’ll receive a VAT refund at the airport, which is a very streamlined process (except for the ton of paperwork that must be completed at the point of purchase). Since airfare to Bangkok is around $200 from Hanoi, you’ll be spending about the same as me, eating lots of scrumptious food and getting a small vacation in the bargain.

    • Thank Jon, effectively I have plan to purchase it from Pix-one, quoted at 54,500THB (35,800,000VND) on their website but not available yet, expected date middle of July (cross finger).
      I want to buy also Olympus lens Zuiko F2.0 12mm, quoted in an other shop in Bangkok 22,990THB (15,087,480VND). A friend of mine knows a shop in HCMC which sale it at 18,150,000VND (27,225THB).
      At the end for both, in Bangkok I will have to spend 77,490THB / 50,900,000VND (without 7% tax refund and airfare cost). Around 9M VND cheaper than HCMC 59,950,000VND / 89,925THB.
      I am living in Vietnam since 2003, even if I saw some progress, I feel upset that I still have again to fly to Bangkok to buy something I can not find here.
      Anyway, I am waiting your review on the GH4, lucky you ; )

  3. Hi, you are lucky!

    I just got GH4 this Monday, It’s so great!

    But now, I have a problem, I have to shooting a Charity campus of Human trafficking, I just have only 1 battery. I’ve found everywhere in Sgn and HN, even Khanh Long. But they don’t have GH4 Battery. Do you know where i can buy it in vn or I can rent it?

    Thanks a lot.

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