The Panasonic Lumix GH5, initially released in spring 2017, marks the latest iteration of their flagship video camera. It replaces the previously released GH4 and is Panasonic’s top micro four-thirds camera. It has a 20.3-megapixel sensor without an Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF) and Panasonic’s best image stabilization technology to date.
These make significant improvements of the predecessor, which only had a 16.1-megapixel sensor with OLFP. While this is technically a prosumer camera, the feature set delivered makes it a rival amongst professional-grade cameras superseding its competitive range.
It’s aimed as a competitor to Olympus’s E-M1 Mark II, Nikon’s D750 and Sony’s A7S II. Tough competition. Is this the professional-grade video camera Panasonic users expected? The GH4 delivered features that we’re trendsetters among the competition, setting new standards for what was possible in a mirrorless camera. Does this camera continue those traditions, or is overshadowed by its predecessor? Today we revisit Panasonic’s flagship.
What are some of the goods, bads, and the uglies of the Panasonic GH5?
There’s not much to say here, the image quality and color science delivered by this camera are fantastic, and an improvement over the predecessor. The removal of the OLPF has done wonders to produce a robust photographic camera, though not the primary aim of this camera. Images are sharp with ample detail, even considering the size of the sensor.
It shoots Ultra HD 4K at 60 fps and, unlike the predecessor, this camera doesn’t have a 2.3x crop when filming in 4K. Instead, Panasonic has opted for full sensor readout, which means users can now take advantage of a 15% sensor area increase when filming. In all, the 4K capabilities deliver a camera that’s a contender to the Nikon 1DX Mark II and Sony FS7.
It shoots HD 1080p at up to 180 fps, which users can upscale to 4K resolution if they’d like with no reduction in quality. The camera is also able to playback these super slow-motion videos in-camera, and there’s no need to export the footage to a computer for viewing.
The video quality delivered in both 4K and 1080p are similar, and each surpasses the predecessor. Unlike the predecessor, users are no longer forced to shoot in 4K as there are no visible artifacts in either format.
- It shoots 10-bit 422 color internally.
- It can shoot at a bitrate of up to 400 MBs/second.
- It experiences minimal rolling shutter.
It has unlimited record time which records until the SD card is full or battery is dead. It saves recordings to a single file as well, which makes file management incredibly straightforward. Not only that, but it also removes the painstaking process of start/stopping videos manually or having to combine split videos in post.
Low light Performance
Noise performance on the camera is improved, though not as much as expected over both the GH4 and G85. It supplies a native ISO from ISO 200 to ISO 25,600, in which users can film comfortably up to ISO 3,200 without any noticeable loss in detail. Even ISO 6,400 in most situations is usable. Overall, it delivers almost a one stop improvement over the predecessor, making it more on par with the competition. However, as with all micro four-thirds cameras, low light performance is still lacking compared to both APS-C and full-frame cameras.
This camera features a 225 point AF system, which Panasonic has also implemented a new motion detection algorithm. The result, well superior AF performance over the predecessor. Depth from Defocus (DFD) technology supplies among the fastest AF performance during single point focusing to date, especially for the money. However, this is still only a contrast-detection system. With that, focusing performance is only excellent during stills.
AF performance remains relatively inconsistent during filming. Both AF-C and subject tracking struggle immensely. In all, the focusing performance doesn’t give users confidence its capable of adequately tracking their subjects, and should be avoided. Manual focusing during filming is still superior.
Display & Viewfinder
It has an articulating LCD — the ideal configuration for all situations.
This camera inherits the menu system and styling from the predecessor. Its primary contents organized into categories that are then further organized with settings applicable to the specific shooting mode it alters. The menu is quite extensive and will surely overwhelm the beginning photographer. Thankfully, pressing the display button enables a help info panel which explains the current setting selected.
The design of the menu is touch-optimized and has a scroll slider which works well to scroll through its depths with a single finger quickly. Overall, the implementation of touch navigation works well. It is as intuitive as navigating a smartphone and an enormous strength of this camera.
It has 16 physical buttons and 4 virtual buttons that are customizable to a total of 95 options. Incredibly extensive.
It has a custom “My Menu” tab, which functions as a preset menu for users to tailor the menu to their specific needs, a godsend considering its depths.
It has dedicated settings that are independent to photo and video modes, respectively. These dedicated settings completely remove the need to remake unnecessary changes when switching between shooting modes. In all, a simple addition that is both seamless and well thought out.
Panasonic rates the battery to deliver 400 shots, above average for mirrorless cameras. Like the predecessor, this camera has a power saver mode which automatically disables the displays when not in use. This mode effectively doubles the battery life and delivers an impressive range of almost 1,000 shots. Much like the predecessor, who was almost legendary for its battery life performance, this camera continues the tradition. It delivers upwards of 2 hours of continuous 4K 10-bit recording and, virtually, an unlimited amount of time when used with an AC adapter.
Physical Layout and ergonomics
It features an AF joystick, which can also second as a d-pad to navigate the menus among other functions. Overall, the joystick is a welcomed addition and works well at opening menus and navigation.
The button placement is both functional and thorough. This camera surely doesn’t leave users feeling they’ll accident hit buttons, whatsoever. The buttons are well placed, and the everyday functions are all immediately accessible.
Niche features offered/Extras
It offers dual SD card slots, both of which are UHS-II compatible. Not only that, these cards are hot-swappable. Users can swap a memory card while filming to have, virtually, unlimited recording so long as you have sufficient cards.
It has a continuous burst rate of up to 12 fps in AF-S and 9 fps in AF-C. Respectable. The shutter performance here surely makes this a capable option for sports and journalism photographers. Not to mention, the buffer provides 100 RAW and upwards of 500 JPEG images.
It has built-in stop motion animation.
It has both 4K and 6K photo modes. These modes allow users to film a short video and pull either an 8-megapixel or 16-megapixel still, respectively, from the recorded video — 4k photo captures at 60 fps and 6K at 30 fps.
It has 4K live crop, perfect for b-roll footage. Live crop allows users to pick two portions of the frame, which the camera then uses as references to automatically perform a pan or tilt. From that, it then generates either a 20 or 40-second 1080p clip with perfectly stable footage. This feature alone singlehandedly sells this as a robust b-roll camera.
It has focus stacking, a feature that focuses at every point across the frame which users can then choose a point of focus after the fact. It does this by recording a short video at 30 fps and adjusting the focus area automatically. Focus stacking can be a helpful feature for users shooting macro photography.
It has a rack focusing system (Electronic Focus Transition/ Pull Assist), similar to the 4K live crop, which allows users to pick up the three focus points as references. From there, the camera than smoothly transitions between these points. The speed of the transition is customizable, and, in all, this feature deliver beautifully cinematic transitions between positions. This feature is a filmmaker’s dream and a fantastic option for documentary or product work that is brilliant.
- It has manual focus assist, which is surprisingly sharp.
- It has manual focus peaking.
- It’s entirely dust and weather-sealed.
- It has a headphone input port.
- It has a microphone input port.
- It has a built-in time-lapse mode, which is highly customizable and generates a video file of the resulting lapse.
- It has a USB 3.1 (USB-C) port, now providing faster image transfer speeds than the predecessors.
- It has zebras, to display warnings of overexposed areas.
It has in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which opens a world of handholding. This camera features a built-in e-stabilizer as well. These in-camera features can also be paired with compatible lenses with optical image stabilization (OIS), creating Dual IS. Panasonic has further improved on Dual IS, and this camera now comes with version II of this technology. However, the selection of lenses offering OIS is still relatively limited.
Nonetheless, the combination of these three features delivers handheld footage that, while not as smooth as a gimbal, almost entirely removes the need for tripods or monopods when filming. Though, Olympus still reigns as the golden standard in this regard with their E-M1 Mark II.
It has three custom modes, C1-C3, further allowing users to save shooting configurations as presets for immediate access using the mode dial.
It has a built-in audio limiter which evenly smooths highs and lows in audio recording. It delivers more latitude in dynamic range and works very well. We recommend leaving this always-on, as it significantly improves audio quality and will save you time when setting microphone gain.
It has a full HDMI port, so much more useful than the silly mini and micro connectors found on the competition.
It has a built-in teleconverter, which delivers a 1.4x crop in 4K and 2.7x crop in 1080p with virtually no loss in quality, a helpful feature to give users more reach out of their lenses.
It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. It can wirelessly and automatically transfer images to the connected device via the Panasonic Image app. This app also supports full manual control over the camera in both photo and video modes.
It offers a very mature lens ecosystem with excellent offerings from both Panasonic as well as third party support via adapters. In this regard, it is on par with Sony’s E-mount platform.
It lacks V-Log natively, this feature is only available for purchase after the fact with a $100 software unlock code. Ouch. Granted, it does have Cinelike D and Cinelike V, which work well. However, they don’t leave as much room for grading before the files become unusable, so keep that in mind.
While the camera shoots 1080p up to 180 fps, shooting at frame rates above 60 fps eliminates both AF and audio recordings. Not only that, but image quality also suffers and is considerably softer with aliasing issues present. The maximum usable frame rate is 120 fps.
AF-C performance, much like the G85, is okay, not excellent. Users will surely have to tinker with the settings to discover best practices to get consistent results, as it is quite hit or miss. Panasonic has released several firmware updates, which have made huge leaps in this regard. Namely, firmware v2.1 which eliminated much of the microfocus jittering that occurred. However, tracking performance still doesn’t give us confidence in using this system for critical professional work, especially if subjects are quickly moving throughout the frame. In all, this camera is still not as competitive amongst the top AF systems, namely the Canon’s DPAF and Sony Phase Detect systems.
- It lacks a built-in flash.
- While it has a USB-C port, the camera doesn’t support charging via USB.
Is the Panasonic GH5 a good beginners camera?
This is undoubtedly the filmmaker’s dream camera. It’s among the best feature-packed and performing mirrorless cameras to date. It delivers almost everything users want, especially at this price point. It’s daring to find a mirrorless camera under $2,000 that offers this robust of a feature set, even today. The GH4 was a massive hit, and this camera continues that groundbreaking tradition. Panasonic delivered a camera far superior to the predecessor that builds on its already robust feature set.
This is a camera that aggressively exploits the possibilities of mirrorless technology, and makes a prime example of how manufacturers should design future upgrades. It delivers incredibly ergonomics; the thoughtful menu system is easy to handle and has strong performance with excellent battery life. This camera represents the pinnacle of Panasonic’s platform and one that does so very well indeed.
Is the Panasonic GH5 a good camera for you?
Yes, it could be an incredible camera for you. The GH5 is a videocentric camera that places its competitive photo performance secondary. With that, it is primarily a tool marketed to videographers, not photographers. If you’re in the market looking for mainly a stills camera, you will surely pay a premium for this camera, though it’s more than capable. Not only that, but its small sensor will surely leave you disappointed if shallow Depth of Field is important to you or if you’re moving down from full-frame.
If you’re a videographer who shoots run and gun video work, this is an excellent camera for you. The only real drawback is AF-C tracking performance. Outside of that, this is the most advanced video camera in its class, especially at this size, hands down. Panasonic was the first manufacturer to release a consumer-level camera with 4K at 60 fps. Not only that, a 4K camera that genuinely gives Sony a run for their money.
The stabilization features provided will deliver some of the best stabilized video available on the market today — all without the back-breaking need for a tripod or gimbal. However, if you film a lot of action and complex movement, keep in mind the AF-C performance during the video is still inadequate. You will have to compensate with technique instead.
If you’re a professional cinematographer, this is an excellent camera for you. This camera renders scenes with a color purity and quality that rivals professional-grade broadcast cameras, all handheld. This is the closest a consumer can get to a cinema-grade camera without breaking the bank.
This also makes a very respectable sports and action photography camera. Assuming you can live with its limited low light ability.
Current Panasonic users should seriously consider an upgrade. Yes, it is possibly their largest camera to date, but a necessary evil to compensate for the addition of IBIS. If you’re willing to overlook its size, you will be thoroughly surprised by the performance its capable of delivering.
In conclusion, the Panasonic GH5 has continued the groundbreaking tradition initiated by the GH4. They have delivered a camera that remains superior amongst the competition and one to seriously consider, even in 2019.
The GH5 delivers incredible ergonomics; a thoughtful menu system that’s easy to handle and has a strong performance with excellent battery life. This camera represents the pinnacle of Panasonic’s platform and one that does so very well indeed. The only real drawback is AF-C tracking performance. Outside of that, this is the most advanced video camera in its class, especially at this size, hands down.
Not only that, but it’s also among the best feature-packed and performing mirrorless cameras to date. It delivers almost everything users want, especially at this price. It’s daring to find a mirrorless camera under $2,000 that offers this robust of a feature set, even today. It continues the groundbreaking tradition initiated by the GH4. Panasonic has delivered a camera that remains superior amongst the competition and one to seriously consider, even in 2019.