Review : Panasonic GH5

Panasonic GH5

A close look at the video capabilities of this mirrorless monster

by Jaron Schneider | Posted 04/07/2017

This is probably the more difficult and generally most challenging part of any hybrid camera review: the video performance section. Though the GH5 is going to be primarily used as a video camera, it is no doubt a hybrid, and that brings with it different expectations from just about anyone who purchases it. Documentary filmmakers are going to be looking for different performance than a scripted filmmaker, and so on and so forth. There is a huge list of things to like about the GH5, and I’ll do my best to highlight and enumerate those in a succinct fashion. That said, there are still those who will prefer other cameras on the market because of where the GH5 still struggles. Essentially, I plan to write this from a perspective of what I as a filmmaker look for, and I’ll then do my best to answer/update the article with any other questions posed by the community if anything comes up that I didn’t test myself.

The GH5 is exceptional in a few areas, namely: battery life, camera operation, size and weight, video quality, and video recording options. The GH5 has troubles when it comes to mainly two places: low light performance and the 10-bit codec.

The Panasonic GH5’s video battery life is “astonishing”

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

Let’s start with what the GH5 gets right. Firstly, the most impressive thing I’ve seen so far is the GH5’s battery life, which still astonishes me. On a fully charged Panasonic battery, I set the camera to the following settings: UHD 4Kp30 10-bit. Then, I left it recording and logged the time that it remained powered on. The verdict: two hours, four minutes and fifty-four seconds. That, to me, is absolutely ludicrous. To record that kind of high-resolution data for that long is pretty unprecedented.

But I wasn’t ready to stop there, as the GH5 has a dual memory card slot that allows you to record what you’re shooting redundantly. So I was curious to see if having the camera double its recording workload would have an effect on recording time. With the same camera settings, I put two memory cards in and had the camera dual record. The verdict: one hour, fifty-nine minutes and twenty seconds. As far as I am concerned, this shows there is no difference in recording time between single and dual recording.

That is, pardon my language, bonkers. It flies in the face of what I’ve experienced as the “norm” in the past, and puts any other compact video camera to shame. In this reviewer’s experience, the GH5 easily outpaces the recording time of any other competitor camera, with a lot of room to spare. That, and the fact that it can dual record with essentially no downsides, is amazing.

During this battery test, I was curious if the camera would generate much heat, since it was doing a lot of data recording. Though the camera did get warmer, at no point would I say it was “hot.” From what I could tell, the GH5 did an excellent job sinking heat to maintain its own operation uninterrupted.

Camera Operation: Like the GH4, lots of options & customization

The GH5 takes what Panasonic did right in the GH4 and does not muss with it, giving the camera a familiar and customizable interface with which you can work. Just like on the GH4, you can access many of the camera’s more detailed settings via the “Quick Menu” or “Fn2” button on the back of the camera. You can change the camera’s video recording settings and picture profile here, which saves you a considerable amount of time from having to go into the menu (think if you need to swap quickly between 60p and 24p for productions, letting you get your slow motion shots in and immediately go back to real-time). This menu also gives you screen access to metering, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity and white balance which, though redundant, is helpful to have in some cases where you might not be able to reach the top of the camera or want to show that data to someone on an external monitor.

The newly-located record button is now in a place that makes more sense in comparison to the GH4, sitting right next to the ISO and white balance buttons, but if you became accustomed to using the shutter button to start recording (which was common for GH4 users), you can still do that.

Panasonic GH5 Review - Field Test
Panasonic GH5 Review - Field Test
Panasonic moved the video recording button the top-deck on the GH5 (top) compared to the back, as on the GH4 (bottom).

Much, if not everything, that can be done with manual dials can also be done via the touch screen, giving redundant options in case of camera damage or varying shooting situations where one way to adjust settings is suddenly less comfortable than another. Making adjustments via the touchscreen is also quiet, meaning there’s less risk of button and dial noises getting picked up in your audio.

The GH5’s multiple ways to do the same operation reminds me a lot of Photoshop. There are so many ways to achieve the same result in Photoshop, and that’s one of the reasons it’s so great. Everyone can develop their own workflows that suit them best, instead of having to do what the manufacturer deems is the “right” way to do it. Options are good.

The placement of the mic jack is unchanged from the GH4, and for the most part this is not a problem. However, it can become a bit tight if you use a cage of any sort to mount the GH5. Likewise, the proximity to the strap mount is close enough that if you do use a strap, you may find that it can knock around your microphone input. This is no different than the GH4, and though it’s a bit of a nuisance sometimes, it’s by no means a deal-breaker.

The Panasonic GH5’s built-in image stabilization is a godsend

The GH5 added on-sensor stabilization (OSS), and it is probably the feature I was most excited about and the one that I have already seen immediate returns on.

Panasonic GH5 On-Sensor-Stabilization Test
We test the GH5’s new on-sensor-stabilizer both hand-held and on a gimbal.

Basically, my biggest problem with using the GH4 on a gimbal is that the lenses I currently use do not have any stabilization in them. Even though the gimbal does even out my shots, it doesn’t do a great job of fixing my visible “stepping” or walking movements in my footage. Though this is relatively easy to fix in post, it also means I always had to shoot in 4K, and always had to expect to trim the edges of my shot in post using Warp Stabilizer. I ended up retiring my GH4 from gimbal use because of this, instead relying on a camera with lens stabilization for any gimbal shots.

With the GH5, gimbal use has been restored.

One of the major concerns I had coming into this testing was how the OSS would respond to being placed on a gimbal. A complaint from, for example, Sony users is that the Sony OSS will try and counteract the movement from the gimbal, in turn making footage worse rather than making it better. Corners would “jello,” and the resulting footage would look like bad warp stabilizing effect rather than smooth footage.

In contrast, the GH5 appears to have the opposite happen. When handheld, you’ll notice in the video above that the corners appear to “jello” and “mush” around a bit, which is a result of the OSS trying to make up for my human movement. But on the gimbal with the OSS on, the footage is completely and beautifully smooth.

What this means for video shooters is that the GH5 OSS is smart enough to not fight a gimbal, and any vibration you experience while shooting will be nullified by the OSS. Instead of having to turn off OSS most of the time while shooting, it can pretty much always remain on.

For those curious, the gimbal I used for this test was the Feiyu MG V2.

The GH5 is bigger than its predecessor but still conveniently compact

Jumping from that conversation about stabilization, the size and weight of the GH5, unsurprisingly, makes it ideal for small rigs and gimbal use. Though it carries more weight than its predecessor (likely thanks to the bulk added to accommodate the OSS), the GH5 is anything but “heavy.” It is a small, compact camera that is perfect for cramped shooting scenarios or small rigs. Personally, I have two different gimbals (a DJI Ronin-M and an even smaller Feiyu-Tech), and the GH5 works well on both, even allowing me to use the one-handed monopod-style (think cell phone gimbal) orientation on the Feiyu-Tech.

The GH5 is larger than both the a7R II and the a7S II, but not by much. It’s still smaller than any full frame DSLR, and is about the same as what you might see in a Canon Rebel. Where you really save on space is in the Micro Four Thirds lens department, as these optics tend to be much smaller than APS-C or full frame options. I found that I could easily tote the GH5, GH4 and two lenses in a typically sized backpack, leaving me enough room to also stow a sweatshirt and coat while out and about.

This news on size and weight is not a new story for anyone who has ever shot with a Micro Four Thirds or other mirrorless camera, but is always worth mentioning to those who lament the size and weight of their gear. I, for example, have been shooting mainly with a Canon 1DX II over the past six months, and the difference between that and the GH5 is monumental, especially considering that they are capable of the same type of footage now (arguably, the GH5 is capable of much more, thanks to a greater number of built-in video-centric features).

GH5 autofocus performance is solid but can slow down in low light

I am happy to report that in both photo and video mode, the autofocus was incredibly reliable. In most lighting conditions, the GH5 will snap to focus very fast and accurately, and you can be specific on what you exactly want in focus by tapping on the touch screen if you are not satisfied with what the camera decided to focus on initially. For darker environments, you will have to use the AF assist beam (on by default), which is a bit of a downside, but it does allow the camera to work in dark and/or low contrast situations.

The takeaway here: The darker the lighting situation you find yourself in, the slower the autofocus will work (no-brainer, right?). In most lighting conditions, it’s rather instantaneous. In the dark, it takes about a half second longer since it has to use the AF assist beam to figure out what to focus on.

The focus peaking on the GH5 is just as good as it was on the GH4, and remains my favorite among competitor cameras. There are multiple color options (I’m partial to the default blue), and it’s very sensitive, expertly outlining that which is in focus. It is my personal opinion that Panasonic has the best-looking focus peaking available.

Panasonic GH5 video quality deep-dive: new features, improvements & issues

Alright, now we are to what most of you probably care about: video quality. How does it look? How are the colors? How does it handle low light? Is there a difference between 10-bit and 8-bit? I’ve done my best to answer those questions for you. Below is a video that goes through all those topics with examples:

Panasonic GH5 Test: Video Quality and ISO
A look at the various quality comparisons with the Panasonic GH5.
Includes ISO tests compared to the GH4 as well as VLOG 10-bit vs 8-bit.

So let’s dissect this. The 60p in 4K is a wonderful addition, and puts the GH5 as the most affordable compact video camera capable of this. In the shots where I slowed the footage (the first shot and later in another example), they look exactly like I would expect them to. Filmmakers looking for a spot of slow motion to add to their videos will find the GH5 ready and willing to help in this regard.

Colors on the GH5 lean towards the greener side, much like Sony sensors and opposite of what Canon shooters are used to (which does a better job with oranges and reds). Saturation levels in the “Standard” picture profile (which all the clips outside of the ones specifically labeled VLOG were captured in) are deep and clean, and personally I think the color quality and overall picture quality is a step above the GH4. If you are taking any kind of landscape or nature-focused videography, the GH5 is going to shine.

In a video I have done featuring people (an on-the-job video, which I unfortunately cannot share because the client has not released the footage), that tendency towards green is still apparent. It’s not as though the GH5 will not pick up skin tone colors, it’s just that it has a tendency to put emphasis elsewhere. You can also see for yourself the quality of skin tones in two of the videos in this review.

Personal opinion incoming: The “green over orange” situation is probably only something Canon shooters will complain about, since most sensors on the market perform as the GH5 does. It doesn’t bother me particularly, and I find that it makes the environments that I place my subjects in “pop” more. That said, if you’re shooting in a studio situation with nothing but the subject and a white or black wall, you might want to specifically tune your white balance to be a bit warmer so that nabbing the perfect skin tone is easier after the fact. You can also shoot in VLOG, which gives you even more control of all this in post.

For those wondering how easy it is to mix footage from the GH5/GH4 and a Canon camera, I can say that I have done this will what I consider “success.” It involves dropping the green saturation from the GH5 while pumping the green saturation on the Canon footage. After some tweaking, you can them to look pretty similar. For example:

Filmed and edited by Jaron Schneider for Redwood Credit Union
Still not a “low-light” camera, but high ISO performance shows noticeable improvement

ISO performance on the GH5 has been markedly improved, essentially doubling what I characterize as the “usable” range, from 800 on the GH4 to 1600 on the GH5. On the GH5, though I would probably hesitate shooting above ISO 1600, the footage from ISO 3200 doesn’t look “bad,” and could be leaned on in a pinch. Even at the max of ISO 12800, I would qualify the resulting footage as “passable.” When you compare the GH5 to the GH4 at ISO 1600, you will notice some pretty heavy visible noise on the GH4 footage, with pretty much none appearing on the GH5 footage. Even on the ISO 3200 comparison, though the darkest part of the image (the subject’s face) is noisy on both, the background are where more light is available looks much better. I would even classify that area of the frame as “clean” on the GH5, when the same cannot be said for the GH4.

What I pulled away from this is that even at the highest ISOs available on the GH5 (12800), the footage still looks better than it did at ISO 1600 on the GH4. Unfortunately, though this kind of improvement is impressive, it does not even come close to market-leading. The GH5 is still not what I would call a “low light” camera, and will do best in more “ideal” lighting situations. What I can say is that wedding shooters will find the GH5 capable in just about any of the lighting situations you’ll run into during a typical wedding shoot. I managed to get by with the GH4 at a few weddings, but seeing how much better the GH5 is, I am positive it can handle it.

10-bit vs. 8-bit comparison

An area that many shooters often question is the difference between 10-bit and 8-bit. There are some hardcore gearheads who will always advocate for more color bit depth, which has always confused me. Yes, more color depth is theoretically better, but it’s not always the best decision for every shoot. The increased bit depth means even heftier files, and if you’re not shooting in a log profile, I can’t see why you would do it. Basically, the visible difference with non-log profile, ungraded footage (especially through online services like YouTube and Vimeo) is so marginal, there may as well be no difference. If you look carefully at some of the footage above, the 10-bit footage may appear slightly more saturated, but this is an effect that you could easily achieve in post with 8-bit clips.

That is not to say that 10-bit isn’t useful. As I mentioned, the only place I suggest using 10-bit is if you’re grading footage, and most especially if you’re shooting in VLOG. The amount of color data difference between 10-bit and 8-bit is extremely noticeable when you’re grading footage. In the video above, I put the camera in the most extreme situation, a dark area requiring high ISO, because I wanted to see how much noise would come out in grading. What I also received was a demonstration on how much of a difference 10-bit made. The color grading on the 8-bit footage seems to just sit on top of the video clip, while the grading in the 10-bit looks like it’s actually part of the video footage (this is the best way I can put to words what I’m seeing).

Panasonic Gh5 10-bit video compatibility issues

But shooting in 10-bit has been… problematic for me and other reviewers I’ve spoken to. For some reason, whatever codec Panasonic is using for the 10-bit footage is repeatedly crashing both the latest version of Adobe Premiere and the latest Final Cut Pro X. This problem persists on the latest hardware from Apple (both a top-of-the-line iMac and a fully loaded brand new MacBook Pro) and even on PC. If you’re on a Mac, you also cannot preview the file (Quicktime doesn’t appear to understand the file, but the latest versions of VLC and IINA media player apps will work). Once in Premiere, the Adobe program appears to recognize the file and attempts to play it, but if you do try and play it in either preview or in a sequence, Premiere will crash.

After further testing, we found the crash in Premiere to be linked directly to the preview/playback resolution we were set to, which makes sense as to why it also crashes Final Cut. For example, I rarely edit anything at full resolution in preview windows because I want to save memory for the more complicated sequences. In the case of my testing, I was at 1/2 resolution, which is where the files caused freezing and crashing. However, if I returned to full resolution, the files played fine. This is a really strange occurrence, and something that we are still investigating with both Adobe and Panasonic. Adobe has told us that they are now aware of the issue and a fix will be forthcoming.

If you don’t want to worry about this at all, you can pre-render the footage using Adobe Media Encoder. The problem isn’t with rendering/exporting, but in generating a compressed preview, which is why this method works.

The takeaway here is that if you plan to purchase a GH5, just know that this is currently a problem, and that it will hopefully be resolved soon.

Other video improvements

Moving on, another improvement to note on the GH5 is that there is now no longer a crop difference between 1080p and 4K. The GH4 would crop in slightly on 4K footage, and not even use the full Micro Four Thirds sensor. This change is welcome, and means there is basically no downside to shooting in 4K on the GH5.

Panasonic also improved how 1080p footage looks on the GH5. The GH4 1080p footage was, weirdly, a bit lesser in quality than the 4K footage. Slow motion footage (from 60p on up) appeared especially poor in comparison. Looking at footage taken in 1080p and 4K footage that has been scaled down to 1080p on the GH5, there is no visible difference. This is good news for videographers who prefer to shoot in 1080p rather than working with the beefier 4K files.

Panasonic GH5 High Frame Rate & 1080p/4K Scaled Comparisons
Take a look at the Panasonic GH5’s high frame rate (HFR) capture and improved 1080p video capture.

There is a High Frame Rate (HFR) setting on the GH5, as there was on the GH4, and the quality of the video clips is staggeringly improved over what we saw on the GH4. The highest the HFR would go on the GH4 was 96FPS, and the quality of that footage was less than great. The already sub-par 1080p quality decreases even further and I found that shooting at 96FPS was reserved for when looking crisp and super clean was not as important to the client as “dramatic” footage. On the GH5, I don’t appear to have to make that sacrifice. Looking side by side through the new range of HFR (which goes up to 180FPS in 60p), there is only a slight dip in quality starting at 150FPS, and it’s hardly noticeable. Overall, the improvements to the video recording quality on the GH5 — from 4K, to 1080 and through HFR — are a giant leap forward over the GH4.

Rolling Shutter

Before I go into this, I think it’s important to state how little rolling shutter means to me. In nearly all real-world shooting situations, rolling shutter is absolutely the least important thing to a shot. Honestly, how often are you whipping a camera back and forth? On top of that, how often during those rare times you do so does your audience care that the lines “jello” slightly? The answer to the first is rarely, and the second is none. Rolling shutter is a technical problem that is challenging and expensive to overcome and is regularly overstated in importance.

Ok, rant over. Let’s talk about the rolling shutter on the GH5 for those rare circumstances I outlined above.

Panasonic GH5 Rolling Shutter Test.

On the camera’s screen, I didn’t notice any rolling shutter while shooting. However, it’s pretty clear that there is rolling shutter on all three frame rate clips: 24p, 30p and 60p. It’s pretty identical on across all three, too. This is not nearly the worst case of rolling shutter I’ve seen on a camera, and for most cases it would not be noticed by the average viewer. It is, however, there.

Panasonic GH5 Wireless Connectivity & Control

The wireless control of the GH5 remains just as strong as it was on the GH4. Through a Wi-Fi connection, the GH5 can connect to your smartphone via the Image App. I use an iPhone 7 Plus, and the control and interface is just as I remember on the GH4. This is an excellent app for vlogging (since you’ll be able to set focus and exposure while seated in the frame) and is a great “poor man’s” external monitor. I say “poor man’s” not because the quality isn’t great (though the latency control is outstanding; it has basically no latency), but because years after the launch of this app, Panasonic still has not enabled a “full screen” mode. This means that no matter how large your smartphone or tablet is, about half of it will not be able to be utilized for the video monitor, instead being taken up by controls you don’t necessarily always need. Please Panasonic, add the ability for us to see the video feed in full screen.

Final Notes

Though not unexpected, if you grab a new GH5 on release day, don’t expect your Metabones Speedboosters or adapters to work properly. At present, the Micro Four Thirds Metabones Speedboosters for Canon EF (the one specifically designed for the GH4) does not work on the GH5. Though you can do a physical connection (the connection points have not changed), the GH5 does not function properly with the adapter on. The camera will either show totally black for the video feed, or it will simply freeze on whatever is in frame and not unfreeze until you remove the adapter. I expect this is a Metabones firmware issue but cannot be sure. So that said, if you always adapt lenses, the GH5 probably isn’t going to be the best bet at first.

The menu system is a bit challenging to figure out, even for a seasoned Panasonic user like myself (I can only imagine how hard it will be for first-timers). Though it’s built just like any other camera, the organization seems a bit strange. I’ll often find things in subcategories I don’t expect, and that don’t seem to make sense to me. Also, Panasonic added a new submenu to a submenu, hiding even more options that you might not notice. You can get used to it, but it’s not the best. Someone, someday, is going to come up with a better way to organize camera menus, but that did not happen here.

Though you can dual record onto two SD cards, you can’t set one to only record proxies, which would be the most ideal situation for video editors. Your choices are for the second slot to just redundantly record, for one slot to hold video and the other to hold photo, and finally for one card to just pick up where the first one left off once it is filled. Though these are great options, for professionals who will buy this camera, it could have been better.

I feel like the USB-C port was a missed opportunity. Though you can connect it to a printer or a computer, those are your only options with that port. The GH5 does not support charging via that port, which would have made for a great auxiliary power option for videographers. Though the battery life is outstanding, at least having the option would have been appreciated.

There is not a lot to dislike when it comes to the GH5. I’m pretty blown away by what the camera is capable of, especially at its sub-$2000 price point. The battery life, the recording options and the quality of the footage captured are all well beyond expected, and outpace most competitor products two or three times the price of the GH5. Overall, it’s just an outstanding video camera.

What’s Next:

In the final field test, we’ll take a look at the dynamic range, 6K photo mode and time lapse mode. The GH5 packs so many features into one body, but we’re getting close to having seen just about everything this camera can do.

 

 

– – –

B&H is hosting a special Panasonic GH5 livestream featuring filmmakers and photographers including Jacki Huntington, Griffin Hammond, David Flores, Lok Cheung and Panasonic LUMIX team member Sean Robinson. Be sure to be back here on Wednesday, March 29 at 1:00 p.m. EDT to watch the stream either live or check in later to catch the replay. If you watch live, you will have a chance to ask any questions you have about the GH5 to the panel of experts. You can submit questions on Twitter with the hashtag “#BHPhotoLive” for a chance to win your very own GH5.

– – –

 

 

Panasonic GH5 Review — Overview

by
Preview posted 01/04/2017

A brand-new body that’s even more at home in the elements
Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

Take a quick glance at the exterior of the Panasonic GH5, and you’ll find a camera which looks a whole lot like its predecessor. Crafted from magnesium alloy, the GH5’s body is sealed against both dust and moisture, just as was the GH4. However, it’s now even more capable of dealing with the elements thanks to the addition of freezeproofing to the roster, allowing use in temperatures as low as 14°F (-10°C).

The Panasonic GH5 forgoes a consumer-friendly built-in flash

Almost all of the Panasonic GH5’s main controls and features are to be found in roughly the same places as on the GH4, although there are a couple of tweaks here and there, as well as a couple of new additions. Most notably, there’s no longer a built-in flash strobe, a feature often looked down on by enthusiasts and pros who favor the more natural look possible with external strobes, preferably mounted off-camera.

A familiar design will lessen the learning curve for GH4 owners

That change also means that there’s now no need for the dedicated flash button which sat on the side of the viewfinder in the earlier GH4. At the same time, Panasonic has also moved the dedicated movie shutter button from the rear of the camera to the top deck, a much more intuitive location in our opinion, and has relocated the stereo microphone ports to the top of the viewfinder hump.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

The space freed up by the relocated movie button has been used to add a new joystick control, a change which hints at improvements in the autofocus system which we’ll come to in a moment. Other changes of note in the body design include a chunkier, easier-to-feel four-way control dial, and a relocation of the speaker grille.

A brand-new imaging pipeline for the best Lumix picture quality yet

There’s no secret that Micro Four Thirds cameras have lagged behind their APS-C and full-frame brethren when it comes to sensor resolution. Courtesy of the overhauled imaging pipeline in the GH5, Panasonic looks to address the perception that the smaller sensor size of Micro Four Thirds comes accompanied by lesser image quality than larger-sensored rivals. Thanks to a brand-new image sensor and processor, the company is promising image quality which it says is “unprecedented … in the history of Lumix cameras.”

In place of the GH4’s 16-megapixel image sensor, the Panasonic GH5 now sports a brand-new 20.3-megapixel Live MOS chip, and to help make the most of its detail-gathering capabilities, it no longer sits behind a resolution-sapping optical low-pass filter. Without that filter in the way, per-pixel sharpness should be improved noticeably at the expense of a greater risk of moiré and false color artifacts.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

The Panasonic GH5’s new processor is more powerful and brings with it refined algorithms

The new sensor comes accompanied by a new Venus Engine image processor which has two-thirds greater power than that in the GH4, and which also brings with it a huge raft of tweaks to processing algorithms for better image quality. Among the algorithm’s used by the Panasonic GH5 are Multipixel Luminance Generation, Intelligent Detail Processing, Three-Dimensional Color Control and High-Precision Multi Process NR.

So what do all of these algorithms do, exactly? Well, Multipixel Luminance Generation is a refined demosaicing algorithm which now looks at a larger six-by-six pixel array when demosaicing information from the Bayer-filtered image sensor, where the GH4’s equivalent algorithm only used information from a two-by-two pixel array. The result, says Panasonic, is better high-frequency characteristics and an improved high-frequency detail gathering capability.

Intelligent Detail Processing, meanwhile, separates the overall image into areas which are mostly flat, areas which are packed with fine detail, and areas which mark the boundaries between the two. Each is processed separately, and the result is that images should show less prominent haloes along edges.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Illustration

And then there is High-Precision Multi Process NR which is a noise reduction algorithm that is better able to detect fine details, and thus can better avoid disturbing them during noise reduction processing. The result, says Panasonic, is a 4x improvement in resolution after noise processing, when compared to conventional multi-process noise reduction.

Finally, there’s Three-Dimensional Color Control, which now considers not only hue and saturation, but also brightness. Essentially, the camera uses different color mappings for the brightest and darkest colors, and then interpolates between them to provide more authentic color and finer gradation as brightness varies across the image.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

The Panasonic GH5 boasts smarter, faster, much more fine-grained autofocus

The added performance of the Panasonic GH5’s new Venus Engine image processor doubtless lends a hand in the autofocus performance department, as well. Here, Panasonic has made a huge upgrade in the granularity of autofocus points, with the Panasonic GH5 now sporting a whopping 225 autofocus points where the GH4 had just 49 of them.

Yet despite the fact that it now has around 4.6 times as many focus points to deal with as did its predecessor, the Panasonic GH5 is said to be able to focus even faster than before. Where the GH4 could determine a focus lock in 0.07 seconds, the company says that the Panasonic GH5 will now be able to do so in just 0.05 seconds, thanks in part to a faster 480fps AF drive system.

Autofocus tracking performance is also said to have been vastly improved by combining motion detection, motion vector analysis as well as a new and much improved DFD (Depth From Defocus) algorithm to more accurately predict the distance of a moving subject at time of capture.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Illustration

Shoot bursts with continuous AF faster and for far longer

And that added performance shows itself in another way, as well. While the Panasonic GH5 offers up the same 12 frames per second burst capture performance as did the GH4 when focus is locked from the first frame, the newer camera is significantly quicker than its predecessor once continuous autofocus is enabled. Panasonic rated the GH4 as capable of around seven frames per second when continuous AF was active, whereas it says the new GH5 should be able to manage a full nine frames per second.

That’s an improvement of almost one-third despite the 4.6x increase in point density. Impressive indeed, if Panasonic’s claims pan out in the real world. Suffice to say we’re very much looking forward to testing autofocus performance of a production-level GH5 for ourselves…

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

And while the burst performance hasn’t been increased if you’re using single autofocus, there’s still another related improvement that will be handy to both single and continuous AF bursts: A much greater buffer depth. Panasonic hasn’t yet provided final figures, but as of right now it’s looking like raw burst depth should be around 100 shots or more, which would represent a 2-3x improvement over the 40-frame buffer of the GH4.

Incredibly swift capture with 4K and 6K Photo modes

If that’s not enough performance for you, the Panasonic GH5 has a couple of clever tricks up its sleeve. We’ve covered the company’s 4K Photo mode in past reviews, and it makes another appearance here — but with an important upgrade. If you’re not familiar with 4K Photo mode, in a nutshell what it does is to record a movie rather than individual stills, and then let you extract individual frames from the movie to get fairly high-res 8.3-megapixel stills. And as you’d expect, the GH5 can also use a series of frames captured at high speed to perform functions such as in-camera post focus, and in-camera focus stacking.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Illustration

In past models, 4K Photo mode was limited to 30 frames-per-second capture, because that was the maximum 4K framerate available. Now, the Panasonic GH5 is able to offer 4K capture at up to 60 frames per second, and that means 4K Photo mode can now also offer up to 60 frames-per-second capture at 8.3 megapixel resolution. And as if that wasn’t enough, the GH5 has another feather in its cap: A new 6K Photo mode. This offers a much higher 18-megapixel resolution for each individual frame, and yet still allows for 30 frames per second capture.

In past models, one drawback of 4K Photo mode was that it relied on an electronic shutter, and hence was prone to rolling shutter effect. That manifested itself as distortion in the very same fast-moving subjects that 4K Photo was otherwise ideally suited to capture. According to Panasonic, though, it has reduced the severity of rolling shutter in the GH5 both for stills captured with electronic shutter, and for movies as well.

In addition, the Lumix GH5 can perform effective multi-frame noise reduction even when there is subject motion, and by analyzing surrounding frames, it can even perform rolling shutter distortion correction when panning without changing the angle of view.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Illustration

Obviously, we’ll have to wait for some real-world testing, but we’re tightly crossing our fingers that these improvements make 4K and 6K Photo modes on the Panasonic GH5 more useful than ever.

The Panasonic GH5 boasts even better stabilization, too

Image stabilization is yet another area in which the Panasonic GH5 has been significantly improved, when compared to its predecessor. The earlier GH4 relied solely on lens-based image stabilization, even though the earlier and more compact GX7 model included in-body stabilization.

The reason for this, according to Panasonic, was the large heat sink necessary to cool the GH4 during high-speed burst shooting and 4K video capture. It would seem that the company has now managed to reduce thermal output and/or come up with a more lightweight cooling system that’s conducive to in-body stabilization, though, because the Panasonic GH5 now sports the company’s latest-generation Dual I.S. 2 image stabilization system.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Illustration

Dual I.S. 2 was seen previously in the Panasonic G85, and compared to the earlier Dual I.S. system adds support for rotational correction. The system pairs both five-axis in-body stabilization with dual-axis in-lens stabilization, and is said to have a five-stop corrective strength courtesy of a new high-precision gyro sensor and updated algorithms.

The advantage of the hybrid body / lens stabilization system over a solely lens-based system is that it can stabilize on more axes and works with any lens which can be attached to the camera. At the same time, it bests solely body-based systems thanks to the greater corrective strength of lens-based stabilization at longer focal lengths. Seven lenses already support the system, with a couple of them needing firmware updates to achieve it. (The just-announced LEICA DG VARIO-ELMARIT 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 POWER OIS and the 4 refreshed mark II lenses mentioned here will support Dual I.S. 2 out of the gate. The older LUMIX G VARIO 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 POWER OIS and the LUMIX G VARIO 14-140mm F3.5-5.6 POWER OIS need firmware updates.) Five more lens models will get updates to provide Dual I.S. 2 support during 2017. (Those are the: LUMIX G VARIO 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 MEGA OIS, LUMIX G VARIO 35-100mm F4.0-5.6 MEGA OIS, LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm F4.0-6.3 POWER OIS, LUMIX G MACRO 30mm F2.8 MEGA OIS, and LEICA DG NOCTICRON 42.5mm F1.2 POWER OIS.)

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

A better view of your subjects, whether on the viewfinder or display

Returning to its exterior, the Panasonic GH5 brings with it a couple more very worthwhile upgrades in the viewfinder and display departments. Firstly, it offers up a much larger and higher-resolution electronic viewfinder image. While retaining the same 21mm eyepoint as in the GH4, Panasonic has upped the viewfinder magnification from 0.67x to 0.76x. It has also increased the dot count of the organic LED panel around which the viewfinder is based from 2,359k dots to 3,680k dots.

At the same time, Panasonic has also switched to a larger display on the rear of the GH5. In place of the GH4’s 3.0-inch, 1,036k dot display, the Panasonic GH5 now offers up a 3.2-inch, 1,620k dot display. The increase in dot count isn’t entirely down to a resolution boost, however. Panasonic has also taken the opportunity to switch to a four dots per pixel display with red, green, blue and white pixels, in place of the earlier three dot per pixel (red, green and blue) display type. The new RGBW display should allow for a brighter image and better visibility outdoors under direct sunlight, and reduced power consumption when shooting indoors or in lower-light conditions.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

An overhauled user interface makes the best of the new display, too

With a little more space now available on its larger 3.2-inch monitor and in its roomier electronic viewfinder, Panasonic has simultaneously revisited its user interface. The basic design is still pretty similar to before, with tabs down the left side of the screen to take you to different sections of the menu, and then a paged display of the items in the current menu taking up the remainder of the screen.

So what’s changed? Well, for one thing the menu system now has a cleaner, more modern feel that does away with the colored bars between menu items and the gradients on the tab icons, and which tightens up the spacing of elements to reduce wasted screen real-estate. Coupled with the larger screen size which allows for slightly smaller fonts while remaining readable, this has allowed Panasonic to increase the number of menu items visible on-screen from five to eight, significantly reducing the number of pages required for each menu.

At the same time, the company has also added a more intuitive scroll bar display at screen right which gives a quick indication of where you’re located in any given menu, without the need to parse the page number display of earlier models. (That page number still remains at top right of the screen if you need it, though.) And there’s also now both a new entry point to the custom settings menu which offers a categorized listing of top-level options, plus a new 23-item My Menu.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

As if that wasn’t already enough, there’s also a new popup display which appears when you attempt to access items in the menu which are grayed out. This popup will explain why you can’t access the given item, and thus should hopefully reduce the frustration of learning an unfamiliar user interface if you’re switching from another camera brand or a less complex camera model.

Videographers rejoice: It’s Christmas all over again!

The 2016 holiday season might be behind us now, but that hasn’t stopped Panasonic from showering videographers in a deluge of goodies. The GH4 was already very popular with videographers, and we’re guessing that the Panasonic GH5 will be even more so. In fact, there are so many changes in this area that it’s kind of hard to decide where to start discussing it all!

Beginning from the basics, the Panasonic GH5 is capable of recording 10-bit 4:2:2 DCI 4K (4,096 x 2,160 pixels) and consumer 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) footage with a 150Mbps bitrate, right out of the box. Frame rates are 24, 25 or 30 frames per second for consumer 4K, and are fixed at 24 fps for Cinema 4K. It can also record at a higher 50 or 60 fps rate if you opt instead for 8-bit 4:2:0 consumer 4K footage. And of course, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) high-def capture is also possible.

Best of all, there is no focal length crop or time limit associated with video capture in any mode. Regardless of your resolution, frame rate and compression choices, you’ll be able to shoot video for as long as you have remaining card space, and your video will only be cropped to match the aspect ratio of the final output video, using the full image sensor width.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

New firmware will take these capabilities even further this summer

But that’s only the beginning. With the GH5, Panasonic is taking the rather unusual step of announcing even before the camera reaches the market that it is preparing some feature upgrades via firmware that’s slated to arrive by the summer.

Among the changes on offer in this new firmware will be support for 4K capture with All-I intraframe compression instead of the default IPB interframe compression. 4K All-I capture will be possible at 24, 25 or 30 fps with a 400Mbps bitrate, and should offer higher image quality at the expense of significantly larger file sizes.

Videographers shooting at Full HD resolution will also gain access to All-I compression, but with a 200Mbps bitrate and frame rate options of 60, 50, 30, 25 or 24 fps. They’ll also get access to 10-bit 4:2:2 IPB-compressed video with a 100Mbps bitrate at these same frame rates.

The new firmware will also add support for hybrid log gamma for 4K HDR video capture, as well as anamorphic 6K 24p 4:3-aspect video capture. Multiple updates will be involved, with the first adding 10-bit 4:2:2 Full HD footage expected to arrive around April 2017, and the second including the All-I, hybrid log and anamorphic features to follow in July 2017.

And there’s plenty else that’s new on the video front, too!

And that’s not even the half of it. There are plenty of other new features on the video front, as well. For one thing, where the GH4 didn’t allow in-camera recording at all if you were outputting a 10-bit feed to an external recorder, the Panasonic GH5 is capable of outputting a 10-bit 4:2:2 signal via HDMI and recording it internally at the same time.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

The Panasonic GH5 also offers a broader range of Variable Frame Rate options than its predecessor for slow-motion and quick-motion capture. Where the GH4 was limited to a maximum of 96 frames per second capture and a maximum resolution of Full HD in VFR mode, the GH5 will now capture Full HD video at up to 180 frames per second maximum in VFR mode. And even in 4K mode, it can record at up to 60 fps maximum, as noted previously. As in the earlier camera, the other end of the range has a limit of 2 fps capture.

Nor is that all, either. For one thing, there’s a clever new Focus Transition tool which allows you to set up to three predefined focus points to rack towards, then have the camera automatically and smoothly shift the focus between those points at a constant speed. You can select the speed at which focus is racked in five steps, and can decide whether the camera should start the focus transition immediately that recording begins, or with a five or ten second delay.

There’s also a new waveform monitor display function which can either show a wave or vector display of video luminance over time, something which should prove handy when setting up multiple cameras to achieve a consistent look. And Panasonic has added a new Rec. 709-like gamma curve complete with automatic or manual knee control. (Under manual control, the knee point can be set to 80 – 107%, and the slope curve between 0 and 99.)

You can also select the luminance level for 10-bit capture (0-1023, 64-940 or 64-1023 options), and with the optional DMW-SFU1 software key, you can enable V-LogL recording to mimic a Cineon gamma curve, complete with a V-LogL View Assist function to display up to four sets of LUT data from the installed SD card. Plus of course features like rec control, time code, zebra patterns, black level adjustment and the like are also supported.

And as mentioned previously, a high-res anamorphic mode and hybrid log gamma for HDR video are also on the way. Like we said, there’s a whole lot on offer here for videographers!

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

Better audio capture capabilities, too

Another feature which some videographers are certainly going to appreciate is the Panasonic GH5’s new built-in microphone. Rehomed from the top of the viewfinder bezel to the top of the viewfinder hump, the updated microphone is said to offer a 10dB improvement in its wind noise reduction capability. It also has a new noise reference microphone which is used to simply subtract noise from lens zoom operation rather than simply trying to detect and filter it in software.

Of course, just as in its predecessor the Panasonic GH5 also supports 3.5mm external stereo microphones and headphones right out of the box. And should you prefer higher-quality gear, you can also attach mics using an XLR interface with Panasonic’s optional hot-shoe powered DMW-XLR1 microphone adapter.

This has two XLR terminals plus a shoe mount on its top surface on which a mic holder, LED light or similar accessory can be mounted. XLR audio is recorded at 48 or 96KHz with a 16 or 24-bit depth, and a clear cover over the controls guards against accidental changes while allowing for quick visual confirmation of setup.

Unfortunately for those who bought the DMW-YAGH interface kit for their Panasonic GH4, this can’t be mounted on the GH5’s newly-designed body, so if you need XLR inputs you’ll need to buy the newer accessory.

Dual flash card slots for backup, overflow or to separate by filetype

Also new to the Panasonic GH5 are its storage and connectivity options, both wired and wireless. We’ll get to the latter in a moment; let’s check out what’s new in storage first of all.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

The great news here is that Panasonic now includes two SD card slots in the GH5, up from one in the earlier GH4. The even better news is that both slots are UHS-II U3 compliant. In plain English, what this means is that both slots support the extra pins required for high-speed UHS-II cards, and that they’re also capable of a minimum sustained write speed of 30MB/second. Of course, like most any camera these days, the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC card types are also supported.

The two slots can be used in several ways, all but one of which we’ve seen before. You can either use the secondary slot as an overflow for when the card in the primary slot runs out of room, or you can have all files written to both cards simultaneously as a backup in case of card failure, or finally you can choose which file types are saved on which flash slot.

Not just that, you can also hot-swap flash cards!

Where things get really interesting, though, is that Panasonic says the GH5 allows hot-swapping of flash cards. What does that mean? Well, firstly we need to remember that the GH5 is unusual in allowing recording of videos without a predefined time limit. Most cameras limit video capture to 30 minutes or less to avoid a European tax, even if the individual camera itself is not being sold in Europe. And when the first flash card fills up, the GH5 can also seamlessly switch to recording the video anew on the overflow slot.

But what happens when the second card fills? Ordinarily, the answer would be that your video capture session has reached its end — but not with the Panasonic GH5! Instead, once you’ve run out of room on the first card and the camera switches to the secondary one, you can then eject the first card and replace it with a different one (or if you prefer, copy the data off and format it ready for reuse). Then pop the card back in, and it now becomes the overflow card once the other one runs out of room.

With this setup, you can effectively record video internally without any time or storage limits, for as long as the camera itself has power remaining. Plug it into mains power and you can keep going for as long as someone’s awake to keep swapping cards in and out of the camera!

Same battery as GH4, but new power save mode increases battery life
Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

Speaking of power, default battery life is one area where the GH4 bests it successor despite having a built-in flash, though this is not a surprise given the GH5’s higher performance and IBIS. Using the same DMW-BLF19 7.2V 1860mAh lithium-ion battery pack as the GH4, the GH5’s battery life is CIPA-rated at between 380 and 400 shots with the EVF depending on which lens is used, while battery life with the LCD monitor is rated at 400 to 410 shots per charge. The GH4’s battery life was CIPA-rated at 500 shots using the EVF and 530 shots using the LCD monitor, and that’s with 50% of shots taken with its built-in flash enabled.

But there is some very good news in this regard: the Lumix GH5 has a new “Power Save LVF” mode which can increase battery life up to 1,000 shots per charge by automatically putting the camera into sleep mode after detecting the eye has moved away from EVF’s eye sensor.

And of course the new, optional DMW-BGGH5 battery grip which is also splash/dust/freeze-proof can double battery life with a second battery, theoretically providing up to a whopping 2,000 shots per charge when combined with the new power save mode.

The camera ships with a single DMW-BLF19 battery pack and a DMW-BTC10 dedicated battery charger, and in-camera charging is not supported. The GH5 is also compatible with the same DC coupler the GH4 used.

Wired connectivity, too, has received a major overhaul

So what of wired connectivity? Here, too, the Panasonic GH5 has been the recipient of a significant redesign. In place of the USB 2.0 High Speed data connection of its predecessor, the GH5 now sports a much faster USB 3.1 SuperSpeed data connection using a reversible USB-C cable.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

There’s also an HDMI port, and interestingly it forgoes the tiny HDMI Type-D micro connector which is found on most devices these days in favor of the original HDMI Type-A connector which is still commonplace in professional video editing. And as mentioned previously, it can now be used to record 10-bit 4:2:2 video to an external device (with the exception of high framerate 4K video) while also simultaneously recording to the flash card in the camera. Another nice touch is that an HDMI cable lock is included in the product bundle.

Other wired connectivity includes the aforementioned 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks, a 2.5mm wired remote input, a flash sync terminal and a hot shoe on the camera’s top deck.

Wireless connectivity should be much faster and easier to use

Wireless connectivity, meanwhile, has also received a complete overhaul for the Panasonic GH5. In place of its predecessor’s 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity, the GH5 now sports 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi radios compatible with the newer, higher-speed 802.11ac standard. (Panasonic does note, however, that support for the 5GHz band may not be available in all countries.)

At the same time, the company has also dropped the built-in NFC radio featured in the earlier GH4, which was used for quick-and-easy pairing with Android devices. iOS devices couldn’t use this feature anyway since Apple doesn’t allow third-party use of the NFC radio in its newer devices, so iPhone users won’t miss this feature in the least. It’s a bit of a shame for Android users, however — but the addition of low-power Bluetooth LE connectivity in its place will likely more than make up for it.

The new Bluetooth 4.2 LE radio allows for a full-time connection, functioning something like Nikon’s rival SnapBridge technology. Both camera and smart device can communicate with each other at all times via this connection, albeit with relatively limited speed and range. But when more speed or range are needed, the Bluetooth connection can then be used to silently and seamlessly establish a faster, further-ranging Wi-Fi connection, all without the user needing to lift a finger.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

And the Bluetooth connection can also be used to piggyback off your phone’s GPS receiver to geotag images, remotely wake the camera if it goes to sleep, or to copy settings between multiple camera bodies via your smartphone.

In other respects, the Panasonic GH5 is quite similar to its predecessor

For the most part, the Panasonic GH5 is otherwise quite similar to the camera in whose footsteps it follows. Its sensitivity range of ISO 200 to 25,600-equivalents with the ability to extend the lower end to ISO 100-equivalent, for example, is identical to the earlier camera. So, too, are its shutter speed range of 1/8,000 to 60 seconds plus bulb, and its rated shutter life of 200,000 cycles.

The bulb mode, though, is now limited to 30 minutes in the Panasonic GH5, where the GH4 could shoot an exposure as long as 60 minutes. It’s not unusual to see feature subtractions in a new model, but there are relatively few of these in the GH5, the remainder of which we’ve already mentioned. As noted previously, there’s no longer a built-in flash strobe, and nor is there a near-field communications radio for use with Android devices. Finally, you won’t be able to use your portrait grip or XLR accessories from the Panasonic GH4, with new variants of both optionally needed due to the GH5’s redesigned body.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

Panasonic GH5 release date and price

The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is slated to go on sale in the US market in late March 2017. Body-only pricing is set at US$2,000 or thereabouts, and initially at least, there will be no kit lens offering in the US market. Overseas markets may also have a bundle with the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm / F2.8-4.0 ASPH. / Power O.I.S. lens at launch.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *