Panasonic GH5 Conclusion

The latest-generation flagship Lumix camera, the Panasonic GH5, continues the tradition of packing in tons of horsepower, technical innovation as well as unique shooting features into a rugged, weather-sealed DSLR-esque body. Shaped and designed as a still photography camera first and foremost, the GH-series has nonetheless found a well-earned home among video creators and filmmakers thanks to its very high quality video, advanced features, and very competitive price compared to pro-video cameras. This is definitely still the case with the Panasonic GH5, as this latest iteration offers of tons (yes, tons) of professional-level features for the video creator of all sorts. For still photographers, though, they certainly aren't left out in the cold, as the GH5 offers some new features and improvements for these folks as well.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Gallery Image
Panasonic 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 Leica: 12mm, f/6.3, 1/100s, ISO 200
Still image quality is improved with more detail and better processing

Going from a 16MP Four Thirds sensor to a new 20MP chip is definitely a welcomed improvement in resolution for the GH5, and plus, the fact that this new sensor lacks an optical low-pass filter means you'll get slightly sharper images -- though watch out for moiré or other aliasing artifacts.

Despite the smaller photosites from its higher resolution sensor, the Panasonic GH5 produced somewhat better noise performance in RAW files at higher ISOs. We did however notice the GH5 tended to use slightly longer shutter speeds for the same middle gray brightness in JPEGs than the GH4 (usually about a 1/4 stop slower), which resulted in lower noise levels in RAW files. When the two cameras were equally exposed using the same aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings resulting in slightly dimmer GH5 JPEGs compared to the GH4's, noise levels in RAW files were similar if not a touch higher from the GH5. Still, most users will expose according to the GH5's metering and will therefore see improved noise performance. Dynamic range, though no where near as impressive as larger-sensor cameras, is very good for a Four Thirds sensor, and shows a slight improvement compared to the predecessor.

In addition to sheer resolution and sharpness, the GH5 offers a number of incremental yet appreciated improvements to still image quality compared to the GH4. The GH5, thanks to its improved JPEG processing engine, does a better job with saturation, contrast, hue accuracy and high ISO noise reduction, resulting in some of the best JPEGs we've seen yet from a Panasonic.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Gallery Image
Click image to view video in our GH5 Field Test Part II.

The Panasonic GH5's advancements in video are worth smiling about

In short: The GH5 is a video camera that happens to take still photos. The ISO performance for video has been dramatically improved, with noticeable and marked advancement in low light performance. Even at the highest ISO the GH5 can attain in video mode, ISO 12,800, footage looks "passable," whereas the GH4's maximum ISO of 6400 was best avoided with video. Apples to apples at ISO 6400, the GH5 blows its predecessor out of the water. There is also no longer an additional crop factor even when shooting 4K video, with the entire width of the sensor being utilized. This is a boon to wide-angle shooters.

The addition of 60p at 4K is one of the GH5's most appealing features, and the quality of that footage does not disappoint. The ability to go slow motion in 4K puts the GH5 as easily the most affordable video camera capable of it, and the quality of the footage does not match that low price; it looks stellar. Speaking of slow motion, the GH5 offers considerably higher frame rate options in 1080p than the GH4 did, more than doubling the slow motion capability. What's more, the slow motion video quality looks extremely good, while the GH4 often looked soft, grainy or blurry.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Gallery Image
Click image to view video in our GH5 Field Test Part II.

The Panasonic GH5 also added the ability to shoot in 10-bit directly to SD card, a feature that sees the most benefit when looking at color grading. If you do not plan to shoot in Panasonic V-LogL and edit color later, you'll be hard pressed to find a good reason to use 10-bit. Side by side, the "standard" color profile looks pretty much the same in both 10-bit and 8-bit. For those who do like to do their own color work, ISO performance and color depth are dramatically improved if you do use 10-bit combined with V-LogL.

We did find some problems with playback in Final Cut and Adobe Premiere Pro when it comes to the Panasonic 10-bit files, so check Field Test II for a full breakdown of the issues and how to get around them while Adobe and Apple work on software fixes.

In-Body Image Stabilization works beautifully, especially for video

Call it either "in-body image stabilization (IBIS)" or "sensor-shift image stabilization (SSIS)," having it feels like a massive improvement over not. The built-in stabilization on the GH5 works beautifully for both hand-held video and for smoothing out heavy footsteps with gimbal footage. Speaking of gimbal footage, the GH5 won't fight your gimbal like other cameras with in body stabilization will, meaning it can only make your footage better, not worse.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

Everything about the GH5 feels better, more thoughtful than on the GH4

The designers of the GH5 body made some minor changes to the placement of buttons and the grip design over the GH4, and every single change was welcome. The grip is deeper and feels better in hand, the relocation of the record button makes more sense, the addition of the joystick on the back adds another way to navigate the many features of the GH5, and the pop-up flash was removed in order to better locate the on-camera microphones.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

The camera has two SD card slots for dual recording, though unfortunately it doesn't support recording proxy files when shooting video. Hopefully this is something that can be added later.

Panasonic swapped out the mini HDMI for a full size HDMI port, so the flimsy connection of the GH4 is a thing of the past. Their new peripherals make better sense, too. The battery grip is just a battery grip, and the new audio interface unit attaches to the hot shoe and is more compact and should be a more useful accessory than the GH4's large and beefy audio battery grip.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Product Image

Everything about the Panasonic GH5 feels better and more thoughtful than on the GH4, and it wasn't as if Panasonic made changes to the button placement just because they could, but rather because they were listening to feedback from their customers.

Battery life is insanely good for video

For a mirrorless camera, the Panasonic GH5 has good battery life, especially when shooting video. For example, recording continuously in 4K, it was able to last for over two hours. As mentioned, it can dual record to two memory cards, so one would figure that would affect battery life. Not so, as even dual recording 4K footage had little to no effect on the time one battery lasted. This is far and away the most impressive feature of the GH5, a camera full of impressive features.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Gallery Image
Panasonic 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 Leica: 60mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 200
Deep buffer & fast burst shooting speeds abound

Thanks to the latest-generation Venus Engine and dual UHS-II SD card slots, the GH5 offers some top-notch speed and buffer specifications. In our testing, continuous burst shooting was very quick, matching almost exactly with Panasonic's 12fps spec. Buffer depth was impressively deep -- JPEGs are basically unlimited until your memory card fills, while RAW and RAW+JPEG modes offer over 60 frames. The unlimited JPEG buffer makes sense, too, when you consider the GH5's new 6K Photo mode, which offers unlimited, continuous shooting of "6K" stills at a blazing 30fps (and 4K Photo gets the boost up to 60fps).

The only disappointing thing we found was buffer clearing times, which, despite using a super-fast Lexar 2000x UHS-II SD card, clocked in at 20 seconds to clear a long burst of JPEGs, 15 seconds for a max-length RAW burst, and about 28 seconds for a max-length RAW+JPEG burst. The good news is that you can still adjust settings and keep shooting while the buffer is simultaneously clearing, so you shouldn't worry too much about missing a critical moment while the camera is dealing with a bunch of earlier shots.

Autofocus works very well on the Panasonic GH5

The autofocus speed and accuracy for still photography is top-notch. Autofocus feels just as fast as with a DSLR, and is easily as accurate. Though it can slow down in low light, it still retained its accuracy in near-darkness situations. Will this always be the case? Likely not. If you do plan to shoot with autofocus in the dark, be prepared to come in with a healthy dose of patience.

One of the areas that is getting a lot of attention on the GH5 is its autofocus during video, yet we did not experience any issues with the GH5 in this regard. There are a lot of videos and blog posts about the problems experienced by other reviewers and shooters, so we urge you to take those into consideration when looking into buying the GH5. In multiple shoots during our GH5 Field Tests (including two professional commercial projects where the GH5 used AF full-time), Jaron Schneider found the autofocus to be extremely reliable, and when it racked focus between subjects it did so in a way that looked natural and performed as expected.

Panasonic GH5 Review -- Gallery Image
Panasonic 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 Leica: 12mm, f/4.5, 1/640s, ISO 200

Panasonic GH5 Review Summary

The best video camera in its price class (and perhaps even well above it)

The Panasonic GH5 is a wonderful successor to an already great hybrid still & video camera, and the new features and performance make it far more valuable than its $2000 price tag. We have no doubt that this will become one of the most popular video cameras for independent filmmakers and videographers thanks to its stellar video quality, extended list of video features and options, long battery life and excellent durability.

All told, the Panasonic GH5 definitely earns a spot as a Dave's Pick in our book.

 

Pros & Cons

  • New 20-megapixel sensor offers noticeably higher resolution than predecessor
  • Better per-pixel sharpness due to lack of an OLPF (though see related Con)
  • Similar or improved noise performance in high ISO RAW files despite smaller photosites
  • Very good dynamic range for a 4/3" sensor, slightly improved over the GH4
  • Updated JPEG engine produces better hue accuracy, saturation and contrast
  • More effective high ISO noise reduction for most subject matter
  • Much improved high ISO performance in videos
  • New AWBc white balance setting produces better color in incandescent lighting than default Auto WB
  • Larger, higher-res EVF than predecessor
  • Larger, fully-articulating touchscreen LCD
  • New 225-point autofocus system is excellent for both photos & video
  • Able to autofocus in very dim light
  • Fast single-shot autofocus speeds
  • Low shutter lag
  • 12fps burst mode (9fps with AF-C)
  • Deep buffers
  • Good battery life for a mirrorless camera
  • Dual UHS-II card slots with hot-swap support
  • High-speed 6K Photo mode captures images at 30fps; 4K Photo at 60fps
  • Slightly larger body is easier to hold without increasing bulk
  • Full-sized Type-A HDMI port
  • Improved buttons and control layout
  • In-body image stabilization works very well
  • Stellar 4K and Full HD video quality
  • 10-bit internal video recording
  • Full sensor-width video capture even at 4K
  • 4K video now up to 60p
  • Slow-motion Full HD video now up to 180p
  • Built-in 5/2.4GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE
  • Weather-sealed and freeze-proof to 14°F/-10°C
  • USB 3.1 Type-C port
  • External headphone and microphone jacks
  • Optional hot-shoe-mounted XLR microphone adapter
  • Stills susceptible to moiré and other aliasing artifacts due to lack of OLPF
  • No high-res composite mode
  • Buffer clearing could be faster
  • No built-in flash
  • AF speed and burst performance can vary significantly depending on lens used
  • Menus can be challenging to figure out
  • Expensive, though a very good value compared to pro-level, dedicated video cameras
  • Can't record two different video formats simultaneously to each SD card
  • Not compatible with the GH4's DMW-YAGH interface kit


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